The PeopleMover Reopens at Walt Disney World: Why This Matters

The PeopleMover Reopens at Walt Disney World: Why This Matters

Let’s take a ride on the PeopleMover.

This week the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover reopens. Disney fans rejoiced as they waited in what appeared to be long lines to experience the PeopleMover. This is an attraction embraced by so many. Why? What is the appeal of the PeopleMover? We look at the attraction at re-opening, experience the attraction first-hand, and then seek to understand why the PeopleMover matters. There is an emotional connection many have to this attraction. We want to explore that connection, what it means, and how it applies to you.

Key notes, images and videos can be found below, but our podcast carries narrative of the entire experience. You can find the podcast here on PodbeaniTunesSpotifyMyTuner, and ListenNotes. Please subscribe! 

If you listen to this podcast, you know that since re-opening I have mentioned my disappointment in this attraction not re-opening. I’ve also explained why I’ve thought this to be the case. A reduced percentage of guests in the park, lack of budget, and lack of people who can maintain and operate this attraction are a few of those reasons.

A day or two prior to re-opening this image was posted on Instagram by Jeff Vahle, head of the Walt Disney World Resort:

Jeff is showing that technical and operations folks are doing what is needed to get the PeopleMover up and running. This got many fans excited and ready to come visit the parks. Many were lined up in the first days after the PeopleMover in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom re-opened. I gathered a particular photo of guests not only wearing PeopleMover T-Shirts but a little PeopleMover on his shoulder. They best represented the enthusiasm people had for waiting in a long line.

You can find them on Instagram, DisneyAdventuresWithRemy

That fans are a big component of who is in this attraction queue, is probably due to the fact that only a fan would wait in a line with a stated wait time of 40-45 minutes for an attraction that simply takes you on an 11 minute tour of Tomorrowland. In truth, my wait was only about 25 minutes, and the queue moved quickly. But just the visual of the size of the line of people all standing out in the sun was not an invitation to the less informed that you should go see what’s at the end of that queue. Still, none of that stopped the Disney faithful. They knew that the ride was more than just a ride. It represented something else.

Let’s see what it looks like as you ride it. The following is a video of the attraction just as is. To hear my narrative of the experience, make sure to listen to the podcast.

Let’s ride the PeopleMover.

Why the PeopleMover Matters

The PeopleMover is popular–and so it’s fortunate that it can handle so many people each hour–at least when it’s operating, and operating correctly. But why is it popular? Why does it appeal to so many

It’s popular because of its appeal to so many people. In my work, I address four styles of people. They look something like the following:

Analytical. For people who are left-brained, the PeopleMover offers stimulus and thought about a wide variety of issues. Foremost is the technology of the ride and how it works.

Driver. Generally over the years the PeopleMover was the attraction you rode on in Tomorrowland when you didn’t want to wait in a long line, or you were waiting for your FastPass time on another attraction. To the driver, it symbolizes efficiency and progress.

Amiable. This is the ultimate car talk experience where no one has to pay attention to driving. It’s designed with seats that face each other, facilitating conversation. Amiables love the idea that you can sit and chat, all the while being on a ride. 

Expressive. The PeopleMover is sleek and represents the future and all of its possibilities. An expressive can easily buy into the symbolism of what it means. And in fact, that’s where I am. But I’m not alone. Walt Disney was an expressive. His artists frequently commented on how spell bound they were by what he said and by how he painted a vision of what could be. Expressive are storytellers. Walt was a storyteller. Expressives generate enthusiasm. Walt generated enthusiasm. Expressives can also be critical when things aren’t right. Both Walt and I can be in that category. But we prefer to be in a place of optimism.

To an expressive, the PeopleMover symbolizes two things:

The End of Covid. When Walt Disney World re-opened, I made the Magic Kingdom the first place I covered. There were many attractions still not operating at that time. But two came to mind the most. The first was the PeopleMover. Of all the attractions that seemed easy to make Covid-free, it was this attraction. The second was the Carousel of Progress. I placed it last on my list that day because of what it symbolized. Yet it had closed an hour earlier than the stated closing time. Not considering that would be a possibility, it became the only operating attraction I didn’t experience on that day. As an expressive, both of these attractions symbolized everything that was great about Tomorrowland. And I didn’t enjoy either.

I since have been on the Carousel of Progress several times. That attraction has challenges, and while I won’t go into those today, they too symbolize what I think both of these attractions symbolize. And that second symbol is the Future. And with it Hope. And when Walt Disney World re-opened, we needed heavy doses of hope. 

By the way, if there’s a third symbol to the end of COVID in Tomorrowland it would be the building of the Tron Lightcycle Power Run. The fact that progress has slowed down on this attraction does not provide the right symbols to an expressive like myself.

The Future. Just like this attraction symbolizes the end of COVID, it also paints a picture of the future. There are a few phrases Imagineers and other have used to describe Tomorrowland as it relates to the future.

  • A World on the Move. When Imagineers talk about what works in Tomorrowland, frequently, it’s a reference to the Kinetic energy of the park. Many reference the 1967 Tomorrowland at Disneyland. This was the time and place where you could see a submarine on the move, Autopia cars meandering about, a monorail whisk by, a Peoplemover on the move, Rocket Jets whirling about and a skyway soaring above it all.
Postcard by Disney of Disneyland from the sky.
  • We Keep Moving Forward. This phrase by Walt Disney best encapsulates what the vision for Tomorrowland should be. “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Everything in Tomorrowland should be moving us forward. The PeopleMover, always moving forward, does just that. It is a reassuring reminder that we should keep moving forward. Even the experience of passing by Progress City reminds us that while we love the original idea of EPCOT, it’s really important to move forward and not stay in the past. So we move to Space Mountain or past Tron. And we see the possibilities of both Space and Inner Space.
Photo by Disney.
  • There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. This Sherman Brothers song encapsulates optimism. Why a future without optimism? The words give you permission to consider the possibilities of a bright and hopeful future. I think that’s why a young person is the voice of the narrative. 
Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Former Imagineering Legend John Hench talks about Everything Speaks. Simply a piece of paper or trash on the ground is noticeable and out of place when you have invested millions to taking your guests to another time and place. That’s the challenge with the PeopleMover. The PeopleMover is the parade into the future. Not having it run in Tomorrowland is to stop the parade. Still, with it running, put a nose cone in a seat and you immediately have disrupted the parade. There should never be another nose cone in a PeopleMover car. If you need a discreet symbol for Cast Members to recognize which cars not to load in the train, find one. But don’t use a nose cone. It sends the wrong message.

Keeping the People Mover running and fresh is one of the great messages you can send to those who want hope. The purpose of Tomorrowland is to restore hope and possibilities. The purpose of Tomorrowland is to redeem those things that aren’t right about the world we live in, but offering something greater on the horizon. 

Souvenirs for Your Organization

Some of our Disney at Work podcasts hold free souvenirs that you can take back to your organization. Consider the following:

  • What has it meant to your customers to have your products and services available during COVID or other difficult times?
  • What has it meant to your customers that you haven’t been able to provide fully your products and services?
  • How do you tailor your products and services to appeal to the 
    • Analytical–where knowledge, insight and understanding can be gleaned?
    • Driver–Where you save individuals time and money?
    • Amiable–Where you offer vehicles for building relationships?
    • Expressive–where you bring passion, story and meaning to your offerings?
  • What messages or symbols do you send when your products and services are not operating, or not operating completely?

When Billy Graham once strolled with Walt Disney through Disneyland, the evangelist congratulated Walt on having built such a marvelous garden of fantasy. “This is the real world here,” Walt sternly replied. “The fantasy world is outside.”

Do you believe that? Can you believe that? If so, let’s take a ride on the PeopleMover.

The Wayfinder Society: A Patreon Site for Disney Fans

We are offering a new program where you have the opportunity to enjoy exclusive offerings from Disney at Play and Disney at Work. Join us as we introduce our new Patreon program, the Wayfinder Society, intended to give you new insights to all things Disney, whether its work or play. I am truly excited to share this new opportunity with you and look forward to creating new experiences that you will enjoy whether at home or at the Disney parks. There are a variety of options for joining, depending on your interests:

When you join, you will be given access to unique, interactive apps that explores the parks in new ways, offering stories, photos, videos and more. 

Here are some of the interactive apps we share with members of our society: 

  • Pandora: World of Avatar: This is an expansive and detailed look at every aspect of this land. You can’t find any source that has covered this entire land with its attractions, retail and dining more in depth.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Across the Globe: We not only compare this attraction in parks world-wide, but we deep dive into what makes each unique. Currently we’ve covered Tokyo Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. More to come!
  • Coming Soon! S.E.A. Assembled! The Society of Adventurers and Explorers are coming to the Wayfinder Society. We’ll document their whereabouts and showcase their imprint on Disney attractions world-wide.
  • Disney at Work Interactive Tour: Disneyland. For our upper tiers, we have an interactive business tour of Disneyland to include more than fifty attractions spread throughout the park. These are best-in-business ideas you can apply to your own organization.
  • Coming Soon! Disney at Work Interactive Tour: Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary. Looking at the heritage of Most Magical Place in the World, we draw best practices from over the years that you can again, apply to your organization. 

As you see, we have so much to share. And when you donate, a portion of your contribution goes to Embrace Celebration, dedicated to helping Disney Cast Members and others in this area who are unemployed during this pandemic. To learn more, visit our site to discover our offerings and various tiers. Join us!

Become a Patron!

J. Jeff Kober