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Retro Futurists Blog

The First Discoveryland of Disneyland Paris – Part 1

Anyone that’s been lucky enough to visit one of the Disney ‘Magic Kingdom’ styled theme parks will likely know that Tomorrowland is one of the many themed sections featured there. Walt Disney himself was a renowned futurist; he even created a TV show all about the world of tomorrow. It wasn’t however until he began work on his most ambitious project, Disneyland, that he would create a living piece of his vision of tomorrow.

Each Park has a slightly different version of Tomorrowland, the American parks aim to stay as up to date with their futurism and constantly see changes to keep that vision as current as possible. Tokyo’s resort is aimed more at a general Sci-Fi theme, with more attractions based on the company’s properties and a few keepsakes from the American sites, like Space Mountain. Paris seems to be heading the same way now, however until recently it has been far more retrofuturistic than the others, basing most of its attractions on the works of Jules Verne.

Jules Verne was a French novelist, poet and playwright well known for his adventure stories and influence on the Sci-Fi genre, considered by many as one of the founding fathers of the subject. His best-known works were perhaps Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Verne was meticulous in his research, which lead to a use of genuine futurist ideas of the time and is likely the reason he remains so influential to this day.

Originally the plans for Paris’s Tomorrowland, renamed Discoveryland, were much grander than their final result. Initially a huge multifaceted attraction was plotted out. It was to be called Discovery Mountain, an area with even more Verne inspired attractions. It would feature of course Space Mountain, a ride that features in every Tomorrowland, along with a large free-fall ride based on Journey to the Centre of the Earth and a Nautilus walk through attraction based on movie adaptation 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which would also feature a themed restaurant. Unfortunately due to budget cuts the free-fall ride was axed, the Nautilus remains though without a restaurant, it is only Space Mountain that was built virtually as planned.

‘Space Mountain: De la Terre á la Lune’, or in English ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ is heavily inspired by the Jules Verne novel of the same name, along with the 1902 film adaptation by Georges Méliès. The ride presented a Steampunk styled cannon named the ‘Columbiad’ which fires passengers through space to the moon and back. As visitors make their way through the queue they enter the Victorian head quarters of the ‘Baltimore Gun Club’, the organisation the created the cannon. Here passengers get to see a variety of blueprints that explain how the mechanism works and let us know what we’re in for. Once reaching the end of the bronze and copper trains would be boarded in a Victorian themed station, the trains were loaded into the cannon and fired up the tracks into space.