The Disney Skyway: History of The Gondolas At The Disney Parks

In just under a few months,  The Walt Disney Company is set to open the newest transportation system in the form of gondolas at Walt Disney World.  The Disney Skyliner is set to open in fall of 2019 and will provide service to Epcot, Hollywood Studios,  Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Pop Century, and Disney’s Art of Animation.  But, should I be calling this a new transportation system for Walt Disney World?  Funny enough, this is not a new transportation system.  In fact, this is the fourth time the Walt Disney Company has implemented gondolas in their parks.  


The History:

In May of 1956, the first Disney Skyway (the Disneyland version)  opened to guests as part of a update to Disneyland.  The update also included:  The Monorail, and The Matterhorn. The ride wasn’t open long, as it closed in 1957 to add the section of the ride that goes through the Matterhorn attraction (shown to the left).   It reopened in 1959.  The gondolas were built by Von Roll Ltd. based in Switzerland.  They Skyway had a capacity of 600 pounds (4 people), had a max speed of 4mph, and would soar up to 60 feet (which is 18.3 meters for or metric users).  The ride in Disneyland looped from Fantasyland to the second station where it would turn around in Tomorrowland.  


As the Magic Kingdom took much of its attractions from the Disneyland Resort in California, it only made sense that in October of 1971 it would open with the same Gondola attraction.  The attraction used the same models for the Gondolas, and like the Disneyland version, would loop from the Fantasyland station to the Tomorrowland station and back.  The final Skyway system to open was in Tokyo Disneyland in 1983. 

 After 38 years of operation, the first Disney Skyway system to go was in Disneyland California.  However, the closing had nothing to do with the ride itself, but a support for the gondola’s  within the Matterhorn attraction.  It didn’t make sense to fix it, since the Matterhorn was an E ticket attraction at the park (the fix would require a long down time for both rides).  So, on November 9th, 1994, the attraction closed for good.  Sadly, the history of the Skyway wouldn’t get much better.  it would close in 1998 in Tokyo Disneyland for a new Fantasyland attraction, and would close in 1999 in Walt Disney World due just to the age of the attraction.  This, interestingly enough, wasn’t the last time we saw something from the Skyway.


Abandoned:

After the attractions closed, the Tokyo Disneyland stations and the Tomorrowland station in Disneyland were demolished.  Disney really has no problem at all (at least in the North American parks) keeping locations abandoned for extended periods of time.  In pure Disney fashion, the rest of the stations (Disneyland and Disney World’s) were left for a long time.  After 10 years, the Tomorrowland station in Walt Disney World was demolished.  When the Tomorrowland station was demolished,  it was said that the Fantasyland station was structurally unsound.  After 3 years, in 2012, the station was demolished and replaced by the present day Tangled bathrooms.  Finally after just over 60 years of existence, on June 14th 2016, the last station in Fantasyland (Disneyland) was removed for the construction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 

The Disney Skyliner:

1 year and 1 month after the demolition of the last Skyway station was demolished (July 15th, 2017), the Disney Skyliner was announced.  This gondola system located in Walt Disney world will connect the hotels and parks of:  Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Caribbean Beach, Disney’s Art of Animation, and Disney’s Pop Century.  The travel times between the stations are all 5 minutes or less and the system is set to open in Fall of 2019 (just under a year).  But, I do know, it is safe to say that the Disney Skyway will not be taking flight anytime soon. 

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