Magic Kingdom

Friday, April 07, 2006


If You Had Wings (June 5, 1972June 1, 1987) was Eastern Airlines' official ride in the Magic Kingdom park at the Walt Disney World Resort. The ride was located in Tomorrowland, across from Mission to Mars. The ride took visitors on a journey through some of Eastern's tourist destinations, such as Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, the Bahamas, and New Orleans.

In the days when most rides required the expenditure of prepaid tickets, this attraction was complimentary. Little-publicized and little known, waiting lines for this attraction were nonexistent or short even when the park was crowded.

It was an undisguised promotion for the then-giant Eastern Airlines, whose corporate slogan at the time was the grandiose "The Wings of Man." It was, nevertheless, good entertainment. A sort of dark ride based on Disney's "Omnimover" ride system, it conveyed seated passengers slowly, steadily, and smoothly through a series of rooms. The experience began with a vaguely simulated "takeoff" in which the ride ascended a slope, while projections of animated outlines of seagulls and airplanes swooped backwards on the walls giving an enhanced feeling of motion and flight.

Riders then passed through a series of rooms consisting, for the most part, of theatre-like sets that included screens showing rear-projected motion picture scenes. Over forty 16 mm projectors were used in the attraction. The rooms illustrated various Eastern Airlines tourist destinations and presented tourist experiences such as seeing straw-hat markets, fishermen, limbo dancers, and steel drum bands. In general the presentation was stylized and cartoon-like rather than realistic. Repetitive music was accompanied by lyrics that said "If you had wings, you could do many things, you could widen your world, if you had wings..." The music did not succeed in masking the sound of the hidden projectors, which were audible throughout most of the ride.

The real reward was the "speed room", an elongated ellipsoid which presented first-person views taken from an airplane taking off, a train, from waterskies, motorcycles, airboats, and so forth. The scenes were projected on the walls by a 70 mm projector. The ellipsoidal room surrounded the riders, producing nearly a 360° surround view. The view was somewhat blurry and distorted. It was not like Disney's razor-sharp Circle-Vision 360 attractions; it rather resembled the fuzzy "Cinema 180" shows featured in many contemporary amusement parks. Nevertheless, the projection effect combined with the motion of the ride produced a genuinely exhilarating sense of speed, and the long, egg-like shape of the room allowed plenty of time to experience the effect.

As the end of the ride approached, the repetitive lyrics gave way to a soothing voice assured you that "You do have wings, you can do all these things, you can widen your world, Eastern...we'll be your wings"

Ultimately, riders were decanted into an arrival area containing, of all things, an Eastern Airlines reservations desk where personnel stood ready to assist any riders eager to participate in person in the scenes they had just viewed in simulation. Few seemed to take advantage of this opportunity.

Although remembered affectionately by many, a fan website devoted to the attraction notes that "If you can't remember the public uproar surrounding the closing... one possible reason is that there was none."

In 1986, Eastern dropped sponsorship of the ride and the attraction closed on June 1, 1987. Disney removed any reference to Eastern, changed the name to If You Could Fly and re-opened the ride on June 6, 1987. On January 4, 1989 If You Could Fly was permanently closed and awaited another transformation.
Soon, Delta Air Lines took over sponsorship and made plans to update and remodel the attraction. The replacement was Delta Dreamflight, which made use of the same ride system and floor layout, but all new scenery and music.

Delta dropped its sponsorship in June 1996. Instead of looking for a new sponsor as in the previous situation, they simply removed all references to Delta and renamed the attraction, Disney's Take Flight. The ride lasted two years, closing in January 1998. Disney decided to use the ride space to promote its popular film, Pixar's Toy Story. The new ride, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, again makes use of the original ride system and floor plan, but now includes an interactive twist. Riders use a laser guns, built into the ride, to shoot at targets stationed throughout the attraction.


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