Monsanto's Adventure Thru Inner Space by Louis Gonzalez (permission by author)
In the beginning...
Walt Disney's Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955 with 22 attractions at a total cost of 17 million dollars. Tomorrowland, one of the 5 lands, was the last to be completed on a budget that was quickly running out. The following quote from Walt Disney furnished the text for a plaque in Tomorrowland: "Tomorrowland…A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements…a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals: the atomic age…the challenge of space…and the hope for a peaceful and unified world." But by the time Tomorrowland was completed, it was made up mostly of corporate sponsored exhibits that emphasized their own interests over Walt's idealistic goals. Walt Disney wanted to improve and update Tomorrowland. After the technological advances achieved by Disney's architectural, engineering, research and development firm WED Enterprises, Disney finally had the chance. WED Enterprises had just successfully created 4 major attractions at the 1964 New York World's Fair seen by nearly 47 million people including Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, It's a Small World, Progressland, and Magic Skyway. It was time to update Tomorrowland.
Micro World
In 1965 Walt Disney approached the Monsanto Company with his idea of a new, expanded Tomorrowland. Monsanto and Disney had previously collaborated on 3 Tomorrowland attractions: Hall of Chemistry in 1955, House of the Future in 1957, and Fashions and Fabrics through the Ages in 1965. Dr. Charles Allan Thomas of Monsanto, principal scientist in the development of the atomic bomb, and Walt Disney discussed an attraction that would explore the world of Inner Space into the microscopic realm of a drop of water. They combined ideas of a 1957 project called Science Land with a 1958 project called Adventures in Science. In both Science Land and Adventures in Science, guests were to have learned the history of science. Adventures in Science riders were to enter through a giant microscope and travel from the prehistoric days of the dinosaur all the way to the futurism of outer space living. In February of 1966, the resulting concept was born as Micro-World, only to be changed to The Magic Microscope two months later. At that point Monsanto agreed to be its sponsor and mentor. WED Enterprises started work on the project right away. This time guests were to enter the microscope and get "shrunk" to explore a drop of water. The idea of a trip into a water drop was soon changed to a trip into a snowflake. At the same time they were working on all the attractions for the new Tomorrowland, they were also working on Disney World in central Florida and elements of the Disney plans for a year-round recreational facilities at Mineral King, California.
The Magic Microscope

WED Enterprises created and designed the attraction The Magic Microscope with much help from Walt Disney and Dr. Charles Allan Thomas. WED opted to use a transportation system called Omnimover first used for their Magic Skyway attraction at the New York World's Fair. The Omnimover consisted of an endless loop of vehicles moving on a fixed track. All the vehicles were attached to one another. Because the vehicles would not stop for loading and unloading, guest would have to use a moving ramp. In 1965, Bob Gurr designed a version of the Omnimover for a ride system that was never built at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles that looked promising for The Magic Microscope attraction. Together with John Hench, Gurr tried to figure out how it could be possible for the Omnimover to travel up and down steep hills, and look in any direction. Gurr assigned a new engineer, Bert W. Brundage, to start the Omnimover drawings based on Gurr's original designs. At the same time, WED made arrangements to use a recently acquired warehouse as an indoor test track. Bert W. Brundage along with Roger E. Broggie completed the design for what became known as the Atomobile. The Atomobile comfortably carried two-and-one-half passengers. Each individual vehicle could rotate 180 degrees to each side to highlight special points of interest in the attraction.

Claude Coats served as the main designer for the attraction. Yale Gracey supervised all the special effects such as the projected images from film and transparencies, dimensional reflections, and delicate crystalline etchings on glass that made up much of the experience. Over 85 projectors and reflecting devices would have to be built. X. Atencio wrote the script and Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman wrote the song Miracles from Molecules. The Sherman brothers had already written songs heard at Disneyland such as It's a Small World and There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. Buddy Baker wrote the ethereal music for the attraction. All his compositions were new except for the piece heard in the queue area. That composition, titled Mysteries of the Atom, was originally composed and recorded for a scientific segment of the attraction Progressland but never used.

A New Tomorrow

By 1966 everything was coming together until December when Walt Disney died unexpectedly. Preparations for the new Tomorrowland quickly resumed with a targeted opening for the summer of 1967. Walt would not get to experience Pirates of the Caribbean nor the new Tomorrowland that were only months away from completion. On January 27, 1967 The Mighty Microscope project was rechristened Adventure Thru Inner Space.

Adventure thru Inner Space, America the Beautiful, Carousel of Progress, Flight to the Moon, PeopleMover, Rocket Jets, and Tomorrowland Terrace would join the already established Submarine Voyage, Autopia, and Monorail in the new Tomorrowland. Two 40 feet high by 44 feet long reflective sculptured murals would greet guests at the entrance. Each included images of atoms. Sparkling water fountains composed of several seemingly suspended abstract forms that symbolize inner and outer space, as tall as 15 feet high, would stand in front of the sculptured mural. Along the corridors inside Tomorrowland, 2 ceramic tile murals by Mary Blair, each 54 feet long by 15 feet high, would adorned the curved walls. One mural would be on the outside wall of America the Beautiful and the other on the outside of Adventure thru Inner Space. Together they would form a work of art called The Spirit of Creative Energies among Children. The Monsanto pavilion that would house Adventure thru Inner Space was to be a new 21,733 square foot building at the south entrance to Tomorrowland.

On July 18, 1967, the new Tomorrowland officially opened with its biggest new attraction Adventure thru Inner Space still closed. Delays in construction allowed guests riding the PeopleMover to get a glimpse of the unfinished inner space adventure. The premier to Adventure thru Inner Space was held on July 29, it finally opened to the public on August 5 as a free attraction.

"Even though your body will shrink, your mind will expand!"

A small sign outside of the attraction that read "Adventure thru Inner Space and 'Miracles from Molecules' Presented by Monsanto. Admission free." Guests would then enter through one of three turnstiles to begin curving past 8 display pods showcasing Monsanto product and miniature key scenes from the ride ahead. Ominous music, sci-fi sound effects and a deep voice narration played in the background while voices of a tracking crew were heard speaking technical jargon: "Phase orange. Forward units obscured. Cannot, repeat, cannot locate Atomobiles...still no evidence of Atomobiles. Critical phases continue precision scan procedure." A 33 foot long by 16 foot high electronic tracking board showed the guests the target of their trip. On the tracking board, there was a giant, blue snowflake with an orange and red center. Concentric rings of white light were on behind the snowflake. Each would turn off in sequence to give the illusion of dark rings pulsing towards the snowflake's center. The most impressive feature in the queue was a massive, 37 feet long and 12 feet high, microscope designed by George McGinnis. The microscope was officially named the "Mighty Microscope" and bore a Monsanto logo. Those waiting to board the continuous line of Atomobiles which carried them into the "Mighty Microscope" could see inner space travelers apparently shrinking as they moved passed a transparent section of the microscope. Through this transparent section one could see miniature Atomobiles complete with miniature people moving upwards to the tip of the microscope that was focused on a slide where a snowflake flurry was occurring. The miniature Atomobiles were passing by at the same speed as the actual guest-loaded Atomobiles and a flashing white light seen by the miniature Atomobiles mimicked one seen at the entrance of the big Atomobiles into the microscope. All this helped the illusion of guests shrinking which often scared the impressionable children waiting in line.

Above the loading area, a sign read "Monsanto welcomes you to the world of the molecule." Guests stepped from a turntable platform that revolved synchronized with the smooth moving Atomobiles. The speed of the loading turntable was adjusted to run 10% slower than the unloading because it was discovered that people always hurried to try boarding vehicles up ahead. Built by Arrow Development, the 123 vehicles would travel on a hidden tubular steel track on rubber tires and depart every 3 seconds. The track was 682 feet in length and the vehicles moved at a speed of 1.2 miles per hour for a 6-minute ride. This allowed up to 3,275 guests per hour to experience the trip. Sixteen electronic motors from General Electric were located in pairs along the route boosting the chain of vehicles along the track. Riders would never lean forwards or backwards as tilting was done to compensate where the track inclined or descended enhancing the feeling of floating. The serious onboard narration, performed by Paul Frees, was heard from 3 speakers within the vehicles behind the heads of the riders. The narration was divided into separate blocks that would get triggered at 14 different route locations. This would ensure proper synchronization at all times. The attraction included 5 other separate sound systems within the route. Separate ethereal score parts and sound effects were heard playing in each scene outside the Atomobile. Some of these sounds were known as "color tones" because they combined lighting effects with orchestrations in a synchronized pattern. The combined effects of the cold temperature, sounds close and distant, flashing lights, pulsing bursts of air, the emotional narration, the faint conversations of the "tracking crew", and the rotation of the vehicle, in the dark, towards new scenes through a universe of complex images formed the context for the story of an adventure through inner space.

The "Trip"

After entering the darkness of the "Mighty Microscope," the Atomobile turned to face backwards and entered an all white tunnel of snowflakes projected from several hidden sources onto the tunnel walls. The tinkling music of falling snow was heard as a voice began to narrate: "For centuries, man had but his own two eyes to explore the wonders of his world. Then he invented the microscope, a mighty eye, and discovered the fantastic universe beyond the limits of his own meager sight. Now your adventure through inner space has begun. Through Monsanto's 'Mighty Microscope' you will travel into the incredible universe found within a tiny fragment of a snowflake. I am the first person to make this fabulous journey. Suspended in the timelessness of inner space are the thought waves of my first impressions. They will be our only source of contact once you have passed beyond the limits of normal MAGNIFICATION." The word "magnification" became a loud and reverberating echo, as snowflakes grew larger to reveal their delicate structure. The larger snowflakes were dimensional and some moved and spun. The snowflakes grew larger and larger and seemed to crowd in closely.

"I am passing beyond the magnification limits of even the most powerful microscope. These are snowflakes, and yet they seem to grow larger and larger, or can I be shrinking…shrinking beyond the smallness of a tiny snowflake crystal? Indeed, I am becoming smaller and smaller!" At this point the huge overlapping shapes seemed to lose their resemblance to snowflakes and appeared as solid prisms of heavy, layered, six-sided, towering walls of ice cliffs. They clustered around the route to form a tunnel for the line of Atomobiles. "These tiny bits of snowflake crystal tower above me, like an enormous wall of ice. Can I penetrate this gigantic prism? And yet this wall of ice only seems smooth and solid. From this tiny viewpoint I can see that nothing is solid, no matter how it appears. And still I continue to shrink."

The corridor opened into an area filled with lacy, shimmering patterns going in every direction. This web work, which appeared to be an infinity of two dimensional, six-sided honeycombs, gave way suddenly to total darkness. "What compelling force draws me into this mysterious darkness? Can this be the threshold of inner space?" From all about a frantic staccato plucking of violin strings was heard as guests were surrounded by countless fleecy spheres, each of them consisted of two smaller spheres attached to a larger one. The spheres were multiplied by the use of mirrors. "What are these strange spheres? Have I reached the universe of the molecule? Yes! These are water molecules, H2O. They vibrate in such an orderly pattern because this is water frozen into the solid state of matter."

As guests continued to shrink, they saw whirling, orbiting lights spinning at fantastic speeds within the molecules. "These fuzzy spheres must be the atoms that make up the molecule. Two hydrogen atoms bonded to a single oxygen atom. And I see it's the orbiting electrons that give the atom its fuzzy appearance." As if breaking through a dense cloud of meteors, guests reached the universe of the oxygen atom. "And still I continue to shrink! Is it possible that I can enter the atom itself? Electrons are dashing about me, like so many fiery comets! Can I possibly survive?" When the violent breakthrough into the atom was over, the stillness and vast emptiness within was in great contrast. "I have pierced the wall of the oxygen atom. I am so infinitely small now that I can see millions of orbiting electrons. They appear like the Milky Way of our own solar system. This vast realm, this is the infinite universe within a tiny speck of snowflake crystal." The Atomobile turned towards the mysterious nucleus of the atom that throbbed with bursts of air and flashing light in the guest's direction while emitting a synchronized booming sound like the magnified beating of a human heart. "And there is the nucleus of the atom. Do I dare explore the vastness of its inner space? No, I dare not go on. I must return to the realm of the molecule before I go on shrinking forever!" The snowflake began to melt reversing the journey as thousands of projected, vibrating H2O molecules blended into bubbles. "Oh, how strange, the molecules are so active now. They have become fluid…freed from their frozen state. That can only mean that the snowflake is melting." As the reverberating effect of the word "melting" faded away, guests found themselves in a room with a giant microscope's scope looking down at them. As they passed in front of it, they saw a detailed, huge, animated human eye looking from high above.

The tone of the narration changed to signal the end of our adventure. "Yes, the snowflake has melted but there is no cause for alarm. You are back on visual and returning to your normal size. This has been one of many exciting adventures through inner space in a never-ending search for new ways to rearrange molecules for the benefit of mankind. Now, in our display area you will see modern miracles created by rearranging the molecules of not only water, but of air, coal, petroleum and many other raw materials. This is Monsanto."

Miracles from Molecules
Guests exited into a post-show area named Miracles from Molecules. The Atomobiles circled the spectacular "Fountain of Fashion" before unloading into the display area. The Sherman brothers' song Miracles from Molecules played on a continuous loop. Five animated cartoon posters showed situations representing five of the major markets Monsanto serves: agriculture, home furnishings, apparel, transportation, and construction. More than 2,000 Monsanto products were displayed in 24 glass-encased displays that rotated continuously to create a "Rainbow of Products." Towards the back, a 12 foot high "World Clock" showed the locations of 90 Monsanto facilities around the globe. This illuminated instrument depicted the world in an extended North Polar view and showed the time of day for any given point on the world map. The "World Clock" didn't last too long and was replaced by more displays. Big letters on the wall now read "Monsanto, products from molecules working for you" where the top of the "World Clock" once stood.

Adventure thru Inner Space was a smash when it opened. No one had ever ridden an Omnimover before, and never had guests been so intimately surrounded by a Disney show. Guests could actually reach out and touch the giant snowflakes. This created such a problem that it led Imagineers to develop the concept of the "Envelope of Protection" which kept the guests at a distance from the sets.

With only two or three guests per Atomobile, and separated from the view of anyone else, there was a sense of privacy and intimacy that could be found nowhere else at Disneyland. WED had inadvertently created the ultimate "tunnel of love." Another problem resulted in the fact that the attraction was free when guests needed to buy A through E tickets to ride other attractions. Children would ride unsupervised over and over. To solve this problem, Disneyland began including a special admission coupon in each Child and Junior ticket book. This allowed children to ride only once. Another option was for children to use a C coupon or ride supervised by an adult. Disney installed closed circuit TV cameras in the attraction to help apprehend guests who leaned out to touch, break, or remove set pieces. This didn't stop amorous couples who continued being demonstrative in their activities while monitored by attentive Disneyland cast members. Because of this, the ride was sped up to shorten the ride time. This left the slow, deep narration sounding helium-induced in certain zones where the soundtrack attempted to keep up with the ride. Other minor problems resulted from the innovative special effects. The smaller orbiting lights that whirled within the molecules at high speeds were a maintenance headache and were replaced by a static image.

U.S. patent 3, 554, 130 was filed for the Atomobile on April 26, 1968. The patent also covered the Doombuggy and was finally approved on January 12, 1971. Adventure thru Inner Space became a C ticket attraction on December 15, 1972. Almost 5 years later, on September 30, 1977, Monsanto ended their sponsorship. The journey into a snowflake would have to go it alone. All references to Monsanto were removed. The narration was re-edited to drop any references to Monsanto. The small sign outside the attraction now read "Adventure thru Inner Space, a child under age 7 must be accompanied by an adult." The mannequins with modern clothes in the "Fountain of Fashion" were replaced by generic snowflake logos. The five animated cartoon posters were replaced with Disneyland attraction posters while the rest of the Monsanto display area became a shop. The attraction continued without a sponsor through the middle of the next decade, and then suddenly closed on September 2, 1985.

"Yes, the snowflake has melted"

The destruction of Adventure thru Inner Space began September 3, 1985 to make way for the new attraction Star Rides. Much of the Plexiglas and Lexan sets were trashed along with the "Mighty Microscope." The Atomobile vehicles became landfill. The giant eyeball was sent to a storage facility at Tujunga, while most of the miniature Atomobile pods from the dioramas in the queue area went to the Walt Disney Archives. A few other items such as molecules, scrim sheets, big metal letters from the sign outside, projection systems, additional miniature Atomobile pods, and even eyelashes from the giant eye were "salvaged" by cast members and Imagineers. The rest of the building's interior was destroyed. The building structure itself was to remain untouched, but then production problems arose that necessitated a section of the ceiling to be raised higher. The name Star Rides was changed to Star Tours and on January 9, 1987 it opened to some of the biggest crowds ever seen at the park.

Visiting today's Star Tours building from Tomorrowland's entrance, it's not difficult remembering Adventure thru Inner Space. The two sculptured murals that greet guests at the entrance of Tomorrowland are no longer reflective, but they still have the images of atoms. Inside the building, the curving walkway leading into the attraction loading area is identical. In the same location where the giant, electronic snowflake was, we now see the "Moon of Endor" travel film. And in the exact position were the "Mighty Microscope" was located, now stands a "Star Speeder 3000" vehicle. Further in the "Droidnostics Center" area of the Star Tours queue, one of the droids, officially known as R4-M9, works on one of the 8 display pods that were once in the Monsanto queue, now redressed as a control panel. In the same room, a miniature Atomobile pod passed overhead mixed in within the baskets of robot space junk but has been removed since. In the film that is part of the ride portion of Star Tours, sentimental homage is paid to Adventure thru Inner Space as an 18-inch model of the "Mighty Microscope" is seen in the lower right of the screen just as the runaway craft swings out of the hangar bay and plunges into space. Ice comets encountered on the way to the "Moon of Endor" were loosely inspired by the dancing inner space snowflakes. The two tile murals outside the Tomorrowland buildings remained. The mural on the Inner Space building was covered with a new Star Tours painting but the tiles remain underneath. The mural across the street, on the America the Beautiful building, remained intact until the opening of the new Tomorrowland in May of 1988. In its place, a new painting depicts all extinct Tomorrowland attractions. As a last farewell, the new painting depicts a line of Atomobiles going into a microscope. "This is Monsanto"

Author: I've compiled this information from every source I could find and from my own recollections. If there is any information that needs to be corrected or expanded, feel free to e-mail me at