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They Did Have Wings…

Projectors waiting for If You Had Wings

What you are looking at are forty-two projectors, all preparing to be installed in the Eastern Airlines-sponsored ride If You Had Wings. This Tomorrowland attraction operated in Florida’s Magic Kingdom from 1972 to 1987, and consisted of a whimsical, musical Omnimover trip to various ports of call serviced by Eastern. For those who missed it, the ride’s closest modern analogue is EPCOT’s El Rio Del Tiempo; its ride system was similar to the Haunted Mansion’s Doom Buggies or Disneyland’s Adventures Thru Inner Space. Much like El Rio Del Tiempo, most of the ride consisted of dimensional sets combined with background projections – hence the need for all these projectors.

The 16mm automatic projectors were constructed by the Studio Machine Shop at the Disney Studios, and contained a continuous loop of film (the loops can be seen hanging vertically in the glass windows of the machines on the left). The Walt Disney World projectors were special in that they were designed to be operated and monitored remotely; the Magic Kingdom’s central computers, called DACS (for Digital Animation Control System), could start and stop the projectors, turn their lamps on or off and report malfunctions like broken film loops or burnt-out lamps.

If the film loops did break, the projectors would shut off automatically (automagically?). Upon repair, the projector would cycle through to the start mark on the film and wait for a command from DACS. When restarted, the projector would then sync back up with the other projectors in the attraction.

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7 comments to They Did Have Wings…

  • WC

    Well I never knew that ride was so complicated. It truly was a “flight of fancy”.Your piece brings back memories of a simple yet fun ride that helped riders escape the heat of the Florida Sun and travel to distant lands in a travelogue kind of format. Once again you helped me “remember the magic”.

  • Cousin Orville

    Great post Michael! Always excited to see something about If You Had Wings. It was my favorite ride as a little kid, mostly b/c I was such a big wuss when it came to rides for the first 10 years of my life or so…ha! That said, I always thought IYHW was cut from the same mold as many of the first wave of EPCOT rides which is why I still have such fond memories of it. WOM in particular made use of those big dome rooms, pre-simulator rides. I think they’re actually still present in WDW’s Buzz ride too, no?

    And as WC said, it was ALWAYS a great way to cool off from the brutal FL heat!!! That blast of cold air as you’re entering the globe was the best. :)

  • Really great post. I’m always interested in how it’s done behind the scenes. Also surprised that Disney itself built the projectors to suit particular needs, though I guess Disney’s always been the kind of company to say “if it doesn’t exist, we’ll build it,” instead of “if it doesn’t exist, we’ll change our design to fit what DOES exist.” Probably one of the secrets to their success.

  • philphoggs

    Wow, looking at that shot just screams maintenance – all this and before polyester film. The roar of “force projector” once deployed definitely left its mark on me.
    I wonder how many kids interest was sparked in film and staging from this ride. And oh yea, the air conditioning with the good looking flight attendants didn’t hurt either :)

  • Orville – I was the same way. Those air-conditioned Omnimovers were a blessing for the thrill-averse child haha… The speed rooms are indeed still in Buzz. There were three, I think, in WOM.

    Bruce – I think Disney was pretty used to making their own stuff back in the day. It’s amazing how much of the WDW equipment, vehicles, even watercraft, were built by the shops. I guess there wasn’t much of a consumer market then for looped-projection, remote-controlled projectors! That’s why it bugs me whenever they outsource anything these days – I was always impressed at their ability to construct anything they wanted to their exact specifications.

    Phil – I can’t imagine how often they had to replace these things. It must have been crazy. Think of what they’d have been able to do with digital projection!

  • there was a 16mm 1970s wdw projector sitting in the utilidors a few weeks ago.

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