If You Had Wings
|If You Had Wings|
|Attraction type||Dark ride|
|Music||"If You Had Wings"|
|Riders per vehicle||2-3|
If You Had Wings (June 5, 1972 – June 1, 1987) was an attraction at Walt Disney World. It was a two-person Omnimover dark ride in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, sponsored by Eastern Air Lines. The ride featured travel destinations throughout the Caribbean and elsewhere, all of which were, in keeping with the ride's sponsorship, serviced by Eastern. The ride had an eponymous theme song by Buddy Baker.
If You Had Wings was located across from what originally was Flight To The Moon but later became Mission to Mars. It was free, when admission tickets were required of rides in the park.
If You Had Wings was an undisguised promotion for the then-giant Eastern Air Lines. Eastern's initial investment in the ride was reportedly $10 million.
If You Had Wings was a four-and-a-half-minute dark ride based on Disney's Omnimover system. The ride moved at a leisurely pace throughout. It was structurally similar to the Disneyland attraction Adventure Thru Inner Space, which might be considered its predecessor; both were designed by Claude Coats. The theme music was written by Buddy Baker with lyrics by X Atencio.
The ride began with a vaguely simulated "takeoff" in which the ride ascended a slope, while projections of animated silhouettes of seagulls and airplanes swept past on the walls, enhancing the feeling of motion and gently suggesting flight. Riders passed through a series of colorful theater-like sets with embedded small screens looping rear-projected short filmed scenes, while their cars swiveled on their bases to afford good views throughout. In all, thirty-eight 16mm projectors were used in the attraction. The scenes showcased various Eastern destinations and appealed to potential tourists with straw-hat markets, fishermen, limbo dancers, steel drum bands, and more. Many scenes had their own special sound effects. The omnipresent theme music featured a chorus of singers tunefully chanting,
If you had wings, if you had wings,
If you had wings, had wings, had wings, had wings.
The music did not succeed in masking the clicking of the hidden projectors, which was clearly audible throughout most of the ride.
The following locations were represented: Mexico, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas (where a tropically attired traffic cop blew a whistle to direct a flock of flamingos in one direction, pedestrians and vehicles in the other), Jamaica (where the ride's only 35mm projector showed a pod of bathing-suit-clad young people clambering up the rocks at Dunn's River Falls), Trinidad, and New Orleans (where shadows of blowing jazzmen flickered on the wall). Eastern Air Lines had, not coincidentally, a vested interest in travel to all of these places.
Having viewed this sequence of site sets, riders entered the speed room, an ellipsoid onto the interior of which were projected snippets of first-person movies of an airplane taking off, a train, water skis, motorcycles, airboats, and a few other scenes. The clips were projected on the walls by a 70mm projector. The ovoid screen encompassed the viewers' peripheral vision. Furthermore, the vehicle reclined in the speed room, and a breeze was blown on riders. The wraparound images, in combination with the motion and reclining angle of the vehicle and a blast of air, arguably constituted an early attempt at virtual reality. The images were to some extent blurry and distorted, unlike Disney's sharper Circle-Vision 360 technology; 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.
The speed room was followed by the mirror room, where two more 70mm projectors produced images of snow-covered mountains appearing on large screens and were reflected in enormous floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and the music became a wordless symphonic swell of harmonies.
Riders "descended" after exiting the mirror room, and the buttery baritone voice of Orson Welles assured riders,
You do have wings.
You can do all these things.
You can widen your world.
Eastern: the wings of man.
At the time of the ride's inception, "The Wings of Man" was the slogan of Eastern Air Lines. In later years, this passage (spoken by someone other than Welles; perhaps Disney vocal warhorse Peter Renaday) ended with the less grandiloquent, "Eastern: we'll be your wings."
Soothed by these concluding bromides, riders disembarked to an area containing an Eastern Air Lines reservation desk. Agents stood ready to assist riders, presumably inspired by what they had just experienced, with travel arrangements. Few seemed to take advantage of this opportunity.
In 1987, Eastern withdrew its sponsorship and the attraction closed on June 1 of that year. Eastern itself would go out of business just four years later. Although remembered affectionately by many, a fan website devoted to the attraction notes, "If you can't remember the public uproar surrounding the closing... one possible reason is that there was none."
It is worth noting that as an original part of WDW, If You Had Wings met the standards of the park's creators, not far removed from Walt Disney himself, who shared a well-defined vision for the character of the park. As such, even though it was not one of Disney World's main attractions, IYHW was part of an elite group, many of whose members are now lost to history.
Interaction with the WEDway PeopleMover
Large diorama windows, two on the right and one on the left, allowed the Mexico, Jamaica, and Trinidad scenes to be visible to riders on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (then WEDWay PeopleMover). The window on the left was removed when If You Had Wings was replaced with Delta Dreamflight (see below).
After the closing of the original attraction, new attractions were created to inhabit the same space.
If You Could Fly
Subsequent to the closing of IYHW, Disney removed all references to Eastern, changed the name of the ride to If You Could Fly, and re-opened it on June 6, 1987. The sets and films were intact, but the theme music had been replaced. For many fans of the ride the absence of the infectious original music had taken much of the fun out of the attraction, and the opening scene which originally had a film about Eastern had been replaced with footage of flying birds. On January 4, 1989, If You Could Fly was permanently closed.
Soon after, 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.
Disney's Take Flight
Delta dropped its sponsorship in June 1996. WDW removed all references to Delta and renamed the attraction Disney's Take Flight. The ride lasted two years, closing in January 1998.
Unlike the wholesale musical change from If You Had Wings to If You Could Fly, Take Flight's music was the same as Dreamflight's except for some tweaks to the lyrics.
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Disney decided to use the ride space to promote its popular film, Pixar's Toy Story. The new attraction, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, again makes use of the original ride system and floor plan, but now riders can control the rotation of their vehicle via joysticks, and are armed with "laser cannons" to shoot at targets stationed throughout the attraction.
The influence of If You Had Wings was clearly felt in EPCOT Center's World of Motion and Horizons dark rides, both of which featured Omnimovers in settings similar to the speed room mentioned above. (Both those rides are permanently closed.)
The El Rio del Tiempo boat ride at the Mexico pavilion at World Showcase, which has since been modified into the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros, includes films projected onto small screens embedded in elaborate sets. This ride, with its persistent music, miniature movies all around, and dancing dolls, is essentially a Mexican-themed hybrid of IYHW and It's a Small World, and the closest experience to IYHW that can still be had at Walt Disney World.
The theme song "If You Had Wings" can be heard in Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World; it is given a more retro metronome, and has no lyrics.
- Imagineers, The (September 1, 2005). The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Disney Editions. p. 121. ISBN 0-7868-5553-3.
- "Widen Your World". Widen Your World. Retrieved October 23, 2009.
- "If You Could Fly". WDWHistory.com. Retrieved August 12, 2006.
- "If You Had Wings/If You Could Fly". Walt Dated World. Retrieved August 12, 2006.
- Widen Your World Detailed and affectionate fan site featuring a wealth of prose, maps, photographs, and audio recordings.
- Claude Coats An official appreciation of the late Disney animator and Imagineer Claude Coats.
- Photo of the attraction's exterior.