The Timekeeper

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The Timekeeper
Disneyland Park (Paris)
Area Discoveryland
Status Closed
Opening date April 12, 1992
Closing date September 5, 2004
Replaced by Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
Tokyo Disneyland
Area Tomorrowland
Status Closed
Opening date April 15, 1993
Closing date September 1, 2002
Replaced by Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters
Magic Kingdom
Area Tomorrowland
Status Closed
Opening date November 21, 1994
Closing date February 26, 2006
Replaced by Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
General statistics
Attraction type Circle-Vision Theater
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Theme Time Travel
Music Bruce Broughton
Host Timekeeper
Audio-animatronics 2
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible

The Timekeeper (also known as From Time to Time and Un Voyage à Travers le Temps) was a 1992 Circle-Vision 360° film that was presented at three Disney parks around the world. It was the first Circle-Vision show that was arranged and filmed with an actual plot and not just visions of landscapes, and the first to utilize Audio-Animatronics. The film features a cast of European film actors of France, Italy, Belgium, Russia, and England. The film was shown in highly stylized circular theaters, and featured historic and futuristic details both on the interior and exterior.

The Timekeeper and its original European counterpart Le Visionarium marked the first time that the Circle-Vision film process was used to deliver a narrative story line. This required a concept to explain the unusual visual characteristics of the Theater, hence the character 9-Eyes. 9-Eyes is sent through Time by The Timekeeper, so that she can send back the surrounding images as she records them in whichever era she finds herself in.[1]

The European attraction was also known by its film name as Un Voyage à Travers le Temps, while the Japanese version was simply named "Visionarium", with the caption From Time to Time on the poster. The American Film Theater was known as "Transportarium" for a period of six months after it debuted, but the name was later dropped in lieu of "Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center", or formally "The Timekeeper".

History[edit]

Le Visionarium (the original title) was not just an ordinary Circle-Vision 360° film, but was important in that, for the first time in a Circle-Vision film, Imagineers wanted to tell an immersive story and attempt a light-hearted dialog without just switching between scenes of landscapes, as had been done in all of the previous Circle-Vision films.

The original concept for the film had included Jules Verne and the culture of past and present European history and events, and new inventions. Along with the previous elements, the story had to do with the idea of Time Travel with one concept including a child that explored the story of the great European scientists of the past on an intelligent computer. However, to keep the audience focused and use imagination to depict situations and places that do not cater to the average person, the number of visions of the past and extreme situations of the plot kept increasing all the time for the project.[2]

The film first premiered in Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris on April 12, 1992 as Le Visionarium. It was an extravagant attraction, and was touted by then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner as the showcase attraction of the land at the time. However, TIME Magazine derided the film as a "flop" of a "wan drama" in its review of Disneyland Paris.[3] The next year, the third incarnation of the ride opened at Tokyo Disneyland, as part of that park's 10th Anniversary Celebration.[4]

The attraction had long been on the Discoveryland USA proposal for the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort. However, when financial difficulties arose because of the EuroDisney Project, this Discoveryland project was canceled.[5][6] At one point, the attraction was to be extended into a restaurant featured next door to the attraction. The Plaza Pavilion was to receive a makeover as the "Astronomer's Club", where a stage would have featured actors portraying famed scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, or Galileo, who would appear in the restaurant, and then be called back to the past by either 9-Eyes or Timekeeper.

However, the film was named From Time to Time and opened in the Magic Kingdom's Circle-Vision Theater, rechristened "Transportarium" on November 21, 1994 as part of the New Tomorrowland expansion. Six months later, the attraction underwent some name changes. The Theater was renamed "Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center", and the film was formally known as The Timekeeper.

In 2001, the attraction was moved to the seasonal list of attractions along with Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. In February 2006, the Walt Disney World Resort reported that The Timekeeper was to be closed on February 26, 2006. Walt Disney World's version was the last version of the attraction to be closed. Both the Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris Visionarium films had closed in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

Pre-show synopsis[edit]

European pre-show[edit]

Guests were ushered into a dimly-lit library-like chamber, complete with several artifacts, such as models of Jules Verne's Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Albatross from The Clipper of the Clouds, Da Vinci's flying machine, or the first balloon ever created. A short movie about the history of Renault making cars is shown (until this company dropped its sponsorship in 2002). Guests were introduced to Timekeeper, who told them they were about to join him in an experimentation by viewing his last and greatest invention: his extraordinary machine to explore Time. Before he introduced it, he gave a short speech on how his machine would change the world just as the ones that surrounded guests in the pre-show room. He even sang briefly about visionaries. After that, he introduced the crowd to "9-Eyes", and explained how she would travel through Time first and let guests see this through her eyes. Guests then watched 9-Eye's training videos, which included a plunge over Niagara Falls, a flight into a barn full of dynamite in Topeka, Kansas, a swirling ride aboard a centrifugator, and lastly, hitching a ride on a space shuttle.

Japanese pre-show[edit]

This pre-show scene was similar to the European version, however with some differences. Instead of the dark circular enclave as in the Paris location, a bright open area was present. The wall that separated the building from the Tomorrowland corridor was a large stained-glass mural featuring 22 famous inventors and visionaries. Also featured was the Timekeeper's study, library, and laboratory. The pre-show area also featured a 20-foot model of Da Vinci's Heliocentric Solar System, the Nautilus from Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Albatross from Verne's The Clipper of the Clouds, a real 1920s film projector from Walt Disney Pictures, and an actual copy of Verne's novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.[4] This location's film focused on Verne and H.G. Wells, explaining how their work changed history. Then, 9-Eyes was introduced to guests.

American pre-show[edit]

Before the actual show, guests were introduced to the invention of the show, "Circumvisual PhotoDroid", more frequently referred to as "9-Eye". The nine eyes she had represented the nine cameras used in filming the show in the round, thus showing the view from one of her "eyes" on each of the nine movie screens. She was the latest development by The Timekeeper, the inventor of the Time Machine. Guests were invited to be witnesses of the first use ever of the newly invented Machine. Guests also watched 9-Eye's training videos, which included a plunge over Niagara Falls, a flight into a barn full of dynamite in Topeka, Kansas, a swirling ride aboard a centrifugator, and lastly, hitching a ride on a space shuttle.

Attraction synopsis[edit]

The Film[edit]

After guests entered the Theatre, Timekeeper (Voiced by Robin Williams) came to life and had 9-Eyes prepared for the journey through Time. Timekeeper then turned on the Machine for its first use, then watched from his control panel as 9-Eyes was thrust back to the Jurassic age period in Earth's history. She narrowly escaped a hungry Allosaurus as Timekeeper sent her to the last great ice age about 12,000 years ago. As she started freezing up, Timekeeper sent her to 1450, for what should have been a demonstration of Johannes Gutenberg's Printing Press.

However, Timekeeper messed up and sent her to a Scottish battlefield in which one warrior comes after her. Finally once the kinks of the Time Machine got worked out, Timekeeper sent 9-Eye to the year 1503, at the height of the Renaissance. The Machine was placed right in the middle of Leonardo da Vinci's workshop, where he was painting the Mona Lisa and working on a model of his Flying Machine. 9-Eye, being curious, picked up an item close to her, and was quickly noticed by Leonardo, who became fascinated by the strange machine, and started drawing it on paper.

However, the meeting between 9-Eyes and Da Vinci was cut short. Her next stop in Time was 1763 in a French castle, where a child named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gave a musical performance to a crowd, which included King Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour. The meeting was once again cut short as she was noticed by the people, who started chasing her through various hallways. Timekeeper then decided to send her to the 1878 Exposition Universelle, but the Machine was stuck on fast forward, so she witnessed a Paris skyline in such a motion that the progress of the Eiffel Tower, the symbol of the 1889 Exposition Universelle, is shown in the background. Finally Timekeeper had the Machine stopped in 1900, just in time for the 1900 Exposition Universelle.

Timekeeper announced that guests were just in time for a meeting between H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. 9-Eyes hid from the fair-goers but not so that Verne and Wells were hidden. After a brief conversation about their conflicting visions of the Future, Wells walked away, leaving Verne with a model of his Time Machine, which Verne had just criticized as impossible. After a sarcastic comment about time travel from Verne, 9-Eyes rebutted his claim and appeared to the author. Jules Verne decided to take a closer look at her and tried to grab her. Timekeeper, seeing this, tried to bring her back to the present, but accidentally took Verne as well.

Timekeeper and 9-Eyes, realizing their mistake, tried to send him back, but he refused after discovering he had finally arrived in the future he had always dreamed of. He begs for them to show him the world of the present in 10 minutes or less, so he could return to 1900 and deliver his speech at the Exhibition (which made Timekeeper ironically reply that he did it in 80 days). They agreed, and Timekeeper set the Machine for the present date. He sent Verne and 9-Eyes to a dark tunnel, which Verne believed to be a "dark future". They were unaware they were standing in a railroad tunnel. The next thing to happen was a collision between Jules Verne and a French TGV train, with Verne becoming a new hood ornament.

From the train, Jules Verne and 9-Eyes explored the modern streets of Paris (with Verne walking among the traffic, nearly causing an accident), which led Verne, curious, to try driving. As such, Timekeeper put him in the front seat of a race car, and Verne took off, albeit in the wrong direction. Verne then enjoyed a bobsled run. After this bobsled run, Timekeeper sent Verne and 9-Eyes to the bottom of the sea to show Verne how his novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea came to life.

The scene then changed, going from being underwater to flying. Jules Verne now stood in a balloon soaring over Red Square in Moscow, sharing it with a Russian couple on their honeymoon. Since Verne's presence was inconvenient, Timekeeper sent him to Roissy Airport near Paris. The two Russian lovers were accidentally taken to Paris as well, where they could start their honeymoon. As Verne witnessed planes (the "flying wagons" as he called them), he begged for Timekeeper to let him fly. An employee soon arrived, discovered 9-Eyes, and started talking to her. However, Verne, who ventured far from there, was arrested by policemen. With the help of the employee and Timekeeper's grip on time, Verne was freed (these two scenes were not part of Orlando's version).

The screen then showed a flight through the air above various European countrysides featuring castles and mountains. Verne was shown in a helicopter, sitting dangerously close to its open door. After flying over Mont Saint-Michel, Neuschwanstein Castle, various scenes of the English countryside, and New York City's skyline (only in Orlando's version), Verne requested to go even higher. They took him to space, in order to show that another dream of his, space travel, had come true from his book From the Earth to the Moon.

Time began to run out, so Timekeeper and 9-Eyes returned Verne to the site of the Grand Palais of the 1900 Exposition Universelle. However, Timekeeper made one mistake in the wrong year; Verne being in the right place, but at the wrong time, in the 1990s (the present day when the attraction opened). When they finally returned Verne to 1900, H.G. Wells happened to go back to the site of his discussion with Verne, and therefore saw all that went on with the Timekeeper. Wells was flabbergasted, and Verne and 9-Eyes exchanged goodbyes as Wells struggled to understand what just happened. 9-Eyes returned to the present time, and now that guests had witnessed a "flawless" demonstration of his Time Machine, Timekeeper decided to send 9-Eye into the future along with a few guests that volunteered to travel with her.

Timekeeper then sent 9-Eyes and selected guests to 2189, 300 years after the Exposition Universelle of 1889 and the completion of the Eiffel Tower (both evidenced by the Timekeeper's clock and by the appearance of the number "300" on the Eiffel Tower). As they explored a futuristic Paris aboard a flying car named Reinastella, they saw Jules Verne and H.G. Wells appearing in what looked like Wells' Time Machine from 1900. A stunned 9-Eyes questioned how they got there, to which Verne replied, "In the future, anything is possible!". The show ended as they jetted off, and Timekeeper wished everyone well. As guests left, Timekeeper made plans to see other important events in history and in the future with his Machine and 9-Eyes.

Voice cast[edit]

Character Voice actor (American) Voice actor (French) Voice actor (Japanese)
Timekeeper Robin Williams Michel Leeb George Tokoro
9-Eyes Rhea Perlman Myriam Boyer Yuki Saito

Film cast[edit]

Character Actor
Jules Verne Michel Piccoli
H.G. Wells Jeremy Irons
Leonardo da Vinci Franco Nero
Mona Lisa Anna Pernicci
Louis XV Jean Rochefort
Madame de Pompadour Nathalie Baye
Roissy Employee Gérard Depardieu
Mr. Verne's Translator Patrick Bauchau

Filming locations[edit]

Palm Pavilion in Schönbrunn Palace, where 9-Eyes meets Jules Verne

Film variations[edit]

The original European version of the film was different from the American version. A certain number of scenes were cut including the hot air balloon scene, some European coastline scenes, and a dialogue between Jules Verne and an employee of Paris' Charles de Gaulle International Airport. The only addition in the American version was a New York City skyline scene. The hot air balloon scene was filmed over Red Square in Moscow, and as such taken under intense conditions by Walt Disney Productions in the then-Soviet Union.

European and Japanese scene order American scene order
Jurassic Period Same
Ice Age Same
The Anglo-Scottish Wars Same
Da Vinci's Workshop Same
Mozart's Concert in 1763 Same
The Construction of the Eiffel Tower Same
Exposition Universelle of 1900 Same
Jules Verne in the present day Same
Verne's Collision with TGV Same
Traffic scene near Arc de Triumph Same
Bobsled Run Same
Deep-sea exploration scene Same
Up in the air from Red Square Omitted
Charles De Gaulle Airport Omitted
Flying over European countriesides Same, although Orlando's version goes from underwater to flying
Omitted New York skyline
Outer Space Same
Return to Paris, today Same
Return to Paris in 1900 Same
Paris in 2189 Same
End Same

Aftermath and the Effects of September 11, 2001[edit]

After being placed on a seasonal schedule in April 2001, The Timekeeper at Walt Disney World was open on a sporadic schedule during the busy seasons. Some attribute it to the following criticisms, which the overseas versions of the attraction had not been faced with:

  • Obese or elderly guests may have found it hard to stand or strainful on the eyes
  • The lack of familiar Disney characters
  • The building's entrance was very inconspicuous and did not feature a large rotating globe icon or full title.

After the events of September 11, 2001 in the United States, the attraction faced even harder times, due in part to a general decline in tourism due to the terrorist acts. The fact the film featured a scene of New York that still included the now-destroyed World Trade Center prompted a change that saw the Timekeeper′s clock in this segment register the "current year" as 2000.

However, the attraction lasted five more years. During the time when construction was occurring on Stitch's Great Escape!, it was open more frequently along with Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. On days when the show was not opened, the queue was a meet-and-greet for Disney characters such as Stitch and Pixar characters Buzz Lightyear, and Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone from The Incredibles.

Until February 2006, The Timekeeper in Walt Disney World Resort was the last Timekeeper still operating, as the Tokyo Disneyland version closed in 2002 and was replaced with Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters in 2004, and the Disneyland Paris version closed in 2004 and was replaced by Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast in 2006, although the Disneyland Paris version closed mainly because it lost its sponsor, Renault.

In early 2007, the former location of The Timekeeper became home to Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. The attraction building still retains most of the elements of the previous tenant, including the water columns in the queue and the basic Circle-Vision theater. However, the Theater floor has been modified to include seating and several of the screens are now covered by other elements.

Failed proposal for the Disneyland Resort[edit]

During the early 1990s, then Disney-Executive, Michael Eisner released ambitious plans for changes to the parks. "Tomorrowland 2055" was planned for a remake of Tomorrowland and the Disneyland Resort in California. The Timekeeper was to be a showcase attraction, along with ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter and Plectu's Fantastic Intergalactic Revue. One promotional brochure had Delta Air Lines[7] sponsoring the film. But these plans were later scrapped due to financial difficulties within the Parks & Resorts division, most stemming from the billion dollar losses incurred with the EuroDisney project. However, some clips of The Timekeeper could be seen in the queue for Rocket Rods, which utilized the Circle-Vision 360° Theater.

Other information placed Visionarium as an opening-day attraction at the unbuilt park next to Disneyland, WestCOT. The show would have been housed in a European Renaissance building in a European section of the WestCOT version of World Showcase. However, like the "Tomorrowland 2055" plan, this did not occur either.[8][9]

Technical aspects[edit]

  • Film negative format (mm/video inches)
    • 9 x 35 mm
  • Cinematographic process
    • Circle-Vision 360
  • Printed film format
    • 9 x 35 mm
  • Aspect ratio
    • 12.00 : 1

Soundtrack notes[edit]

Audio dialogue[edit]

The three versions of the attraction featured a soundtrack of dialogue in each park's country's native tongue (French, Japanese, and English).

Both the Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris versions featured guest-selectable translations on headset, which included :

  • For Paris :
    • English
    • German
    • Spanish
    • Italian
    • Dutch
  • For Tokyo :
    • English
    • Mandarin Chinese

Since both the European and Japanese versions opened before Orlando's version was created, the voicecast and dialogue are completely different. The American-style dialogue was not present in these versions, and it was a close translation of the French dialog.

Featured music[edit]

  • While the American version received a different soundtrack from the other versions, they were both scored by Bruce Broughton.[10]
  • During the scene of the conversation between Verne and Wells at the Exposition Universelle, the song heard in the background is called Estudiantina, or Band of Students Waltz. It was composed in 1883 by Émile Waldteufel.
  • When Verne returns to the Exhibition building in the 1990s, "Motownphilly" by Boyz II Men can be heard in the background. It was meant to represent popular music at the time of filming. The song can be found on their 1991 debut album Cooleyhighharmony.

Foreign language titles[edit]

  • French: Le Visionarium
  • Japanese: ビジョナリアム - Visionarium

Renault's involvement with the film[edit]

The French automobile company Renault is heavily featured throughout the attraction, since it sponsored it in Europe between 1992 and 2002.

  • In the film :
    • In the scene where Jules Verne steps off the curb into a busy street in front of the Arc de Triomphe, the car that almost hits him is a five-door hatchback, Renault Clio, at the time of filming the newest model in Renault's fleet of cars.
    • In the Formula 1 scene, where Jules Verne drives a race car, he is seated and drives the Renault F1 vehicle.
    • The flying car carrying a family in the scene of Paris in the future was imagined by Renault and is called a "Reinastella".
  • In front of the building in Paris :
    • A Reinastella model was displayed near the entrance, but it was removed in 2002, when Renault dropped sponsorship. However it remained in the final scene of the film. The prototype car was then seen around Europe in auto shows, most recently on display at Renault's showroom on the Champs-Élysées.
    • When the prop sat outside the theater, a plaque beneath it read :

Blast into the Future by checking out the Renault Reinastella! The Reinastella's futuristic design features a vocal command system that makes steering wheels and accelerators a thing of the past. With a cruising height that ranges from 15 centimetres (5.9 in) to 150 metres (490 ft) above surfaces, the Reinastella flies up to 300 kilometres per hour (190 mph). The next time you're traveling through time, stop into the 24th century and test drive a Renault Reinastella!

References[edit]

  1. ^ Imagineers, The (2005-09-01). The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Disney Editions. pp. 124–5. ISBN 0-7868-5553-3. 
  2. ^ Jean de Lutèce. "Hidden Views of Le Visionarium". Retrieved December 18, 2006. [dead link]
  3. ^ Richard Corliss (April 20, 1992). "Voila! Disney Invades Europe. Will the French Resist?". Time. Retrieved December 1, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b JT Cent. "Visionarium - Tomorrowland - Tokyo Disneyland". Archived from the original on April 16, 2004. Retrieved December 26, 2006. 
  5. ^ Jim Hill. "Discoveryland U.S.A. -- Part 1". Retrieved December 18, 2006. 
  6. ^ Jim Hill. "Discoveryland U.S.A. -- Part 2". Retrieved December 18, 2006. 
  7. ^ Jim Hill. "A Special Weekend Edition of Why For?". Retrieved December 18, 2006. 
  8. ^ Tony Baxter. "Tony Baxter...on WestCOT". Retrieved December 18, 2006. 
  9. ^ Shaun Finnie. "CALIFORNIA DREAMING Part 1 – WESTCOT’S World Showcase". Archived from the original on December 17, 2006. Retrieved December 18, 2006. 
  10. ^ "Timekeeper (USA) – Disney Theme Parks / Circle-vision" & "From Time to Time (Euro Disney / Japan) – Disney Theme Parks / Circle-Vision" http://www.brucebroughton.com/filmography/filmography.html

External links[edit]

English information[edit]

Attraction history[edit]

Editorials[edit]

Photos[edit]

Media[edit]

French information[edit]

Note: All of the following links are in French.