BACKSTORY (Aug. 5, 1967–Sept. 2, 1985): The Monsanto Company needed another attraction once The House of the Future was set for demolition, so the former location of Kaiser’s Hall of Aluminum Fame (which closed July 1960) was earmarked for their next project. This attraction used the Mighty Microscope to shrink guests to the size of an atom. Paul Frees did the narration for the attraction; he played the first guest to travel through the Microscope and his voice was supposedly represented by “suspended thought waves.”
ATIS was the first attraction to use the Omnimover ride system, which gained greater fame over at the Haunted Mansion under the name “Doom Buggies.” The Atomobiles seemed to stimulate a lot of “romantic” activity in Tomorrowland, as their semi-enclosed design gave guests a false sense of privacy. A number of guests also tried vandalize, in particular with the Eye at the end of the attraction which was constantly spat on. Monsanto pulled their sponsorship September 30, 1977, but with a few small edits to the spiel, the attraction stayed on another 8 years.
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World of Molecules Theme of Tomorrowland Adventure
One of the most unusual adventures in the world will thrill Disneyland guests this summer in the Park’s new Tomorrowland — Monsanto’s “Adventure Thru Inner Space.” Visitors will experience the “miracles of molecules” and “shrink” for “miracles of molecules” and “shrink” for a trip into a world of snowfalkes, molecules and atoms.
Guests feel as if they are shrinking as they journey aboard the highly versatile “Atomobile” — a new transportation vehicle designed by WED Enterprises — and glide into this fascinating microscopic world.
The adventure begins as passengers board “Atomobile” and enter Monsanto’s “Mighty Microscope,” emerging into a world of gigantic snowflakes. Guests feel themselves become smaller and smaller while the snowflakes appear to increase in size. As they pass through huge walls of crystal-like ice, visitors enter the snowflake and observe large molecules all around them. Growing “smaller” yet, they move into the molecules and emerge into a world of atoms, where the nucleus of a tiny oxygen atom resembles a giant sun.
I was contacted by a former employee of the park who was gracious enough to share his memories of ATIS. Here is Mike P.’s first-hand account:
“The Peoplemover and ATIS had polyester jumpsuits with polyester knit shirts. On both attractions, we were to provide our own shoes; black and conservative. Monsanto still sponsored the ATIS when I was there, but Disney staffed it. They only staffed the ride with 3-positions (tickets/greeter, load and unload). A few times there would be a fourth position; inside the ride to monitor guest behavior. I must say that was my favorite assignment. When there were the usual 3-positions, there would be a crew of 4; one on break/lunch and the other three working. The returning person would "bump in" at tickets, who would then "bump" the person on load, "bumping" the person on unload to a break or lunch. After the removal of tickets, we often just ran the ride with 2-positions. “I was made working lead on the ATIS for my last summer before I went to TWA training in April, 1978. Working with Roy Brehm, who was a Park old-timer, and Earl Archer (another early Disneyland employee), I learned the specifics of the attraction quickly. Roy passed away after I had left for airline training, and Earl was fired for flinging soup at guests one day after he returned from his lunch at the employee cafeteria (the Inn Between). Earl entered through a side door near the ride location just after one entered the Mighty Microscope, and he found a creative use for his potato/leek potage. To this day, my friend and I laugh whenever we reenact the breakdown of the ride and had to make an all-ride announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated. The ride will begin moving again shortly, and the soup of the day is potato/leek.
“As the crowds in the evening usually sought a more exciting setting, the ATIS would be empty except for the two ride operators, mindlessly listening to "Miracle from Molecules" at the unload position. You may recall that the PeopleMover moved through the inner lobby and the unload areas of the ride. On these abandoned nights, we would not walk on the turntables unless someone was about to board/exit the ride. These two positions were joined by a short hallway, where the two of us would stand, survey the positions for guests arriving/departing and chit chat. I think that was the only way to maintain sanity on those endless shifts. As to the PeopleMover moving through the attraction, sometimes management would ride on it to spy on us; making sure we were trodding those rubber turntables even if no one was in the building. I still have vivid images in my mind of scowling supervisors peering down from the PeopleMover track.
“The old photographs show the unload/exit area with Monsanto displays, which included the conical glycerin fountain. Some guests would throw items at the strings of the fountain, which would shake loose the glycerin all over the tiled floor under the fountain and all over the exit turntable. Of course we would have to get Custodial to clean it up. “Perhaps you've heard of the Santa Ana Winds? When one is wearing a polyester/plastic double-knit jumpsuit and walking on a rubber turntable, one becomes a static generator. I remember having to hold onto the handrails before the guests stepped onto the platform to discharge the static. It was even worse on the Peoplemover, as we were outdoors and more subject to the dry desert winds. We could throw sparks from our fingers about 1/2 inch long. “The interior of ATIS was rather frightening to behold when the worklights were on. Spitting, and flinging of any and everything (including potato/leek soup!) really made the interior rather disgusting. Of course with the lights out and the basic black light animation, this disgust wasn't seen by guests, except for the few areas of soiled scrims and mirrors. My dear friend Liz used to call the ride Adventure thru Inner Rectum. I always thought it was a shame that better maintenance wasn't provided for this unique adventure. How often did one ride through in the afternoon/evening and see the spit-covered microscope and the eye towards the end of the ride! Of course it was cleaned every night, but that pristine condition only lasted through the morning hours of operation.
“I want to correct a rumor that the "Inner Space" attraction had closed-circuit cameras—it did not! When scheduling gave us 4-ride operators for a shift, we would position someone inside the ride with a flashlight to monitor the behavior of guests. It was always interesting; especially in the daytime, as guests’ eyes didn't adjust to the extreme dark of the ride's interior until they were about to exit. Of course we had been indoors all day, so our eyes were more batlike. We would see marijuana lit tips coming through, as well as many people desperately grabbing at one another. Usually all we had to do was shine the flashlight in their eyes and reprimand them for their activities, with a threat of taking them to Security to achieve the desired effect. I don't recall having to actually follow through with any action. Although ATIS didn’t have a camera system, there was one installed on the PeopleMover, covering the areas where the cars slowed down (through the ride buildings). In addition, the PeopleMover had pressure-sensitive pads placed along the catwalks in these same buildings which would automatically stop the ride should someone crawl out of the cars.”
Thanks a million to Mike P. for an insider’s look at ATIS!
I was a seasonal employee in about or around 1975-76. I worked full time at the Travelodge on Katella and went to Cal State Fullerton during the mornings and days off. I could only work in Disneyland overnights on the cleanup crew. I preferred the full time pay and meals.
I usually got the worst jobs to clean…the brass poles on the King Arthur Carousel. The first night I was assigned that job I was fine with it until I walked over to the beast and saw it must have a quarter million or so poles, all 50'-60' tall (Who, me exaggerate???? Well, maybe just a bit). I see why newbies get that job though—it is a make or breaker. That job alone took one person all night long. To make that brass sparkle we used the same stuff we used on our brass in the military…a great product called “Brasso.” It was more or less a wipe-on, scrub a bit, and then scrub-off type of goop. I really detested that job and half the time you are standing on a ladder reaching up in the extremes for that last bit of dullness on those poles.
So then after a few weeks of pole dancing all night long I was “promoted” to clean the Monsanto “Adventure Through Inner Space” ride. It had to be better, I thought. The floors were always full of various small bits of trash and spilled drinks of various and colorful, gooey stickiness. It was sort of a moonwalk to get by until you mopped up that effluvium. Then you had all those little blue cars that people rode in…first you checked for lost things. You saved those in a box and there was always loads of loose change in the cars and on the floor. Yep, very sticky if it was on the floor. But we got the cars all purified again for the next day’s crew of touristas. About this time you had blown half the night and it was time for the meal. Not far behind that ride was the cafeteria and the meals were amazing. Full great tasting meals, all you could eat, for under a buck, really an amazing perk of working there. I made sure that I saved all that extra room in my stomach for the nights I worked there! By the end of dinner I was ready to tackle the rest of ATIS. These were the parts of the ride that really needed help. We had spray bottles of cleaning and disinfectant that we had to spray on the dangling things along the ride that seemed to attract huge amounts of spit! Eww! I guess the hoi polloi thought those were added as targets. We would actually ride the cars so we could get the same spots as the spitting public. We then would get those areas we could not reach from the cars and that was the real work. Ladders, sprayers, cotton towels, and “get that stuff off of there!” The ride ran all night long as well so that music and the narration was always there too. I got so I heard that in my sleep. I could recite the whole thing in my biology class for fun.
It really wasn’t a bad job and often we had to wait a while for the late crowds before we began the real cleaning. Often when we were there we were given the flip-top trash picker uppers and a broom and cleaned the streets while people were still enjoying the park. One night I was able to meet the singer Minnie Ripperton as she needed something as I was passing by and since I was wearing a Disneyland uniform I was elected. I retrieved the item from her dressing room up by the character dressing rooms and gave it to her on her break. I got to talk to her for a few minutes at that time. She was a real sweetheart. Sadly she was diagnosed with breast cancer not too many months later and then died in 1979. I enjoyed the nights when there was a late thing like Datenight at Disneyland or some huge company party. The actual cleaning was shortened by a couple hours and we got to be out working among the throngs of people, enjoying the music and all the scenery.
This was one of my favorite attractions—it was just so well done. Adventures thru Inner Space was where Star Tours is now; a piece of this ride was placed in Star Tours as a tribute to the ride. As the star speeder mistakenly careens left into the hanger bay, if you look up as the speeder drops you can see “The Mighty Microscope” in the corner. This piece of machinery was the first part of ATIS. You walked into the cue area and saw “Doom Buggies”; well, at least that’s what they looked like before the Haunted Mansion had them; but these were blue in color and like the “buggies,” they moved continuously. Guest stepped onto a moving walkway and into the car, then the unit closed and moved in a line up and into a giant opening of the microscope. From the outside area of the queue and the entrance, you watched people move into the microscope and shrink down to miniscule size. They used a glassed-in area that lined up with small cars of people in them that moved at the same speed as the real cars...giving the impression that you were going to be one of those small people—great effect!! Then the announcer talked about how you were going to shrink down and view an ice crystal...and then the atoms that made up the crystal...hydrogen and oxygen atoms all buzzing along in rows. Then the atom started to melt and the atoms started to scatter around instead of the precise rows in the crystal. At the end of the ride was the famous “eye” that was watching you (supposedly from the control area).
Naturally this was a great ride during Grand Night—all these kids wanted a dark place to make out, but the Disney people would sometimes play games with them. As with all Disney dark rides, there are cameras inside the ride areas…so they can watch and see to make sure everything is ok. On one specific grad night, a couple asked a cast member how long the ride was. He told them it was 10 minutes or something of the sort…the ride was only 3-5...so off the couple went. As the crew was watching the kids take their clothes off, the rest of the cast waited at the end the of the ride where the car came out. As the car jumped into the lighted area, the half-naked kids jumped around trying to put their clothes back on as the cast members started to applaud and dole out cat calls.