Motor Boat Cruise

BACKSTORY (1955—1993): On July 20, 1955, Disneyland debuted the Tomorrowland Boats in the lagoon that would eventually be home to the Submarines. This attraction was a snoozer; only 542 guests rode them at opening. Compared to the other unique and fun attractions, the slow-moving and unexceptional Boats just couldn’t compete. On August 16, 1955, they were rechristened The Phantom Boats and redesigned with tailfins that were apparently a mechanical nightmare. They quickly got a bad reputation for stranding guests in the lagoon.

There were a total of 14 gas-powered fiberglass marvels painted in bright colors, designed by Bruce Bushman. Poor mechanical design caused the  motors to constantly overheat; every night the boats had to be rescued and repaired. “Pilots” for the boats were added to help the situation, but despite all their efforts, the Phantom Boats received the dubious distinction of being the first permanent Disneyland attraction to be closed. By the end of 1955, they were taken out of commission. There was a brief attempt to change the attraction to a Florida Everglades type “Airboat” (guests could even see signage proclaiming their June 2, 1956 opening). The new boat was built and even tested, but ultimately vetoed, so as a last resort, the Phantom Boats came back for one more chug around the lagoon in the summer of 1956.

1957 marked the debut of “The Motor Boat Cruise” in a nearby lagoon. This very sedate “B” Ticket attraction took away any control that guests had over the boats by putting them on a track. No steering or acceleration. Guests leisurely road around the Fantasyland/Tomorrowland lagoon while the Viewliner, Autopia, Monorail, and PeopleMover “sped” by (depending upon what year you were riding the boats of course!). Cast members operating the attraction wore cute sailor outfits. The next transformation occurred in 1991 when it was rethemed “The Motor Boat Cruise to Gummi Glen.” Plywood characters from Disney’s animated “Gummi Bears” TV show made Gummi Berry juice along the waterway. Mercifully, this snoozer of an attraction was finally removed for good in January 1993 when Mickey’s Toontown was constructed. The pencil sharpeners  had to choose between one or the other, and the Motor Boat Cruise lost. Today, this area is now known as the Fantasia Gardens.

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1950’s

JOHN WAITE REMEMBERS…

1960’s

1970’s–1990’s

MOTOR BOAT CRUISE REMNANTS

Cox Pilot and the Motor Boat Cruise