A Spin on the Future : Disney's Eisner Plans Major Renovation for Tomorrowland

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With the dedication Monday of Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure ride, Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner says that the amusement park now will turn its attention to a complete, three-year renovation of Tomorrowland.

Eisner was joined by filmmaker George Lucas to preview the $100-million Indiana Jones ride, but park officials already have their eyes on the next big attraction at America's original theme park.

Tomorrowland, which portrays a future that has changed little since its last renovation in 1967, is due for a major overhaul, Eisner said after a dedication ceremony that included a fistfight between an actor portraying Jones and some robed villains.

"We have noticed that Tomorrowland could use revamping," Eisner said. "We will have a new Tomorrowland."

It will be transformed into a kind of Jules Verne fantasy, designed to look both archaic and futuristic at the same time, said Disney theme parks chief Judson C. Green. That way, the area will never grow outdated the way it has over the past three decades.

"We want to give the land a new look," Green said. The goal is to "make it like the science-fiction (version) of Tomorrowland."

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Disney has already tried out the idea at its troubled Disneyland Paris park in France, where it has proven popular, and the company is about to unveil a similar revamped Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom in Florida, making California's Disneyland last in line.

Still, company officials insist that the 40-year-old Disneyland remains a priority for the entertainment giant. The Indiana Jones Adventure--in which guests take a bumpy, scary ride through an archeological dig--has been heavily promoted and was the centerpiece of this year's Super Bowl halftime show.

"It captures the spirit of the film very well," said Lucas, who went through the ride twice with Eisner as television cameras rolled. Lucas created the Indiana Jones character that was portrayed by Harrison Ford in three films. Ford, who has not agreed to lend his face or voice to the ride, has agree to do a fourth Indiana Jones picture. The ride opens to the public Friday.

Despite abandoning plans for a nearly $3-billion expansion in Orange County, Eisner said Monday that Disney remains bullish on the future of Disneyland and Anaheim.

"We are going to expand our presence in Anaheim, (but) we have to do it in a very intelligent manner," he said.

Disney will not be cowed into acting faster or building more than it should because of MCA's decision last month to develop a $3-billion resort at its Universal Studios Hollywood property.

MCA's resort project is similar in scope to the Disneyland Resort project that Disney said in January was too elaborate and expensive to build. Instead, Disney is actively planning a smaller-scale attraction in Anaheim that could be built in phases over a longer period of time.

"It's about finding ways to do a good project without busting up the city to do it," said Roy Disney, the company's vice chairman and nephew of founder Walt Disney.

Eisner said that Orange County's bankruptcy has an "indirect" effect on Disneyland, but that it would not necessarily be a factor in reducing the scope of any future development in Anaheim.

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