80s, 90s, Amusement Parks, Blog — July 18, 2016 12:02 pm

Delta Dreamflight: A Long Ago Attraction

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It really seems like a long ago dream at this point, but it’s true that Delta once sponsored an attraction at Disney World.  Delta Dreamflight was an Omnimover style attraction, similar to the ride mechanics of the classic Haunted Mansion.  Unlike the popular ghost ride, however, Dreamflight was no nightmare.

The attraction’s roots were actually planted on a previous ride system known as If You Had Wings (1972 – 1989), sponsored by Eastern Air Lines.  Practically an immersible commercial, the moving vehicles took passengers through all the exciting places they could fly… if they had wings.  Throughout the adventure, projection screens were cleverly placed as part of real world props and facades to create the illusion of people actually waving from windows and ships.  A similar feature would later be used on the rides at EPCOT’s Mexico pavilion.

Looping on the ride was a theme song that was as equally obnoxious as it was catchy.  The music was composed by Buddy Baker, known for work on other Disney projects such as Davy Crockett, Winnie-the-Pooh, and even other rides such as Haunted Mansion and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

After a series of film projector and mirror illusions, Orson Welles narrated one final pitch for Eastern Airlines.  “You do have wings,” he reminded guests.  “You can do all these things, you can widen your world.  Eastern: the wings of man.”  Exiting participants walked past an actual flight reservation desk where Eastern employees were standing by to help book flights.  In 1987, the Eastern sponsorship was removed and the ride was re-tooled as If You Could Fly for the remainder of its operation.  Sadly, the song did not make the transition and the attraction closed all together in 1989.

That’s where Delta Air Lines stepped in to the world of ride sponsorship.  Within the same year If You Could Fly closed, park goers boarded a brand new experience known as Delta Dreamflight.

Just after entering the building, the immersion began as guests loaded on the ride via a glowing jet bridge corridor that led to the front of a real Delta 767 .  For many, this was their first experience walking on to a plane.

The ride vehicles, utilizing the same Omnimover system as If You Had Wings, took passengers through a very different story of travel.  The theme covered the history of flight through equal parts of comedy and “wow” factor, all set once again to catchy tunes.  This time around, the music was composed by Edo Guidotti.  He worked on other Walt Disney World attractions and, more recently, World of Warcraft.

Starting the journey, people were escorted through their automatically moving seats through what seemed like the world’s largest pop-up book of early flying machines.  The next section of the ride plowed through a farm with barn stormers about the area.  True to dark ride gags of the time, guests were continually moving toward a barn featuring a Looney Tunes styled cutout of a pilot in the walls.  Upon entering the barn, it’s revealed one of the pilots crashed through and was hanging from the ceiling (don’t worry; he was okay).

Similar to If You Had Wings, Delta Dreamflight made extensive use of projector systems.  The remainder of the ride bounced back and forth between film scenes of flight and models of various destinations.  After making way through the first era of flight, guests were taken on a journey through an old sea plane with a scale up-scale dining room, a forced perspective model of a Japanese garden, and even Paris.  The effects became more elaborate as the ride progressed, leading to something big: the Jet Age.

The next scene is likely the most memorable for people who took a Dreamflight.  Very suddenly, the casual atmosphere of the ride changed and it seemed as if the vehicles were moving directly into a giant jet engine.  The optical illusion was so effective, it seemed to evoke mixed emotions of “yikes” and “this is so cool”.  As realistic as the spinning blades seemed, it was a relatively simple practical effect of a light with a fan spinning in front of it.  The sound of massive plane engines certainly contributed, as well.

Remember how Charlie and Grandpa Joe reacted during the fizzy lifting drink scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory?  That was essentially what this turbine tunnel did to people.

Following the jet effect, guests themselves took flight in an Omnimax-styled projection room.  Film clips projected across an entire curved room created the illusion of flying, while the following segment of the ride depicted flight through a futuristic world.

Delta Dreamflight ended full circle, with one more pop-up book depiction of clouds.  Guests unloaded ride vehicles while a more energetic version of the Dreamflight music played in the background.  Unlike If You Had Wings, travel agents were not standing by to book flights.  Instead, more subtly was considered by utilizing travel destination posters on the walls of the exit corridor.

History repeated itself when Delta discontinued sponsorship of the attraction.  The ride briefly became known as Dreamflight and, after some very slight modifications, re-opened as Take Flight.  The last passengers departed in January of 1998 before the ride was shut down permanently to make way for a Toy Story based attraction.  One might argue that Buzz Lightyear’s futuristic ship picks up where Dreamflight left off.

Unlike EPCOT’s Horizons, which was completely demolished, the building that housed the airline-themed rides remains and is in use still today.  Next time you jump on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at Magic Kingdom, see if you can spot clues that it was once home to other attractions.  The most common feature between the three rides is the continued use of the same Omnimover system.

While If You Had Wings and Delta Dreamflight may seem like undisguised advertisements in retrospect, anyone who was there at the time can assure you they were fun attractions.

BONUS:

Now that you know about these lost attractions, perhaps you will enjoy this video from WDW Kingdomcast…

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