Travel to Vacation Ports of Call through the Magic of If You Had Wings.
When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, If You Had Wings was not operational (that happened on June 5, 1972). Once it opened in Tomorrowland, it quickly gained popularity. That may be due to the fact it did not require a ticket. It’s estimated at its time of closing that over 40 million guests took flight.
Eastern Airlines was the official airline of Walt Disney World. The company committed a $10 million initial investment for the project. In essence, it would be a commercial for the airline. The construction of If You Had Wings was fast-tracked to be ready the summer crowds. Built in only three months, Claude Coats lead the direction of the project. He was instrumental in designing other dark rides with Disney. IYHW was only the second attraction, after The Haunted Mansion, to use the OmniMover ride vehicle. Disneyland’s Adventures Thru Inner Space served as the model for the building.
The show building size was small (only 28,000 square feet). The attraction shared a wall with the CircleVision 360 theater. Along with that, it supported the WEDWAY PeopleMover track above. Any options for expansion would destroy the asymmetry of Tomorrowland. That meant IYHW had to pack the space with projectors, dioramas, and props. All this, while showcasing the destinations that Eastern Airlines visited around the globe. Disney used real-life footage from the exotic locales. They even added many staged productions as well. The attraction included many projectors. Among them were forty-one 16mm, three 70mm, one 35mm and 40 special lighting effects.
Buddy Baker arranged the attraction music along with lyrics by Francis X. Atencio. Both men also composed the title song, If You Had Wings. WED sound effects department added authentic audio to many of the scenes. Today, people remember the loudness of the attraction. The audio and soundtrack needed to be at a high volume. The reason? To cover the sound of the many projectors clicking and humming in the building.
WEDWAY PeopleMover riders passed by three windows located above the IYHW attraction. There, they could view dioramas of Mexico, Jamaica, and Trinidad.
Guests began their journey in a modern Eastern Airlines departure lounge. It even had an arrival and departure board with locations featured in the attraction. These exotic points included:
Caribbean And Island Ports Of Call
Su Casa Service To Old San Juan
The Pyramids Of Ancient Mexico
The New Orleans Jazz Flight
Bermuda’s Underwater Reefs
Bahamas 700 Islands
Guests walked through the queue to a speed platform where they loaded into the ride vehicles. The trip started with visitors traveling through a giant globe to begin their journey. Images of birds flying were projected on the wall while the ride vehicles would tilt back. The birds were soon replaced by the image of Eastern’s new airplane, the E10-11 Tristar. The humming tune of If You Had Wings would slowly start in the background.
The Omnimover would then take guests on a tour of Eastern’s colorful locations. These sites included modern and ancient Mexico, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, Jamaica, and finally New Orleans. There were no audio-animatronics in the ride. Instead, WED relied on projections and richly decorated three-dimensional sets.
Aztec Mexico / Mexico City:
The vehicles slowly started to move up an incline. The journey began in Aztec Mexico where riders saw the magnificent temples rise in the distance. They witnessed cliff jumpers in Acapulco dive into the water. Mexico City was in the middle of a festival, complete with flower laden boats on Lake Xochimilco.
Caribbean Port/ Straw Market / Treasure Hunt / Caribbean Island:
The Caribbean Port featured a cruise ship readying to depart port. There was also a lady trying to capture the moment with a proud fisherman’s daily catch. Local merchants hawked their wares in the marketplace. Divers looked for sunken treasure in the clear ocean water. The Caribbean beach had party-goers limbo’ing while a steel band played on.
Puerto Rico / Traffic Scene (Bahamas) /Tropical Forest (Jamaica):
The Portals of Castillo San Felipe del Morro framed the seas and featured a singing group. One of the most memorable scenes featured a Bahamian traffic officer. He found himself caught in the chaos of vehicles, pedestrians and a flock of unruly flamingos. Young vacationers enjoyed the day on the rocks of Dunn’s River Falls.
Trinidad / New Orleans:
Flamingos made another appearance in the Trinidadian sunset. Mardi Gras was in full swing as the celebration as Dixie band plays in New Orleans.
WED used their first “speed room” in this ride, giving guests the feeling of flying above the clouds. The room was bullet-shaped and featured many projectors. The 70mm film displayed images of racing dune buggies, planes, trains, motorcycles, and jet skis on the ceiling and walls. Fans would blow cool breezes on the guests. Along with the air, the vehicles’ movement of tilting back and forth gave the motion of increased speed. In reality, the cars were only moving at a mere two mph.
Guests entered the mirrored room. This room used ceiling to floor mirrors and more 70mm film projections. Images included natural landscapes such as mountains and desert views. The angled film scenes gave the riders a sensation that they are flying.
The final scene included a return of the opening flight birds and an Eastern Airlines jet. The words, “You do have wings; you can do all these things, you can widen your world, Eastern…we’ll be your wings” concluded the ride.
As the ride unloaded, there was an Eastern Airlines information booth. You could “have wings” and book your next trip.
Eastern Airlines pulled their sponsorship in 1987, and the ride closed on June 1, 1987. It was reopened five days later as If You Could Fly. Stylized seagulls replaced Eastern Airlines’ signage and removed any of the airline’s references. Music was still a prominent part of the ride but included different lyrics. The ride still lived on but lost most of its charm. January 4, 1989, marked the end of IYCF and it closed permanently. Delta Dreamflight would open only six months later on June 23, 1989.
– Grand opening: June 5, 1972 (Tomorrowland)
– Reopening: June 6, 1987 (as If You Could Fly)
– Closed: January 3, 1989
– Designer: WED Enterprises
– Show Duration: 4:30
– Seating capacity: 120 ride vehicles (2-3 people per vehicle)
– Number of projectors: 85
– Former Sponsor: Eastern Airlines (If You Had Wings) / none (If You Could Fly)
– Ride system: OmniMover
– Attraction type: Dark ride
– Replaced by: Delta Dreamflight
Widen Your World, DisUnplugged, Walt Dated World, PJ Media, AllEars