Saturday, January 9, 2010

Yes, the snowflake has melted


Adventure Thru Inner Space, presented by Monsanto Company, was an attraction in Disneyland's Tomorrowland. It was the first attraction to utilize Disney's Omnimover system.

Adventure Thru Inner Space opened on August 5, 1967 as part of the New Tomorrowland, and closed in 1985 to make way for Disney and George Lucas's new Star Tours attraction, which opened in early 1987. The attraction was narrated by Paul Frees, who also lent his voice to the Haunted Mansion attraction, another Omnimover attraction which is still open to this day.

The attraction was designed to simulate humans shrinking to a size smaller than an atom (the "inner space"). As riders waited for their journey into the atom, they were able to see other riders entering one end of the Monsanto Mighty Microscope. The other end of the Monsanto Mighty Microscope had a glass tube in which miniaturized riders could be seen moving across. The microscope was aimed at a panel beyond which snow could be seen falling.

Upon boarding their 'Atommobiles', riders were greeted by the voice of an unseen scientist (Paul Frees) who explained, "I am the first person to make this fabulous journey. Suspended in the timelessness of inner space are the thoughtwaves of my first impressions. They will be our only source of contact once you have passed beyond the limits of normal Mag-ni-fi-ca-tion."

The Atommobile entered the Monsanto Mighty Microscope and began to shake back and forth as the riders entered the darkness. As their vision returned, the riders saw giant snowflakes all around them, some still spinning as they fell. As they continued to shrink, the narrator exclaimed, "I am passing beyond the magnification limits of even the most powerful microscopes. These are snowflakes — and yet they seem to grow larger and larger. Or can I be shrinking — shrinking beyond the smallness of a tiny snowflake crystal? Indeed, I am becoming smaller and smaller!"

The snowflakes took on a crystalline form, eventually becoming large enough to cover the entire field of the riders' vision. Approaching the walls of ice crystals, the voice of the unseen scientist marveled, "These tiny bits of snowflake crystal tower above me — like an enormous wall of ice. Can I penetrate this gigantic prism? And yet, this wall of ice only seems smooth and solid. From this tiny viewpoint, I can see that nothing is solid, no matter how it appears." Indeed, it then became obvious to the Atommobile riders that the ice crystals were not solid, but a lattice-like structure that they pass through. "And still I continue to shrink! What compelling force draws me into this mysterious darkness--can this be the threshold of inner space?"

Next, we encountered a matrix of spheres appearing in columns and rows of infinite length. "What are these strange spheres?" asked the narrator. "Have I reached the universe of the molecule? Yes, these are water molecules — H2O. They vibrate in such an orderly pattern because this is water frozen into the solid state of matter."

As we continued to shrink, the molecules became larger, and took on a peculiar Mickey Mouse shape. "These fuzzy spheres must be the atoms that make up the molecule — two hydrogen atoms bonded to a single oxygen atom. And I see that it's the orbiting electrons that give the atom its fuzzy appearance. And still I continue to shrink."

The scientist wondered, "Is it possible that I can enter the atom itself?" As the atommobile entered the atom, a storm of lights flashed past on all sides at impossible speeds. "Electrons are dashing about me — like so many fiery comets! Can I possibly survive?"

Suddenly the frenzy of the electrons passed, and the rider found him or herself in a large, empty space, surrounded in the distance by a sphere of slow-moving lights. "I have pierced the wall of the oxygen atom," continues the Narrator. "I am so infinitely small now that I can see millions of orbiting electrons. They appear like the Milky Way of our own solar system. This vast realm, THIS is the infinite universe within a tiny speck of snowflake crystal."

A large pulsating red ball could then be seen inside the atom. "And there is the nucleus of the atom! Do I dare explore the vastness of ITS inner space? No, I dare not go on. I must return to the realm of the molecule, before I go on shrinking...forever!"

The riders then began the return journey to full size, but were soon greeted with the sight of water molecules swirling rapidly. At first the scientist was confused: "Ah, how strange! The molecules are so active now! They have become fluid — freed from their frozen state. That can only mean that the snowflake is melting!" Around us we saw molecules moving faster as their temperature increased. The molecules were depicted in green and yellow, with occasional star-shaped flashes representing evaporation.

"Yes, the snowflake has melted," intoned a scientist's voice (also (Paul Frees)), "But there is no cause for alarm. You are back on visual, and returning to your normal size." The riders could see evidence of the scientist's monitoring as they passed under a large microscope through which they can see his giant eye.

Having returned to normal size, the riders disembarked and passed by displays of Monsanto's advances in material science before exiting the attraction building.

Like many of the WED attractions of the 1960s including "It's A Small World", the Carousel of Progress and the Enchanted Tiki Room, Walt Disney assigned his staff songwriters, the Sherman Brothers, the task of writing an opening and closing song for the "Adventure Thru Inner Space" attraction. That song was Miracles from Molecules and bridged the ride message of adventure with the Monsanto company's mission statement. A techno version of the song is used in the Tomorrowland background music loop.

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