by: guide4wdw – Collin
As we continue our constantly developing “Departed Disney” series, today we’re taking flight and looking back at the “If You Had Wings” attraction. While taking flight really wasn’t the main part of the attraction, it did focus on many of the places you could fly to and experience with a commercial airline.
The attraction officially debuted in summer of 1972, and was received by many as an interesting concept. The ride itself was a simple take on the Omnimover ride vehicle which later became better known for it’s use in attractions like Horizons at Epcot. Unfortunately, however, “If You Had Wings” never grew to be immensely popular and as result was often changed and redeveloped over time.
At first, the attraction was a journey to different destinations and a cultural ride through quite similar to what you would find in a screen-based attraction like the original Gran Fiesta Tour. Guests boarded a small vehicle and traveled through various rooms featuring many of the destinations Eastern Airlines traveled to at the time. Conveniently, Eastern airlines was the original sponsor of the attraction as well.
Perhaps the most exciting portion of the ride through was a section that slightly simulated a short “flight.” The ride vehicles adjusted to an angle, the screen surrounded the riders, wind blew gently, and developed an early simulator experience. While it was certainly rudimentary by today’s standards it was an interesting concept at the time.
Believe it our not, at one point you could even view “If You Had Wings” from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, similar to what you can do today with a portion of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
However, what many guests remember the most was the iconic theme song. Performed by Buddy Baker, guests truly enjoyed the simple repetition of “If You Had Wings!” Years later, the attraction closed as Eastern Airlines gave up their sponsorship as the company faced financial concerns. Just a short time later, the entire airline went out of business. Sadly, a piece of the attraction left with the sponsorship change that would really alter the on-ride experience. Just a short time after the attractions closure (just 5 days), it reopened under a new name, “If You Could Fly.”
When the new concept debuted, all references to Eastern Airlines had faded away and a new soundtrack replaced the old one that guests had grown to love over the years. After that shift, the attraction lost the momentum it had gained with guests under the Eastern Airlines affiliation. Just 2 years after the shift to an unbranded experience (1989), the attraction closed for quite a few months and was redeveloped into Delta Dreamflight with an entirely new ride concept.
In the early days, “If You Had Wings” was a small piece of the magic that didn’t require a ticket to ride. For those of you who may not know, when Disney World first began, attractions were ticketed on an A through E basis with a ticket book guests could purchase in order to board the rides. This particular experience was completely free of charge so many guests rode it time after time and really grew to love the journey through multiple destinations. Today, the attraction holds a special place in the memories of many Disney parks visitors who had the opportunity to experience it first hand. Things have certainly changed in Tomorrowland over the years, but today we have Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin to fill the void left by this iconic experience.
If you liked this journey back in time to a small piece of “Departed Disney,” be sure to check out our other Disney history articles and please SHARE this article with friends. Thanks!