3 Secrets To Rediscovering If You Had Wings

I’m just old enough to remember when “Tomorrow” meant peoplemovers, wrap-around movie screens, and acres of vanilla buildings.

Tomorrowland circa 1971

The people of Tomorrow just didn’t have time for decorating, what with flying to Mars every other day.

Now we live in a Stitched up Tomorrowland, where all the goodie 1970s futurism has been Monstered out of existence by a slew of animated Lightyears. Twenty years ago, Tom Morrow moved out and George Lucas aliens moved in.

New Tomorrowland, they called it.


Probably the worst thing about WDW46 was being called “middle-aged” by seemingly every news organization in the country. In my mind, middle-aged means a hair piece, an alcohol problem, and some kind of manufactured crisis involving a red sports car.

But no, really it means you spend too much time at Walt Disney World hunting down memories from your past, like the remnants of If You Had Wings.

You remember this one, right? A TV commercial for Eastern Airlines masquerading as a dark ride. Walt Dated World has a great introduction for you novices, but Widen Your World has a truly epic breakdown—even taking its name from the attraction’s lyrics.

The basic gimmick was that you rode past flat projection screens that were cleverly integrated into three dimensional sets. Waterfalls in Jamaica, flower boats in Mexico, straw markets in the Caribbean…

In other words, it was exactly like El Rio del Tiempo in Epcot—right down to the annoying theme song.

Your Omnimover would pan past these locales and you would think to yourself: If I had wings, I could totally fly to all these exotic locations. Wait a minute! Why do I need wings when I have Eastern Airlines?

Eventually Eastern lost its wings and Delta re-imagined the ride as Dreamflight (Wait a minute! Delta also has wings!). Then a certain double-chinned space ranger moved in and the ride lost all of its crass commercialism.

Buzz's Start Command

Ummm…   (Photo © Michael Kappel)

Now with the power of middle-aged nostalgia, we can recapture some of that bygone era. Hiding in Tomorrowland are three things that can jolt you back to a time when projected seagulls and haunting melodies introduced one of the quirkiest Disney attractions ever.

Listen to the Theme Song … Without Leaving the Park!

Someone over at Disney—probably Buddy Baker’s grandson—has an appreciation for the past. Even though If You Had Wings has been gone for almost 30 years, an instrumental version of the repetitive theme song can still be heard in the background music loop for Tomorrowland.

There are some real gems in the Tomorrowland background loop and If You Had Wings is one of them. Now is the Time from the original WDW incarnation of Carousel of Progress also makes an appearance.

The loop plays everywhere, but I’m most aware of it when sitting at a quiet table in Cosmic Ray’s, enjoying a quality Grade C Mostly-Beef burger served to me by a high school kid who does not know if there are any more napkins.

Unmask the Airplanes in Disguise

I have only one clear memory of If You Had Wings.

Projected seagulls.

It was sort of a recurring motif. Most rooms would have a flock of three or four basic white gull shapes that would fly over a wall in the background, to give the static sets a more kinetic feeling.

When Delta Dreamflight took over, I remember a silhouette of a flying plane instead of the gulls. There were also airplanes in If You Had Wings (almost as if the attraction was sponsored by an airline). The plane was not animated at all. It was like a slide projector on a turntable, which would pan the wall to give the illusion of flying.

If you ride Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin today, you will not see gulls or airplanes. However, in the very last room right before you exit the ride, you will encounter a scene with Zurg caught in a claw.

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin Ending Scene

(Photo © txcrew)

Pay attention and you’ll see a very bizarre projection of Buzz riding in one of the ride vehicles. It will zip over the background.

I have no way of proving this, but it is such a weird detail and very static—exactly like those airplanes. I feel in my heart that this is one of the very same If You Had Wings airplane effects. Or maybe it’s just a nod to the past.

View the Ride From the PeopleMover

Just as the PeopleMover looks in on Buzz Lightyear today, the PeopleMover used to offer a glimpse of If You Had Wings.

The view of Buzz is just one room—essentially the second room of targets, with the volcano in the background. When you’re riding Buzz Lightyear, you can usually visualize the PeopleMover track (hint: any time you are going in a straight line with a low ceiling, you are directly under the track).

However, when If You Had Wings was in operation, the WEDWay PeopleMover looked in on the ride in three separate locations, finishing up just before the “Speed Tunnel” scene (which is now the “You Won’t Score Points By Shooting at Bad CGI Renderings” scene).

The best part is that the windows into those other locations still exist and are plainly visible from the PeopleMover today. Yes, with glass and everything. The tunnel is still dark and the windows are blacked out, but there’s enough ambient light to spot them if you’re looking for them.

Yes, only a parkeologist would get nostalgic about something as obscure as a dark window. But you have to admit, those windows are a piece of history.


Comments (29)

  1. I’m pretty sure the track and ride vehicles in Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin are the same from If You Had Wings as well (though the ride vehicles were obviously redressed and outfitted with the laser guns).

    There are a lot of remnants of Dreamflight in there, too – in addition to the speed tunnel, there are some chickens in the Planet Z room that are reused from Dreamflight, and the alien puppet uses the mechanism of a parachuter in Dreamflight. I think the clouds in the scene with Zurg being grabbed by the claw (a photo of which is featured in this article) are reused from Dreamflight as well.

  2. Another late reply (found this post while googling the ride name).
    I lived in Florida in the mid-80s, and a major part of the appeal was its combination of air-conditioning, short lines, and tendency to break down. Many happy memories of just sitting back and enjoying the seagulls and soft music under the cool blast of the AC, waiting for the cars to start moving again. If there were no lines, staff let us stay put and go thru again and again.
    There was no better way to beat the heat.

  3. I know this is late but since I rode “If You Had Wings” a lot of times between 1975 and 1987, I think it’s appeal that lingers in the mind represents something hard for a younger generation to grasp. It evoked an era of jet travel that is gone forever when there was an air of fun about the simple *idea* of traveling by plane to exotic places. The holding area, which was open and airy with those Departure and Arrival screens evoked the “Jet age” concept of air travel that you could see in 1960s terminals that opened like Dulles Airport and the TWA terminal at JFK Airport. Those days of “style” in air travel were waning in the 70s (and ended after airline deregulation ushered in the cheap discount airlines) but “If You Had Wings” would always offer a reminder to a 70s child’s mind of what it used to be like.

    • If You Had Wings was not really a great ride. But it was the kind of weird, oddball ride that Disney made a lot of in the 70s and 80s that they just don’t have the appetite for anymore. Truly a lost era of Disney theme parks.

  4. Hi it’s Alison from the Walt Dated World website. Thank you for including a link to my Walt Dated World If You Had Wings page . My site now has a new address of waltdatedworld.com. If you could update the link on your post to waltdatedworld.com/id45.htm I would appreciate it. Thank you!

  5. In my version of heaven, there is a Disney park that is filled with the ghosts of rides like these that only a true nerd would fully appreciate. I don’t have any memory of If You Had Wings, but I loved Dreamflight. Add to that Horizons, Mr. Toad (two-track version), World of Motion, 20K Leagues, Maelstrom, the original Snow White, Alien Encounter, Mike Fink, Skyway, ….To think I would never have to be affronted by Stitch again

    • Oh, and Western River Expedition (and other never-built things that I can’t think of off the top of my head). Reading the treatment of it at Passport to Dreams is almost torture right now….

    • I think even non-nerds would still appreciate most of these rides! Well, maybe not Mike Fink. I bet in our lifetime, with virtual reality almost moving into mainstream, we are not far from a time when superfans recreate Yesterland for us.

  6. Nice to see you’ve recovered from WDW46. I’ve been told it takes longer to recover from physical exertion when you’re middle aged, so I figured it would take awhile for you to get back. I decided to stop having birthdays 8 years ago when I turned 35 so I fixed that problem. Anyway, I enjoyed the article, as always. Ever get nostalgic for Journey Through Inner Space? Yeah, me neither. The giant eyeball kinda creeper me out as a kid.

    • Never got a chance to experience Inner Space, being so not middle-aged and all. However, it is on my list of Disney regrets. I’m a sucker for a bizarre Disney dark ride.

      Giant eyeballs do not creep me out. A giant foot, however, might give me pause.

    • Ah see I mentioned Inner Space previously before seeing your response, Greg.

      While not feeling one bit “middle aged” I must admit it’s strange for me to realize people have never seen DHS without the hat or never rode or even heard of If You Had Wings and so on.

      I can give Shane a pass on Inner Space being an Indiana boy and all (I lived even farther from DL but did have relatives there for a bit). However it was a great ride and unique. I only ride it a couple times, one visit as a kid… But it really stuck with me.

      Plus it’s another thing I can lord over Shane, which I enjoy doing. My vast park experience makes his puny WDW exploits look childish by comparison. However he can tell you who the voice of fox was in that one Disney movie with a fox… So he has that.

      • Tod was voiced by none other than Mickey Rooney. And Sandy Duncan voiced Vixey.

        George Clooney voiced the Fantastic Mr. Fox, but that wasn’t Disney.

        And the greatest fox of them all was Robin Hood, voiced by Brian Bedford.

        • Exactly

        • And told you so…

          • So the kids are watching Fantasia 2000 right now and I have a couple of thoughts: 1. I’m thinking about making a couple of 18″ sculptures commemorating the sorcerer’s hat and sending them to you two for Christmas; and 2. When are you going to get off your middle-aged butt, Shane, and finish your movie tie-in list?

          • Will post the next part of that list very soon, Greg! You can send my commemorative souvenir miniature Sorcerers Hat to 1301 Garbage Dump Road.

  7. Hey Shane, happy Parkeology is back after your 3-month “WDW46 Champs-we’re too good to post and are NOT middle-aged” break.

    Sincerely, Ben “whining about a free website run by 2 grown men with real jobs and families not catering to my unhealthy obsession with Disney when they don’t owe the public anything” Williams

    • As a WDW46 champion, I considered not responding because all interaction with lesser life forms is now beneath me. But then I thought that’s only something a middle-aged person would do.

      Yeah, we’ve had a quiet couple of months. Pathetic, really. But my New Years Resolution is post more. Let’s see now, how many posts did I do in January?

      Oh. Crap.

      • I would love to help you in your quest for resolving your resolutions with these simple requests for future posts:

        1. A post containing nothing but unintentionally-hilarious Disney pictures.

        2. I know it’s not really your forte living so close and all but I would love more posts about Parkeology at the WDW Resorts.

        3. More Disney-bathroom-related posts

        4. Cool details in stores/restaurants


        • Well I can cover you on the resorts but I have posted about some resort stuff in the past. Unlike Shane though I will not bow to the pressure of unwarranted reader demands… So I take it back: no posts for you.

          • Not demands, Ted. Just requests.

        • The Blasted Animal Kingdom Door may have been literally blasted by now, since that entire area is under construction for Rivers of Light.

          I do venture into the resorts frequently, and have done sporadic posts about them before. It’s just difficult to find any really cool ideas for posts about them.

          That bathroom idea though… that’s gold.

  8. This was one of my absolute favorite attractions! Right up there with Horizons, World of Motion, and the original Journey into Imagination.
    Thanks for making me sad! :p

    • You are most welcome! Any time you want to be sad in the future, come on back and I will post pictures of the demolition of Horizons!

  9. I have very fond memories of If You Had Wings. For being “the free ride” it was actually very clever and well thought out. Figuring out how to view forced perspective scenes from two different perspectives (on-ride and people-mover) without making either view appear distorted must’ve been an incredible challenge!

    • Ticket books are not technically before my time, but I have little to no memory of them. I mentioned on Twitter that IYHW was no doubt heavily subsidized by Eastern Airlines. So it wasn’t free to everyone.

      I never thought about the mixed perspectives before. That’s interesting. I wonder if it really was planned that way, or if the WEDWay viewing was slightly distorted.

    • If you had wings was sort of WDW’s Adventure Thru Innerspace: free, omnimover, Tomorrowland, now gone, paid for by a big corporation and better than it had any business being.

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