[PICTURED: Exterior and entrance to The Adventure Thru Inner Space, at the gates of Tomorrowland in 1985]
ADVENTURE THRU INNER SPACE
From 1967-1985, Disneyland in Anaheim hosted one of the most remarkable and bizarre dark rides ever built.
Through the power of the "Mighty Microscope," The Adventure Thru Inner Space miniaturized guests and injected them into a snowflake to deliver a vivid lesson on atomic structure and the states of matter. What better way to learn about electrons than by entering an oxygen atom and touring the nucleus? Disney was early to the concept of simulations as an educational tool.
I have collected below photos I took of the ride, plus the soundtracks for the pre-show and the ride itself, plus the post-show theme song, all in the public domain and relevant for their historical and educational value (as well as an implicit critical commentary on the current artistic direction of the park -- they don't make 'em like they used to, and it is important to ask why not).
For a REALLY good time, though, head over to themightymicroscope.com, where genius-fan Steve Wesson has found a way to travel back to the past and ride the Mighty Microscope one last time -- highly recommended!
The pre-show room -- where you stood in line -- was dominated by a wall-sized Miniature Control panel, depicting a giant snowflake, with colorful lights flashing as they radiated outward from the center.
On crowded days it was too noisy to hear the pre-show sound track, and on empty days you entered the microscope too quickly to hear the sound track. But the pre-show sound track is a real work of art, both in explaining the strange enterprise, and also foreshadowing the dangers lurking ahead. Dig the timpani:
[PICTURED: Sometimes the lines were short, especially late at night and when it cost a C-Ticket to ride.]
[PICTURED: Sometimes the lines were long, especially on hot crowded days in later years when it was free to ride.]
[PICTURED: The Microscope's injector unit, which would direct atom-mobiles into snowflakes -- as seen from The Peoplemover, which could observe the pre-show area.]
[PICTURED: Lifelike atom-mobiles with passengers in the process of being miniaturized, heading toward the snowflake injector. This part of the display I know for a fact was capable of scaring very young guests, since it makes a convincing depiction of the miniaturization process. I was 4 years old when the ride first opened.]
[PICTURED: Atom-mobiles enter the Mighty Microscope, with a People Mover train visible in the upper left.]
The vehicle you enter for the ride was called an "Omnimover," or an endless transit system. The Omnimover was developed by Disney (and patented) for this ride, and then used again on the Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear, Spaceship Earth, and others.
This is the sound track in the atom-mobile. It took approximately seven minutes to shrink to the size of an atom and then return to normal.
The voice you are hearing narrate the journey is Paul Frees, who, along with Mel Blanc, was among the greatest voice actors of all time, and who also did the original voices for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (narrator), The Haunted Mansion (Ghost Host), and Pirates of the Caribbean (most of the pirates and narration).
Adventure Through Inner Space Script:
For centuries, man had but his own two eyes to explore the wonders of his world, then he invented the microscope, a mighty eye, and discovered the fantastic universe beyond the limits of his own meager sight.
Now your adventure thru inner space has begun. Through The Mighty Microscope, you will travel into the incredible universe found within a tiny fragment of a snowflake.
I am the first person to make this fabulous journey, suspended in the timelessness of inner space are the thought waves of my first impressions. They will be our only source of contact once you have passed beyond the limits of normal MAGNIFICATION... MAGNIFICATION.. MAGNIFICATION. MAGNIFICATION
I am passing beyond the magnification limits of even the most powerful microscope. 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!
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.
And still I continue to shrink. What compelling force draws me into this mysterious darkness? Can this be the threshold of inner space?
What are these strange spheres? Have I reached the universe of the molecule? Yes! These are water molecules, H20! They vibrate in such an orderly pattern, because this is water frozen into the solid state of matter.
These fuzzy spheres must be the atoms that make up the molecule. Two Hydrogen atoms bonded to a single Oxygen atom, and I see it's the orbiting electrons that give the atom its fuzzy appearance. And still I continue to shrink. Is it possible that I can enter the atom itself?
Electrons are dashing about me, like so many fiery comets! Can I possibly survive?
I have pierced the wall of the Oxygen atom! 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.
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 realm of the molecule before I go on shrinking...forever!
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...melting.
Yes, the snowflake has melted. But there is no cause for alarm. You are back on visual and returning to your normal size.
This has been one of many exciting adventures through inner space. In a never-ending search for new ways to rearrange molecules for the benefit of mankind.
Now, in our display area you will see modern miracles created by rearranging the molecules, of not only water, but of air, coal, petroleum, and many other raw materials. This is Monsanto.
[PICTURED: The scanning eye that became visible once the controllers regained visual contact with the atom-mobiles, as they returned to their normal size.]
As the ride ends, guests are treated to the Sherman & Sherman uptune propaganda march "Miracles from Molecules," an ode to the ride's sponsor, Monsanto:
Buddy Baker wrote all the rest of the ride's music, eerie and dramatic.
[PICTURED: Safety decal located on the back of every atom-mobile; some young hoodlum most have stolen it.]
[PICTURED: Retro ride poster for the Adventure Through Inner Space.]
[PICTURED: Sometimes the Adventure Through Inner Space was free to ride, but sometimes it required a "C Ticket" -- probably between 1972 and 1977.]
[PICTURED: This all happened so long ago that a three-day passport cost $31 for an adult. By 2018, that price had increased by about ten-fold, to $330.]