Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress
(January 15, 1975 - present)
History and photos of Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress show in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Tucked away in the back of Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, an Audio-Animatronic stage show that shows how family life has changed and improved over the course of about ninety years.
Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress originated as one of four attractions designed by Walt Disney's Imagineers for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.
Sponsored by General Electric at the New York World's Fair, Carousel of Progress was originally envisioned by Walt Disney as a show on an expansion of Main Street, USA. The show was to be hosted by an Audio-Animatronic "electro-mechanical man" named Wilbur K. Watt, and he would have educated the audience on how electricity has improved the life of the average American family. The audience would walk from scene to scene and advance in time to see the evolution of the technology and its related household appliances.
However, the technology to build such an attraction was not available at the time. That unavailable technology problem also plagued Walt Disney for more of his ideas. The concept for his technology evolution show would have to wait for the right opportunity.
That opportunity arrived when General Electric wanted to work with Walt Disney for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. By that point in time the technology for Audio-Animatronics was making breakthroughs, and it would be possible for Walt Disney to create the technology evolution show that he originally wanted as part of an expansion for Main Street, USA.
In the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, the Carousel of Progress show was actually named Progressland. The show featured a revolving theater that would safely transport guests to each of the six scenes. Instead of being hosted by an "electro-mechanical man," Progressland was instead hosted by the father of an average American family. The father would greet the members of the audience and then show them how life was like at the "current" time, whether it was in the 1890s, 1920s, 1940s, or the current time period of the 1960s. In each scene the audience would also see the other members of the family and how they looked and behaved in that time period, and of course, the technology around them.
The Sherman Brothers created the song, "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," for the show.
Progressland was a smash hit at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. People would line up for over an hour for their turn to experience the show.
The success of the show at the New York World's Fair prompted Disney to move the show to Disneyland. Now known as the Carousel of Progress, the show opened in Disneyland's Tomorrowland on July 2, 1967. General Electric continued sponsoring the show, and many GE appliances were featured through the scenes.
In the early 1970s, the audiences for Carousel of Progress continued to decline. General Electric noted that the vast majority of audience members were local Californians who had experienced the show many times, and they were not purchasing GE products as the company desired. The company believed that the show would have a greater impact in the new Walt Disney World theme park in Florida where most of the park guests were from other states. Carousel of Progress closed in Disneyland on September 9, 1973 after only operating in the park for six years.
On January 15, 1975, Carousel of Progress opened in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Unlike the Disneyland version of the show, Florida's Carousel of Progress rotated in an opposite direction, had no post-show area above the show, and had the main song changed to "The Best Time of Your Life" (a.k.a. "Now Is The Time"). The model of Progress City that was featured in the post-show area of the ride at the New York World's Fair and at Disneyland was cut down in size and relocated to the WEDWay PeopleMover / Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. When passing through the building with Stitch's Great Escape!, the model for Progress City is behind some glass windows on the left side. You can't miss it.
Since 1975, the Carousel of Progress has been updated several times with the last major update taking place in 1993 as part of the Magic Kingdom's New Tomorrowland. All of the scenes were updated with new dialogue and events, and the show's music was changed back to the original song, "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow."
The experience for Carousel of Progress begins with approaching the circular building. Above the building is an awning and the track for the PeopleMover ride. While waiting for your turn you'll see the building rotate as previous guests are taken to the next scene.
When the doors open, guests walk inside of a small theater and choose a seat. Even though the theater actually moves, there isn't a need for lap bars or seat belts. Just stay seated and enjoy the show. The loading room is Act 1, the first of six scenes/acts in the attraction.
WARNING --- SPOILERS!
The doors close and an overhead voice welcomes guests to Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. There's a brief introduction before the seats rotate to the second scene. This is where the main show begins.
Set in the 1890s, Act 2 showcases the American family as what average life was like before the turn of the century. In this scene it's spring time for the family.
After going through some examples of modern life and how it has improved, the theater rotates to the third scene, Act 3. The third act is set in the 1920s. Almost everything in the house is electric now as electric wires string from one corner to another. Uncle Orville is sitting in the bath tub and cooling himself by having a fan blow cool air at him from a block of ice. Orville calls his idea "air cooling." It's summer now and the family is preparing for their roles in their town's 4th of July parade.
The theater rotates again to the fourth scene, Act 4. It's the fall now as our family is now in the 1940s. The kitchen appliances have improved, and now television is part of the family's lifestyle. The wife is busy remodeling their basement as part of a do-it-yourself craze, and the daughter is using an electric machine to help exercise and try to lose a few pounds.
The theater rotates to the fifth scene and the last major part of the Carousel of Progress. Act 5 has the whole family together to celebrate Christmas, even with the grandparents. It's the 1990s now and technology has significantly improved from the 1940s. The mother has configured the Christmas tree's lights to respond to verbal commands, and the son challenges his grandmother to a virtual reality space combat video game on the television set. The oven also responds to voice commands, but it confuses the father's words with new commands, and it accidentally overcooks the family's dinner.
The theater rotates to the sixth scene, the finale and exit. This scene looks identical to the load scene, and once again the overhead voice talks a little more about the show that we just experienced. After that the exit doors open and the guests step back into Tomorrowland.
END OF SPOILERS!
That's how Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress is still presented today. There's no FASTPASS, no on-ride photo, and the show does not dump you into a store in the exit. It's just a classic and often overlooked attraction tucked away in a corner of Tomorrowland.
Back in 2002, the Carousel of Progress was operating on a limited basis. The ride had a delayed opening, an early closing, and on some days it didn't even operate. There were fears that this was going to be the next attraction to close, possibly as part of another upgrade to Tomorrowland. Alas, that heavily rumored upgrade to the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland never happened, and as of 2003, the Carousel of Progress has been operational on a regular basis.
Crowds are generally low for this attraction, but they are the busiest in the heat of the day during the middle of the afternoon. You'll have a quieter experience if you experience Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress in the morning or in the later afternoon and evening. Those people who appreciate history and educational shows will gain the most out of this otherwise fine attraction in the Magic Kingdom.
Note - Each picture may be opened for a larger view. If you choose to download and share these photos, please provide a link back here to Florida-Project.com!