The Carousel of Progress is quite the nostalgic attraction at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. It has quite the history behind it and has gotten around before making its final destination. First it made its appearance in 1964-65 World’s Trade Fair in New York. This is also where It’s a Small World made its original appearance. The Carousel of Progress was the main attraction at the GE Pavillion for the fair. Originally called Progressland it became the most popular attractions at the fair. After the Trades fair it made a cross country move to Disneyland in Anaheim California before shipping up again in 1973 and reopening in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom where it currently resides in Tomorrowland, in 1975.
WED Enterprises is who designed the show with Walt Disney himself. They are what we now call the Imagineers. Walt Disney personally helped to design and create this attraction. So it is special to have this located in Magic Kingdom, as he passed before Disney World in Florida came to fruition. It’s the only attraction in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom he physically had hands-on before passing. It’s also known as his favorite attraction. This adds to the nostalgia.
This audio-animatronic show rotates around a stage bringing you on a journey through the times. It depicts the changes and advancements in electricity and technology while showcasing this American family through different decades of time. The first act is set on Valentine’s Day in the 1890s, just before the turn of the Century. The second act is in the 1920s celebrating Independence Day. The third act is in the 1940s on Halloween, with the boom of electricity in homes and the creation of television, The last act was originally set in the 1960s, but has evolved with the times since then to keep more current. It is set at Christmas time as it’s about to become 2000.
Most changes have happened to this final scene to keep up with the ever-evolving times. It is in need of a new update to this scene now that it is the year 2020, and technology advancements have surpassed the last update in 1993, but they were on track with some of the “future” technologies in the scene. It has been updated multiple times, in 1967, 1975, when it reopened in Disney World. In 1981, 1985 and lastly in 1993. Did you know it is the longest-running stage show in existence?
Walt loved the Sherman brothers, and they were crucial in creating many of the most beloved Disney songs including from Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and even the Tikki Room. They also wrote the very catchy tune There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow for the Carousel of Progress. It was said to become Walt’s theme song since he was always optimistic about advancing technologies and the future. This was the theme song for the ride until ” The Best time of your life” became the new song for the attraction when it moved to Magic Kingdom.
GE requested the Song Great Big Beautiful tomorrow be changed because they thought it was going to make people put off buying new appliances. So the new lyrics for the new song insinuate “Now is the time”. After about 20 years Disney implemented the original song back to the attraction that was loved and cherished. GE sponsored the ride for the first 10 years it was in Magic Kingdom and then chose to not renew, so the ride was updated a bit to change some lines and such but there are still some GE appliances used in the home.
The family consists of John the father, Sarah the mother, Patricia the daughter, and James the son. Puzzling to many, act one has another young girl that disappears after the first act. Disney has not given a reason behind this. Gene Shepard voices the father John in the show. This voice may seem very familiar to you, as it should because he also narrates the very famous holiday movie A Christmas Story. The mother’s voice is also notable as the safety announcements on It’s a Small World and The People Mover. Funny tidbit, the dog’s name has changed. It used to change from scene to scene. His name has been Buster, Quennie, Sport, and Rover. In its current state it is Rover throughout the entire show.
In more recent news it had a malfunction and the hand of the animatronic fell off! Also look for the hidden Mickey’s that were added during the later updates to the ride. This attraction has stood the test of time, and deserves to be cherished. It is a great look back at how far we have come as a nation and how advanced technology has become. From gas lamps to voice commands, this ride truly depicts a Carousel of Progress.
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Source & Photos Courtesy: Disney Parks
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