The Carousel of Progress: A Tour Through the History of Technology

Carousel of Progress scaled
Carousel of Progress scaled

The Carousel of Progress: A Tour Through the History of Technology

“There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day!” If you have ever been on the Carousel of Progress you know this song well. If you have never been, what are you waiting for?! Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, located in Tomorrowland, is an iconic “ride” that takes guests on a journey from the turn of the century to current-day technologies.

The original idea was first introduced by Walt Disney himself in 1964, ultimately creating the longest-running stage show with the most performances in the history of the American theater. Disney introduced this concept at the 1964 New York World’s Fair as a pavilion at the fair, along with “It’s a Small World” and “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln”.

The Carousel of Progress originally named The Carousel Theater of Progress, took guests on a circular tour of an “average” American family. Throughout the ride, guests follow John, Sarah, Jimmy/James, Patricia, Grandma, Grandpa, and house-guest Uncle Orville. Guests hear John narrate the journey and progression of technology as guests travel clockwise around a revolving theater. Fun Fact: The voice of John was originally narrated by Rex Allen who is now the voice of the Grandfather in the finale of the show. John is now narrated by Jean Shepherd who also narrated “A Christmas Story”. In addition, the voice of Uncle Orville is Mel Blanc who also famously voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird.

Due to this new technology, along with “It’s a Small World”, the innovative new rides were well ahead of their time creating the most visited pavilions at the fair. Fun Fact, The Carousel of Progress at the 1964 Fair had the longest wait with a line over an hour for the 4-minute ride.

The ride you see today is not the original ride that debuted in 1964. The ride has undergone five updates in order to keep up with the changing technology of today. The ride underwent its first update in 1967 before debuting in Disneyland and then again in 1975 before debuting in Walt Disney World. The additional updates occurred in 1981, 1985, and the last update occurred in 1993 aligning the technology in the ride with the technology of today!
Guests travel through 6 separate rooms throughout the ride. The first room gives a narrative to the origin of the Carousel of Progress as we travel through the 4th of July during the 1920s, Halloween during the 1940s, Valentine’s Day during the turn of the 20th century, and Christmas in the 21st Century.

After the New York World’s Fair, The Carousel of Progress was brought to the Disneyland Resort in 1967 where it remained sponsored by General Electric until 1973. In 1975 the ride was then moved to Walt Disney World and sponsored by General Electric for another 10 years. Fun Fact, The Carousel of Progress opened in the Magic Kingdom in Tomorrowland on January 15, 1975, along with Space Mountain. In 1994, The Carousel Theater of Progress was then renamed to Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress to honor the attraction’s visionary, Walt Disney.

The move to Walt Disney World wasn’t the only big change that occurred to this ride. Before the big move in 1975, the attraction underwent a song change as well to the final scene. The final scene in the 1960s was a Christmas Scene however, it was then changed to a New Year’s Eve scene along with a new song, “The Best Time of Your Life”.
The final scene changed once again in 1994 to its original version along with the song written by the Sherman brothers and Walt Disney, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”. The Sherman brothers thought the song to be Walt Disney’s theme song because of his optimistic personality!

Today you can find this iconic ride at Walt Disney World located in the back of Tomorrowland as you travel through time.

The Carousel of Progress: A Tour Through the History of Technology 1

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Jessica Jones