Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress is one of the most historic and important attractions in Walt Disney history. It is an attraction that is always a must do for me every time I go to Walt Disney World for multiple reasons that include my fondness of the attraction, the animatronics and having “It’s A Great Big Beautiful Tommorrow” stuck in my head for the rest of the day at Magic Kingdom. But, the reason this attraction is so special to me is the direct connection to Walt Disney.
The Carousel of Progress was brought to Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom in 1975. The attraction was created by Walt Disney and his W.E.D. (Imagineers) staff for the 1964-65 World’s Fair and was featured at the General Electric Pavilion. The carousal is set up in a very unique theater where the seating area revolves around a central stage. The carousel’s circular stage is divided into four separate scenes, and the revolving seating area stops in front of each stage to tell the story of the progress we have made from the 20th century until roughly our current time. Walt Disney loved the idea of progress as well as the idea of the traditional American family. With the help of Audio-Animatronics, Walt combined these two to create the show that millions have now scene today. Today, we can look at the life of Walt Disney and say that these two things almost defined who he was, and due to that, Walt was very nostalgic and always had one foot in the past. At the same time though, he was always an innovator in anything he did and kept is other foot moving forward, always making progress.
The first and last scenes of the carousel involve the loading and unloading of the guests. In front of the guests is a large curtain with the Carousel of Progress emblem hanging from it. After a brief introduction explaining the importance of progress and the strong connection Walt had to the attraction, the theme song starts to play and your theater seating rotates for the first time.
As the theater rotates into place, the audience enters act one. Each of the four scenes depicts a holiday that is occurring at the time, and in this act, it is Valentines Day in the early 20th century. The show is centered on an American family and John, the father of the family, explains all the new technology that has recently been invented that is now being used in homes all across America. A mention of the St. Louis World’s Fair dates this scene to 1904 and appliances from this era that are featured include gas lamps, kitchen pumps, a hand-cranked washing machine, an ice box, and a gramophone.
Moving forward to act two, John introduces the audience into all the new revelations folks have come across in the 1920’s. Electricity has entered American households, and it is very apparent with wires and cords hanging in every direction. The family is prepping for the Fourth of July and while they show off their patriotism, John shows off all the new appliances such as the vacuum, electric lights, oven, sewing machine, and the refrigerator.
Time moves very quickly in the Carousel of Progress and before you know it “It’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” is back playing, and you are on your way to act three and the 1940’s. The family is celebrating Halloween as they start to put on their costumes to prepare for the nights festivities. A lot has changed since we last saw the family, and John is now able to show off new gadgets such as an automatic dishwasher, television and indoor plumbing. Not only have appliances changed, but American lifestyle has too. John explains that he has entered the “Rat Race” by commuting to work and facing issues such as crowds and traffic.
After the 1940’s, the carousel makes a jump to what is now roughly “present time.” The scene is set around Christmas, and the family is shown in their house that has all of the newest technology. Obviously, to try and keep up with current technology, Imagineers have to go into this scene and plus it to try and keep up with what is occurring in the present. While celebrating Christmas, the family shows off their high-definition television, virtual reality games, and voice activated appliances. The comedy relief comes from the grandmother of the family achieving the high score on the virtual reality Laser Blaster video game and the automated oven that burns the family’s Christmas turkey.
Although this attraction may not have the thrills as it’s neighbor Space Mountain does, it is still a must do because of the direct connection it has with Walt, the beautiful Animatronics, and the bit of history you can learn while attending the show. If nothing else though, the theater is air-conditioned, and it is always a great place to stop and recoup to make it through the rest of your busy day at the Magic Kingdom!
- The carousel was created for the 1964-65 World’s Fair and was relocated to Disneyland from 1967 until 1973. In January of 1975, it opened up at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.
- The song we hear today “It’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” is the original song written by the Sherman Brothers, but when the attraction opened up at Walt Disney World, the Sherman Brothers were asked to create a new song for the show and “The Best Time of Your Life” premiered as the feature song. In 1994, a refurbishment occurred and Imagineers brought back “It’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.”
- The voice of the father is author, TV and radio performer, Jean Shepherd. Most fans recognize his voice as that of the narrator of the classic Christmas film, A Christmas Story.
Alex Larson is currently a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, he has loved Disney since he was born. Making annual trips to Walt Disney World since the age of three, the parks have become a very special place to him. His love for the parks is due to the memories he has had, attractions, the endless things to explore, the food and the sense of happiness every Disney fan feels while there.