From the first round of the 4th Annual WDW Radio Magic Madness Tournament, it was clear that “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” was to be respected. The Sherman Brothers classic won its initial contest with 95% of the vote. Subsequent match-ups presented only a slightly greater challenge, and it finished each battle with a commanding lead. Clearly, the Walt’s Disney’s Carousel of Progress theme song is the favorite attraction song or score, past or present! Now, WDW Radio invites you to celebrate its joyous victory with these interesting bits of trivia:
On the World Stage
Prior to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, General Electric showed interest in sponsoring a pavilion that would be designed by the Walt Disney Company. This area came to be known as Progressland and one of its main attractions was the Carousel of Progress. At that time, Robert and Richard Sherman had worked with the Walt Disney Studios on a number of projects, and Walt tasked them with writing a song that would showcase the optimism for the future that General Electric desired to convey. “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” became the theme song for the Carousel of Progress, and during the planning and design stages, Walt Disney asked the Sherman Brothers to perform the song on film as part of an update that would be presented to General Electric. This short segment can be found in the bonus features on the Tomorrowland Disney Treasures DVD.
And That’s the Start…
When Lou Mongello interviewed songwriter Richard Sherman on WDW Radio Show #80, Mr. Sherman recounted the story of his and his brother’s inspiration for the optimistic tune that was to become “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” Walt Disney had charged the Sherman brothers with the task of writing the theme song for the Carousel of Progress in a very short period of time. Mr. Sherman recalls that after Walt left them to work, he said to his brother Robert, “Well, Walt has a dream and that’s a start.” They immediately thought that this could become the focus of the entire tune. Obviously, they knew the song could not specifically say “Walt,” so this lyric became “Man has a dream, and that’s the start.”
A Musical History
Writing “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” posed a unique challenge in that it had to be a simple song that could be altered to fit various styles. The Carousel of Progress told the story of man’s technological journey through time, and Mr. Sherman recalls that this required its theme song to fit into turn-of-the-century Ragtime, the Jazz Age, Swing Period, Big Band, and the present, which at that time was the 1960s. Today, Guests visiting Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress can still hear the distinct differences in style as they transition between scenes.
Replaced and Returned
Following the New York World’s Fair, the Carousel of Progress was moved to Disneyland, and it played there until September 9, 1973. After its tenure at Walt’s original park ended, it re-opened in Walt Disney World; however, by that time, sponsor General Electric changed its corporate philosophy and desired a different theme song match. On January 15, 1975, the Carousel of Progress opened in Magic Kingdom Park with a new Sherman Brothers theme song, “The Best Time of Your Life.” This tune did not focus on the future as “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” had, but instead, it told guests that “Now is the time, now is the best time. Now is the best time of your life,” and “Yesterday’s memories may sparkle and gleam. Tomorrow is still but a dream.” In 1985, General Electric’s sponsorship of the attraction ended, and in 1993, a refurbishment saw the return of “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.”
Just Like Old Times
December 15, 2016, was the 50th anniversary of the passing of Walt Disney. In order to remember and celebrate Walt’s continuing legacy, Walt Disney Company and Studios Executives along with Disney Legends and Archive Members such as Robert Iger, Kevin Feige, Dick Van Dyke, Dave Smith, Tony Baxter and others, gathered in Walt’s office at the Walt Disney Studios. The same grand piano on which Richard and Robert Sherman would play “Feed the Birds” for Walt still remains in that office today, and on that day, on that piano, Richard Sherman played a number of Walt’s favorite songs including “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.”
(Photo property of WDW Radio.)