There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow!
Some of my friends and family think I am crazy, but one of my all-time favorite attractions at Walt Disney World is the Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Are you familiar with it? As the theme song mentions – this inspiring 21 minute attraction points our thoughts toward a “great big beautiful tomorrow”! But, each time I experience it (which I make sure to do during every visit to Walt Disney World!), I like to reflect on the “great big beautiful” history that this show holds and the nostalgic way it’s message is presented to thousands of Disney World guests every single day.
If you aren’t a huge Disney Nerd (like me), you may not realize this rotating theater audio-animatronic stage show was created by Walter E. Disney and WED Enterprises for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. Walt created the attraction for General Electric’s pavilion at the fair and GE funded the project and the new technology needed to bring it to life. Not only were the elaborate audio-animatronic characters amazingly realistic but, the theater itself was also quite innovative! The “carousel style theater” allowed guests to remain seated throughout the experience, as they we’re twirled through the history of progress playing out before them on a series of stationary theater stages. In it’s original form, the attraction offered a peek back in time to the 1890s, 1920s, 1940s and to the then modern day of the 1960s. It was truly an example of innovation at its finest!
After it’s run at the New York World’s Fair, the Carousel of Progress was dismantled, transported and re-erected at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. It was on July 2, 1967, (just seven months after the passing of Walt Disney) when the attraction welcomed its first guests at the Happiest Place on Earth. The show remained virtually unchanged from its previous form at the World’s Fair. GE’s sponsorship was extended and theater continued to twirl it’s guests through time for another six years.
With innovation being at the heart of all things Disney, as guests exited the Carousel of Progress they were able to view concept renderings of the much anticipated Walt Disney World project and an elaborate model of “Progress City” which was based on Walt Disney’s long thought of idea of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT).
In keeping with its roots of progress, the attraction was once again dismantled and transported across the country to Walt Disney World. This time, the Carousel of Progress underwent a dramatic structural and format change. A brand new theater building was designed and built as it’s new home in Tomorrowland at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, where it opened on January 15, 1975. While the theater is still carousel style, it now rotates counterclockwise instead of the clockwise motion of it’s predeccesor. After ten years at Walt Disney World, GE decided against renewing its sponsorship contract of Carousel of Progress and all signage, references and logos related to GE were then removed from the attraction.
It was in 1993, that Carousel of Progress closed briefly for a remodel and reworking of the stage show theming and scripts. Walt Disney World imagineers felt it was time to step further into the future of innovation! It reopened to Magic Kingdom park guests on November 23, 1993 offering a glimpse into four generations of innovation that are still the current lineup of theater acts today. The attraction takes us along for the ride as John and Sarah and their family experience the progress of the 1900s, 1920s, 1940s and the most recent turn of the century of the 2000s. Even Uncle Orville makes the trip!
I know it is the opinion of some, that Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress is boring and nothing more than a comfortable chair for a 21 minute nap during your park visit to Disney’s Magic Kingdom. But, do me a favor. During your next visit to Walt Disney World, make a point of not only visiting the attraction but, listening to and thinking of the amazing and progressive history the show represents of both our country and the Walt Disney World company.
Oh….and if you need help planning your next Walt Disney World vacation? I would LOVE to help you plan a “Great Big Beautiful” trip!