Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress is a hidden gem in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. It is the only attraction in all of Walt Disney World that Walt himself had a hand in creating. Take a ride back in time with John, his family and their dog Rover and revisit the history of technological advances starting at the beginning of the 20th Century. Here are 10 things that you probably didn’t know about the famous attraction.
The 1964 New York World’s Fair
The Carousel of Progress first premiered at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 in the aptly named area of “Progressland”. Walt Disney was hired by several funders to create four different attractions for the World’s Fair; one of them being the Carousel of Progress. The attraction was sponsored by General Electric and featured many of their products and appliances throughout. Once the New York World’s Fair ended, the attraction was moved to Disneyland in California. Disneyland was home to the Carousel of Progress from 1967-1973. The attraction finally found its permanent home in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in 1975 and has remained there ever since.
Spot the (not so hidden) logo
On January 15, 1975, the Carousel of Progress officially opened at Magic Kingdom. General Electric signed a 10-year contract to remain the attractions sponsor. When the contract expired in 1985, General Electric chose not to renew their contract and all branding from GE had to go. If you pay close attention, you can still see subtle (and not so subtle) hints of GE that are left over. In the Fourth of July scene, the vacuum and fan still have the GE logo on it. In the Halloween scene, you can clearly see the GE logo on the refrigerator and dishwasher.
There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
When the Carousel of Progress premiered at the New York World’s Fair, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” was the attractions theme song. Walt Disney asked the Sherman Brothers to create a song for the attraction that could play between the acts in the show. Walt Disney was so passionate and excited about the attraction that the Sherman Brothers wrote the song with his enthusiasm in mind. In fact, the Sherman Brothers lovingly called this Walt’s theme song.
Now is the best time?
General Electric requested that the song be changed when the Carousel of Progress was moved to Walt Disney World. They argued that “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” would insinuate that tomorrow is a better time to think about buying GE appliances instead of right now. The Sherman Brothers were called upon again to create a new song. “The Best Time of Your Life” became the attractions new theme song. GE particularly liked that the lyrics said “Now is the time, now is the best time…” to convince customers to buy now instead of tomorrow. The Sherman Brothers always believed that the original song was a much better fit and it was reinstated as the attractions theme song in 1993.
What’s up Doc?
If you listen closely, you may recognize some pretty famous voices. The main character John, is voiced by Gene Shepard who is the narrator of “A Christmas Story”. Sara, John’s wife, is voiced by BJ Ward. You may recognize her as the voice of the safety spiels from “It’s a Small World” and the PeopleMover. The Grandfather is voiced by Rex Allen, who interestingly enough was the original voice of John. Perhaps the coolest voice cameo is none other than Mel Blanc-the voice of Bugs Bunny- who plays Uncle Orville.
There are some interesting fan theories surrounding this attraction. One of the most widely talked about is the disappearance of one of the daughters from the first act. If you look closely in the first scene, there is a little girl, believed to be one of John and Sara’s children in one of the scrims on the left. Many believed that this could have been Patricia, the older daughter but she makes an appearance in the same scene on the right side. The little girl was not in any of the subsequent scenes and isn’t mentioned for the rest of the show. Disney has not offered an explanation for this.
You look familiar…
Disney has reused many of the same face molds on their animatronics to cut costs. Many of the animatronics from the Carousel of Progress can be seen in other rides and attractions throughout Walt Disney World. The Grandmother, in the first act of the show, can also be found as one of the 999 happy haunts in The Haunted Mansion. She appears in the famous ballroom scene sitting in her rocking chair. Patricia and John can be found in EPCOT on Spaceship Earth. Patricia appears as a violin player in the Renaissance scene and her father John is the lute player standing right next to her.
Grandma and Grandpa’s Flight Information
The final scene from the Carousel of Progress has some pretty interesting easter eggs. If you look to the right side of the stage, there is a bulletin board that says “Grandma and Grandpa flight #1964 arrives 10:01” Flight #1964 references the Carousel of Progress premiering in 1964. The 10:01 arrival time signifies the day that Magic Kingdom opened, October 1. There is also a note that says “Marty called. Wants changes’’ This is a nod to legendary Imagineer Marty Sklar, who had a hand in creating every scene in this attraction.
The last major refurbishment of this attraction was in 1993. In this update, we saw changes ranging from a whole new voice cast to an updated final scene. The final scene was changed back to being set at Christmas, but now it supposed to be around the year 2000. The version that is around today is the closest version to the original that premiered at the World’s Fair. Even though this was last updated in 1993, its predictions of the future were pretty spot on. Things like virtual reality games and voice commands exist today but were a mere pipedream in the 90s.
Walt’s Favorite Attraction
The Carousel of Progress holds the record as the longest running stage show in America. It is the only attraction in all of Walt Disney World to have been actually touched by Walt Disney. This was said to have been his favorite attraction and it is easy to see why. You can’t help but smile while watching this one-of-a-kind show and I guarantee that you will be singing “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” for the rest of the day.The Orlando Real on
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