Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Carousel of Progress

Underappreciated Disney Attractions

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Black. Enjoy the ride as we share attractions at Disney that we feel are underappreciated.

If you follow my blog, you know that I'm big on nostalgia and Disney history so it's a good bet that my pick for underappreciated Disney attraction combines those two things. Can you guess?  It's not hard to figure out...it's the Carousel of Progress (CoP).  I'm sure that to the average Disney guest, who is only focused on how many big name attractions they can do and how many character meet-and greats they can attend, CoP is dated, tired, boring, and cheesy.  However, if you view WDW has a historical icon dedicated to the origins of modern day theme park technology and innovation, CoP is ground zero.  It is to Disney fanatics, as Wrigley Field or Fenway Park is to baseball fans.  It's one of the few attractions located at WDW in Florida that was directly influenced and developed by Walt Disney himself.  Even though CoP's appearance at WDW didn't occur until 1975, its origins go back much, much further.  

In 1959, Walt Disney was approached by General Electric to sponsor a proposed attraction for the upcoming 1964 New York World's Fair.  Walt Disney developed a concept for the Fair as "a show that would interpret, in an educational and entertaining way, the role electricity has played in bettering man's living conditions".  The result of the GE/Disney collaboration was Progressland, which included the show which was subsequently named,  "Carousel of Progress".  Progressland was one of the most successful exhibits at the Fair with almost 16 million visitors viewing the show before the close of the Fair in 1965.  When the New York World Fair closed, the Carousel of Progress was moved to Disneyland where it, and the original music scored by the famous Sherman brothers, played from 1967 thru 1973.  In 1973, it was then moved to a new theater at Walt Disney World, opening in 1975 with a new theme song, "The Best Time of Your Life."  A 1993 rehab refurbished CoP to its original state and renamed it "Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress" as a tribute to its past.  The theme song was also changed back to the original score of  "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow."

Through an innovative rotating carousel theater (hence the name), the show follows an Audio-Animatronic family through the last century, as they show how times have changed due to the many modern inventions.  The theater and show was design and manufactured by WED (now known as Walt Disney Imagineering/WDI) and MAPO (previously known as the manufacturing division of WDI).  Although the actual theater design has changed since the World's Fair, the basic concept of a carousel theater, where the audience rotates around multiple stationary stages, has remained.  This technology allowed to the audience to remain comfortably in place during scene changes, and avoided time-consuming disruption of changing seats during a show.  Maybe not so innovative in 2013, but a marvel in 1964!  Besides the theater, Disney Imagineer's developed and perfected the Audio-Animatronics (AA) performers for the show.  These AA figures were at the forefront of technology at the time and lead to the wonderful Audio-Animatronics we see today throughout the parks.  

The Carousel of Progress holds the record as the longest-running stage show  in the history of American theater.  The Carousel of Progress has a rich history that marks it as one of the oldest attractions in Walt Disney World.  A journey to Disney World should not be complete without a visit to the Carousel of Progress at least once in a lifetime. It's the closest thing you can get to being in Walt Disney's presence.  Even I will admit the show is somewhat cheesy and presents a future full of rosy optimism and vision that is often seldom found these cynical times, but maybe that is exactly what we need because...."There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, Shining at the end of every day..."

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is The Disney Point.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ The Magical Mouse Pad <-- you are here
2nd Stop ~ The Disney Point 
3rd Stop ~ The Disney Chick
4th Stop ~ Manda’s Disney Blog


  1. CoP rates high among my favorites. I'm a HUGE fan. We've gone a few times when it's been down for refurbishment and I always get so sad - it's just not a complete trip without at least one trip through time!

  2. I totally agree! I love that attraction and it's history. I would have loved to have seen in at the world's fair!

  3. I have to say I LOVED Cop when I went on my first visit to WDW :) It could easily be missed, you're right! But because of all the awesome Disney blogs I read I knew I HAD to check it out ... I loved that it felt so old school Disney, as if I had literally been transported back in time! I had to wonder at how amazing it would have been to experience such an attraction back when it opened, because it's still amazing today! :) x

  4. I love this blog post. I don't know if you know this ,but there is a Carousel of Progress fan club on Facebook. I think as a fan of the COP you might like the club. https://www.facebook.com/groups/carouselofprogressfanclub/

  5. Carousel of Progress is one of my sentimental favorites. I remember seeing it as a kid when it was still at Disneyland.