One of my favorite things to do at Disney World isn’t a ride, or even something to eat. It’s the Carousel of Progress. And if you haven’t been to Disney World — no, it’s not a real carousel.
The attraction was built for the 1964 World’s Fair (the year I was born; no wonder I like it!), for the General Electric Pavilion. After the fair, it was moved to Disneyland, and then to Disney World in 1975.
One great thing about Carousel of Progress is that, even if there is a long line, you’re almost certain to be admitted when the next show starts, which happens every 20 minutes. You enter a 240-seat auditorium, and when the curtains open, you meet a family from around 1904.
The animatronic “Dad” talks about the wonders of technology that make life easier for the family: gas lights, a water pump in the kitchen, and more. It’s Valentine’s Day, and the family’s daughter Patricia is getting ready for a Valentine’s Day dance. After several minutes of listening to Dad, he begins singing a catchy tune, and — get ready for it — all the seats begin rotating to the right (this is where the carousel part comes in), until you’re facing another scene.
Now, we’re in the 1920s, and “on Easy Street” as Dad says. Mom is busy sewing costumes for a July 4th celebration, and we learn that there are now electric lights, sewing machines, and radios. As always, the faithful pooch sits at Dad’s feet.
Dad begins his song again, and we rotate to the next scene, set in the ’40s. Dad tells us about the latest: dishwashers and TV’s (he predicts the day “when lots of Americans will learn Latin and Greek in front of their TV sets”). Daughter Patty is enjoying the latest exercise craze, a vibrating machine. It’s Halloween, and his son is carving a pumpkin. Wife Sarah is painting the family “rumpus room,” using a paint-stirring machine that Dad has rigged up (it’s actually just her electric mixer).
Sing along this time: There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow …
The final scene is a little confusing. Apparently, it’s supposed to show the 1960s, and yet … not quite. It was updated a bit in 2011. The kids are dressed in clothes that appear more like the ’80s, and features a high-def TV, voice-activated appliances, and virtual-reality games. So, we have a bit of everything. It’s Christmas, and all the voice-activation leads to a minor disaster. This is my least-favorite of the scenes, but maybe that’s just because it’s the final one.
What will they think of next?
Who knows? We’ve got a whole new century out there!
Carousel of Progress is located in the Magic Kingdom, near Space Mountain. Of note is that, perhaps because of its age, the attraction tends to have glitches. I’ve been to it three times, and during two of those, it became “stuck” and I was treated to a single scene several times in a row before it was fixed. I don’t really mind, though; it kind of adds to the vintage charm.
I love the theme music to the show, and you might enjoy knowing that, at times throughout its history, another theme song has been used: The Best Time of Your Life. However, There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow was thought to work better with the show’s theme of progress, and it is the one you’ll currently hear.
Have you seen Carousel of Progress? Do you like it?