Finding Walt Series: Carousel of Progress

Finding Walt Series: Carousel of Progress

Walt once said, “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing… that it was all started by a mouse.” However, as Julie Andrews so eloquently rephrases in the finale of Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, “…we know that it was all started by a man – a man with a dream.” These dreams live on today within each one of the Disney parks. Today, we are going to pull back the curtain on Walt’s influence within Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World.

Soon, you won’t be able to take a single step inside the parks without catching glimpses of Uncle Walt’s inspiration. Afterall, his indelible mark is everywhere… you just have to know where to look!

Carousel of Progress

Carousel of Progress is the oldest attraction in Walt Disney World with immediate connections to Walt Disney. In fact, just as the introduction of the attraction states, it was “Walt’s idea from beginning to end.”

Edison Square

The idea of the carousel stemmed from an idea Walt had to add two new areas to Disneyland: International Street and Edison Square. A unique show would be stationed within Edison Square that would feature the progress of electricity throughout the years. Though this iteration never came to fruition, as you well know by now, Walt Disney Imagineering never lets an idea go to waste!    

1964-65 New York World’s Fair

Later, Walt and his team at WEDway Enterprises (the original Walt Disney Imagineering) was asked by General Electric to create an attraction for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Walt jumped at the opportunity and pitched a revised version of the Edison Square idea. This time around, the attraction would debut a state-of-the-art audio-animatronic family as they were shown living in various decades, all the while highlighting exciting innovations and advances in electricity and technology. General Electric absolutely loved the concept and offered to fund the project and the new technology necessary to bring it to life!

Walt was incredibly involved in the development of Carousel of Progress, from personally paying frequent visits to the production studio to lying down in Uncle Orville’s bathtub to demonstrate to the team precisely how the animatronic should be sprawled out and displayed. He even went as far as to make suggestions regarding who should voice the characters, including Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny) for the voice of Uncle Orville.

Walt’s Theme

In addition, Walt knew that the attraction would need a snappy theme song that embodied its optimistic spirit. So, he asked songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert M. Sherman to fashion a ditty that would serve as a bridge between acts. Walt explained the story to the brothers and from that description and his unbridled enthusiasm, an anthem was born. Later, the Sherman Brothers would claim that the song, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” was not just the attraction’s theme song, but also “Walt’s theme song” because he was so hopeful and excited about the future and technology itself.

“There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

Man has a dream and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a dream come true for you and me

So there’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Just a dream away”

One of the best things that took place throughout the preparation for the World’s Fair was the massive strides the creative team was able to make in the way of audio-animatronics – a skill that would more than come in handy down the line.

Disneyland

Following its wildly successful run at the World’s Fair, Carousel of Progress made its way to Disneyland, where it played until 1974. This version featured an upper level of the Carousel of Progress theater that housed the model of Walt Disney’s futuristic city called Progress City (aka EPCOT).

Walt Disney World

In 1975, it reopened at Walt Disney World in Magic Kingdom (Tomorrowland), with a few minor tweaks to the Disneyland version. You can now see the Progress City model on Tomorrowland’s Transit Authority PeopleMover in Magic Kingdom!

In 1994, it was renamed “Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress” to pay homage to his love, admiration, influence, and contributions to the attraction.

In Conclusion

Today, guests can experience a short documentary about the attraction before boarding the carousel, featuring the Sherman Brothers and Walt himself. While it is just a brief little backstory of the show’s history, it is always heartwarming to hear Walt’s voice within the parks.

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress is the longest-running stage show in American theatre history. Each day, the carousel spins ‘round and ‘round, delighting audiences from all over the world with this “one man’s dream.”  

Of course, this is just one small example of Walt’s imagination run wild. So, next time you’re in the park, be sure to take a look around and you will find… Walt’s “reality” truly is a “dream come true for you and me.”

Do you love Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress? Which scene is your favorite? Where else can you find Walt in the parks? Be sure to leave a comment below!

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