Everything you need to know about Carousel of Progress
A staple in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress takes you on a journey from the turn of the century to current day technologies. The original version of Carousel of Progress was introduced by Walt Disney himself at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Along with iconic favorites “it’s a small world” and “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln”, each bringing new technology to light. The Carousel of Progress is the longest-running stage show, with the most performances in the history of the American theater; which is reminded to every guest as they await the start of the clockwise-moving carousel.
Step Back in Time
Much like a carousel, Carousel of Progress takes the audience on a circular tour of an “average” American family. Follow John, Sarah, Jimmy/James, Patricia, Grandma, Grandpa, and house-guest Uncle Orville as John narrates the progression of technology! Beginning at the turn of the century on Valentine’s Day and ending on Christmas Day in “current” times, this show really brings to light just how much technology has improved over the decades.
It Happened at the 1964 World’s Fair
Being one of the most visited pavilions at the Fair, “Progressland” was innovative and well ahead of its time. With a revolving-clockwise theater, the audience was taken on a trip and given an insightful view of the progress that has occurred throughout the years. At the time of the fair, the line would end up being over an hour wait and every 4 minutes the theater would be packed full with over 200 people in attendance.
New Technology, More Updates
First debuting in 1964, the ending scene contained futuristic technology that, over the decades, has continued to change as well. With this, Carousel of Progress underwent more than a few updates to keep up with the changing times. Having five updates, one in 1967 before debuting in Disneyland, 1975 before debuting in Walt Disney World, 1981, 1985, and lastly in 1993, the many “futuristic” technologies available in the Carousel of Progress closely align with those of today!
New Home, New Name
The Carousel of Progress, originally named The Carousel Theater of Progress was brought to the Disneyland Resort and remained there from 1967 to 1973 moving to Walt Disney World in 1975. During its time in Disneyland, the carousel was sponsored by General Electric due to its success. The agreement was that the carousel was to be a permanent attraction in the Disneyland Park, but because it ended up moving to Walt Disney World in 1975, General Electric signed a new contract for 10 years. The beginning intro, before a GE video, was replaced with Walt Disney’s original promotional video for the attraction itself when the contract expired. In 1994, The Carousel Theater of Progress was renamed Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress to pay tribute to the attraction’s visionary, Walt Disney.
“The Best Time of Your Life”
Before its big move to Walt Disney World in 1975, the attraction underwent an overhaul to include a new song “The Best Time of Your Life. The finale scene was altered to New Year’s Eve in the 1970s, opposed to the Christmas Scene in the 1960s. It returned to its original version in 1994 with the forever stuck-in-your-head favorite “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” and updates to the finale once again. The original song was written by the Sherman brothers, Richard and Robert Sherman with help from Walt Disney himself! The Sherman brothers had later said the song was thought to be Walt’s theme song because of his optimistic personality! (The Sherman brothers wrote Walt Disney’s favorite song “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins!)
Scenes for the Seasons
There are 6 separate rooms the audience travels through. Four of these rooms are key scenes to the storyline of progress in technology. The first room gives a narrative to the origin of The Carousel of Progress before beginning to rotate to other scenes: Valentine’s Day during the turn of the 20th century, 4th of July in the 1920s, Halloween during the 1940s, and Christmas in the 21st century.
- Opened in Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland January 15th, 1975 with Space Mountain
- The voice of John is Jean Shepherd, the same narrator in “A Christmas Story”
- There are four hidden Mickey’s in the final scene (nutcracker on the mantel, white peppermill in the kitchen, painting on the dining room wall, plush Mickey with the presents!)
- The voice of Uncle Orville is Mel Blanc who also famously voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird!
- The original voice of John, Rex Allen, now voices the Grandfather in the finale of the show!
Special thanks to Ashley Dion for writing this article! Former cast member turned annual pass holder, I am a native Michigander who moved her entire life to Orlando, FL to be surrounded by all things Disney. I met my fellow Disney-lover husband while working for the Mouse and now we frequent the Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts as pass holders as often as possible!