Flying Dragons In The Sky!!!

A flying dragon has recently been spotted flying over the Shafter-Minter Field airport in California. The mechanical flying beast is one of the newest creations that has come to light out of Walt Disney Imagineering, being tested for about 2 hours straight north of their Glendale, California headquarters. Continue after the page break for more details…

The flying dragon exactly matches a March 2010 patent filing that hit the internet shortly after the Avatarland announcement was made, detailing the mechanical creature seen above. It’s been nine months since Disney announced their plan to work with director James Cameron and build a new land devoted to Avatar inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Other than a few occasional references to the project, Disney has remained very quiet on the details of what would be included, as much of it is still being designed and decided upon.

Although it may be easy to immediately link this flying dragon aircraft with the Avatarland project, it could be in development for an entirely different experience. It may be one of the many tests Walt Disney Imagineering runs as part of it’s extensive research and development into new technologies and forms of entertainment. Dragons have always been associated with Disney’s Animal Kingdom since long before Avatar even made it to the box office. The original logo for the park (pictured above) prominently featured a dragon, front and center. Even if this particular flying dragon has nothing to do with Avatarland, it still brings to mind the never-built Animal Kingdom concept known as Beastly Kingdom. Although it is highly likely this new discovery is going to be utilized for Avatarland, using it for a Beastly Kingdom concept would make this writer’s dream for Animal Kingdom come true! Only time will tell just what this flying dragon will be used for, but until then, its fun to dream! Here now are the shots taken of the WDI’s flying dragon:

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think the dragon will be used for.

Making of: Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth is the iconic and symbolic structure of Epcot and is one of the most recognizable structures at the Walt Disney World Resort. It is not only the centerpiece and main focal point of Epcot, but also the name of the attraction housed within the 18-story geodesic sphere that takes guests on a time machine themed experience using the Omnimover system. The 13-minute dark ride shows guests how advancements in human communication have helped to create the future one step at a time. The attraction is a timeline from the origins of prehistoric man to the dawn of the 21st century, where guests can then create a future for themselves. Join me now for the making of Spaceship Earth

The structure was designed with the help of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who also helped write the original storyline for the attraction. The term ‘Spaceship Earth’ was coined by Buckminster Fuller, who also developed the structural mathematics of the geodesic dome. The structure is similar in texture to the United States pavilion from Expo 67 in Montreal, but unlike that structure, Spaceship Earth is a complete sphere, supported by three pairs of legs. The structural designs of both Expo 67 and Spaceship Earth were completed by Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. of Boston, Massachusetts.

Construction took 26 months and 40,800 labor hours to build. Extending upwards from the table are “quadropod” structures which support the smaller beams which form the actual shell of the steel skeleton. Pipes stand the aluminum skin panels away from the skeleton and provide space for utilities. A small service car is parked in the interstitial space between the structural and cladding surfaces, and can carry a prone technician down the sides to access repair locations. The shop fabrication of the steel, done in nearby Tampa, Florida, was an early instance of computer-aided drafting and materials processing.

The theme of communication through the ages is presented in chronological order in settings peopled with Audio-Animatronics figures. Actors are seen and heard quietly declaiming in a Greek theater. Charioteers carry messages from a Roman court, and Jewish and Islamic scholars discuss texts. With typical Disney whimsy, a monk is seen having fallen asleep on a manuscript he was inscribing. Michelangelo, overhead, paints the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, and Gutenberg mans his printing press. Suggesting the rush of 20th-century technology, subsequent scenes meld together, overlapping each other as the circumference of the ride track narrows. A newsboy hawks papers, a movie marquee and film clips represent motion pictures, and radio and television are represented. As the vehicles reach the large space at the apex of the ride system, guests see, on the planetarium ceiling of the sphere, projections of stars, planets, the Milky Way, and, closest and largest, “spaceship earth.” The Omnimover vehicles then revolve 180 degrees, so that the passengers lie backward facing the “sky” as they begin their descent on a relatively straight track.

In May 1986, the attraction was given a slight remodel. This second version of the attraction started off with the lighted tunnel enhanced by twinkling lights, meant to depict stars, with the fog machine removed. Famous news journalist Walter Cronkite was the new narrator, reading from an updated script. A theme song called Tomorrow’s Child was composed for the ending of the attraction, which was redesigned with projected images of children on screens to help fit with the theme of “Tomorrow’s Child”. In August 1994, the attraction was given a major remodel. This third version of the attraction kept the lighted tunnel as it was in 1986, and maintained the majority of the scenes depicted in the beginning and middle of the attraction. Three scenes toward the end of the attraction that showed a computer in a boy’s bedroom of the 1980s, a woman’s office of the 1980s, and a network operations center of the 1990s, were all removed and replaced with one scene depicting a boy and girl using the Internet to communicate between America and Asia. Actor Jeremy Irons was the new narrator, reading from an updated script. A new orchestral composition was composed for the beginning, middle, and end of the attraction. The ending itself was completely redone, with the removal of the Space Station scene located in the attraction’s planetarium (the astronauts from the scene subsequently turned up in Space Mountain’s post-show, where they were used until 2009), replacement of an old projected image of Earth in the planetarium with a new image, and replacement of the 1982 and 1986 ending scenes of the ride with miniature architectural settings connected by color-changing fiber optic cables and arrays of blinking lights representing electronic communication pathways. The attraction re-opened in its third version on November 23, 1994.

On July 9, 2007, the attraction was again closed for another remodel that included a number of updates to the attraction. The attraction opened again with its fourth version in February 2008, with a new score composed by Bruce Broughton and new narration provided by actress Judi Dench. The attraction’s exterior was also modified for the 2007 renovations.

The original post show for Spaceship Earth was called Earth Station. It lasted from 1982 until 1994. It was a wide open exhibit space that included:

  • EPCOT Center Guest Relations
  • Seven large rear projector screens mounted on the walls of the exhibit space toward the ceiling that displayed visual previews of various EPCOT Center attractions.
  • WorldKey Information: Interactive kiosks that offered previews of various EPCOT Center attractions. Guests could also talk to a live cast member via two-way closed-circuit video, or make a restaurant reservation while in the park.

When AT&T renewed their sponsorship in 1994, they redesigned the exhibit space for Earth Station into the Global Neighborhood. The original Global Neighborhood lasted from 1994 until 1999. In 1999, the exhibit space was updated to become the New Global Neighborhood for the Millennium Celebration. The exhibit space closed in 2004 after AT&T left as sponsor.

AT&T’s departure as sponsor in 2004 caused the exhibit to close. Siemens AG, the new sponsor of Spaceship Earth, having signed on in 2005, created a new exhibit space called Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future. The new exhibit space once again uses the entire exhibit space that only Earth Station had once used. The new exhibit space houses interactive exhibits featuring various Siemens AG technology. These interactive displays and games allow guests to see the future of medicine, transportation and energy management. The space opened with two games, with two new games added in December 2007 and January 2008. Project Tomorrow attractions are:

  • An illuminated globe featuring an ever-changing collage of inspirational images of tomorrow.
  • Body Builder, a 3-D game allowing guests to build a digital human body.
  • Super Driver, a driving simulation video game featuring vehicle accident and avoidance systems. It simulates what is supposed to be the future of driving. You drive a “smart-car” and try to stop the city from being destroyed.
  • Power City, a large digital “shuffleboard-style” game that has guest racing around the board to power their city.
  • InnerVision, a coordination and reaction-time game with elements similar to Simon and Dance Dance Revolution

A VIP lounge exists on the second floor at the back of the building that houses the post show for Spaceship Earth. It is a place for employees and customers of the current sponsoring company to relax while visiting the park. When Spaceship Earth was without sponsorship from 2004–2005, the room was utilized for private events such as weddings and conventions. The layout is small and curved in shape, with one wall consisting of large windows where visitors can look out onto the park. When Siemens AG took over as sponsors, the lounge was given the name “Base21”.

Base 21

In celebration of the year 2000, a large 25-story “magic wand” held by a representation of Mickey Mouse’s hand was built next to the sphere. Inspiration for it came from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence of Fantasia although Mickey did not actually use a magic wand in that sequence). At the top of the structure was a large cut-out of the number 2000. While the structure wasn’t intended to be permanent, it was constructed to have a lifetime of about 10 years. After the Millennium Celebration ended, the structure was left standing. In 2001, the number 2000 was replaced with the word “Epcot” in a script font that differs from the park’s logotype. On the morning of July 5, 2007, Epcot Vice President Jim MacPhee announced that Spaceship Earth would be restored to its original appearance and that the “magic wand” structure would be removed in time for the park’s 25th anniversary on October 1, 2007. Siemens, the sponsor of Spaceship Earth, is rumored to have requested the wand removed as it did not fit their corporate image. On July 9, 2007, the attraction itself was closed for refurbishment, and the surrounding area was walled off. By October 1, the entire wand structure, the stars, and the star supports had been removed. In addition, palm trees and other plants that originally stood where the structure was prior to 2000 were replaced. Components of the structure were later auctioned on eBay.

Mickey’s Magic Wand being removed…Thank God!

With the new Siemens AG sponsorship, changes have been made to the ride and post show area. The ride’s updates include new scenes, modifications to existing scenes; some new costumes, lighting, and props; a new musical score by Bruce Broughton, new narration by Judi Dench; and a new interactive ending featuring a touch screen. New scenes show a Greek classroom, mainframe computers and the
creation of the personal computer. The “time machine” vehicles now have an interactive screen where riders can choose their vision of the future. This resembles a similar idea on the now-defunct attraction Horizons. At the beginning of the ride, a camera takes riders’ pictures (using facial recognition technology) which are used at the end of the ride to conduct an interactive experience about the future of technology, featuring the riders’ faces on animated characters and narration by Cam Clarke. Visitors are now also asked where in our Spaceship Earth they live; this is used in the post-show area where a map of the world is displayed with the riders’ faces shown where they live. The renovations were scheduled to be completed for a February 2008 reopening but the attraction opened for “soft launch” previews starting in December 2007. On February 15, 2008, the ride reopened officially after closing periodically in January for last-minute adjustments.

Spaceship Earth show current scenes:
  • Spaceship Earth mural
  • Load Area
  • Time Tunnel/Vortex
  • Prehistoric Caveman/Wooly Mammoth
  • Cavemen
  • Egyptian Temple
  • Phoenician Merchants
  • Greek Math Teacher
  • Roman Roads
  • Rome Burns
  • Jewish and Arab Scholars
  • Medieval Monastery
  • Gutenberg Press
  • Renaissance Artists
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Steam Press
  • Telegraph
  • Telephone
  • Radio
  • Cinema
  • Television
  • Mainframe Computer
  • A Garage in California
  • Data-flow Tunnel
  • Spaceship Earth Planetarium
  • Infinite Stars
  • Descent Tunnel (guests “invent their future” by answering questions via the on-board touch-screen)
  • Unloa

Spaceship Earth original logo used until 2007

Spaceship Earth Timeline:
October 1, 1982
  • Spaceship Earth opens with the opening of EPCOT Center.
  • Sponsored by the Bell System.
  • The narrator is Vic Perrin.
May 26, 1986
  • Attraction reopens from first major renovation.
  • AT&T is now the sponsor, having signed on in 1984.
  • New narration by Walter Cronkite.
  • Finale music changed to Tomorrow’s Child.
August 15, 1994
  • Closes for second major renovation.
  • “Home computer”, “Office Computer”, “Network Operations Center”, and “Space Station” scenes removed.
  • New final scenes installed and replace old final scenes.
  • Earth Station closes.
  • Tomorrow’s Child ending removed.
November 23, 1994
  • Attraction reopens.
  • New ride narration by Jeremy Irons.
  • New ride score by Edo Guidotti.
  • The Global Neighborhood replaces Earth Station.
September 29, 1999
  • The Mickey Mouse arm holding a wand is dedicated with “2000” over Spaceship Earth.
November 24, 1999
  • The Global Neighborhood is replaced with The New Global Neighborhood, a new exhibit space serving as a hands-on playground for Spaceship Earth’s post show.
May 2001
  • The Mickey Mouse arm holding a wand is changed to say “Epcot” over Spaceship Earth.
January 1, 2003
  • AT&T sponsorship ends.
April 2004
  • The New Global Neighborhood is removed and the area is boarded up. AT&T references removed.
November 2005
  • It is announced that Siemens AG will sponsor Spaceship Earth for twelve years.
April 11, 2007
  • Major changes coming to Spaceship Earth are announced.
April 25, 2007
  • The new exhibit space in Spaceship Earth’s post show called Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future opens.
July 5, 2007
  • Epcot Vice President Jim Macphee announces the removal of the wand structure in time for the park’s 25th anniversary on October 1, 2007.
July 9, 2007
  • Closes for a fourth renovation.
  • Removal of the wand structure begins.
August 24, 2007
  • Removal of the wand structure completed.
December 2007
  • Guest previews of fourth edition begin.
February 15, 2008
  • Fourth edition opens to the general public after renovations.
  • New narration by Dame Judi Dench.
March 4, 2008
  • Spaceship Earth is rededicated.
Spaceship Earth narrators:

Vic Perrin: October 1, 1982 – May 26, 1986; Walter Cronkite: May 26, 1986 – August 15, 1994; Jeremy Irons: November 23, 1994 – July 9, 2007; Dame Judi Dench: February 15, 2008–present

Spaceship Earth Full Ride:

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A True Disney Legend: John Hench

John Hench was Walt Disney’s Renaissance artist. He was an Imagineer, philosopher, animator, designer, storyteller, voracious reader of 52 magazines a month, and an excellent teacher. John was an employee of Walt’s for more than sixty-five years, an exceptionally long tenure which saw the rise of nearly every Disney animated feature and theme park. Continue after the page break for a look at one of the most storied Disney careers ever…

Starting in 1939 as a story artist, John weaved his way through the animation department working in areas including backgrounds, layout and art direction, effects animation and special effects. Always eager to learn, John accepted a variety of tasks over the years, including painting backgrounds on Dumbo and layouts for The Three Caballeros. Hench was respected by Walt Disney as one of the studio’s most gifted artists and teamed him with Salvador Dalí on the animated short Destino, a project begun in 1945 that was not completed and released until 2003. Hench was also Disney’s “official portrait artist” of Mickey Mouse, painting the company’s portraits for Mickey’s 25th, 50th, 60th, 70th, and 75th birthdays.

By 1954, Hench was in the studio’s live action department, as lead developer of the hydraulic giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, helping to win an Academy Award for Best Special Effects for the film. After working on that live action project, he moved to WED Enterprises, to design attractions for Disneyland. Hench went on to design many iconic elements for Disney’s theme parks, including Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland, Space Mountain, and contributed to attractions such as the Mickey Mouse Revue. Because of his resemblance to Walt Disney and his frequent visits to the Disney theme parks, he was often asked to sign autographs and pose for pictures with park visitors who mistook Hench for Disney himself. John explains, “I was at Disneyland on one occasion when a young girl mistook me for Walt Disney and asked for an autograph. I signed it without correcting her even though Walt was standing right there. Later that same day, someone called out to Walt “Are you Walt Disney?’ I was working a few yards away and Walt pointed to me and said, ‘No, he’s over there!'”

One of Hench’s most recognizable works is his design for the Olympic Torch for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, California, modeled after the torches of the 1948 and 1956 Olympiads. After realizing that the 52 cm tall torch wasn’t stable when filled with fuel, he made it slightly smaller in height and added black tape to the top part of the shaft, as it was easier for the runners to pass the torch when held near the top. In an interview, one runner mentioned that carrying the torch under the bowl made more sense than at the distal length. “It swung too much and was in your face. A short grasp was expedient!” Next up was attractions for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair and master plans for Walt Disney World.

Throughout his career John never seemed to slow down. He continued to help with designing Tokyo Disneyland and develop ideas for theme parks, including Disney’s California Adventure, Animal Kingdom, and Tokyo DisneySea. In 1990 Hench was awarded the prestigious Disney Legend award, the company’s highest honor, presented to him by Michael Eisner. Hench continued to maintain an office at Walt Disney Imagineering headquarters in Glendale, California and worked there daily up until a few weeks before his death. His name tag and 65-year service award are prominently displayed in the building’s lobby, and permanent tributes by fellow “Imagineers” line its hallways. Sadly in early 2004, Hench died of heart failure after a brief hospitalization in Burbank, California.

The Mickey Mouse Club Story

The Mickey Mouse Club was an American variety television show produced by Walt Disney Productions that ran from 1955 to 1996. It was first televised from 1955 to 1959 on ABC, featuring a regular but ever-changing cast of teenage performers. The Mickey Mouse Club was created by Walt Disney and has been revived, reformatted and reimagined several times since its initial 1955–1959 run on ABC, first in 1977 for syndication and later (1989-95) for seven seasons on the Disney Channel. Continue after the page break for a closer look at Walt Disney’s original Mickey Mouse Club

The Mickey Mouse Club was Walt Disney’s second venture into producing a television series, the first being the Walt Disney anthology television series, initially titled Disneyland. Disney used both shows to help finance and promote the building of the Disneyland theme park. Walt and Roy literally mortgaged everything in order to build Walt’s dream and until Disneyland could start to turn a profit, The Mickey Mouse Club became part of their saving grace. Being busy with these projects and others, Disney turned The Mickey Mouse Club over to Bill Walsh to create and develop the format, initially aided by Hal Adelquist.

The result was a variety show for children, with such regular features as a newsreel, a cartoon, and a serial, as well as music, talent and comedy segments. One unique feature of the show was the Mouseketeer Roll Call, in which many (but not all) of that day’s line-up of regular performers would introduce themselves by name to the television audience. In the serials, teens faced challenges in everyday situations, often overcome by their common sense or through recourse to the advice of respected elders. Mickey Mouse himself appeared in every show not only in vintage cartoons originally made for theatrical release, but in opening, interstitial and closing segments made especially for the show. In both the vintage cartoons and in the new animated segments, Mickey was voiced by his creator Walt Disney. Disney had previously voiced the character theatrically from 1928 to 1947, and then was replaced by sound effects artist Jimmy MacDonald. I can’t think of a better way to describe the show and all the behind the scenes things that took place then to let some of the original cast members do it themselves. Here now is the Mickey Mouse Club Story:

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Walt Disney World…a musical souvenir

This past Wednesday I posted a Main Street, USA music loop for 2012. Well, shortly after doing so I came across one of the most fantastic, Disney fan created music loops ever constructed using WDW 1970’s music loops. Continue after the page break for a truly magical discovery of a Disney fan’s creation…

The recent release of A Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World from the very informative Disney fan blog  Passport to Dreams Old and New is absolutely amazing. This remarkable two and a half hour audio music loop provides an aural tour of the Magic Kingdom circa some time in the late 1970s. There are a few times while going from blog to blog when someone posts a truly amazing Disney related find. When the post is something that the writer created themselves for everyone to enjoy free of charge, that’s just downright rare. So go to Foxx’s site and  download this ASAP; don’t miss out on the wonderful “retro” booklet and also the copious additional notes available for those of us who wonder just how, exactly, this thing got made. Then listen over and over and over; I certainly have. If You Had Wings! The Electrical Water Pageant! It’s all there. So what are you waiting for; start enjoying the magic now!

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The Sounds of Main Street, U.S.A.

One of the best things about returning to Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom and walking down Main Street, U.S.A. is the music that fills the air. Continue after the page break as I have the perfect place to listen and enjoy the sounds of Main Street…

Entering the Magic Kingdom has got to be one of the best feelings one can get in life. Hearing that fantastic music, smelling all the wonderful aromas that fill the air, taking in some of the most picturesque sights in the world as you realize your about to have one of the best days in your life… just writing this makes me want to call my travel agent and leave for WDW tomorrow, although I know that’s just not possible rite now with everything going on in life. However, there is something that helps soothe my Disney withdrawals from time to time and takes me back, if not for a second, to that very place…. the sounds of Main Street, U.S.A. Being someone who likes to wind down there day on the web going through and reading new posts on their favorite Disney blogs, I thoroughly enjoy playing this Main Street music loop while doing so. I think you will to and so here it is; I hope it works the same magic for you as it has for me! Enjoy!
Here now is the link for the Main Street, U.S.A. 2012 Music Loop:

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Walt Disney’s Life Through Pictures

***Recently Added 9 New Photos***
Today I would like to repost a very popular article with 9 newly added photos that I would like to share with you. These are some of my absolute favorite photos of Walt Disney that were taken over his wonderful life and even a short video tribute. Continue after the page break and have a look…

And now for a short video tribute:

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Making of: Carousel of Progress

The Carousel of Progress was created in a time when hope for the future was stronger than it is today. This wonderful, vintage attraction has Walt Disney written all over it, and, in fact, currently operates under the name Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Created by both Walt Disney and his WED Enterprises as the prime feature of the General Electric Pavilion for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the attraction was moved to Tomorrowland in Disneyland, where it remained from 1967 until 1973. It was replaced in Disneyland by America Sings in 1974, and reopened in its present home at the Magic Kingdom in 1975. Continue after the page break for a look back at the ride Walt loved so dearly, the Carousel of Progress…. 

Steeped in both nostalgia and futurism, the attraction’s premise is an exploration of the joys of living through the advent of electricity and other technological advances during the 20th century via a “typical” American family. To keep it up with the times, the attraction has been updated five times (in 1967, 1975, 1981, 1985, and 1994) and has had two different theme songs, both written by the Sherman Brothers. Various sources say Walt Disney himself proclaimed that the Carousel of Progress was his favorite attraction and that it should never cease operation. This can be somewhat supported by family and friends, who knew of his constant work on the attraction. Of all the attractions he presented at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, Walt seemed especially devoted to the Carousel of Progress. The Carousel of Progress holds the record as the longest-running stage show, with the most performances, in the history of American theater. It is one of the oldest attractions in the whole Walt Disney World Resort  and its also one of the only attractions at Walt Disney World to have been touched by Walt Disney himself.

The basic plot of the Carousel of Progress show has essentially remained unchanged since it debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The show is divided into six scenes, with the audience seating sections located in a ring which mechanically revolves within the outer part of the circular theater building. The scenes are each staged in stationary wedge-shaped spaces at the core of the building. Thus, the audience actually revolves around the stage, stopping to view each scene of a simple narrative of progress. The first and the last scenes are basically identical and involve the loading and unloading of guests. The other four scenes, or “acts”, depict an Audio-Animatronic family, narrated by the father, named John, interacting with the latest technology and innovations during a particular era.

Not much is known about the family: we do not know their last name, where they live (aside from being somewhere in the United States), or if they ever change location. The family does not (nor are they meant to) age 100 years. They age 3–5 years as the show progresses, to demonstrate how slightly older individuals can better enjoy new technology. Each of the four scenes is set during a different season of the year: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, and on the day of a holiday that typifies each season. The progress of the year through the progress of the seasons serves as a metaphor for the progress of the development of the modern age of electricity. Also, each of the scenes features a male dog, who occasionally barks or growls, causing the father to firmly command the canine to stop interrupting his talk. The first act takes place during Valentine’s Day around the beginning of the 20th century, and features the family using the new innovations for that era, including gas lamps, a kitchen pump, a hand-cranked washing machine, and a gramophone. A mention of the St. Louis World’s Fair dates the scene to 1904, alluding to the fact that this show was originally a World’s Fair attraction. The second act features devices such as electric lighting and cookware, radio, a sewing machine, and a homemade cooling device during the 4th of July in the 1920s (the Charles Lindbergh reference makes the most likely year 1927). The third act, set around Halloween in the 1940s, has the family interacting with technologies such as an automatic dishwasher, television, and a homemade paint mixing system.
The final scene is set around Christmas and depicts the family interacting with the technology of the present day. As such, it is the act that has received the most changes since the show debuted in 1964. While the original final act featured the family’s home in the 1960s, the current finale, which was introduced in 1994, shows the home in the first decade of the 21st century with high-definition television, virtual reality games, voice activated appliances, and other recent innovations. A slight refurbishment was made in January 2010, upgrading the outdated Sony CRT television to a larger Samsung flat panel display.

In the late 1950s, after Disneyland Park’s initial success, Walt Disney planned to expand the Main Street, U.S.A. area with two districts: “International Street” and “Edison Square”. In Edison Square, guests would be treated to a show hosted by an “electro-mechanical” man named “Wilbur K. Watt”. The show would chronicle the evolution of electricity in the home, from the late 19th century to the present and beyond — showing how much electrical appliances, specifically GE appliances, have benefited American life. After each time period, or “act”, was over, the audience would get up and walk to the next one. However, the Main Street expansion idea fell by the wayside. One of the reasons for this was that the technology necessary to put on the show just was not up to par with what Walt Disney wanted. The idea, however, stayed in Disney’s mind for the next few years. GE still wanted to work with Disney, but a better outlet was needed.

General Electric approached Walt Disney to develop a show for the company’s pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. Disney leaped at the chance to rekindle his relationship with GE, who would fund the project and the new technology necessary to bring it to life. Reaching back to the Edison Square concept, Walt Disney again pitched the idea of an electrical progress show to General Electric executives and this time they loved it. During the planning phase, Disney’s Imagineers perfected the Audio-Animatronics (AA) technology necessary to operate the “performers” in the show. They were not the most advanced, but it was enough to get the show running. The technology used in Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and another attraction designed by Disney at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, made the Carousel of Progress possible. Besides the AA performers, the Imagineers (led by Disney engineers Roger E. Broggie and Bob Gurr) also devised a “carousel theater”, so that the audience could stay seated and ride around a stationary set of stages, instead of getting up and walking from stage to stage. This technology allowed for the audience to remain comfortably in place during scene changes, and avoided the time-consuming disruption of changing seats repeatedly during a show. Singing cowboy Rex Allen was tapped to voice Father, the host and narrator of the show that replaced the original “Wilbur K. Watt” character. Allen later commented that he did not know exactly what he was getting into. Walt Disney asked Disney songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman to create a song that could serve as a bridge between the “acts” in the show. Walt explained to the brothers what the show was about, and they wrote a song with his enthusiasm in mind. The song was titled “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”. The Shermans later stated that they believe that the song was Walt’s “theme song,” because he was so optimistic and excited about the future and technology itself.

 The show opened at the Fair as Progressland. It was one of the most-visited pavilions at the Fair. One of the unique features that made the attraction so popular was that a circle of six theaters (all connected by divider walls) revolved clockwise around six fixed stages every four minutes. There were identical load and unload theaters with a dazzling wall of light, the “Kaleidophonic Screen”, and the “performers” appeared in the 1890s, 1920s, 1940s, and 1960s — literally a “Carousel of Progress”! Though more than 200 people entered and exited the attraction every four minutes, it was not uncommon to wait over an hour in line. For the 1965 season of the Fair, a massive covered queue was constructed next to the General Electric Pavilion on an empty lot to protect visitors from New York’s hot summer sun. At the end of the Carousel show, fair goers were invited to journey up to the second floor of the pavilion and see the General Electric “Skydome Spectacular”. The Skydome Spectacular projected images of nature and energy into the domed roof of the GE pavilion, similar to a planetarium. The show demonstrated the many ways that GE was harnessing electricity and the power of the sun for the benefit of its customers.

The Carousel of Progress was re-opened at Disneyland Park on July 2, 1967, as part of the New Tomorrowland. Due to the success of the attractions Disney created for the Fair, General Electric agreed to sponsor the Carousel of Progress at Disneyland. However, the Carousel of Progress was to be a permanent fixture at Disneyland, and it is unknown how many years General Electric would have sponsored the ride had it stayed there (presumably, 10–12 years, as many other sponsors throughout Disneyland Park have historically done). The actual attraction was located on ground level, and a new nearly identical theater system was constructed. The sets and “performers” all came right from the Fair itself and remained nearly original. There were some slight changes: a new voice was recorded for Mother, “Christmas in the Home of the 1960s” was slightly updated in set design and technology, all references to General Electric’s passé “Medallion Home” campaign were dropped, and Father from “The Home of the 1940s” now sat on a bar stool, rather than on the kitchen nook bench.

After the show, guests boarded a speed ramp that would take them to the second level of the building. On the upper level, a 4-minute post show, narrated by Mother and Father, with a few barks and growls from their dog, coincided with guests gazing at an enormous model of Progress City. Progress City was based on Walt Disney’s original concept for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow(EPCOT) and the Walt Disney World property.

As the 1970s rolled in, the Carousel of Progress saw dwindling audiences. GE thought they were not getting the most for their advertising dollars, surmising that 80% of the people that saw the attraction were Californians, and had seen the attraction many times. GE asked Disney to move the show to their new Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The Disneyland show closed on September 9, 1973 and was packed up for Florida. The Progress City model was disassembled, but only portions of the center of it were re-assembled in Florida. These can be viewed from the People Mover as it travels through the Buzz Lightyear attraction. Disneyland soon incorporated The Carousel Theater into its plans to celebrate America’s Bicentennial. The theater was filled with a new show in 1974 called America Sings, a salute to American music. That show closed in 1988, not to be replaced for ten years. The Disneyland version of Epcot’s popular Innoventions exhibit opened with the New Tomorrowland in 1998, using a stylized rendition of “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” as its theme song.

Carousel of Progress was one of two attractions that opened in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland on January 15, 1975; the other attraction being Space Mountain. General Electric signed a 10-year contract to sponsor Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Unlike the small changes that had occurred when the Carousel of Progress moved from the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair to Disneyland Park, extensive changes were made when the attraction moved to Walt Disney World. A new carousel theater building was designed to house the attraction: a one-story pavilion, with a loft above. The loft was created so the Tomorrowland Transit Authority could pass above it. The interior and exterior of the building received new color schemes with blue and white stripes that grew smaller and larger as the building turned. Also, the theaters now rotated counterclockwise, rather than clockwise, like the two former theater systems. The load and unload theaters no longer featured the stunning “Kaleidophonic Screens” that had dazzled guests as they boarded and exited their respective theater. The old screens had stretched from one wall to the other, with the giant GE logo in the center. They lit up in various colors and patterns like a kaleidoscope as the orchestral version of “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” played. Various problems plagued the screens after 1973, so silver curtains with the GE logo in the center took their place in both the load and unload theaters with different colored lights shining on them. The Florida version was planned with no post-show. Guests would load and unload on the first floor. The Progress City/EPCOT model was significantly sized down so it could fit in a window display that could be seen from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. This display is located on the left hand side of the TTA track inside the north show building. Because of the changing times, a new theme song, written by the Sherman Brothers, was created for the Florida show. GE asked the Shermans to write a new song because they did not want their customers to wait for a “great big beautiful tomorrow;” GE wanted them to buy appliances today, so a song titled “Now is the Time,” also known as “The Best Time Of Your Life,” was created. Although the song was still very peppy and positive, the Shermans still felt that “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” was a better fit. A new cast of voices and “performers” were showcased in the 1975 version, including actor Andrew Duggan as Father. The first three “acts” had some cosmetic and set design changes. The finale was changed to “Christmas in the Home of the 1970s,” and the dog also changed breed.  In 1981, the finale was updated to showcase “Christmas in the Home of the 1980s.” A new script was written for this scene change, but the rest of the show remained the same.

On March 10, 1985, General Electric’s contract expired, and they chose not to renew. The attraction closed shortly thereafter so that all General Electric references could be excluded from the attraction. The GE logo was replaced with a logo that showed a blueprint of the six carousel theaters surrounding the six fixed stages on the signs outside of the attraction and the silver GE curtain was kept but a round sign with the blueprint logo and the name Carousel of Progress hid the GE logo. The GE logo still exists on several household appliances throughout the attraction, like the refrigerator in Act 3, which features the GE logo and the words, “General Electric” on it. This is one of the remaining logos that can still be seen today. In 1993 the attraction closed for refurbishment, to better reflect the theme of the New Tomorrowland: “The Future that Never Was.” Gears and other mechanical symbols were being prominently featured in the other pavilions in the New Tomorrowland, so the Carousel of Progress was redesigned to feature them. The attraction and show were renamed Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. A giant cog sign in the load and unload theaters that says “Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress” replaced the blueprint sign. The final scene was updated to “Christmas in the House of 2000” (as envisioned in 1994). A new cast was hired for the narration recordings, with American writer, raconteur, and radio personality Jean Shepherd as the voice of the father (Shepherd also does a pre-show narration about the history behind the attraction). Additionally, Rex Allen, the voice of the father at the original Disneyland attraction, plays the Grandfather in Act 4 of the show. For the first time, names of some of the characters in the attraction were revealed. A 4-minute pre-show about the creation of the attraction was played on monitors while guests waited in line. A contemporary version of “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” returned as the attraction’s theme song. The attraction reopened in 1994, as the New Tomorrowland was unveiled in phases. Since then, the attraction has undergone many slight mechanical and cosmetic changes. Because of a decrease in attendance following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress closed in October 2001. It was reopened soon afterwards on a seasonal basis, causing fans to become concerned for the attraction’s future. Although numerous “permanent closure” rumors still plague the attraction, Disney has consistently said that there are no plans for permanent closure or any closure at all. For various reasons, the attraction has had some minor refurbishments in recent years. Though it is still listed as a seasonal attraction, it has remained open nearly every day of the year and during the Magic Kingdom’s regular park hours.

The Carousel of Progress was also the beginning of life-size audio-animatronics. As stated before, many have cited that the ride was Walt’s favorite attraction. I believe Walt’s Carousel of Progress should be preserved for generations to come and, in fact, every time I enter the ride I feel as if I’m being time warped into the past. I try to imagine what it must have been like as an observer of the ride way back when the ride first opened in 1964. Having never seen something like this before, it must have been so amazing and proof that the future holds unlimited capabilities. Yes, the Carousel of Progress was created in a time when hope for the future was stronger than it is today, but, hopefully we can all get a piece of that hope back because, after all, it truly is a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow!
Watch now as Walt shows us his plans for the Carousel of Progress:
For those of you who miss the attraction here is a great video of the whole show:


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Walt Disney World: A Real Modern Marvel

If you are like me, then you love seeing how things are constructed and how they work. The History Channel has a wonderful show called “Modern Marvels” that does just that. I don’t know how they could have such a show and not feature Walt Disney World, as its perhaps the world’s best modern marvel. The producers must have agreed because there is a show solely focused on WDW. Continue after the page break and let’s journey underground and backstage at the technological marvel that is Walt Disney World…

What was once Florida swampland now boasts the world’s largest and most visited theme parks! Let us now explore just how a wonderful world of make-believe that spans 27,000 acres came to become a reality and how that reality makes dreams come true each and every day using cutting-edge technology. So without further adieu Modern Marvels: Walt Disney World:

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