Carousel of Progress opened on April 22, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens. The fair ran from April 22 to October 18, 1964, and once more from April 21 to October 17, 1965. Walt Disney contributed four attractions to the fair: Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Carousel of Progress, Magic Skyway, and It’s a Small World.
How it All Began
The first world exhibition was brought to life by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, in London at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in 1851. It was called the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. Thirty-two nations were represented in the first exhibition, and around 6 million people attended, including such notable figures as Charles Darwin, Charlotte Bronte, Lewis Carroll, and George Eliot. Over the 160 years since that first event, the concept of the World’s Fair has evolved (*) and so has Carousel of Progress.
The Music of Carousel of Progress
Academy Award-winning songwriting team Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman wrote the earworm “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” but did you know that the attraction had two different theme songs? For the opening of the attraction at the Magic Kingdom in 1975, the Sherman brothers were asked to write a new song. “The Best Time of Your Life” was used until 1994 when Disney brought back the original tune “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.”
Carousel of Progress on the Move
After the 1964-1965 fair ended, the circular, rotating theater moved to Disneyland, where it opened on July 2, 1967, and operated until September 9, 1973. The attraction next relocated to Walt Disney World, where it opened on January 15, 1975, a big day for the Magic Kingdom, as it was also the opening day for Space Mountain. Over the years, Carousel of Progress received several updates and on November 23, 1993, it was renamed Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress.
An Attraction Covering the Four Seasons and Several Decades
Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress is a four-act play offering a nostalgic look at how electricity and technology changed the lives of an animatronic family during the 20th century. General Electric sponsored the first version of the show for the 1964 World’s Fair, in keeping with the fair’s theme of progress. The first scene is set around 1900 (our research indicates Thursday, February 14, 1901, on a farm outside Arkansas City, Kansas); the second around 1927; and the third in the late 1940s. The fourth scene is allegedly contemporary, but references to laser discs and car phones are not-so-subtle clues that the script hasn’t been updated in over 25 years.
Although the last scene needs updating, Carousel of Progress is the only attraction in the park that displays Walt’s optimistic vision of a better future through technology and industry. If you’re interested in the man behind the mouse, this show is a must-see.
Carousel of Progress handles big crowds effectively and is a good choice during busier times of day. Because of its age, it seems to have more minor operational glitches than most attractions, so you may be subjected to the same dialogue and songs several times.
Think of it as extra time in the air-conditioning. The duration of the show at the audio-animatronic theater is 21 minutes and wheelchair accessible. Your probable waiting time is less than 10 minutes.
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids.