Join everyone’s favorite Audio-Animatronic family—Father, Mother, daughter Jane (and her unnamed brother), Grandma, Grandpa, and, of course, Cousin Orville—for a very entertaining and enlightening “spin” through time.
You enter your 240-seat theater section in the first of its six positions, while guests in five other sections enjoy other parts of the presentation. After several minutes, the theater rotates to another position. You’ll stop for four theatrical acts. Your final stop is the Speedramp to Progress City. Go up the ramp to the incredible 6,900-square-foot model of Walt Disney’s vision of the city of tomorrow. There, the show’s dialog continues as lighting identifies various parts of Progress City. Let’s “listen” to a brief excerpt from each act:
Father: “Welcome to the General Electric Carousel of Progress. Now most carousels just go ’round and ’round, without getting anywhere. But on this one, at every turn, we’ll be making progress.”
Act 1 (just before 1900)
Mother: “But with my new wash-day marvel, it takes only five hours to do the wash. Imagine!”
Father: “That’s right, folks. Now Mother has time for recreations like, uh…”
Mother: “Like canning, and polishing the stove?”
Act 2 (twenty years later)
Father: “Well, the days of lugging heavy, hot irons from an old stove to an ironing board are gone forever. And with an electric iron and electric lights, Mother has something to do to fill in her evenings. Now it’s no problem at all to get my collars smooth, right Mother?”
Mother: “Yes, dear.”
Act 3 (the 1940s)
Father: “Radios and automatic record players are now combined in one unit. And Grandma has a new hearing aid.”
Father: “Nothing, Grandma.”
Grandma: “Oh, I thought you said I had a new hearing aid.”
Act 4 (some time beyond 1967)
Father: “Our television console is more than just a TV set. It has a built-in video tape recorder.”
Mother: “Now we can record our favorite shows for viewing at a more convenient hour. And television programming is so much improved today.”
Father: “What Mother means is, they’re still shooting it out, but now it’s in color.”
Mother: “Today our whole downtown is completely enclosed. Whatever the weather is outside, it’s always dry and comfortable inside.”
Father: “General Electric calls it a climate-controlled environment. But Mother calls it…”
Mother: “A sparkling jewel. Now far off to your right, we have a welcome neighbor…”
Father: “Our GE nuclear power plant, dear.”
n the 1950s, Walt Disney developed a concept for an attraction showcasing progress in American homes as the centerpiece of Edison Square, a new “land” planned for Disneyland. Edison Square was to be the urban residential neighborhood adjacent to the commercial Main Street, USA. The site was directly behind the Plaza Inn (which was Swift’s Red Wagon Inn back then), between Main Street and Tomorrowland. Guests would walk from theater to theater inside a horseshoe shaped structure, to experience:
American home, pre-electricity
American Home, advent of electricity
The electronic age
But Edison Square was never built.
By 1964, the concept had become Progressland, developed by Walt Disney for the General Electric pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Guests stayed in their seats as an outer ring of six theaters moved around a fixed, circular section. While guests were entering into one theater and exiting from another, guests in the other four theaters were watching the tireless Audio-Animatronic actors in the four acts of the show. It was a huge hit with audiences in 1964 and 1965.
When the Fair ended, Walt Disney had a perfect attraction to anchor Disneyland’s planned New Tomorrowland. Sadly, Walt Disney died in December 1966. He never saw the July 1967 opening of Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland with its transplanted General Electric Carousel of Progress.
In Disneyland, the show concluded with a fifth act on the upper level of the Carousel Theater, featuring the detailed model of Progress City. It was no secret that Walt Disney intended to build a similar city on land that he had secretly acquired in central Florida. Thus, Progress City would provide a preview of Walt Disney’s vision for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT).
After running more than six years in Disneyland, the Carousel of Progress show closed permanently in 1973.
The Carousel Theater was possibly the most guest-friendly, efficient attraction mechanism ever. The six theater sections on the lower level served six audiences simultaneously, with a new show starting every four minutes. It was an ingenious way to offer a fairly long show in a small, intimate theater, yet with high capacity and quick load times. In comparison, a theater like the American Adventure at Epcot relies on one large theater—so if you miss a show, you’ll have to wait a half hour for the next one.