Extinct Attractions General Electric Carousel of Progress history documentary
Directed By David Oneal,
Narrated by Rex Allen Jr
with Roy Disney, Bob Gurr, Shag, Alice Davis, and Art Linkletter
In 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.
From 1974 to 1988, the bottom level of the Carousel Theater at Disneyland housed America Sings. Again, Disney made use of the ingenious theater configuration. The upper level became the Super-speed Tunnel (and later the World of Tron) for the guests of the PeopleMover.
Then, for many years, the lower level served as office space.
As part of the 1998 renovation of Tomorrowland, the Carousel Theater building became the West Coast home of Epcot’s Innoventions. This time there were no theaters. Innoventions is a two-story exhibit hall—but for some inexplicable reason, it still uses batch loading, and the outer core of the lower level still rotates.