Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Walt Disney World Review: Carousel of Progress

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good history of inventions; fun final scene
Cons: More history than entertainment, so a little dry
The Bottom Line:
A trip back in time
For invention history
Okay with some fun

It's a Great Big Beautiful History Lesson

As long as I can remember, I’ve heard about Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, an attraction he originally created for the 1964 World’s Fair and then moved to Disneyland before it moved to its current home in Walt Disney World.  When I finally made it to the Florida theme park several years back, I was thrilled to finally experience this attraction.  It didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I think much of that was me.

The attraction is located in the back corner of Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom across from Space Mountain and across from Buzz Light Year’s Space Ranger Spin.  Just look for the big round building.  There are rarely any crowds for this one, and it only officially operates during peak season, but from what I’ve heard, it is open most days.

The “carousel” is really a show in the circular theater.  The audience sits in seats and then rotates around the center, which consists of four stages plus the area for loading and unloading.

Each stage is a scene, and as we move forward, we move through the seasons and time.  What do I mean?  Well, the first stop in early 1900’s on Valentine’s Day.  Then we move to a 4thof July during the 1920’s.  The third stop is Halloween in the 40’s before we hit Christmas day in roughly modern times.

At each stop, we observe an average family as they enjoy and discuss the benefits of modern technology.  In many ways it is a history lesson as we see everything from gas lamps and hand-cranked washing machine at the first top to radio and a sewing machine in the 20’s and an automatic dishwasher and television in the 40’s.

The family consists of audio-animatronics figures who age slightly as the years progress, but basically stay the same.  Most of the talking is done by the father, and a few appear on stage briefly to show something or other and interact with him.  Hair and clothing styles are changed to reflect the times, but it’s easy to recognize everyone.

The exception to the pattern is the final scene which depicts the family enjoying each other’s company on Christmas day.  We actually have most of the family on stage at the same time as they enjoy a flat screen TV, a virtual reality video game, and see the downside of a voice recognition oven.  This is actually the best scene because it introduces some great humor at the family interacting with the technology.

As we transition from each scene, we hear the song “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.”  It’s catchy, and you’ll probably find yourself humming it as you leave.

While I know some people who love this attraction, I wasn’t drawn to it right away.  Three of the four scenes are actually rather dry history lessons.  It’s only when we get to the final scene that it starts to be fun.  Frankly, because of all the history, it feels like a better fit on Main Street than Tomorrowland.

I think part of the problem is the time gaps.  When the attraction first opened in the 1960’s, the four stages were the 00’s, 20’s, 40’s and 60’s.  They’ve updated the final scene several times over the years to keep it up to date, however, that’s meant we travel over 100 years in 25 or so minutes.  Honestly, I think it would be better to update the entire thing.  Maybe the 1900’s, 1940’s, 1980’s, and today.  It would still show the progression of history and how much things have changed, but it wouldn’t feel quite so dated.  Of course, those who love the attraction as is would probably hate the changes.  I know I hate it when they change something I love too much.

I did go on this ride twice while I was there, and I enjoyed it more the second time, probably because I knew a bit more what to expect.  Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress is still only an okay attraction – good for its history but not a must do.


  1. Think of a 17 year old from the VA hills in 1965 visiting NYC on a senior class trip. The World's Fair was so much fun and years later when I went to WDW for the first time, I saw Carousel of Progress and Hall of Presidents again. I have always loved Carousel of Progress but my kids have never cared for it. I live in FL so have seen it quite a few times and I like your suggestion of updating the entire thing but I doubt if they will ever do that. It isn't really a popular attraction and, to be honest, I'm surprised that it's still there. I love it though and it brings back memories of that wonderful World's Fair. I went to the Expo in Montreal and the World's Fair in Knoxville but they were boring compared to the one in NYC.

    1. I can well imagine for the time this was an amazing show. Thanks for sharing your story. It was definitely a fun read.