Friday, February 17, 2006

Carousel of Regression



There was no other theater quite like it when the Carousel Theater opened at the 1964 World's Fair with the GE sponsored show Carousel of Progress. Inside the audience actually revolved around six central stages, each showcasing a newer era in home living, from the turn of the century to modern times. After the fair the show moved to Disneyland, then on to Disney World in 1971 where word has it the show will be shuttered very soon. Back at Disneyland the audio animatronics extravaganza America Sings opened in its stead around 1974 and had a good run before closing down in 1988.

And then the Carousel Theater, one of only three in the world (the third is at Tokyo Disneyland) lay dormant for 10 years.

In 1998 the management geniuses at Imagineering re-opened the theater, only this time it was no longer a high tech stage show replete with great characters and timeless tunes, but a low-tech trade show akin to a noisy stroll through your local Best Buy Superstore. No more charm. No more magic. No more amazing audio animatronic performers. Just carny hucksters trying to sell you the latest Disney Software title. Dante's Inferno at Disneyland. Everything Walt strived to avoid in planning the original park.

It's time to gut the building once more and bring it back to life as as the true revolving theater it once was.

Perhaps Imagineers can put some spit and polish on the original Carousel of Progress show and bring it back to Disneyland as a fresh reminder of one of Walt's personal favorites. Or better yet, maybe they can inject the building with a newer and even more amazing audio animatronics extravaganza. The time has come for this one of a kind theater to enjoy a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether you actually ment to say it this way - but if your statement "And then the Carousel Theater, one of only three in the world (the third is at Tokyo Disneyland) lay dormant for 10 years." is to mean that there are only three carousel theaters anywhere in the world, you missed one carousel theater which is still in use - at the Europa Park Germany. Originally used to tell a story about the secret of chocolade produced by a park sponsor with an Audioanimatronic show it is nowadays used for a laser show, but still as a carousel theater.

Ian said...

Right behind destroying that ugly hat, updating and refreshing Carousel of Progress would be next on my list.

I mean the show starts out with the phrase, "The Carousel was Walt's own idea from beginning to end ... he loved it."

If that's not something worth saving, I don't know what is.

Don said...

Go with the second idea: Newer and even more amazing. The original show is tired, no matter how much you polish it. If someone manages to identify the "theme" for Tomorrowland, you can use that to direct a new show in the merry-go-round theater. Or just rip the sucker out. Yeah, yeah, classic attraction. Honestly, I'D rather the thing turn into a Wayback Machine. Keep the spinning-theater concept, but make it literally The Carousel of Regression: Let's look at all the goofy futuristic ideas from the fifties that never came true. Go fer nostalgia in such a nostalgic theater. Heck, one "scene" can be a recreationof the inside of the Monsanto House of the Future - that was sufficiently goofy and "futuristic."

beatnik sidearm said...

Why bring old Tomorrowland attractions back? Why not create new attractions more conversant with the times we live in?

Don't get me wrong -- I loved the CoP and Adventure Thru Inner Space passionately, but they had their time. I'd rather remember a classic attraction than wince through an atavistic, though technically superior, remake.

Disney is seemingly in the process of remaking every single film in its catalog, creating such stinkbombs as "Flubber" and "Herbie: Fully Loaded." I see no reason why this process should extend into the Parks. Respect the past, yes. Build upon it, absolutely. But leave it buried.

By the by, if anyone who's anyone reads this: Not every thing at Disneyland has to be based on a movie. We live in a world that's a world, you know? Not every new idea has to be pre-chewed by Hollywood.

Ghostbuster626 said...

I think John Lasseter should take a second look at Tony Baxter's proposed "Tommorowland 2055" project as well as the plans to create a new destination for Star Tours. Tommorowland needs to be completly revamped after the years of neglect and abuse it has suffered.

Will Robison said...

I'm not sure WDI even knows how to make a new show. It seems like so much creativity has left WDI that there is nothing left to lead the charge. Count me amongst the group that wants to see something new to knock my socks off. I love some of the rides developed for Disney Seas. I'd go in that direction. Instead of a future that never was, how about a Tomorrowland that never was. New, not old, no matter how much we like the old.

Except the Peoplemover. You have to bring that back!

Impie said...

I know it doesn't fit with any "Tomorrowland" theme (there is a theme, right?), but I've been thinking for a while that the theater could be used to feature a musical show celebrating the old "Schoolhouse Rocks" songs, which are now (conveniently) owned by Disney. Think "America Sings", but with semi-academic content.

Anonymous said...

You've got it all wrong. The forward "Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" thinking of the 40's, 50's and 60's died with George Lucas and American Graffitti (ironic ain't it). From 1973 to this very day nostalgia, and the need to live in the past became not only an easier way out but a more profitable way of doing things.

What the once and future Imagineers, er… PIXANEERS need to do is look no further than the local Best Buy or Circuit City for inspiration for the next phase in Tommorowland. The great thing about Tomorrowland was that it gave us a glimpse into a possible future. It didn’t tell us what was next but rather gave us an example. Imagine (if you will) Tomorrowland with a big “e.g.” tacked onto the name.

The Tomorrowland of today with Space Mountain rollercoasters and Buzz Lightyear tacky color schemes do nothing to inspire children to create, much less look forward to that great big beautiful tomorrow. At least not the way that walking into the best electronic stores do. If you wanna see what Tomorrowland really should be go to the Consumer Electronic Shows that Las Vegas hosts every year or so. Create rides and attractions based on the possible futures that can be and toss that nostalgia crap to the wayside. That’s the land of tomorrow that I want to visit.

T said...

I'd love to see COP back, as well, although I also agree with the anonymous poster who says that Tomorrowland needs to be about, um, Tomorrow, and not yesterday's outdated versions of the same.

A revived COP could start out with the 1964 version of the year 2000, in which the narrator is whisked from that nostalgia into a tour through real decades of progress -- the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, emphasis on what was new and what they thought was coming, c. 2064. And then, the finale is a trip into what our futurists think is coming, one hundred years full-circle. There. That's six stages...

BTW, does anyone here know what happened to the original diorama from COP? It was the "City of the Future", and the thing was huge and animated. I wanted one in the backyard as a kid. I hope the thing is still intact and operating somewhere. Again, a thing that did what Disneyland was supposed to do, but has long since given up in favor of marketing. The place was supposed to inspire a sense of awe and wonder in a child, and lead them to their own world of imagination. I have no doubt that a lot of Baby Boomers and Gen-xers wound up with a permanent fascination with science and technology because of the Tomorrowland that was.

We need a Tomorrowland today to do that for our own children of tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

A place to rest...

CoP and the People Mover (and, somewhat, Adventures through Inner Space) were my favorite places to go to sit for a bit, get away from the big crowds, and get a couple minutes of relaxation after standing in line for space mountain or the matterhorn. Friends and I would hit AtIS multiple times just to sit and chat and laugh and have fun without the interruptions of standing in line or loud sound effects and bright lights.

Sure, we have the "Honey I Shrunk the Audience", but every film maker worth their salt knows that to amp up the experience, you have to intersperse some CALM for contrast.

barry said...

COP was great for its time, but a better tribute to Walt would be to raise the stakes and create a newly imagineered, forward-thinking theatre presentation or ride attraction that actually celebrates a vision of the future. As it stands now, Innoventions is a cheesy, uncompelling arcade experience.

Jonathan Childers said...

I honestly don't know what I would do if the kind "geniuses" at WDW decide to take away the Carousel of Progress.

As a kid who had bouts with vertigo and a bad case of "chicken-itis" (hating coasters), the COP was my haven. An awe inspiring show that was full of wonder and technology.

I would hope that like Pirates of the Carribean, WDI will spend some money (Hear my prayers, O' Lasseter!) and totally update all the show scenes, maybe space out the decades some more, show a different age like the 60's, and especially update the final "near-future" scene (Grandpa still mentioning Laser Discs??).

I'd love to take my (future) kids to see this show someday. Please don't let the spirit of Walt completely die!

Pragmatic Idealist said...

If Innoventions is to remain, its awkward flow needs to be fixed, and the rotating ring needs to be used more creatively.

Also, since Innoventions is located in Tomorrowland, I would be much happier if the attraction was presented, instead, as a museum with Tom Morrow as the curator.

From the wheel and the light bulb (with, perhaps, a nod to the GE Carousel of Progress) to Honda ASIMO Humanoid Robots and Segway Transporters, all the inventions should be presented as if they belong to the past, even those that may, in actuality, represent our future.

There should probably be a few purely fictional inventions added to the show for good measure, too.

Ultimately, there is a way for a "Museum of Innoventions" to work in Tomorrowland, but such an attraction would require exhibits and presentations that are designed more thoughtfully.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Innovations- the electric junkyard on a creaky turntable. I remember after America Sings closed in '88, there stood a sign promising they were imagineering something special. Ten years later we get... Inovations? C.O.P. had (then) state of the art animatronics and optimism. America Sings had cartoon charm.
Innovations is about as charming (and inspiring) as a can opener.

Robert said...

I agree heartedly that Tomorrowland has now become kiddieland, and is now without a dreamer's resource of what it once was. Remember the 360 degree surround theater? WOW. Now Tomorrowland sports another place called INNOVATIONS which I once went to and never returned to the building. It was like a shopping mall nightmare. Also they have, can you believe it, a water attraction for kids to get wet just outside of it. OH MY GOD. Tomorrowland use to make the best burgers at the Tomorrowland Plaza with a dynamite shake. NO MORE! The last time I went it wasnt even open, and I went during the summer months. (The best burgers are now at California Adventures next to Soarin Over California ride). So lets see. . no Submarine, no attachment ride from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland, no People Mover, no Rocket Rides (I dont count the new ones, they are so carnival), no Inner Space, no trip to the Moon ride, or Flying Space Saucers (those were really back then), and no COP. What have we got? Space Mtn. and Star Tours. If Tomorrowland means running through it like a breeze, then this is it. AND, if they are so worried about becoming TODAYLAND, why is the Autopia still running. . .hello, have they seen the freeways of NOW!! At least the Monorail makes perfect sense, of all things. Excuse me, I think I'm going back to New Orleans Square to refreshen my memory on how Disneyland was once so great.

Anonymous said...

i worked at disneyland from 1990 to 1998 and took every opertunity to look through the carousel building from top to bottom it was a nice building and i have learned alote about it over the years even a few things that america sings ride operators didnt even know. everything in the carousel turntable system was by genral electric and was moved to disneyland from the world fair when it closed in 64. i have a few pictures that i took of the drive motors and so on and can tell you anything about the ride controll system it was one of the only rides to use all general electric control products after what they did to it i dont even like to think of it ! it's a sad example of what that company has become it is nice to know that people like the carousel theater as much as i do. anyone with question feel free to contact me and i will tell you all i know thanks mark at mvandivort@yahoo.com