My first reminiscence of Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress wasn’t the journey itself, however from a guidebook entry I discovered at an AirBnB. Rated one star out of 5, the micro-review of Carousel of Progress learn, “boring, however it’s my go-to place to breastfeed.”
Decided to check the legitimacy of the guidebook, I carved out valuable Disney park time to journey the Carousel of Progress. What I discovered wasn’t a boring place to breastfeed, however a quaint pocket of hopeful retro-futurism that spoke to the ethos of Walt Disney’s imaginative and prescient of the long run greater than some other attraction in Tomorrowland. (Observe: it might even be a very good place to breastfeed, I didn’t check that.) Sitting in a darkish room for 20 minutes is a welcome reprieve from the new Florida solar, however on high of that, the attraction captures a second of blissful optimism that may make you imagine in a greater future for a snippet of time.
At present unique to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, The Carousel of Progress, initially constructed for the 1964 New York World’s honest, and now tucked away at Tomorrowland, is basically a darkened theater the place the primary “carousel” stage spins round to point out off 4 completely different scenes. Every of the scenes takes place in a special decade of the 20th century, with a patented Disney Audio Animatronic named John Progress enthusiastically explaining the technological improvements made within the period — be that electrical lights within the 1900s, home equipment within the kitchen through the 1920s, or dishwashers within the 1940s. The present ends with an enormous time skip to the 21st century, the place the Progress household gathers round their front room for Christmas.
That ultimate scene is a bit snippet right into a future with out dread, one the place the characters sing a couple of “Nice Massive Stunning Tomorrow,” The Progress household performs digital actuality video video games, watches a HD flat-screen tv, and makes use of voice-activated lights — all issues which can be fairly possible nowadays, however again when the journey was created, they had been hopeful goals of the long run. The journey has been up to date 5 occasions since Walt Disney’s unique incarnation, however the adjustments are principally factual, tweaking a 1970s card to the ’80s to a nebulous date within the 21st century.
Tomorrowland was constructed as a imaginative and prescient of the long run again within the 1960s, a glossy chrome and silver swathed world the place know-how is a beacon, not a burden. Walt Disney fearlessly seemed to that Nice Massive Stunning Tomorrow, be it within the general veneer of Tomorrowland or in his pet undertaking, the Experimental Prototype Neighborhood of Tomorrow — which grew to become the Epcot theme park in Walt Disney World Orlando.
However within the many years since, the optimistic imaginative and prescient of the long run slowly eroded, whereas Disneyland and Disney World remained the identical. The distinction is clear sufficient that Brad Hen interrogated it in his Disney movie Tomorrowland. But the ultimate scene of Carousel of Progress continues to think about unbridled optimism. Nobody questions that the voice-activated lights are monitoring their knowledge. The flat display TV doesn’t televise ominous predictions of a doomed future. Everybody sings. Everyone seems to be comfortable. Expertise has helped the world develop into simpler to stay in, not hastened its doom. Walt Disney’s imaginative and prescient stays Walt Disney’s imaginative and prescient.
A few of the park has been up to date by the altering tides. Whereas Tomorrowland nonetheless boasts House Mountain and different rocket-themed rides, it’s additionally the house to Lilo and Sew, Toy Story, and Monsters’ Inc. points of interest. It’s not a lot a couple of hopeful future as it’s about having a touchdown area for science fiction Disney properties. Epcot’s Future World, in the meantime, nonetheless focuses on innovation and trying to the long run, although the point out of any of its points of interest receiving an replace sparks debate amongst hardcore theme park followers. It’s ironic that two of Walt Disney’s tasks centered on envisioning a brand new future stay caught up to now.
Adjustments are coming to Epcot’s Future World (properly, pandemic pending), however for now, the one new attraction coming to Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland is a deliberate journey based mostly on Tron. The Carousel of Progress stays untouched, un-updated, and the right unobtrusive place to catch one’s breath on a busy Disney day. Ought to it’s up to date then, to point out what a constructive future may appear like if we dared think about it, or are we too jaded to even strive? Would even daring to the touch it evoke the fury of die-hard followers or has the Carousel of Progress’ status as a nap fest insulated it from their ire? Is preserving this second in time — a vibrant second of retro-futurism that dared think about a Nice Massive Stunning Tomorrow — extra impactful?
The archaic present appears to have a special impact on completely different fashionable viewers. For some, the Carousel of Progress’ future is boring. For me, I puzzled what it could be prefer to be a small baby visiting Disney within the 1970s, watching Mr. Progress inform me concerning the wonders of know-how, and dreaming of a future that didn’t make me need to look away. If the Imagineers had been to redo the attraction and current a take a look at the 22nd century and past, what would we give you? It’s not a imaginative and prescient we’re more likely to see anytime quickly.