Disney's Carousel of Progress and Modern Invention Today
The Carousel of Progress as it appeared at the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair [Image shared by Matt Hunter Ross via Flickr]
It’s summertime, you guys. This is when you see families flocking to Disney properties all around the world and indulging their inner child to innocent fun with numerous attractions. As a human being obsessed with the original vision that Walt Disney projected with the opening of his first park and his look into tomorrow, I realized one thing always, always stuck with me.

The Carousel of Progress.

For those of you who haven’t been to Disneyland or The Magic Kingdom (Disney World), Walt Disney and WED Enterprises put together a feature for General Electric to showcase during the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair. This consisted of a wealth of innovations over the decades that showed how electricity and invention have made the modern life easier for their present-day troubles. It consisted of both animatronic people in their current-day family, following the lives of “John” and his wife, his daughter, and son, and how electricity had made their lives either easier or, in some cases, more complicated — such as having to burn through fuses in order to keep the lights on.

The Carousel of Progress in the World of “Tomorrow”

The 22-minute show caps off with a family of the “future,” in which virtual reality goggles, voice-activated lights, and appliances are reveled over and I can’t help but chuckle at how little we wanted advances to go. We never stretched beyond kitchen appliances and video games, you know? Maybe they were on to something.

(For those of you who haven’t seen The Carousel of Progress, I included an amazing sit-through found on YouTube. There are actually tons of these; as I recently found out, I’m not the only one in love with this ride.)

What’s fascinating about the innovations talked about in the ride is that they’re all surrounding the family and the “modern” household of their time. You won’t see anything that wouldn’t fit in the very innocent family home. Well, with the exception of the young boy taking a look at his father’s flickering images of someone doing the “hoochie coochie.” Yeah, well, nothing says family togetherness like sharing your mild pornography with your son, right?

The Future of Cosby Sweaters is Now

When you cut through towards the “future” era, it is obviously a younger interpretation of what would exist nowadays. The majority of it stayed the same through the years with only a few changes, like a projection television being switched to a plasma and a few other cosmetic changes to make the attraction fit with more current aesthetics. Someone should’ve clued them in on the fact that only Kanye is wearing Cosby sweaters right now.

With voice work by Mel Blanc (right? Bugs Bunny, you guys) and some pretty amazing personalities, the Carousel of Progress still remains timeless and untouched by rebuilds and remakes, which makes it even more fetching. Sitting down with my child, I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and let the air conditioning pump into the darkened room while I explained to her what we were going to see in front of us. The Carousel of Progress had always remained my favorite thing to see at Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom, and she quickly saw why. Just like my face had been as a child, she was wide-eyed and entranced by how people used to live their lives, how they used to talk to each other, and even the activities in which they took part. By the end of it, she wanted to go on again. For the rest of the day, we hummed the Sherman Brothers’ penned song for the ride, There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (oh — there’s even a They Might Be Giants version that Chris Pirillo might like) through the rest of our day at the park.

What Could Make the Carousel of Progress Even Better?

Personally, I would’ve been enchanted to see more added to the Carousel of Progress featuring the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s as they were pretty historically interesting when it comes to advances in technology. Sure, it’s far too late in the game to add anything new, but what about a secondary feature? Maybe even a walk through technologies and how far we have actually come in terms of the modern family’s home? When you view all of these innovations from era to era, it becomes really clear just how much has evolved in technology since the beginning of the 19th century.

Did any of you ever visit the Carousel of Progress? What do you think was left out and what do you think kids can learn from seeing these kinds of things? Modern advances are happening at the blink of an eye now; what do you see coming next that would be featured in a new Carousel of Progress project?