Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress
Type of Attraction
Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress is a rotating theater show that features an audio-animatronic family in four different time periods, showing all the different advances in technology.
Preshow and Intro
Even though the Carousel of Progress does not typically have long queue, there is a preshow video shown to guests while they wait in line. The video talks about the history and development of the attraction, and even includes clips of Walt explaining the attraction on his television show. The video lasts about four minutes, after which guests can usually enter the theater for the next show. On the stage in the loading room is a large Carousel of Progress logo, framed by green curtains. The attraction’s narrator (who also voices John in the rest of the show) tells guests more history about the attraction. He focuses in on the fact that the attraction was Walt's idea, and that he loved the show. After the introduction, the attraction's theme song, "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" begins playing as guests move on to the first scene: the scene that takes place during Valentine's Day at the beginning of the 20th century.
Act 1 - 1900s
As the scene opens, robins chirp in the background and the music fades. The father of the family, John, is sitting in a wooden rocking chair inside his home. On his right, his dog Rover is happily lying on the floor. John tells guests that it is "right around the turn of the century" and also that it is Valentine’s Day. He then claims that things could not get any better than they are at that time, before giving a list of the new inventions and technological achievements of the day. These include: buildings being up to 20 stories tall, moving pictures (movies), 8,000 automobiles in the United States, and such technology as gas lamps, telephones, cast-iron stoves, iceboxes, a reservoir which keeps 5 buckets of water warm with three buckets of coal, and a water pump in the kitchen. As John highlights the new pieces of technology, a spotlight shines on them and they begin to work. He then comments that problems such as chopping wood, milk souring, and having to get water from a well are all things of the past. After he is done showing off the new technology, he calls to his wife, Sarah, who is ironing in the room to his left with their young daughter. The two discuss how Thomas Edison is working on an idea for "snap-on electric lights". Sarah then says that will mean "no more kerosene and no more gas." She also shows guests her new "wash-day marvel" and comments that now she can do the laundry in five hours, instead of two days. As John is explaining that Sarah now has time for other things, he is cut off by her response of "Such as canning and cleaning the oven?" Sarah then excuses herself, commenting that she needs to get the laundry off the line before it starts raining (which makes Rover bark.) After it begins to rain, the family's son, James, begins to talk from the right room. He is scolded for using his father’s Stereoscope without permission. James is watching Little Egypt dancing the "Hootchie-Cootchie". John comments that she is going to be the star of the upcoming World's Fair, and that James better put the Stereoscope away before his mother finds it. The upcoming World's Fair is a reference to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, which has led many to conclude that the scene guests are watching takes place on Valentine’s Day 1904 (although this is unconfirmed). As John and James finish talking, John tells guests that they also have "one of those new talking machines". The left stage then shows the family’s grandmother, sleeping with the phonograph on. The radio plays "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow", and the grandmother’s parrot exclaims "She keeps that thing on all day!" John's attention is then drawn to a room on the right, where his daughter Patricia is. Patricia is getting ready to go to a Valentine’s Day dance on the other side of town. John explains that she will be taking one of the new "horseless trolleys", before telling her that she better be home by 9 o'clock. He then tells guests that he is going to take one of the said trolleys downtown to have a root beer (which he explains is just a sarsaparilla with a new name). After he is finished, he begins singing "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" and the Carousel spins, moving guests to the next scene, set during Independence Day in the "Roaring Twenties".
Act 2 - 1920s
Guests find John is once again sitting in his kitchen. Wires and new electric machines are all over the room, and instead of sitting on a rocking chair John is now sitting on a smaller kitchen chair. Although a dog still lies on the floor, the dog has changed colors and presumably breeds. When John stops singing, he tells guests that things have changed a lot in the last twenty years. He then proceeds to tell guests the new accomplishments of the era. These include:
- Charles Lindbergh, who is about to fly over the Atlantic Ocean by himself (John comments that he will never make it);
- Sports stadiums that are being built all over the United States. He also says Babe Ruth is the country's best baseball player;
- Advertisements are out for The Jazz Singer, in which Al Jolson will talk, and even sing!;
- Electric starters are now in cars, eliminating the need to crank them;
- People can travel by train from New York to California in 3 days.
John then tells guests that Thomas Edison has brought electricity to his home. At this point all of the electronic machines in the kitchen, including a refrigerator, a toaster oven and other cookware, turn on. John warns the appliances not to blow a fuse, but they do. This not only shuts out the power in the family's house, but the whole neighborhood loses power as well. One of the neighbors can be heard telling her husband that "They did it again!" and that she wants her husband to go over and confront John (but this never happens). John then tells Jimmy, his son, to go put in a new fuse. Jimmy remarks that his father blows a fuse every time he has company over, before the lights come back on. With the power in the house restored, the scene shifts to the mother who is sitting on the front porch. She is outside sewing a George Washington costume for John to wear. John then tells the guests that Sarah's Ladies Club is in charge of the town’s 4th of July celebration and that the whole family will be performing in their presentation (with John and Sarah going as George and Martha Washington). As John begins making a joke that being the "father of our country suits me", Sarah interrupts him to say how happy she is that they put electric lights on the porch. John then tries to make another joke about going to the 4th of July next year as Benedict Arnold, when Sarah interrupts him again to say how excited she is about her firework show. As she is talking, Rover begins barking and John tells him not to interrupt while Sarah is interrupting. Sarah then tells John that Jimmy has volunteered to pick the music for the celebration. Jimmy then appears with his grandfather in one of the left rooms, dressed in a colonial outfit and standing next to a radio, which is playing patriotic music. John taps his foot to the music, tells Jimmy that it's a nice tune and then tells guests that they can now get news and entertainment on their radio from all over the country (even Pittsburgh!) The radio then says that people have begun gathering downtown for the 4th of July. After hearing this, John tells his daughter Patricia that she better hurry up and get ready. Patricia is sitting in a room on the right, wearing a Statue of Liberty costume. She tells her father that she hopes her new boyfriend doesn't see her in it and run away. John makes another joke, saying she can "always carry that torch" for him. He then tells guests that the family now has indoor plumbing which is great for cold days, especially for Uncle Orville, their constant house guest. Orville is then shown sitting in a bathtub on the left side of the stage. John informs guests that he has set up an air cooling system. While Orville sits in the bathtub, a fan sits in front of a block of ice, blowing on him. As John tells guests that Orville has no job, Orville responds by saying "No privacy at all around this place". At this point, Sarah calls John and tells him it’s time to go. John concludes the scene by telling guests that with all the conveniences they have, they are really on easy street. He then begins to sing "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow", as guests move on to the next scene, set in the "Fabulous Forties" during Halloween.
Act 3 - 1940s
John is now sitting in a circular booth and wearing a sweater. His dog Rover has once again changed colors but is still lying on the floor. As the music stops, John tells guests that everything is better than ever in the 1940s. He then shows off the new technology that they have in the kitchen, including a refrigerator that holds more food than ice and a dishwasher. John also informs guests that he is now a part of the "rat race," which he then explains means that the highways are now full of people who drive to work in the city, and then turn around and drive home every day. John also says that they now have television (when it works) and that John Cameron Swayze brings them the news every night. At this point, the scene shifts and focuses on a room on the right, where the grandmother and grandfather are watching wrestling on TV. After that, Jim (the son) calls from his room and asks what John thinks of his Jack-O-Lantern. After John says it’s scary, Jim remarks that he used his sister Patty as a model. After Rover "laughs" at this joke (barks), Sarah calls out from a room on the left and tells Jim and Rover that Patty is prettier than either one of them.
John then tells guests that Patty is using an old exercise machine that was "all the rage in the twenties" but never worked. Patty is then shown using the machine while talking on the phone about her date for that night. After this, John tells the audience that he is caught up in the "do-it-yourself" craze. John and Sarah are redoing their basement and making it into a rumpus room. On the left, guests can see Sarah putting wallpaper up in the rumpus room. She is using a "paint mixer" that John says he made for her, using a food mixer. As he is admiring his handiwork, the paint mixer goes haywire and shoots paint everywhere. John then says that it's time to move on, but everybody should try and cheer Sarah up by "singing our song". At this cue, "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" begins playing and guests move onto the next scene, set in the present during Christmas.
Act 4 - 21st century
Unlike previous scenes, the Christmas scene begins with the whole family in one room. They all sing "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" as guests enter the scene. John is standing on the right working on Christmas dinner, while Sarah sits nearby working on a computer. Rover is once again in the kitchen, and is, once again, a different color. Jim and his grandmother are playing a virtual reality game, while Trish and her grandfather sit around the Christmas tree. Sarah tells John that she has programmed the oven to recognize his voice. John then comments that now all of the household appliances are voice-automated, to which the grandfather replies "Then tell the refrigerator to bring me a root beer." Sarah responds to the joke, saying that although they can't do that, she can brighten the tree lights. She then tells John to try the voice-activated oven, which he does with no problem. After the oven confirms John’s temperature command, Trish comments that "the oven even talks back now!" She and the rest of the family also make fun of John for burning last year’s turkey. At this point, the grandma who has been playing the motion sensor game has her score up to 550 points. John and Jim are both impressed, and they repeat the score in awe. Upon hearing John say 550, the oven increases its temperature, although nobody seems to notice. The grandfather then remarks that he cannot believe the new gadgets that people have today. Trish, cutting him off, begs him not to tell another story about the time “before there were even car phones!” The grandfather, still undeterred, tells her that for a while he didn't even have a house phone, not to mention the technology of today. He then gives examples of modern technology including laser discs and high definition televisions, before commenting on how everything is automated today. His last example is about automated plumbing (which causes a flushing noise be heard in the background). This leads Uncle Orville (who is off-stage) to once again remark "No privacy at all around this place". The scene then shifts back to the grandmother who has now beat her video game. She finishes with a score of 975, which John once again repeats. After hearing this number, the oven overheats and begins to smoke. The family all laughs at the fact that another Christmas turkey has been ruined. John jokes that maybe in the new century, ovens will learn to read minds. Jim says that someday everything will be automated so that John will never have to cook again. At the prospect of this, Rover barks, leading the family to laugh and sing "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" one final time.
Guests then come to the unloading area, which looks identical to the loading area. Here they are told to collect their belongings before exiting.