Sunday, November 17, 2013

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress

Hey! What's all the buzz over at the Carousel of Progress? What's with all the movie equipment? Why is that tired old attraction, that's hardly maintained and always on limited hours, getting all the attention?  Isn't that the place where tour guides tell you to take a nap? Isn't that the running joke? "I love the Carousel of Progress, it's a great place to take a nap". HAR HAR, Uncle Dan, you witty bastard! Don't choke on your pork shank.

If you're even half way interested in this blog, or "Disney" you probably already know that the filming going on at COP is part of the secret Brad Bird film "Tomorrowland". Allegedly it takes place at the 1964-65 World's Fair which is beyond cool. We all know that the COP was originally an attraction at the fair. Right? Well they're filming interior shots complete with actors in vintage 1964 costumes!

What's going to happen, mark my word, is that the COP is going to see a surge in popularity upon the release of this film. Maybe they'll make George Clooney the "Dad". I don't know. I do know one thing though WE DON'T DESERVE THE CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS.

That's right. I said it. Maybe it's because I know how many times it's been on the chopping block. Maybe it's because I know how poorly it's been maintained. It's hard to get all pixie dusted when you know that it's only there because it would cost too much to remove it.

It started in the late 80's early 90's when plans for a new Tomorrowland were starting to hatch at WDW. How many of you remember that the COP was to be removed and replaced with a flying saucer ride like the one they had at Disneyland? Oh yeah! It was a sure thing! That boring old Carousel was leaving to make room for the fucking bumper cars! Everyone was so happy! All but one.

Mike Lee over at Widen Your World wasn't having that horse shit. He started what was probably the first ever "save an attraction" campaign (long before Save Mr Toad, Horizons etc). It was called "Save your local Carousel". The trouble was that these were the times when there was no internet. Some of you may recall how hard it was to get information out to the masses back then. Mike did the best that anyone could but it was pretty certain that it was the end of the line for the COP. He and I set about taking pictures and video in preparation for the funeral.

Wait! What happened to the bumper cars? WELL the new Tomorrowland only had a budget of $26.49! Left and right plans were getting chopped and it was decided that the fucking bumper cars would cost too much! It would be cheaper to clean up the COP! A classic Walt Disney attraction SAVED. It's like saying "I'd like to shoot my ol' dog but a bullet is too expensive. I'll just buy him a can of food instead". They rolled that shit out like it was the plan from the beginning. Those were dark times at the Magic Kingdom. Tomorrowland still looks as though a giant dog dragged his worm ridden ass across it but, we still have the COP Right?

For 23 years we've watched that thing walk the green mile only to be saved at the last minute by lack of funding or small public outcry. I've personally seen, with my own eyes, lazy maintenance people cry and complain about how "It costs too much to upkeep". I've seen up close the torn skins and sloppy figure finishing. Do you think the Tomorrowland movie will save the COP?

Ladies and Gentleman, Hoot Gibson presents "Why You Should Appreciate The Carousel of Progress, You Lazy Maintenance People You." Let's start by watching this video. If you've seen it before watch it again. I'll wait here.

 That never gets old does it? Do you realize that the COP at WDW is the ONLY attraction that Walt Disney himself was part of? It's hard to fathom but it's true. Walt Disney himself! That fact alone makes the COP an extremely valuable experience. I'm going to show you what I mean with a few frame grabs from this video. Remember, this was filmed just about 50 years ago and you can still see the sets and props that Walt himself was around in this movie.

That's the same lamp. The same tea set and the same teapot! Still there!

Look at this! Right behind Walt we have the same three items on the stove. Different order, same stuff. Keep in mind as we look as these comparisons that the entire show went from California to New York to California to Florida in only the first ten years it was around.

 Same little picture and as far as I can tell same little plate. You should be getting the feeling of seeing Walt on that very stage.

Same barometer and telephone. 

Not the same robins though. Close enough I say. 

Better dog. The original is charming but.....damn! Same little curtain!

Let's take a look at Jane our teenage daughter. Chief's creeping around in there while she's trying to get dressed! Masher! Again we see the same props just as they were 50 years ago. See that basket? It's impossible to light these side vignettes from the front because of the scrim (screen). WED had to hide footlights in some of the props in the foreground.

Even the pictures on the wall are the same. You can also see the towel rack, tennis racket, and coat rack. 

You may not recognize this scene. By the time the COP came to Florida the little boy stopped helping out around the house and took to lookin' at the Hootchie Cootchie! Even though the scene changed many of the props stayed! Same basket to hide the foot light! Same cat only now he sits on the same stool and now he looks stupid! Folks, the good artists got fired a long time ago.

I was really excited to find that these two versions share so many props. I hope you're getting a sense of history from this stuff. I am.

 The pictures have been arranged differently but they're still there.

Hootchie Cootchie or not this scene is fine!

Let's check in on grandma before she goes to sleep and wakes up in the Haunted Mansion. This scene is practically the same as it ever was. 

Chief gives us an idea of scale.

Slight differences such as this picture which went from table to wall. Granny's proud of her ex husbands all of which are pictured on her wall. Wonder why she's grinning?

I can't tell if Granny is a different sculpt or not. Maybe not.

Aw. The crank handle is gone from the phonograph :(  Also, the little picture looks the same but it's not in the same locket. ?

The bird is now reversed on the perch. I like the tiki room style better personally. Still it's the same set and props and it's a miracle that he didn't fly right into the dumpster 20 years ago!

So what do we do now? If I were you I'd go ride the Carousel of Progress. I'd enjoy it for all of it's Walt Disney history. Maybe they'll change it when the Tomorrowland movie becomes a smash hit and everybody rediscovers how incredible the Carousel really is. If I were in charge I'd send it back to Disneyland to be with the other Walt Disney attractions. Walt Disney World doesn't deserve Walt's personal touch and maybe THEN we'll have a budget for some fucking bumper cars! The other thing I would do is hire me to take care of it. Yep. One guy. I can get away with a scant $20 an hour to start. Night shift is fine. I'll be on call during the day. I accept the position and I'll be down there tomorrow with my fucking tools. I said I'll be down there with my tools!


  1. Truly incredible.. There are people that really care about this detail! Very good while we await the Comic Book.
    - Dr. Joe

  2. Great post. Can you please help me with something? What does the law firm sign say in the window of one of the scenes? I remember seeing it couple years ago and I think it had the name of a well respected artist.

  3. Back in the day (the '80s) my dad was into Amway and one of their 'come to Jesus' meetings was in Tampa. My dad being my dad, decided to make it a family vacation, complete with one day at WDW. So many comedy-of-errors happened on that trip, the biggest being a typical storm happening on our Disney day. I remember that we did all the indoor Fantasyland rides, but the one I remember the best was the good ol' CoP. I can't put into words how much I loved after one ride, but I know my sister and I drove our parents crazy singing 'now is the time'.
    Eight thousand years later, we're coming back. I know what we're heading for first. The only question is who'll get to sit next to my dad. I think I'm pulling big sister rank on this one.