Carousel of Progress: A True Piece of American History

Nestled within Tomorrowland, inside Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, lies a true piece of American history fused with all the care and attention that only Walt Disney himself could have dreamed of. The Carousel of Progress marries the two loves of Walt Disney's vision, family and progress; then turns them into an experience that has weathered the years.

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress: Must or Miss?Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress: Must or Miss?

The classic ride first made its appearance during the New York World's Fair in 1964, where it began telling it's story of . Disney wanted to give the Nuclear family a glimpse of how the American family had changed over the years and how progress helped to create those changes. The Carousel of Progress eventually found it's home at Disneyland on July 2, 1967 but would move once more to its current and more permanent residence at Walt Disney World in 1975.

Even beyond Walt Disney's vision, the Carousel of Progress holds the singular distinction of holding the record for the longest running stage show in the history of American theater. This is no small feat in and of itself, but when you pair it with the fact that there isn't a single human actor (being all audio-animatronic) it takes on a whole new dimension of visionary progress. Another important fact is that the Carousel of Progress can boast to being one of the oldest attractions still in use at WDW with no plans to see it stop anytime soon.

Carousel of Progress 1900 SetCarousel of Progress 1900 Set

The theater is unique in that stage stays in place and the audience, seated in 240 seat sections, revolve around six sets on the stage. Two of the stages offer loading and unloading, with four sets each depicting and American using the major technological advances of the 20th century in 1904, 1920, 1940, and (presumably) the modern age.

Carousel of Progress Modern Day SetCarousel of Progress Modern Day Set

Beyond the historical significance and the overall enjoyment of this attraction, there is a smaller more subtle reason why any visitor should take the time to visit the Carousel of Progress; relaxation. It is no surprise that during the summer, in the heat of the hot Florida sun, a nice day at the park can turn into overheating of both the body, the mind, and sometimes emotions. So for all those folks who need a few minutes to relax, gather their strength, and cool off, the Carousel of Progress is the perfect attraction to relax on. The attraction itself is completely enclosed within its own, temperature controlled building with comfy seating and a soothing 20 minute ride time. This gives the park goer the perfect opportunity to not only get out of the blazing sun and crowds but also lets them see a slice of true Americana that they may not have chosen over Space Mountain or Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

Thanks so much to Erik H. for this fantastic guest post, as well as Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup for their images through Creative Commons. Are you a fan of Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress? Leave a Comment and let us know what your favorite part is!

Linda F wrote on Wed, 07/10/2013 - 15:17:

Linda F's picture

Thank you for this post on my all-time favorite WDW attraction! I first saw it in 1976, and have seen it countless times since then (it's not unheard of for me to see it five times in a row. Don't judge me, LOL). My biggest fear is that they'll get rid of it one day, since there are never long lines at this attraction, and it's not "sexy" enough for many younger park visitors. But I do my part to keep it going, every time we visit WDW!

KarenTaz wrote on Wed, 07/10/2013 - 16:36:

KarenTaz's picture

Absolutely! I loved that ride even when I was a kid! I had a gap in time where I hadn't been to Disney between 2000 and 2011, I knew a lot of changes had been done, but I was so happy to see that Carousel of Progress was still there!

M wrote on Sat, 07/13/2013 - 05:07:

The COP is excellent for the precise purpose the article mentions--relief in the sunny afternoon. It doesn't crack my top ten for the park, but there is something special about it (again, everything the article mentioned). Between this golden oldie and the Tiki Birds, this one wins in a landslide. Do they still only have this operational during the busy seasons, though?

The future of the Carousel? My guess is it will quietly celebrate its 50th birthday next year with zero fanfare. And I'll say there's only a 50/50 chance it will make it to its 50th anniversary in WDW (2025). I hope it makes it, but all shows eventually have to close their curtain permanently; I'm afraid its time is drawing near.

Here's another question...what time frame is the next-to-last stage? I can't seem to remember, nor can anyone in my family. If it's not something like the 80s, I hope they change it to that to help bridge the time gap. I think the young crowd might appreciate things like incredibly deep rear-projection bad tvs, vcrs, cassette boom boxes, huge movie cameras and the like.

Kristen K. wrote on Sat, 07/13/2013 - 12:37:

Kristen K.'s picture

Hi M! The next to last stage has gone through several updates over the years to try and keep the scene relevant. The official year (from the WDW Website) simply says "Act 4: Winter, The Present"

M wrote on Sun, 07/14/2013 - 06:45:

Oops. I saw the 6 stages statement and thought it was saying there were 6 time periods, which I didn't think was the case. It isn't! I bounced right over the sentence that indicated the four eras. From the 1940s to the 2000s is a huge jump! Too bad there can't be anything in between. The first three stages are all great, so I can't imagine messing with those. Hmm. I think it actually might be more interesting to make the winter "present" something like the 80s. After all, we all know what we have right now. Besides, I think the current one is easily the worst of the group. Just a thought.

JoAnn C wrote on Sun, 07/14/2013 - 11:55:

JoAnn C's picture

I do like CoP. I've seen it 3 out of my 5 visits to the World. My mom will be with me this year, so it is on the list so she can see how it's changed from her last visit over 30 years ago.

pregom wrote on Sun, 07/14/2013 - 13:35:

pregom's picture

I first rode the Carousel at the 1964-65 nyWorldsFair… I was 4 yrs old… 2010 was my first time to WDW… I just had to see it… I was bummed that A small world was closed, even though it is not the original, I have memories of that too, along with the Magic Skyway built for Ford by Walt… I am a big NYWF buff… when I rode the CoP in Disney, it stalled on us a couple of times… i do hope this remains a permanent fixture.. History is so hard to replace.. Planning a solo trip in May of 2014, can't wait!!

Kristen K. wrote on Sun, 07/14/2013 - 13:46:

Kristen K.'s picture

M - I totally agree that is would be nice to have a midpoint era added to help close the gap between 1940 and the present day. Perhaps the dawn of the internet, or wireless technology could be the focal point, 1980/90? I wonder if there is room on the stages to convert of of the loading stages to a scene, or if the stages that have actual sets take up too much space behind the curtain.

Chad P. wrote on Fri, 03/27/2015 - 02:03:

Chad P.'s picture

My family absolutely loves Carousel of Progress. We've visited Disney World five times over the past six years. My wife and I both visited as kids ourselves and I remember CoP and the other song they used to sing. I have three kids aged nine to thirteen and they always ask to ride CoP and then ask to ride again! They love it just as much as I do, if not more so. My oldest son knew "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" before I did! Carousel of Progress is a fitting tribute to Walt Disney and his vision of always advancing, never staying stagnant.

That said, it could use some updating and cleaning. New carpet and new seating would be a nice update. They also need to fix the hand pump in the first scene. You can hear the air cylinder pumping air but nothing happens. No pump movement and no water.

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