Wednesday, January 2, 2008

"There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow"

BoingBoing has a post up today about a little gem at Disney World called the Carousel of Progress.

When I went to Disney World a few years ago with Kendra's family, the far-and-away best experience of the entire trip this odd blend of ride and show, which is the best-slash-worst-slash-best-again attraction at the Magic Kingdom. It's a little bit hard to describe (you really have to experience it), so allow me to quote wikipedia's page on it:

Steeped in nostalgia and futurism, the attraction's premise is an exploration the joys of living through the advent of electricity and other technological advances during the 20th century via a "typical" American family. [...]

The basic plot of the Carousel of Progress show has essentially remained unchanged since it debuted at the 1964 New York World's Fair. It is divided into six scenes, with the audience seats rotating between each scene around the stage mechanically within the outer part of the theater building. [...] The first and the last scenes are basically identical and involve the loading and unloading of guests. The other 4 scenes, or "acts", depict an Audio-Animatronic family, narrated by the father, interacting with the latest technology and innovations during a particular era. Not much is known about the family: we do not know their last name, where they live (aside from being somewhere in the United States), or if they ever change location. The family does not (nor are they meant to) age 100 years. They age 3-5 years as the show progresses, to demonstrate how slightly older individuals can better enjoy new technology. Also, each of the four scenes is set during a different season of the year, just for variety.

What makes the rise/show so wonderful, however, is that like a number of attractions at Disney World, it has scarcely been updated since it was unveiled. Where updates have been made, they betray a very temporally embedded flavor. So, the "future" is quite clearly the future as imagined by somebody in the 1980s--complete with Cosby sweaters and supposedly high tech video games. You can see, then, why BoingBoing, with its love of retro-futurism, would like such a ride. And as a fixture in "Tomorrowland," the absolutely ridiculous (and scary) animatronics, the dim vision of the creators, and lachrymose nostalgia of good ole America makes this an ironic anachronism in the Magic Kingdom.

I hope it never closes. The rumor is that Disney himself felt the same way.

Here are the pictures from BoingBoing, some Youtube videos, as well as Disney's official website for the ride (where you can order the DVD!).

1 comment:

kendra said...

as an unofficial ambassador for walt's animatronic wonderland, the carousel of progress, i bring you this mickey trivia:

Carousel of Progress
Hidden Mickeys


* In the second scene, look at the sink area to spot a hidden Mickey.
* When mom is ironing, her shadow forms a hidden Mickey.
* Look for a glass with Mickey Mouse ice cubes
* In the final scene, watch the son's video game. As the ship leaves port you will spot a hidden Mickey.

i love the publicity shots for the ride. and we totally missed disney*land*'s creepy Progress City, "Walt Disney’s twentieth century vision of the future. These models represent what Walt believed to be the perfect community in which to work, live, and play," involving an enormous climate controlled dome and a nuclear power plant-- all of which he planned to build (secretly!) on a huge tract of land he had acquired in central Florida.