We’ve all heard the history of Carousel of Progress. That it originated at some fairgrounds. That the Allman Brothers wrote some jingle for it. That it is probably haunted. History isn’t my thing, so I will defer to other sites that offer a more comprehensive look at those items. Rather, I will give a brief walk-through of Carousel of Progress, indicating why I think it’s an invaluable attraction in the Magic Kingdom, especially during busy times of the year.
While a perennial favorite among the most hardcore fans due to its history (its actual history, not the bunk above), Carousel of Progress is fairly unpopular with the park-going public. I don’t have any statistics to corroborate this assertion, but they’re hardly necessary, as the naked eye can deduce as much by the mostly-empty to half-full theater crowds it draws.
Given the light audiences typically viewing the attraction, I am betting a lot of you out there have not seen the attraction. Perhaps not as many as the park-going public, as it is a Walt Disney classic, but still many, nonetheless. Those of you who have been into the attraction may have passed the time by sleeping or taking respite from the hot weather, rather than actually watching the show. Hopefully this post will convince some of you to give this attraction a second chance!
After guests load into the theater the first scene is a brief introduction, setting the historical context of the show. The father, John, is the main narrator of the show, with his wife, son, daughter, parents, and crazy Uncle Orville also appearing throughout the show. In the first three scenes, these other family members are presented through screened rotating vignettes off to the left and right sides of the stage; in the final scene, these rotating scenes are not present, but instead, the entire family is together in the family’s kitchen and living room. Alongside the father in each of the first three scenes is his trusty dog, with whom he interacts throughout the attraction.
The substantive scenes begin in the Spring, around Valentine’s Day at the beginning of the 20th century. As will become a theme of the attraction, the family is using innovations for that era, such as gas lamps, a water pump, a hand-cranked washing machine, and a gramophone.
Taking place in the Summer, around the 4th of July in the roaring ’20s, the second act features the mother (through ) creating costumes for the big Fourth of July Celebration downtown in which the entire family will be participating that evening.During the course of this act, the father introduces us to all of the latest technological innovations, which “perform” in musical unison “Be Our Guest-style” before blowing a fuse.
The third act takes place in Fall and Halloween in the 1940s, and has the family utilizing new devices including the automatic dishwasher and television. The father discusses how he has become a “rat” with fellow other rats in a thing called the “rat race.” In a humorous and somewhat irreverent exchange, the mother also uses a paint mixing system created by the father.
The finale scene is set in Winter, at Christmas-time, and depicts the family interacting with the technology of the present day. Well, if present day technology includes laser discs and car phones. If there were one valid criticism of this show, I think it would be that this scene has not been updated appropriately, and that its dated to the mid-90s (1994 was its last full update). Accordingly, there are some parts that are a little laughable, but overall, even this scene is pretty solid if you can get past these issues. After this finale there is a concluding scene, thanking guests for visiting and sending them on their way.
Given this dry account, you may think of it as a boring show deserving of its poor attendance. It’s not. In an age when many attractions seek to appeal to the lowest common denominator and avoid making any offensive remarks at all costs, Carousel of Progress is a great change of pace. Wry and irreverent in many of the same ways as Country Bear Jamboree, Carousel of Progress manages to offer engrossing vignettes with just the right amount of entertainment and even some educational undertones.
The family interacts well with one another, and their little faults and quirks make them all the more endearing. Not only that, but the show has many chuckle-inducing moments, and a fair amount of subtle humor. To a lot of guests, looking only for the next thrill or special effect, this may not be that compelling, but I know TouringPlans.com blog readers are more discerning! In any case, unless you are very limited on time, you should experience every attraction yourself rather than dismissing it out of hand based on the recommendation of someone else. Some of my favorite attractions are ones that are generally unpopular with the park-going public, so you never know what you might like!
Even if you have found all of the forgoing unpersuasive, consider this: Carousel of Progress hardly ever has a wait (except for the next show to begin). Even during the busiest times of the year. If, for some inexplicable reason, you’ve opted against following a touring plan, or find yourself in our “park to avoid” on a 10 day on the Crowd Calendar, the Carousel of Progress could be just the time-killer you need to pass 20 minutes while waiting for your FastPass window to open. If it’s either that or wandering around Mickey’s Star Traders for the 10th time on your trip, why not just give it a chance?
What do you think? Am I crazy to call Carousel of Progress one of my favorite attractions in the Magic Kingdom, or do you agree with my assessment? What is your favorite overlooked attraction at Walt Disney World?