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Entries in Carousel of Progress (12)

Tuesday
May142013

Tomorrowland '67 [Part 4]

In Part 3 we explored little-known details about the Carousel of Progress at Disneyland and its upper-level Progress City. Now we turn back the clock even further to a time when the Carousel of Progress was going to have an OMNIMOVER RIDE! This wonderful concept has been right under our noses for years yet we never hear anyone talking about it. Let's gather some concept art and make sense of this great idea. 

After the success of the Carousel of Progress at the World's Fair, Disney pitched a concept to General Electric that included a ride system similar to the system later built for EPCOT Center's Spaceship Earth. The vehicles were to be called "G.E.M.s" or "General Electric Mobiles" (above). How would an entire ride system have fit into the Carousel Theater?

Take a look at the first image in this post and next image below. We've seen these pieces of concept art in various books over the years. The image below has been on display on Main Street at Disneyland for the last few years. But have you ever noticed how the lower level of the Carousel of Progress building is without walls? It's an open-air architecture. The rotating Carousel Theater appears to be on the upper level. Yep, that was the plan.

Disney planned for a switchback ramp on the exterior of the building, much like the one at World's Fair. Guests would have walked from ground-level up to an upper-level queue before boarding the attraction. Audience members would have exited their theater seats after Act 4, then entered a boarding area in front of them.

The following concept art by John Hench has always intrigued and fascinated me. I have often heard and read that this piece represents the speedramp that was built for Tomorrowland '67. You know, the ramp that took the audience from the lower level to the upper level of the building. It's often assumed that the vehicles in the rendering were Peoplemovers. The vehicles are actually "G.E.M.s" and this all takes place on the upper level of the building.

From the upper level, the ride vehicles would have taken passengers on a slow downward spiral towards a Progress City model, as seen in the next piece of concept art. The model city would have been below the Carousel Theater. In fact, it would have been well below the upper level. The center of the model would have been at basement level.

FUN FACT: A basement of sorts was built under the Carousel of Progress building (now the Innoventions building) and is still there today. I would often enter this basement area from a staircase backstage on the far east side of the building not far from the men's locker room. The locker room was on the back side of the Grand Canyon Diorama. A long basement hallway would lead to the Alpine Gardens (now Pixie Hollow) near the Matterhorn. The basement area and hallway look a lot like Magic Kingdom's Utilidors.

The following artwork is a detail from a broader Hench rendering of the General Electric Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. The concept of the zig-zag roofs over various full-scale (or almost full-scale) show scenes was to be included in the omnimover attraction at Disneyland. Not only would guests have traveled closer and closer to the scale Progress City model, they would have experienced up-close views of G.E.-living at its best. 

Show elements would have been similar to G.E.'s "Medallion City" exhibit in their World's Fair Pavilion.

We learn something interesting about the proposed G.E.-sponsored building in the next image, courtesy of the great Tomorrowlounge 67 website. The building was to have an open center, like a donut. This would explain the palm trees in the images 1 and 5 of this post. Would the model city in the center of the donut have been exposed to rain and other weather? Perhaps the model city was protected. Perhaps it was gradually revealed to ride passengers and not visible from the boarding area. I can't be certain.

Another interesting thing we learn from this next piece is that a different People Mover track layout was planned. See how it doesn't stretch down the middle avenue from the rocket tower towards the entrance of the land? Sort of like Magic Kingdom's Peoplemover layout. Also, it appears to travel all the way over towards what is now the Storybook Land queue.

Here I've prepared a set of cross sections representing both the proposed attraction and the attraction that was actually built.

 

At some point the idea of an open-air lower level was changed to a walled-in lower level. You'll notice the Carousel of Progress show is still on the upper level. It looks like the Peoplemover track was to exit the north side of the building but look how it comes out of the building on the lower level, unlike the version that was actually built.

Why did this magnificent concept never come to pass? My guess would be... money. Isn't it always money?

There are still plenty of mysteries surrounding this Carousel of Progress/Progress City ride. What was it going to be called? What else was it going to include? If you have more information on the subject, please let us know. Email us at Imagineering.Disney@gmail.com.

 

Related posts:

Tomorrowland '67 [Part 1]
Tomorrowland '67 [Part 2]
Tomorrowland '67 [Part 3]
1967 "New Tomorrowland" Broadcast
America Sings
THEN AND NOW: 1964-65 New York World's Fair
Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It

 

Wednesday
Feb062013

What Remains of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair?

In my last post I shared some Then and Now photos from my visit to the site of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. In this post I share a few things from the World's Fair that still remain on the site today.

The site is now a New York City public park called Flushing Meadows Corona Park. 

The park located in Queens was once the site of the Corona Ash Dumps which were characterized as "a valley of ashes" in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In the 1930s the dumps were cleaned up to make way for the 1939 New York World's Fair. Two World's Fairs on one site!

I was in Manhattan for the first time in a long time and decided to take the 7 train out to Flushing Meadows. The experience of arriving at the nearby train stop and seeing the iconic Unisphere is incredible. It's like arriving at Epcot and seeing Spaceship Earth. Once inside the park it's easy to spot the large sphere from almost anywhere.

The water pools from the fair still stand today. I imagine when it's not Winter they are actually full of water. Here we see the "Fountains of the Fairs".

I couldn't help but wonder if all the joggers, tennis players, and soccer players at the park knew the historical significance of the land they were enjoying.

These beautiful tile mosaics were exciting to discover. They have clearly seen better days. Turns out they aren't all that old. I believe they were added in the late 90s.

Take a close look at what I've circled here in front of General Electric's Progressland pavilion (home to Carousel of Progress). Drinking fountains and benches.

Some of them still stand today!

Several street markers still grace the curbing of the streets. Many of the World's Fair streets and their names remain unchanged.

"Court of the Universe" and the "Pool of Industry".

The most prominent structure from the fair that still remains is the New York State pavilion. It may look familiar if you've seen Men In Black or Iron Man 2. 

We see here how grand the pavilion looked during the fair.

Today it's closed to the public, rusted, full of weeds, and of course all of the colorful plexiglass tent panels are long-gone.

Apparently a bunch of cats have taken over. Distant cousins of the wild cats that live in Disneyland?

Just inside one of this gates I spotted this little sign. There's been much debate about what to do with the structure. 

The towers once offered World's Fair guests some amazing views of the fair grounds. Guest accessed the platforms via two "Skystreak" exterior elevators.

We learn the following from Queens Crap blog:

"After the fair ended in 1965, the steel-and-glass capsules were left at the mercy of decay and vandals - as one rusted away in a pit beneath the pavilion, and the other was stuck mid-rise at 150 feet. The city Parks Department stripped the pods off their cables in July 2008, fearing parts might blow off in strong winds. At the time, both were largely intact."

Sadly they are not "largely intact" anymore. I got a small glimpse between gaps in the fence at what remains of at least one of the elevators.

Across the path the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company buried a time capsule as part of their in exhibit it 1965. And get this. They buried a similar time capsule just ten feet away in 1938. Both were placed 50 feet into the ground.

A short walk away another piece of both fairs still stands. The building that is now the Queens Museum of Art was built to house the New York City Pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair. The building was home to the New York City Pavilion once again at the 1964-64 World's Fair.

I must thank @EPCOTExlorer for insisting I tour the Queens Museum of Art. I came upon a sign saying the museum was closed to the public that day and only open to school groups. I entered a side door to ask if I could use the restroom. The security guard said the main-level restrooms were closed due to some museum renovations. He was nice enough to point to an old-looking elevator and sent me to the upper-level restrooms. Inside this large elevator I was thrilled to find this model of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.

I took only a couple photos. I figured I'd quickly use the restroom and make my way out of the closed museum without overstaying my welcome.

But of course I couldn't help myself. After returning to the elevator I decided to photograph the entire model the best I could.

Cute little Sky Ride.

General Electric's Carousel of Progress there in the center and Pepsi-Cola's It's a Small World on the lower right.

Ford Pavilion and its Magic Skyway.

State of Illinois and Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.

I then decided to photograph something else that had caught my eye off in the corner. A small collection of World's Fair memorabilia. I think I'll recreate that metal directional sign for my office. 

This wonderful concept art (framed on the right) shows part of General Motor's "Futurama" model of a futuristic city. Though none of this was built by Disney, it's often confused with what would later debut at Disneyland as the "Progress City" model. What's the dishwasher thing on the left? I don't know.

More info about the small museum exhibit.

On my way out I snuck into a large room to see something breathtaking. I had seen photos of this large panorama many times but didn't realize it belonged to the museum in which I was wandering. When I finally made it back to that side door I thanked the security guard and said, "I must pay admission because I enjoyed far too much of your museum." He said, "Not necessary but I can't let you leave without seeing the best part." He took me to a door that led to a much closer view of the New York City panorama. Could the model in the elevator be connected to this panorama?

Needless to say, the entire experience was somewhat sacred for this student of distant Disney history. I'm sure many little remnants of the World's Fair and Walt Disney's contribution to the fair remain at Flushing Meadows. Go find them!

 

Related posts:

THEN AND NOW: 1964-65 New York World's Fair
Tomorrowland
 '67 [Part 3]
Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It

 

Thursday
Jan172013

THEN AND NOW: 1964-65 New York World's Fair

A recent visit to New York City inspired a little detour trip to the former grounds of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. Let's look at some of the pavilions Walt Disney helped design and see the exact locations they once stood.

The Unisphere, the fair's central icon. 

General Electric Pavilion, home to Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress

Pepsi-Cola Pavilion, home to Walt Disney's "it's a small world"

Ford Pavilion, home to the Disney-designed Ford's Magic Skyway

State of Illinois Pavilion, home to Walt Disney's Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln 

New York State Pavilion

Main Gate

Overhead View

Where were the Walt Disney attractions located and how did people get to them?

Here we see the fair's location as it sits today with an overlay of the four Disney-designed offerings plus each of the eight entrance gates. Yes, eight gates!

Up next: Photos of World's Fair remains. Not only did Flushing Meadows host a World's Fair in 1964-65 but the location hosted a World's Fair before that in 1939. Which pieces still exist? What did I find on my little adventure? Plus lots of fun-facts. Stay tuned.

 

Related posts:

THEN AND NOW: MK Tomorrowland [Part 1]
THEN AND NOW: Epcot World Showcase [Part 1]
THEN AND NOW: Walt at Disneyland
Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It
Tomorrowland '67 [Part 3]
New Lincoln Animatronic Lookin' Good