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Entries in Carousel of Progress (12)

Tuesday
Oct192010

Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It

As a boy I was entertained to no end by the cleverness that was Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress.  Today I enjoy it just as much-- Laser discs and all.

Here we get a look at our favorite animatronic family and their surroundings from all new angles. Photos provided anonymously with statement that they were taken with permission a number of years ago. **May contain partial animatronic nudity!**

 
I too spent a bit of time working on-set at Carousel of Progress and noticed a few interesting things.  First of all, it was great to work with some of the very same props seen in photos and video of Walt with the Carousel sets.  Few things at Walt Disney World were around for Walt to enjoy so this attraction has great meaning.

I thought it was fascinating that inside the cups and other dishes there are screws and other tiny pieces of hardware for Maintenance workers to easily access.

The printed paper props (newspapers, calendar, etc.) are made up of stacks of the exact same print.  If the top print wares out or goes missing, the subsequent layers of paper are identical.  Was this always the case? Don’t know.

The stages are not as deep as I would have thought.  I had suspected the center core of the building be be much smaller- that the stages went further in.

Rover has a two-piece shell of fur (head and body) that easily pops off.  Until recent years, his fur was glued directly to and animatronic components and had to be cut away and sewn back together every time the dog was maintained.

The television Grandma is watching is driven by 8mm film projectors running footage from the basement below- the ballroom dancing footage and the boxing footage (for when Grandpa’s asleep).  “Give’m a left you big lug!”  Here you see an actual piece of dancing scene film stip thrown out after breaking:

 

Preview of Things to Come

In our new and upcoming series we compare the old to the new and see what remains the same.  Golly this will be fun!

 

This post is intended to be a simple study of attraction staging with no intent to spoil illusions.  Please do not photograph or visit backstage areas without permission.

 

Related posts:

A Look at the Progress City Model - Then and Now
Horizons Animatronics Found Under Carousel of Progress
America Sings
 
HORIZONS MURAL, "The Prologue and the Promise [High Res]


Thursday
Jul222010

A Look at the Progress City Model- Then and Now

The Progress City model was once a spectacular site. Housed on the second level of the Carousel Theater at Disneyland above The Carousel of Progress, it was often visited but not-so-often photographed or filmed.  It was a large model with many moving parts and electric lights.

What you see today while riding the Magic Kingdom’s TTA  is only a piece of the original model. Not only did a relatively small section of the model survive, a very small amount of movement and lighting remain today. There are fewer houses, far fewer cars and the landscaping is almost nonexistent compared to the original. The thing was literally sliced up in various places to fit it’s new space at Walt Disney World.

The blue lines below indicate the area of the model you see today.

 

A Chance to Restore the Model

A few years back I was asked if I’d like to help restore this old model city.  I wet my pants a little and said, “Sign me up!  I’ll come in early and stay late if I have to, just don’t change your mind”.  Life stinks sometimes, the lousy bums changed their minds.

– “It’s a matter of ownership.  We don’t actually know who ‘owns‘ the model”.

Yeah well I’d been up there a few times before to climb around and my old model train city I made as a kid with my mom’s hot glue gun and little hobby shop fake trees was in better shape.

The model as seen within the last several years. Viewed from catwalk above the TTA track.

– “WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE CAN’T RESTORE IT NOW??”

– “Well we think it belongs to Decorating and they ain’t interested in doin’ notin’  wid it.”

 – “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Give me their number.  You are saying that even if I volunteer my time to save this piece of history, you aren't gonna let me because no one wants to deal with the thing??  IT’S OLDER THAN ALL OF DISNEY WORLD!”

- “Yeah well, we isn’t interested in the best interest of stuff around here.  Go finish yurr work on that Small World doll.”

Good thing I like working on Small World dolls.  As it turns out, ‘Decorating’ had already been there. No need to clean the model or fix the broken buildings. Definitely no need to fix the double ferris wheel that once moved round and around.

Now that brings me to something that not everyone seems to quite understand.  Imagineering doesn’t maintain everything you see at the parks.  Hardly. There are loads of other departments who are assigned to various pieces of the attractions and parks in general (Engineering Services, Decorating, Artist Prep, Creative Costuming, Buildings, Custodial, even Buena Vista Construction Company, etc.).

 

The Fantasy of EPCOT-style Living 

I’d always loved the WEDWay PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom (now TTA) in large part due to the view of Progress City.  I liked to dream of the life I could have had in the low-density residential outer rings of a city patterned after EPCOT.


Concept art for Medallion City, 64-65 New York World Fair, meant to showcase (at full-scale) the residential life in Progress City

While riding past the model I’d spot nifty looking mid-century modern ranch-style houses with PeopleMover stations out the back door and with views of the towering cosmopolitan hotel and convention center.  A little amusement area and schools for the kids, pedestrian walkways separate from the motor ways, a Monorail traveling through the center of town... What could be better?

The wife and I could meet up for ethnic food while she shops in the retail district just below my office building. Once inside, weather conditions good and bad would be safely out of reach, yet visible though the domed glass skylights. Walt Disney would be walking around pointing at stuff and I’d say ‘hi’ to him. Herb Ryman would be at the next table sketching on a napkin.  Then he’d give me his sketches and we’d discuss the look of transportation systems of the future.

 

Why the Tiki Lounge in the City of the Future?

Tiki building as seen in the model's original state

The same tiki building on current model

Doesn’t seam to fit in, or does it? Remember, the peak of America’s fascination with all things ‘tiki’ was the 1950s and 60s.  The phenomenon began with returning WWII soldiers who had served time in the Pacific. Hawaii had not been opened to tourist travel by jet plane for all that long. The war ended in the mid 40s and i presume many of the W.E.D. staff had spent time in Polynesia. And remember that Progress City focussed on all areas of life, including leisure. What better way to relax than in some tike restaurant on the marina?  Maybe someone just liked tiki stuff and added it to the plans??  Either way, this piece is still on the model and boy is it cool to think about.

 

A Hacked Model

You can compare the model in its two locations and the pieces that still stand today.  You’ll notice the little PeopleMover tracks no longer have moving PeopleMover cars on them.  The tracks were hacked, therefore no longer operational. They appear to have been made of simple slot car technology.  Just like the slot car tracks you had as a kid.

Let's give give credit where credit's due.  Though the model is in a very dilapidated state after all these years, it's presented in a way that makes it look pretty good. I'd love to see moving parts and fewer broken pieces, but from a moving WEDWay car, in a dark tunnel, behing glass, the thing doesn't look half bad.  

Some of these photos were taken without show lighting and with the use of flash.  Some are with show lighting, no flash.

 

I'd Give My Right Eye

I’ve been looking for video or imagery of the upper level of Disneyland’s Carousel of Progress forever now. After the final act of the show, guests would exit though the stage area and ascend to the second floor to see the Progress City model.  I’ve found very little.  I would love to see exactly what that experience was, including the viewing area of the model.  

So PLEASE send anything you have showing these things.

 

Photos by Fritz, Mitch and Hoot. A special thanks to Hoot who has done a heap of research and investigation involving the model. He was the one who showed me door to get to the model and the catwalk above. Photos were taken on assignment and with permission. Please don't attempt to access the model. 

 

Related posts:

Tomorrowland '67 [Part 3]
EPCOT City Model [Part 1]
Lake Buena Vista: The Other Prototype City with a Peoplemover

 

Saturday
Jul032010

America Sings

[ UPDATED 7-6 with new images and info ]

A look back at the Marc Davis / Al Bertino patriotic animatronic wonder and how some of it's pieces live on today.

Think of Carousel of Progress meets Country Bear Jamboree meets American Adventure.  It was hosted by an eagle named Sam, voiced by the great Burl Ives, and co-hosted by Ollie Owl.  Shows ran from 1974-1988 in Tomorrowland's Carousel Theater, Disneyland.  It replaced The Carousel of Progress which was moved to The Magic Kingdom in 1975.  The empty round building with it's rotating outer ring of seating and stationary set of inner stages was a perfect fit for such an idea.  Though I've always thought the Tomorrowland setting was not entirely fitting, America Sings was a really swell! 

 

 

After closing in 1988, a number of America Sings' audio animatronics were repurposed in the 1989 E-Ticket log flume adventure, Splash Mountain- Sam and Ollie, were not included in the move.  Splash Mountain's Song of the South premise with Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and friends was an inviting setting for these friendly Marc Davis critters.  Costumes, props, and character poses were changed to fit the new storyline.

Below you'll find side-by-side comparisons of these critters in both setting.  Also included are some Marc Davis concept drawings for America Sings.  Photos of sculpted maquettes- on display at Disneyland's Opera House (still there today)- are also presented.  Additional photos are from Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain.  

In October of 1992 the second and third Splash Mountains opened one day apart.  Tokyo Disneyland opened theirs on October 1 while Magic Kingdom opened their Splash Mountain on October 2.  To my knowledge, these rides did not receive any America Sings original animatronic figures, though they were both populated with many reproductions.

 

Foxes and Hens

In Act I - Early South -  foxes, hens and frogs sung Lay Down My Burden in gospel choir fashion.  The foxes and hens now can be seen aboard Disneyland's Splash Mountain's riverboat scene singing Zippity Do Da (without Uncle Remus... thanks to Michael Eisner, that rascal).

Also aboard the Zip-A-Dee Lady riverboat are two musical pigs, a hound guitar-playing dog, and a goose playing the part of river captain up top, and 3 female geese- all from America Sings.  The can-can geese came from Act III of America Sings, featured further below.

Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain was given a mere 12 characters aboard their riverboat compared the 17 aboard Disneyland's.  No foxes and no hound dog.  In fact, no foxes other than Brer Fox exist in Magic Kingdom's version of the ride.  I imagine the happy foxes could easily be confused with the mischievous Brer Fox set out to kill and eat the attractions main character, Brer Rabbit.

 

The Swamp Boys

The Swamp Boys were made up of the gator trio, a harmonica-playing raccoon (above lower left), and singing frogs.  In Splash Mountain they were divided up, minus the gator trio which stayed together (above lower right).  Notice in the first video posted above the harmonica-playing raccoon is not part of the trio.  Must have been in maintenance that week (or year).  You'll see further down in the post where the raccoon ended up in Splash.

I love comparing the two Marc Davis concepts (above upper left and upper center).  It appears the raccoon was originally supposed to be a harmonica-playing possum.  Are raccoons cuter than possums?  Maybe he wanted variety, considering the fact that a mother possum with her babies was to sing right after the Swamp Boys. The second rendering includes the raccoon and the frogs as part of the Swamp Boys.  This time the gators get clothing.

 
The Swamp Boys frogs (above upper right) appear twice in the Early South act.  They sing Polly Wolly Doodle with the other Swamp Boys and they appear again at the end of the act along with the foxes and hens to sing Lay Down My Burden.  You can see where they are today (above lower left).  The closeup photo of the frog (above lower right) is a replica found in Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain.  Notice the white eyes, lack of spots, and the different style hat.

 

The Boothill Boys

Before ever looking down on human passers-by with their evil grins as the humans approach Splash Mountain's largest drop, the vulture duo appeared in Act II of America Sings (above lower left and center).  For some reason the Boothill Boys didn't keep their top hats or clothing in California (above upper right) but their counterparts in Florida (above lower right) do wear clothes and have hats.  Why?  Not sure because tuxedos and top hats don't exactly fit the story.

 

Mule, Jitterbug-era College Students

In America Sings a mule ridden by Sam and Ollie in Act I - Early South.  Another mule carries the hound dog in Act II - Old West.  One of the mules (below right) can be seen in Splash Mountain "pulling" a wooden cart with America Sings' Jitterbug-era College Students, two female cats, a male wolf, and a male fox.  This time they wear country attire.

 

Saddlesore Swanson, the Turkey

Saddlesore Swanson sings The Old Chisholm Trail in Act II - Old West (above center).  For his Splash Mountain debut (above right) Saddlesore loses the spurs, gets a new hat and trades in his country guitar for one made out of a turtle shell and tree branch.  He keeps a red handkerchief around his neck, but one with a printed pattern this time. 

 

The Rabbit

During the I've Been Working on the Railroad number in Act II, a rabbit and a fox riding on a rail cart (above left) travel across the stage from left to right and back again.  Is this Brer Rabbit??  Marc Davis was directing animator on the 1946 part-animated, part-live action film, Song of the South.  The rabbit is not supposed to be Brer Rabbit, nor is the fox supposed to be Brer Fox.  Of course not.  But I imagine they were influenced by the Song of the South characters Davis worked with decades earlier.  Today you can see the America Sings rabbit playing the part of Brer Rabbit in Splash Mountain riding the same rail cart (above right).  This time he's wearing pants.

 

Geese 

I always loved the animation of the geese.  The facial expressions and the movement in their long necks.

Geese created for Magic Kingdom are given roles as fishermen (above left, center).  One has caught a boot.  The boot is no longer a real boot but one made of light-weight 'WonderFlex' to lessen the burden on the pole and goose figure.  One goose has caught the hat of another goose.  For more than a decade the hat was directly connected to the fishing line without a hook.  Finally at one point a hook was added. Hooray for details. One goose perpetually tries to catch the same jumping fish with a broken net.... that is if the jumping fish mechanism is properly functioning.  

A couple years before closing, America Sings donated the animatronic skeleton of a singing goose (above right) for the queue of Star Tours.  A binocular/Johnny5-like head was added with some other parts and some paint.  Compare the feet of the geese to the feel of the droid.  The droid definitely kept his webbed bird feet.  Of course a new voice was given.  He sings I've Been Working on the Same Droid, his own version of I've Been Working on the Railroad.  From what I know, Disney-MGM Studios in Florida was also given a goose for their Star Tours queue in 1989.

 

Storks and Can-can Geese

In Act III - Gay Nineties (above left) 4 female can-can geese take stage as another female goose sits in a bird cage above.  Two male storks with out-stretched wings rode old-fashioned bicycles.  The can-can geese still dance today aboard the Zip-A-Dee Lady riverboat mentioned earlier.  The goose from the cage is now on a large mushroom, under a larger mushroom (above lower right) in Splash Mountain today.  The male storks now dance in Splash (above upper right)