Friday, January 9, 2015

#24 - Carousel of Progress

Category: Slow Rides
Category Rank: 4

Park: Magic Kingdom
Park Rank: 10

We finally made the top 10 at Magic Kingdom, and our next one up definitely fits the bill of nostalgia.  In fact, it is nostalgia about nostalgia, if you will.  Meta.

The Carousel of Progress debuted at the 1964 World Fair in New York.  It then went to Disneyland for a while before being moved over to the Magic Kingdom, where it has stayed since the park opening.  According to multiple reports, this was Walt Disney's favorite attraction, and the one he wanted to stay open forever.

The ride itself barely qualifies as either a ride or a carousel.  You sit in a 240-seat auditorium, which faces the center of a giant ring.  You then rotate to six different scenes within the ring.  Or rather, the whole ring rotates (hence the "carousel").  Each scene depicts another place in history:

• Scene 1 - Loading
• Scene 2 - Valentine's Day - 1900s
• Scene 3 - 4th of July - 1920s
• Scene 4 - Halloween - 1940s
• Scene 5 - Christmas - Modern Times
• Scene 6 - Unloading

The Modern Times section has been updated many times throughout the years, adding additional technology as it becomes mainstream in the culture.

Each of the scenes is acted out by animatronic characters of the same family.  They don't age as they go through the scenes; it is as though they are simply transported from one to another.  Whereas the animatronics we saw in Haunted Mansion aren't as pronounced, the animatronics here won't fool anyone.  They are classic animatronic characters, moving in their semi-robotic gestures and generic mouth movements when speaking.

The Carousel of Progress is, in many ways, a strange ride within the park.  It has no thrills whatsoever (even Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean have a little thrill factor).  It also is not tailored for little kids like It's a Small World, Peter Pan, or Winnie the Pooh.  It is primarily educational, and often the educational rides are reserved for Epcot, or maybe Animal Kingdom.

There is really only four different reasons you would go on a ride like this: 1) You've gone to the park 6 times and you say "We've got to try out this ride", 2) It is raining, 3) You are doing the WDW46 challenge, or 4) You love nostalgia.  Because of this, typically this is a walk-on ride without any lines (just wait for the next show to start).

However, it is surprisingly good.  At least for our family, we have quite enjoyed the story, the reminiscing about times in the past we weren't alive for, and of course, the song.

Yes, once again, another attraction from Magic Kingdom buoyed by the song on the Celebration CD.

You have to love that song, in conjunction with the album art... straight out of the past.

So, what about its place on this list?  If a person is serious about creating a list of top events, Carousel of Progress would have to be on it.  Not only is it an original attraction, but it also holds the record for the longest running show with the most performances ever.  Couple that with being Walt's favorite, plus it being classic animatronics and about nostalgia itself, and this is a must entry.  This item is the centerpiece item for the "Progress Towards Tomorrow" theme for Disney.

However, its place on the list will range.  Some might have it extremely high on this list.  We've lowered it a bit for two reasons.  One, while we like the ride considerably, you will see a change starting with #21 on the list towards activities that are special primarily to us as a family.  The Carousel of Progress was not an attraction that we visited for the first 4 trips we took, so it loses out.  Plus, few people think of the ride synonymously with WDW like they do Dumbo or It's a Small World.  In fact, few people think of it at all unless they are at the park.  For this reason, we put it down a bit as well.

We are up to #23 next, and it features are top nostalgic show in the entire list.  This 4D show is also at Magic Kingdom, and we'll discuss the "First Day" concept as well.

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