Jul 2, 2007

40th Anniversary Carousel of Progress - Peoplemover - Rocket Jets

Carousel of Progress, Rocket Jets and the Peoplemover and all opened on July 2, 1967 and outside of premiering on the same day and all being in Tomorrowland, they don't seem to have too much in common. But these three rides do share a common thread. All three attractions started as a sort of round peg in a square hole idea.

Carousel of Progress

When Disneyland opened in 1955 there were hundreds of good ideas that didn't make the final cut. Some were just ahead of their time while others needed more money. One of these ideas waiting for a bigger budget was Edison Square.

Edison Square was originally designed as a separate crossroad adjacent to Main Street that showcased household inventions from the turn of the century to modern times. You know it was an idea Walt truly loved because it appeared on the first Disneyland Souvenir map.

As Edison waited for an influx of cash, the idea kept expanding and Disneyland real estate was shrinking. It wasn't long before the square had outgrown it's intended space and the idea had to be shelved. Fortunately, this was not the kind of idea that goes gently into the night.

The Edison concept was adapted to become General Electrics "Carousel of Progress" introduced at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. The attraction featured three generations of an animatronic American family showing off the "newest" inventions in their homes. The lifelike animatronic figures coupled with the novel idea of a permanent stage and a rotating audience made the ride one of the top 5 at the fair.

When Carousel was through with it's New York run, Disney packed up his electric puppets and rebuilt the round rotating theater in Disneyland. The show ran until 1973 when it was shipped to WDW to make way for America Sings.

By the way, Carousel of Progress wasn't Walt's only World's Fair ride. He built four different rides for four major sponsors. While on a fact finding mission for Ford's ride, Disney accidentally inspires a new transportation system.


Walt and Imagineer John Hench are visiting the Ford steel plant in Detroit Michigan. They are there to better understand the company and get ideas for Ford's 1964 World's Fair attraction. The huge ingots of steel are being worked, heated and pressed and it's all moving from station to station on a long track of rollers. Walt turns to John and asks, "Do you think we could put a seat on something like this?"

That simple question evolves into the Wedway Peoplemover; a low maintenance continually moving transportation system that uses magnets to propel the cars. The concept is so successful, it's offered to communities and industries outside of Disneyland. Sadly, very few ever take Imagineering up on the offer but the Disney version still lives at WDW and the Orlando Airport.

Rocket Jets

The Astro Jets first opened at Disneyland in 1956. When Walt decides to redesign Tomorrow-land in the 60's, he wants to keep the popular little ride, but finding a place for it in the new expansion is problematic.

In 1965, while four of Walt Disney's new rides are wowing audiences at the World's Fair, Walt and his band of merry men are secretly criss-crossing the United States looking for a site for a bigger better Disneyland. This is giving much of Disney's top staff a lot of air time aboard the company plane. It also means a lot of impromptu strategy sessions are happening in the friendly skies.

In one of these meetings, Walt gets the idea to move the AstroJets to the top of the new Peoplemover. He's so excited he actually gets out pen & paper and sketches the thing himself. If I'm not mistaken [and I usually am; I know just enough to be dangerous], Walt's sketch included the 3 story gantry guests used to board the three story rockets.

The new design now makes the ride even more popular than before with both adults and kids waiting to see a new Tomorrowland from 30 feet up. It also creates a ride loading nightmare and three hour lines but that's a tale for another time.

So what's the moral to the three little stories Kids? [I know nobody asked for a moral to the stories but it's my blog not yours. Sit down and stop complaining.]

The moral here kids is to always remember that the best ideas are made of clay, not chiseled in stone. No. I didn't say stoned, I said stone. You know, like a rock.

Jeez people, stay focused. This is a family blog.

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