by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)
This post is Summer themed simply due to the following:
1.) I saw Carousel of Progress for the first time in the Summer.
2.) Disney is a theme park and I consider theme parks a Summertime Trope.
For those of you who don’t know, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress (its proper name) is an attraction built in the early 60’s for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Disney, being a smart businessman, made a deal with the various sponsors to design and build some World’s Fair attractions with the stipulation that once the fair was over, he could have the attractions. Once over, Disney dismantled Carousel of Progress, It’s a Small World, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and the dinosaurs from Ford’s Magic Skyway.
The Carousel is a four act animation play about the progress of the American family over a 60ish year period. Just before the turn of the century, 1920s, 1940s, and (*originally) the 1960s. The show was unique for its audio animations and the theater it is in. The stage is static and the seating area moves (between scenes).
The show has changed over the years with some updating and even rewriting of the theme (thanks to a profit hungry General Electric). Originally, the show was narrated by the animatronic host voiced by (then) famous star Rex Allen. Later when the new theme was applied from ‘A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow’ to ‘Now is the Time’) sung by show narrator Andrew Duggan. When attraction was brought back to its more popular theme the narration/song was voiced by famous ‘A Christmas Story’ voice actor Jean Shepherd. This change is what my blog is about…
Rex Allen was the better… I don’t care what you say.
The original narration is smooth and natural. Rex Allen has a great voice and delivers his in a natural way. Just listen: (you can skip ahead to the 2:10 mark when he starts or check out the 4:00 mark for his 1st act to start)
The 2nd iteration is the ‘Now is the Best Time of your Life’ version. G.E. agreed to continue to sponsor the attraction when it opened in Disney World IF the attraction was re-themed… enjoy life now (as opposed to a beautiful tomorrow). I personally like the song though not as good as Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. Most fans despise it. What I don’t like about it is the narration. It seems stilted and does not flow as naturally as Rex Allen’s delivery. Just listen: (go to the 4:00 mark to compare opening of act 1. Sure this audio doesn’t sound as good as the original video link I sent but you get the idea.)
The final version here is the ‘tribute’ version. The attraction went back to the Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow theme and a new narration was done by Jean Shepherd. This is the version you can see today in Florida. This version sounds even less smooth and the scene-connecting song segments sound almost like a parody. Just listen: (again, go to the 3:08 mark for the beginning of act 1. Also check out the connecting song parts. Poor Jean sounds great but can’t sing worth a lick.)
My opinions on Rex Allen’s performance might be tainted by the fact that the audio is clean, his smooth dulcet voice, and the vintage aspect of the show but that’s my opinion and I am sticking to it!
Some tidbits that all you fans might not know (fans will know all this of course):
- The Grandpa on the chair in Act 4 is Rex Allen’s voice.
- Uncle Orville and the parrot are voiced by Mel Blanc.
- The version at Disneyland shut down to become the similar show America Sings for the Bicentennial in 1974. A worker got her head crushed during the show transitions scenes and died (this was 9 days after it opened). Read it here.
- The original Act 4 was set in ‘modern times’ of the 1960s. It was updated in the 90s to be somewhere in the 2000s but even now it seems really outdated.
- There is talk of a new update coming but we will see…
- There is a lot of history to this attraction. Check out Martin’s Videos on YouTube for some insightful stuff.
Nathan Stout is having the Best Time of his Life when it comes to Disney.