50 YEARS OF PROGRESS
Today, 50 years ago, the New York World’s Fair of 1964 opened its gates and dazzled the world with an array of experiences and exhibits that encapsulated not only the zenith for themed exhibitions, but the frenetic culture of America in the 1960s.
Imbued with a sense of optimism, technical artistry, and corporate might, the 1964 World’s Fair remains as a watershed moment for pinpointing our place in the 20th century’s politics and scientific achievements.
There is a sense of history about the fair for the story of Disney, too. Four Disney designed attractions debuted on April 22: it’s a small world, GE’s Progressland pavilion, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and Ford’s Magic SkyWay.
it’s a small world has enjoyed 50 years of operation, at all 5 Disney resorts around the world. Mary Blair’s iconic style is now synonymous with Disney’s name and is a hallmark of the warm and evocative spirit that Disney seeks to further. The Sherman brother’s prayer for peace is now an anthem sung around the world.
The Carousel of Progress still spins on in the Magic Kingdom, a touchstone for the values and mainstays of Walt Disney’s personal touch and legacy. The Carousel of Progress’ influence in EPCOT’s Future World remains readily apparent and relevant.
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln enjoys a place of prominence on Disneyland’s Main Street, USA, boasting patriotic pathos and a tie to both the thematic and the historical past of the United States.
And, the Magic SkyWay, though not totally intact, still has vestiges of its grandeur in the Primeval World along the Disneyland Railroad and EPCOT’s Universe of Energy.
But, what is really remarkable about the New York World’s Fair is how much it altered things for Walt Disney and WED Enterprises. It was at the 1964 Fair that Walt Disney began to see the possibility for an ‘East Coast Disneyland’, sparking the development of what would become Walt Disney World. And in turn, EPCOT City, the centerpiece of the Florida Project was borne out of the corporate and industrial alliances that the Disney organization made at the World’s Fair. Beyond the expansion of property and venue, though, the technology at the World’s Fair advanced Disney’s thematic prowess. Full size Audio Animatronics came into prominence in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the Carousel of Progress. The flume used in it’s a small world was seen as a viable conveyance for use in Pirates of the Caribbean. And Ford’s SkyWay was the precursor to the Peoplemover and the Omnimover systems. In the course of two to three years, Disney’s involvement in the New York World’s Fair had set them on an astronomical trajectory to new heights of art and illusion.
Happy 50th, New York World’s Fair.
Throughout the day, I’ll be reblogging and uploading some of my favorite posts on the NYWF and it’s accomplishments. Stay tuned.
Carousel of Progress Kaleidoscope
This 1963 rendering by Claude Coats reveals some of the earliest plans for the Carousel of Progress, Disney’s exhibit for GE at the New York World’s Fair. Most of the form and function from this design remain, with the addition of a larger base and a extension of the sweeping Space Age buttresses that swept up the entire length of the building on the final design.
What didn’t remain, however, is the vivid use of the color spectrum on the building. Added in to lighten up the rather stark facade, the vibrant swaths of sequential colors would have “faded” into each other as the building rotated, suggesting more kinetic movement for each rotation that the building took.
The final version of the Carousel theater, instead, had a roof, tiled in color changing lights that would play different patterns and color schemes to achieve the same spinning effect.
Walt Disney World’s Carousel of Progress, meanwhile, boasted a striped pattern on it’s facade. To allow for the Carousel’s kinetics to really be eye catching, this design would “grow”, as the pavilion rotated, and the stripes would get “thicker” to create a pleasant optical illusion.
"The cosmos. A universe of good and evil…"
We don’t get much backstory on just who Captain EO is. We know he’s part of some sort of corps, that he’s messed up his missions before, and -oh yea- he’s “infamous.” But why would they call him infamous? That’s not such a kind word for a hero. I say…
Very cool, also very uncanny valley. Perhaps they’re trying to bring back the scary part of Snow White’s Scary Adventures?
First Look: Feast Your Eyes On Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Characters | Walt Disney World | Disney Parks (by Disney Parks)
…..really not sure how I feel about this. The advances in technology are certainly what I expect from Disney in the parks, and that is to be applauded: these look much better and more fluid than Buzz Lightyear’s face in Astro Blasters, matched to the original style of the characters well - but I go back and forth on it.
Of course with the faces being full animation, they get a ton more movement and expression than they would even with an advanced AA - but so used to seeing either the robotic characters of the best most fluid sort (Mr. Lincoln, the auctioneer, Ursula) or projected faces being humans (the singing busts or Little Leota) that this still just seems pretty weird to me. Sebastian in Little Mermaid works, with the eyes being projected and the rest robotic.
Will have to see in person, and likely move past them pretty fast - something about Dopey in this in particular seems off or weird, like the face doesn’t match qualities of the body quite, and the nose not moving on all the figures, looks like doesn’t quite match animated bits. It’s very interesting to see the new uses of tech, though.