Tomorrowland’s Top Two Attractions Get Updates
With TRON Lightcycle Run racing towards completion and (hopefully) opening this holiday season at Walt Disney World, work continues to modernize Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. This trend continues with updates to two of our favorites–Carousel of Progress and the PeopleMover.
This comes as Tomorrowland has received a slew of placemaking updates in the last few years, which mostly roll back the Tomorrowland ’94 look to the cleaner style of the original Tomorrowland. Much of this has involved the removal of ornamentation and embellishments, plus new retro-inspired signage replacing more elaborate ones.
The result thus far has been a mixed bag. Tomorrowland once again has Space Age style, with swooping lines and eye-catching visuals that are imbued with a sense of retro-futuristic optimism. However, there’s still a lot of Tomorrowland ’94 in place. Some of this was simply painted over or concealed, likely deemed too costly or involved to restore the retro-futuristic style. Now, changes have come to Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover…
While relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, we’re absolutely ecstatic about these changes. In fact, we’ve been begging for these exact updates for a long time. Four years ago, I posted Tom’s Top 7: Walt Disney World Ride Upgrade Wish List, which put Carousel of Progress near the top and mentioned that the first draft of the wish list had 6 of the 7 entries in Tomorrowland.
That also mentioned a past post I wrote titled “Give Me $2,975 And I Will Fix Carousel of Progress.” Specifically, that underscored just how little money it would take to make the Carousel of Progress finale less embarrassing. My idea was hyperbolic to the extent that I can’t actually build anything–and also in that I know Disney can’t replace a lightbulb without multiple conference calls, research trips, and other costly endeavors. While at least a decade overdue and still not quite what the last act needs in full, some of those changes have finally come to Carousel of Progress. Take a look…
Let’s start on the left side of the living room, where Patricia and grandpa appear above in their old looks.
No major updates really needed for grandpa, who is sporting a relatively timeless style for older men. For a while, Patricia’s oversized pink sweater was woefully outdated and very 1990s. Now, that look has come back into fashion. The clunky white and pink ski boots she’s holding, by contrast, have not. I remember seeing this back in the late 1990s and thinking that those boots looked ancient as compared to ones I had at the time.
Above is grandpa’s new look.
This swaps out the cardigan vest for a cable knit cardigan and plaid slacks. Mostly a lateral move here, which is about right. In Imagineering’s defense, my older relatives also dress more or less the same today as they did in the 1990s. (This is no knock–I’m counting down the days until I can adopt “old man attire” and never buy new clothes again.)
Patricia now has a more modern hairstyle, which is a big improvement. She also sports a “Progress Tech – School of Urban Planning” hoodie. That sweatshirt is a clear reference to Walt Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, the original plan for EPCOT. You can see Walt’s urban planning ambitions in the Progress City model near the beginning of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover.
She also swaps out the 90s pants for plaid pajamas and ski boots for regular winter boots. All in all, a smart update–that style of college hoodie has been around for ages as have plaid pj pants. LL Bean and Sorel have made winter boots that look like that since…the early 1900s? Patty’s outfit should be fairly future-proofed.
Turning to the other side of the room, here’s a look at the four family members (grandma, James, John, and Sarah) in the kitchen of the Carousel of Progress finale before the changes.
Some of the styles here are definitely dated, with hair and attire in need of a refresh. However, as with VR component of the finale, other outfits have come full circle and are back in again–just look at this rugby currently available at J.Crew.
James sports a new grey and blue 1/2-zip pullover. The crest on the left breast features a mountain, sun, and snowflake. I swear I’ve seen this before, but can’t find the crest anywhere–it’s probably from the Matterhorn, but Mineral King is another possibility (and would be a great deep cut).
He also has new jeans and has ditched the Reeboks in favor of some festive slippers. Speaking of which…
These slippers are a clear nod to the goofy reindeer designed by Disney Legend Bill Justice that appeared in Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade until around 2014. These used to have longer tongues but those were shortened–purportedly by an entertainment manager who felt they looked ridiculous.
The current reindeer are perfectly adequate, but that’s precisely the problem. They look like fake reindeer you could find performing anywhere, and lack the personality that define great Disney characters. “Ridiculous” is a good thing–the Bill Justice reindeer are memorable because of their caricatured appearance. I’d love to see them return someday, and thus bring them up from time to time in mostly off-topic places…like here.
Grandma received a whole new look, and it’s fantastic. Her hair and outfit now have the same youthful energy as her performance as a space pilot in Cyber Command.
I’d say this is the biggest improvement of the bunch. It’s also downright amusing how much style has evolved for older women in the past couple of decades, while remaining largely the same for older men. Nice to see grandpa and grandma both looking classy now.
Next, we have John sporting a fresh new haircut that looks like it was hit with some Just for Men.
He’s also wearing a red nordic Christmas sweater, a minor tweak to presumably match his new apron, which reads “My Food Rocks!” That’s another extinct attraction reference, this time to Food Rocks at EPCOT Center, which replaced Kitchen Kabaret and itself was replaced by Soarin.
Finally, Sarah has a new hairstyle that no longer makes her look like a 90s sitcom mom.
The rest of her outfit looks chic and classy, which is quite the contrast to John. I’d imagine this is more or less how Sarah and I look when she’s working at her laptop while I’m starting fires in the kitchen. (Come to think of it, there are some eerily similarities between us and the Progress Parents. Did we unwittingly model our marriage after two robots?!)
No other changes to the set that I could spot. A few years ago, some of the electronics were swapped out (e.g. new TV speakers and a laptop for Sarah). The bulletin board with the iconic “Marty called – wants changes!” message, a reference to Disney Legend Marty Sklar, remains intact. As do newspaper clippings from the 1990s related to computers.
I’m sort of surprised more wasn’t changed. It would’ve been easy to change out the furniture (especially the dining room table and other pieces not in use) or the desktop computer, and that would’ve modernized this scene even more. Perhaps there’s still more work to be done?
What these changes suggest to me is that Carousel of Progress won’t be receiving a new last act anytime soon. Given that, I hope that more minor tweaks to the set are still on the way that modernize the space a bit more. New furniture, appliances, and electronics would be great–and all quick fixes that wouldn’t cost much money.
If I’m really dreaming, I’d love to see the VR video game get updated graphics and headsets. I suspect Disney’s Corporate Alliances division could even get one of the VR companies to foot the bill (and then some) for the changes, in an effort to gain market share and brand recognition. A couple minor tweaks to the script to remove the words “laserdisc” and “carphone” would also be huge.
Otherwise, it’s pretty remarkable just how accurate this last act’s predictions about the future turned out. The aforementioned references to laserdiscs and carphones, plus the video game graphics are a dead giveaway this is from the 1990s. That’s about it, though. The rest of the dialogue could pass for a current conversation about progress. With those minor revisions (plus an interior design refresh), you’d be hard pressed to tell whether this scene was added 3 months ago or nearly 3 decades ago. A few more tweaks and the finale could likely last another decade or longer.
From my perspective, the best long-term move would be to restore the original World’s Fair version of the attraction, with some sort of narrative framing that it’s being presented by the Tomorrowland Metro-Retro Historical Society or something. No one bats an eye at the Progress City model in the TTA, and I think this would work if Tomorrowland embraces retro-futurism in its redesign. This is highly unlikely to happen anytime soon given the outfit refreshes, but would be a good change sometime down the road.
In even bigger news, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover also received a new narration as of July 2022. I still vividly remember being in Magic Kingdom the day the last narration debuted in October 2009. Those were in the nascent days of social media–we heard from Cast Members in the park that changes had occurred, and raced over to ride the TTA in excitement to see what had been added to the attraction. (There were rumors at the time that the ride would be getting new show scenes and lighting effects.)
To say I was devastated would be an understatement. In looking back at our trip report, I went on a thousand-plus word tirade, decrying the new narration as dull and complaining that a “pimply faced, crackling voice, pre-pubescent teenage boy hiccuped from the speaker, talking about Stitch and Pixar.” (I will spare you the rest of my ranting from 2009–the point is that I had strong opinions about the previous narration.)
To some degree, the 2009-2022 TTA PeopleMover narration grew on me over time. I wouldn’t say I ever liked it, but it stopped sending me into a rage long ago. And that’s progress.
The point is that I have strong opinions about narrations for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, and am not easily satisfied. This may not be something about which other Walt Disney World fans give much thought, and understandably so since it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
However, it is something that I find to be very important. For me, a good narration should have personality, quotable lines, and a distinct voice. It’s something that, like so many aspects of a Walt Disney World vacation, sticks in your memory and offers a rush of nostalgia when you hear it again.
Sometimes, it takes experiencing something a few times before developing that fondness or sentimentality. Given that, I went into my first ride aboard the TTA PeopleMover with no expectations for the 2022 narration. To my surprise and delight, I was hooked from the moment the safety spiel started. Take a ride with us:
We actually ended up riding many, many times over the holiday weekend in an attempt to get a clean video. That was easier said than done due to regular breakdowns and loud running “commentary” from fellow travelers. I managed to capture this one night minutes before park closing with no one else around.
While it doesn’t match the 1994-2009 narration for me with that deep voice and quirky script, it’s objectively very good. It’s also a dramatic improvement over the flat narration of the last decade-plus. Not only are there tons of callbacks, but the dialogue is distinct and there are lots of standout lines. This narration is destined to become a classic for a new generation of Magic Kingdom guests, who will likely be as furious as I was when it’s inevitably replaced in another decade or so.
The narration is voiced by an enthusiastic AI known as ORAC-5, which is itself a reference to the ORAC-1 narrator from 1985 to 1994 (another iconic version of the narration for many longtime fans). That’s just one of many references to past incarnations of the attraction.
Most notably, the memorable pre-announcement chime from 1994 makes a reprise. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to hear a chiming noise in my life. It’s such a satisfying sound, and instantly transports me back to 2008. (Maybe I just have more “transportation sound nostalgia” than the average person. I absolutely love train station sound effects and recordings, too.)
Certain lines of dialogue are homages to the Tomorrowland ’94 narration, including parts of the safety spiel and a reference to the TTA Blue Line. There are also references to extinct attractions, including If You Had Wings, Take Flight, and Mission to Mars. There’s also a nod to the old Carousel of Progress theme song, “The Best Time of Your Life (Now is the Time).”
Ultimately, these are relatively minor victories in the grand scheme of additions, changes, and upgrades needed at Walt Disney World. But they are victories. It’s very much worth celebrating these improvements, and drawing attention to them–just as we do with the bad things happening at the parks.
These are the kinds of small details that matter disproportionately to diehard fans, so giving Walt Disney World a bit of “positive reinforcement” could result in similar such improvements in the future. (Conversely, complaining about any and everything disincentivizes Disney from caring about what we think.)
Here’s hoping that Tomorrowland has a bright future and updates this only accelerate as the opening date for TRON Lightcycle Run draws nearer. It would be wonderful if Walt Disney World allowed Imagineering to meld the original Space Age design of this land with the biomimicry and organic stylization of TRON Lightcycle Run to produce something that’s at once futuristic and classic.
Personally, I think clean design and sweeping lines leading to TRON Lightcycle Power Run–with that attraction’s architecture and neon lighting punctuating the style of Tomorrowland–would look fantastic. It’s certainly not perfect, but with the disparate Space Mountain standing tall right next door, there is no perfect solution. At least in this (realistic) scenario, we end up with a Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom that mostly works on an aesthetic level, and is not a visually jarring mishmash of ideas and eras.
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What do you think about the new narration for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and finale updates to the Carousel of Progress at Magic Kingdom? Any hopes for additional updates or an overarching reimagining of the land’s aesthetic before TRON Lightcycle Run opens? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
This was a good blog and had some great jokes but I can’t help but be sad about how many jokes Josh from Easywdw would have made about the outfits from Carousel of Progress.
Yes, but in fairness Josh was a renowned fashionista and I am not.
(It breaks my heart to write about him in past tense. I still check his site regularly, hoping there will be an update and this was all an awkward joke. Opening day of Food & Wine is going to be a tough one this year.)
Speaking of attraction audio nostalgia…that old TTA chime has been my phone text alert sound for many years. It’s like bathing in classic Tomorrowland happiness every time it goes off. Glad it made a return to the ’22 version!
Trying to identify the chime you mentioned – is it heard at the 5 second mark of the video?
Tom, thanks for the update. I like your idea of returning Carousel of Progress to its original state.
I read somewhere that COP is the last ride in any Disney park that Walt directly laid his hands on? That tidbit would be worth a mention as part of the ride.
That would be Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.
Carousel of Progress debuted ~3 years earlier, at the 1964 World’s Fair. 🙂
Perhaps Country Bear Jamboree was his final attraction? I think Marc Davis showed Walt the character sketches for CBJ shortly before his death.
It probably depends on how you define Walt’s involvement in “developing” an attraction. The story there goes that Walt said goodbye to Marc after showing him the Country Bear sketches only a few days before his passing. At the time, the characters were still for a bear band show at Mineral King. Obviously, that never happened and the show ended up being repurposed for Magic Kingdom as Country Bear Jamboree several years later.
As much as I love Country Bear Jamboree, I still think the “most accurate” answer is Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.
Say what you will about your original take on the 2009 version it did include this gem which didn’t age so poorly really… “It would be like being okay with the Winnie the Pooh dark ride being replaced with a much worse attraction featuring Stitch, Jar Jar Binks, and Carrot Top.”
I dunno. Part of me is ready to roll the dice on this Stitch, Jar Jar Binks, and Carrot Top crossover.
So glad to read this! It was time for some updates. Carousel of Progress is very special to me. I am glad they are giving it a refresh, while still maintaining what makes it special. Finally some good news. There has been a lot of negative changes lately. This gives me hope.
These are finally the 50th Anniversary upgrades we’ve been hoping for!
I’m tending toward feelling like this is like an abusive relationship, where they give us tiny little bits of improvement and praise, and we feel all wonderful about it.
And then can ignore the next indignity.
I continue to hope that the lyrics for CoP will be changed to be gender-neutral:
“Man has a dream, and that’s the start…”
“We have a dream, and that’s the start…”
In this context, “Man” *is* gender neutral, used to refer to “Mankine”, ie, HUMANS.
This is especially true of the time period and setting.
“Traditionally, we use man to refer to all human beings, male and female, usually in contrast with other animals.”
That is how it’s being used here, Craig, you’re right. That doesn’t mean it feels inclusive to everyone listening.
I think that’s a great idea for a tiny inclusive tweak
Thanks Craig. If only more people understood the English language. Just another failure of our educational institutions.
Given that the next line is ‘he follows that dream,’ it would be very easy to argue that the line is not referring to mankind as a whole. Yes, that is also supported by the english language in referring to something gender neutral, but it is still exclusive and is syntax that has been changing in recent generations. I wholeheartedly love the song and still flinch at hearing that part. Its a product of the times, but I would be happy with a small tweak too.
with all your observations, the one that floored me is your casual reference to 2009,.. have you really been doing this blog for so long? Wow!! And have I been reading the blog nearly that long? Help me, Mr Wizard!,.. (now, that reference is way before your time!!)
We started the blog in February 2011.
Trip reports on various forums and long-winded captions on Flickr predate it by about 5 years (~2006). This blog then became the “official” home to all of my rambling. 😉
2011! So this blog has been going over 10 years! That’s an accomplishment not to be dismissed!,.. (although I was at the 1964 World’s Fair and saw the Carousel of Progress so with what I know about changes over time I would welcome a Slideshow of Regress,..)
“Come to think of it, there are some eerily similarities between us and the Progress Parents. Did we unwittingly model our marriage after two robots?!”
This is a good blog
I’m so amazed at how steady and clear this video is. Gold stars! I never heard the other PeopleMover narration, and now I am off to find it. I was fond of the previous iteration but it was all I knew. We’ll be checking this out next month for sure (while we melt and sit on PeopleMover to get some breeze).
Thanks for the kind words–I guess I should shoot video more often!
In case you haven’t found it, here’s the old version (1994-2009) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QkeuBene0w
Ugh…like salt in the wound for us West Coasters….BRING BACK THE DISNEYLAND PEOPLEMOVER AND CAROUSEL THEATER!!!!!
Yes! As a WDW vet, when I visit DL, I miss not having CoP and peoplemover
My daughter and I loved the video of the TTA PeopleMover. She excitedly pointed at everything she saw. “That’s a castle! That’s a roller coaster!” Thank you so much for that.
Wow, 10/10 on that Peoplemover video. I’ve watched way too many over the years, and this is by far the best. Thanks for posting!
Really?! Thanks for the kind words. I’ve been going on minimal sleep and kept upright entirely by caffeine at this point, so I’m surprised my hands weren’t more shaky!
Perhaps we have an unpopular opinion of TTA. We rode both the Peoplemover and COP over the holiday weekend. We were disappointed in the narration for Peoplemover as the timing seemed off and key elements were missing. Paging Mr. Morrow was noticeably absent from the Starport section of the ride and crammed in later where you barely hear it. While they still use Tim Allen’s voice for Buzz Lightyear, the new edited version is so short that it lacks its usual excitement. This is one time that the revisions just didn’t live up to the nostalgic past.
As for COP, the updates were quite refreshing. Narration was better timed to flow with the production. The essence of the show was tastefully preserved.
How many times did you ride, and did the attraction stop at all during your ride? I noticed that some of the narration either didn’t play or the timing was off during a few of our (many) rides with stoppages.
Not 100% sure, but I don’t think that is (or was) Tim Allen’s voice.
While it’s always been Pat Fraley in the Buzz Lightyear rides on both coasts, I believe Tim Allen’s voice is used for Toy Story rides on both coasts.
I was under the impression that the final scene of CoP would never be updated beyond the turn of the century so that the show encompassed 1900 – 1999 and no further. The 1900/1920/1940/1960 scenes with their every-20-year “things can’t get any better” had already done a 50 year leap from the 1940s to the 1990s.
If that’s the intent, I think it needs better framing at the beginning of the attraction. (And that could easily be added.)
My interpretation is/was that the first 3 scenes are historical, whereas the finale is meant to be contemporary.
I think I’m basing my impression off “may the century begin”
patricia has the same slippers as jimmy, and i love them. loving patricia’s new look. what about grandma, any major changes?
Yikes, I can’t believe I missed that one–she improved the most out of anyone!!!
Grandma has been added now; thanks for the heads up.
I am glad they retained the final scene in COP. Four legendary deceased voice actors/actresses in that one scene: Rex Allen, Jean Shepherd, Mel Blanc, and Janet Waldo
That’s the tough thing about making anything other than superficial changes. I feel like they could use similar voices (or AI?) to replace specific words–laserdiscs and car phones–but that’s really about it.
Thankfully, not more than that is really necessary. The VR game could be changed without any accompanying change in dialogue–just upgrade the graphics and headsets.
Tom, we had a pretty memorable social media altercation over the 2009 narration and I’m glad we can both agree that the new version is excellent XD Probably the best overall narration it’s had, even if ORAC-1 remains the gold standard (for me)
I do not recall that, but I also don’t recall writing some of the things I did about the 2009 narration–holy cow was I mad.
Based on that alone, I apologize for our altercation because I’m pretty sure I would’ve been the one at fault. I definitely overreacted to the narration change!
I’d also agree that this is probably the best overall/most well-rounded narration, even if the Tomorrowland ’94 one remains the gold standard (for me). 😉
Does the last scene in Carousel of Progress still make reference to laser discs? That line always dated the attraction in a big way.
You know, “stream and disks” fits the cadence well enough and you might only need to replace two syllables.
(I would *swear* after the closing/LGM sign takeover in the 00s they flipped back and forth between “laserdisks” and versions of “video disks,” with the latter either throwing off the lip-sync or too rushed to be understood unless you expected to hear it or “laser.”
This is in parenthesis because either it’s a false memory or no one else on the internet ever noticed it, which would be really highly unlikely if it was true.)