On the evening of Sunday, November 10, I headed to the Magic Kingdom with my friends Estelle and Katherine. It was nearly 10pm, and I was concerned that even though the park closed at midnight, and was open until 2am for Extra Magic Hours, if we didn’t hurry the Carousel of Progress would be closed for the night. My fears were confirmed as we arrived shortly after 10pm to discover that the attraction’s entrance ramps were roped off. Estelle recommended we head over to Space Mountain, however some investigation was required first. Being an enormous Carousel of Progress fan, I have arrived to ride it at night and found it roped off on more than one occasion (sometimes it stays open till park-close, sometimes not). This time, something was different. Normally it’s just roped off, and there is either a single CM (cast member) at the controls wrapping things up, or the loading area is completely deserted. On this night, there was an actual sign that stated “Carousel of Progress is closed for the day,” and I noticed quite a bit of activity around the attraction’s entrance. Soon a few more cast members appeared near the ride’s right-side entrance, so of course I went over to talk to them. "Hey if you guys are going to fix some things, let me tell you what it needs. The audio in scene one is way too low. In scene three—" The CM chuckled and advised me that it was not down for refurb. They were just getting ready to film some scenes from Brad Bird’s highly-anticipated film Tomorrowland. "Oh," I replied.
I do not live local to any Disney parks. Most of my writing falls under the “Disney Historian” category. That said, I never get to break news. As a huge Carousel of Progress fan, I leapt at the chance to be the one to share this information. This tweet actually took me a couple of minutes to word properly.
|Please excuse the photo quality, the above images are all iPhone pics|
My friends very graciously hung around as I snooped, peeked, spied, and worried. I snapped a few photos and tweeted them, and yes, this tweet from Estelle may actually be true. The Carousel of Progress already needs some TLC, and my concern was that this film-shoot was going to exacerbate its disrepair. We eventually took our leave of Tomorrowland (both the land and the film set), but to no one’s surprise, I had already decided I was going to return the next day. And return the next day, I did.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was hoping to accomplish. Honestly, I just love that ride and wanted to be around as they were doing stuff in it. I hung around way longer than I probably should have, but I ended up getting some pretty good photos. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Brad Bird before, so when he showed up on set, I recognized him immediately.
|Wait a second, I recognize that guy in the orange hat|
I left and came back a few times, just to check on the production’s “progress” (see what I did there?). At some point I noticed that you could sort of make out a little of the set in the first theater (in the current Carousel of Progress, the first theater welcomes you with a multi-color-lighted attraction sign shaped as a gear, and narration from Jean Shepherd). That wasn’t the case on this day, as through my snooping, I could immediately tell they were re-creating the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair version of the ride. An old school General Electric logo was visible, as were some glowing lights that strongly resembled the lights from the first theater in the Progressland (NYWF) version, which was known as the “Kaleidophonic Screen”.
|I spy a GE logo!|
|Kaleidophonic Screen is visible here|
Soon after that, while in line to ride the Peoplemover, I noticed some of the extras were dressed in 60s apparel.
|Someone got a better photo of these folks - I was farther away by the time they came out - But you can still make out the 60s outfits!|
|The photos I took while riding the Peoplemover|
While the specific plot of Tomorrowland is still not 100% clear, clever marketing and Brad Bird’s involvement have created an extremely high interest in the film, which is currently due out in theaters in 2015. The official IMDB page describes the story as: "Bound by a shared destiny, a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor jaded by disillusionment embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory as 'Tomorrowland.' "
|Tomorrowland Director chairs|
I returned the day after filming, to see if in fact anything had been messed up/with. While not a big deal, I did notice that when they removed the gear sign in the first theater, they didn’t put it back on correctly. Instead of sitting straight, it sort of tilts up. And while I was told they weren’t filming in the actual attraction scenes, I also noticed that the calendar from the wall in scene one was inexplicably now hanging from the end of the telephone. Also, I think they actually added a card and flowers for Father's wife Sarah (it is Valentine's Day in that scene, after all). And yes, I am a huge nerd for even having noticed any of that.
|They put the sign back wrong! It's tilted up|
|The sign in the last theater, as you can see it's perfectly straight|
Oh, and speaking of being a huge nerd. I felt the need to pose with what was going on.
As I tweeted that first night, the very fact that Brad Bird would go to the trouble of filming inside the real Carousel of Progress shows that he gets it. He seems determined to produce the best work possible while maintaining the integrity of Walt’s legacy. Aside from the first Spider-Man, the Star Wars prequels (whomp whomp) and the TRON sequel, I can’t recall ever being as excited to see a film.