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Walt Disney and the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, Part 4: 'At The Intersection Of Commerce And Progress'


Progressland - which, as GE boasted, was located "at the intersection of Commerce and Progress Avenues" - featured several exciting exhibits. After guests entered through a dazzling hall of mirrors, the Skydome Spectacular, where a "sequence of thunder, lightning, solar flares, and spinning atoms" awaited them. At the end of the ramp that led down into the show space, visitors witnessed the "first demonstration of controlled thermonuclear fusion to be witnessed by a large general audience" every six minutes. Following a dramatic countdown, a loud report and vivid flash let guests know that the fusing of deuterium atoms at 20 million degrees Fahrenheit had taken place.

The Medallion City exhibit allowed visitors to see a couple dozen tableau of innovations in electric appliances and utilities that purported to demonstrate all-electric living for the near future - using GE products, naturally. The Toucan And Parrot Electric Utility Show blended Audio-Animatronics and animation to humorously discuss the state of electricity between the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs. On the outside of the pavilion, the roof glowed with dancing lights. In the evenings, a beautiful fountain and fireworks show helped make Progressland one of the most popular attractions at the Fair.

But the centerpiece of the pavilion was Walt Disney's brainchild, now called the Carousel of Progress. Instead of the walk-through theaters of the original Edison Square concept, guests to the Carousel of Progress sat in a round theater which revolved past central stages in which an Audio-Animatronic narrator shared how his family benefited from new electric innovations. (One gossip columnist lamented the fact that she discovered that the show's narrator was not a real man.) Each of the show's short acts took place in different decades, from the 1890s to the 1960s. In all, Imagineers designed and built 32 animatronic characters for the show all bearing Walt's inimitable stamp.