Saturday, October 8, 2016

Exclusive Excerpt of "A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Vol. 1": The Carousel of Progress

It is raining here in North Carolina. Hard.

Hurricane Matthew has been dumping inches of rain on the Triad for the past 36 hours and will continue to do so until midnight tonight.

And I have a terrible case of cabin fever.

I've watched Space Jam with my son, worked on some fall crafts with my wife, taken a nap, played with my boys, and ate paninis. I'm going stir crazy.

Which got me thinking about Walt Disney World and how I wish I could be in my favorite place. I'm sure those in the Disney community would like the same. So I thought I'd give an exclusive excerpt of volume 1 to my Twitter followers and readers of Distalgic.

I present to you my analysis of scene two from the Carousel of Progress.

Scene Two: The 1920s
            As the Carousel Theater rotates counterclockwise, a new scene comes into view. The audience quickly realizes that they are looking at an almost identical kitchen; Disney has never officially stated whether the Carousel of Progress features the same family throughout the show or four separate, but similar families. Because the characters all have the same names, look very similar throughout the show, and are voiced by the same actors and actresses, we can assume that it is the same family throughout the twentieth century.
            The kitchen is almost identical in layout, but with some cosmetic updates across the twenty-five or so years that have taken place since the first scene. The right window that previously created a nook for the stove has now been flattened against the back wall of the house. The wood paneling that stretched halfway up the wall is gone, now replaced by lime green paint. Also, wires hang all over the kitchen, stretching from the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling to the wall and various appliances throughout the kitchen. Outside the windows are a series of buildings, leading us to believe that the neighborhood that the Carousel family lives in has grown in size and become more urban over the past two decades. The exterior mural is lit as though the scene takes place in the evening or just after dusk. A large American flag hangs outside the window behind the narrator.
            Once the theater comes to a stop, the audience has a moment to take in the scene as John begins his monologue. A white Hotpoint Automatic Electric stove sits centered between the two windows. Beneath the left window, similar to the prior scene, is a sink with two taps. John sits backwards in a wooden chair, facing the audience with a kitchen table behind him, atop which sits a Singer sewing machine. To his left is a vacuum cleaner. Against the back wall of the kitchen, between the windows, are a series of shelves, upon which sit containers with labels for their contents. An herb cabinet sits beneath an electric clock, and an electric toaster and a coffee pot sit on top of the stove. In front of John is a footstool, with a tray holding a large glass pitcher of ice tea sits beside a full glass topped with a piece of lemon. John himself is dressed a blue collared shirt and bowtie, with brown slacks. He holds a paper fan in his right hand advertising Niagara Falls. 
            John begins by explaining that the scene takes place on Fourth of July, and that the day has been an extremely hot one. As a result, our narrator fans himself with a paper fan, which was purchased at Niagara Falls. The popular destination is not one waterfall, but actually a collection of three separate waterfalls that straddle the American-Canadian border, with the American and Bridal Veil Falls on the American side in New York State and the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side in Ontario. As automobiles became more popular and common after World War One ended in 1918, auto-tourism boomed, bringing more visitors to Niagara Falls. As a result of John’s fan, we can assume that the Carousel family joined the many Americans that had recently visited the Falls due to the prevalence of automobiles, which, we will later learn, is entirely possible due to John’s new Essex car.
            Our narrator goes on to explain the big current events that have occurred over the past twenty years, including the solo flight of Charles Lindbergh, which, in common John fashion, he lauds as likely to be unsuccessful. He also explains the growth of sports stadiums, and excitedly explains the accomplishments of a new baseball player named Babe Ruth. John also describes a new form of music called Jazz, as well as a new film starring silent film actor, Al Jolson, who will talk and sing in the film, explaining how much he is looking forward to seeing this unlikely technology.
            Charles Lindbergh, a pilot working for the United States Postal Service delivering mail via airplane in the 1920s, became famous on an international scale when he was twenty-five by becoming the first individual to fly across the Atlantic Ocean by himself, a trip lasting thirty hours and stretching 3,600 miles. Lindbergh took off in Garden City, New York’s Roosevelt Field on May 20th, 1927, and landed at Le Bourget Field in Paris, France on May 21st, 1927 in his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis (proving John once again wrong in his assessment). As a result of this accomplishment, Lindbergh received the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 reward offered by Raymond Orteig, a New York hotel owner, to any aviator who would make a non-stop flight from New York City to Paris in 1919. Because he was an officer in the US Army Air Corps Reserve, Lindbergh was also awarded the Medal of Honor for his exploits. As a result of his accomplishment, Lucky Lindy became a national hero, becoming the subject of songs, postage stamps, and even inspiring the first Mickey Mouse cartoon drawn (and the second released), “Plane Crazy.”
            Spectator sports became popular in the 1920s, particularly baseball. A few different reasons contributed to this phenomena: radio began to become common in the home, on which games were broadcast; newspapers became more common, reporting on statistics of various players and events; new groups of people, such as African Americans and Latinos became involved in the sport, ushering in a new pool of talent into the game; and playing fields became enclosed, which allowed leading to the explosion of large stadiums holding immense crowds of people to watch the game. Also, a transition to the use of cork-centered balls rather than wound thread allowed for an emphasis on batting, rather than defensive pitching or fielding. This development led to a large fan-following of baseball legends, such as Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth. George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr. was actively playing for Major League Baseball from 1914 until 1935, pitching for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Ruth was infamous due to his reckless behavior and public womanizing, but also was well known for his batting average, hitting a total of seven hundred fourteen career homeruns, breaking the single-season homerun record of twenty-nine home runs in 1919, fifty-four in 1920, fifty-nine in 1921, and sixty in 1927. Ruth became a national idol of the 1920s, serving as a hero for young men and the envy of the middle aged during the 1920s and 1930s.
            John also explains the popular forms of contemporary entertainment of the 1920s, beginning by describing jazz as “the cat’s meow.” One of the most popular forms of music of the time, jazz music emerged in different cities throughout the United States during the era of Prohibition. In the early 1920s, the United States legislature passed the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. As a result, an illegal alcohol market developed, being sold and served in illicit clubs called speakeasies. Entertainment was offered at speakeasies, including musicians playing a new form of music, called jazz. A few different cities became the hub of jazz music in the United States, including Chicago and New Orleans. Some of the most famous jazz musicians are still known today, including Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong. With roots in the slave spirituals of the 1850s and 1860s, as well as ragtime and blues music of the early 1900s, jazz became a popular form of music throughout the United States and eventually inspired the swing movement of the 1940s and rock and roll music of the 1950s and 1960s.
            Jazz was so popular that film studios incorporated the music into their films. One of the most popular films of the 1920s, released in 1927, was The Jazz Singer, starring silent film actor, Al Jolson. The film was a technological accomplishment during the decade, as it was the first feature-length film to synchronize pre-recorded dialogue and music to the film being projected on the screen of a movie house, bringing the end of the silent age of film and the beginning of the era of the “talkies.” While The Jazz Singer was not the first film to have synchronized sound, which had been around since 1923, it was the first film to have synchronized speech and songs, which began approximately seventeen minutes into the film. While the film only had approximately two minutes of actual synchronized dialogue, the ability of speech and singing synchronization between sound and film was revolutionary. The recording of the sound for the film was recorded at the same time as the film itself, with the motor driving the cameras and audio recording equipment working together. Thus, when playing in a theater, both the film and sound record would be played at the same time and synced up for viewers.
             The plot of The Jazz Singer follows a young Jewish man who rejects the tradition of his family by becoming a singer of jazz music. The main character of the film, Jack Robin, played by Jolson, performed in blackface, wearing a suit and covering his face in black makeup to create the illusion that he is an African American singer, a practice that was common in American minstrel shows, film, and radio shows from the 1830s until the 1950s. The film is a very controversial film to modern audiences, as it is seen as culturally insensitive and extremely racist, but at the time was commonplace. Popular actors and actresses of the 1920s and 1930s participated in blackface performances, including Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, and Judy Garland.
            John moves away from the current events of the 1920s to discuss the technological innovations manipulated by the common folk. He laughs to himself over a neighbor, Schwartz, who enjoys beeping the horn of his “Hupmobile.” Built by the Hupp Motor Company between 1909 and 1940, which was founded by brothers Robert Craig and Louis Gorham Hupp of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Hupmobile was produced to directly compete against Ford and Chevrolet. Unfortunately, the Hupp Motor Company and its Hupmobile came to a demise as a result of the Great Depression during the late 1930s.
            While Schwartz did not choose a long-lasting automobile company, John was a little luckier purchasing a car from Essex. Manufactured by the Hudson Motor Car Company, which was begun by department store owner and founder, Joseph L. Hudson of Detroit, the Essex line of automobiles also sought to be in direct competition with Ford and Chevrolet for the pocketbooks of those wishing to get the best deal for their money. In fact, sales of Essex automobiles were listed as the third most sold automobiles in the United States in 1925. Essex automobiles would later be phased out in 1938, making a change in name to Terraplane. John explains that as a result of his new Essex automobile, he is now able to easily start his car using the electric starter, whereas in previous vehicles he had to start his engine by turning a hand crank, which was an inconvenient, difficult, and dangerous process.
            John continues to explain the accomplishments of travel in the United States in the 1920s, by explaining that travelers can get from New York to Los Angeles by train in only three days. Whereas in the 1920s, trains were traveling at speeds up to one hundred miles per hour, with averages of approximately forty-miles per hour, including frequent stops. Technology had developed during the early decades of the twentieth century, making train travel more common for passengers on cross country trips, leading to shorter trips from one side of the continent to the other.
            At this point in the scene, John finally addresses the tangled mess of wires hanging throughout his kitchen, attributing to “new electrical servants” who “add life to [the] home,” courtesy of Thomas Edison. Suddenly, fast paced music begins and the lights begin to flicker as the appliances come to life: the vacuum inflates and begins to sweep back and forth in the corner, the oven door of the stove begins to open and shut, the kitchen appliances on top of the stove begin moving around, and the door of the refrigerator opens while the light inside is illuminated and extinguished. Suddenly, the lights to the home go out, which John attributes to the appliances blowing a fuse. Unfortunately, he also blows a fuse to the entire neighborhood, which evokes angry protests from his neighbors. John sends his son, Jimmy, who we have not yet seen in the scene, outside to reset the fuse box and restore power to the home.
            During the early decades of the twentieth century, a flood of new inventions were developed bringing electrical appliances into the home. However, because no one had yet developed the concept of an electrical outlet, and because it cost so much to embed new wiring into the walls of a home or building, new electric wires were strung throughout the home, connecting into the lighting fixtures in order to provide electrical power to the various appliances. Because electricity became common in the homes, new machines were developed to make chores and the everyday lives of Americans easier and more efficient. Electric vacuum cleaners were invented to allow for fewer steps in sweeping the floor. Rather than constantly adding to and stoking a stove fueled by wood or charcoal, electric ranges and ovens were developed utilizing coils that became red hot from electrical currents. The ice delivery men also quickly became obsolete, as electric refrigerators developed by General Electric and Kelvinator began utilizing compressors, fans, and sulfur dioxide to cool the inside of the refrigerator, allowing for the home manufacturing of ice cubes and longer food preservation. However, because consumption of electricity was not regulated by power companies and because technology had yet been developed for grounding and preventative shortages, overusing electrical power in the home often led to the blowing of fuses, as evidenced in the Carousel family home.
            After Jimmy resets the fuse, the lights to the home come back on, illuminating not only the kitchen, but also the scene on the turntable diorama behind the right hand scrim. We see Sarah, John’s wife, sitting on an enclosed porch, sewing a white shirt. She is wearing a red dress and white cap, in the fashion of the late 1700s. We soon learn that the Carousel family is participating in the 4th of July parade in town and that John and Sarah will be dressing as George and Martha Washington. Because of the midsummer heat, Sarah is sewing on the porch in order to benefit from the evening breeze, while fireflies flicker outside the screened windows. John does not seem thrilled with the idea of dressing up, blaming the evening’s festivities on Sarah’s Ladies’ Club.
            Ladies’ Clubs, also known as Women’s Clubs, began in the 1850s in the United States as the female counterparts of various men’s clubs, such as the Freemasons, Elks, and Rotary clubs. Women gathered on a regular basis to advocate for the improvement of many social issues, such as temperance (limiting the consumption of alcohol), women’s rights and suffrage (the right to vote), educational and prison reform, and working conditions for women and children. Because this scene takes place in the 1920s, after World War One has concluded and women received the right to vote in 1920 as a result of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, it is not surprising that the local Ladies’ Club would be sponsoring an Independence Day celebration, as patriotism, especially among women, was rampant in the 1920s.
Sarah goes on to explain that their son, Jimmy, chose the music for the fireworks show; the diorama on the left is illuminated to show the young man standing in the parlor on a footstool, dressed as a young patriot, leaning against a record player while John Philip Sousa’s march, “Stars and Stripes Forever” plays. The record player in this scene does not look like a typical phonograph of the 1920s; however, it is likely that this player was of the sort that shared the cabinet with a radio during the early decades of the twentieth century. Sitting to Jimmy’s left in a rocking chair is the family’s grandfather, dressed as Benjamin Franklin, and holding a red firework rocket in his hands.
John begins commenting on the record player/radio combination set that Jimmy is playing the music on, explaining that their new Crosley radio set allows them to get news and entertainment from all over the country, even Pittsburgh. Crosley Radios become a large seller of radios in the mid-1920s, becoming a top manufacturer for combination radio and record players of 1924. This reference is made to the first commercially available radio station, KDKA, which began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 20, 1920. Jimmy changes the radio station, which features an announcer discussing the festivities in town for the evening of Independence Day.
While the audience’s attention was on Jimmy listening to the Sousa march in the diorama on the left, the right hand diorama where Sarah was sewing on the porch has rotated and illuminated to reveal the daughter, Patricia, dressed as the Statue of Liberty. Patricia is sitting on a bench in front of her window, and proceeds to complain about how her new boyfriend, Theodore, will feel about her being dressed as Lady Liberty. The scene behind the scrim obviously takes place in Patricia’s bedroom, and we can assume that she is either in the latter part of her high school career, due to the college pennants hanging on the wall. There are also black and white photographs hanging on the wall and a record on the ground, leaning against the wall.
After laughing at his daughter’s vanity, the scene behind the scrim dims, and John changes subjects, describing the new innovation of indoor plumbing, as the scene behind the left scrim lights up to reveal a man laying in a bathtub, reading a newspaper, wearing a red, white, and blue top hat. It soon becomes obvious, due to the outfit hanging behind the bathtub, that the older gentleman will be dressing as Uncle Sam for the 4th of July celebration. John explains that the man, Uncle Orville, has invented something that he calls “air cooling,” which the audience realizes through Orville’s setup of a Westinghouse fan blowing across a large block of ice pointed at him in the tub. On the other side of the tub from the fan and ice block, Orville has a glass of iced tea sitting on the closed lid of the toilet, complete with a wooden toilet seat. Closer examination of the bathroom reveals other details: glass bottles of various soaps or elixirs sit on a wooden shelf on the back wall of the bathroom, while shaving implements and soap sits on a shelf above the porcelain sink. Wooden paneling stretches halfway up the wall, which allows for easy cleaning of the bathroom.
There are many different pieces of evidence from the scene to suggest that the scene takes place on July 4, 1926. We know that the scene takes place prior to 1927, as that is the year Charles Lindbergh makes his journey across the Atlantic. 1927 is also the year that The Jazz Singer was released to theaters, and both of these events are things John is looking forward to. However, we also know that the Carousel family’s Crosley radio was manufactured in 1924 at the earliest. July 4, 1926 was a significant date; it was the one hundred-fiftieth anniversary of American independence against the British. This may be why the entire family is dressed as significant American historical figures or characters, as the 4th of July festivities include a large parade and fireworks display in the downtown area. Also, Patricia dressed as the Statue of Liberty also likely has historical implications, as well. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge used his presidential authority to declare the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island a National Monument, to be protected under the Antiquities Act. This caused the famous statue located in New York Harbor to become a popular tourist destination.

Uncle Orville reprimands John with an angry, “No privacy at all around this place!” and John apologizes for his insensitivity. He is quickly interrupted by Sarah announcing that his costume has been completed, urging him to prepare for the Independence Day celebrations. John excuses himself, sending the audience on their way by singing the theme song, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” as the theater begins to rotate to the right, transitioning into the next scene.

Read more by ordering the eBook or print copy of A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World vol. 1 on Amazon and! 

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