The Carousel of Progress: The Greatest Movie Never Made

It’s that time a year when Oscar movies are released and we start to scratch our heads at the titles of the little films that grab all the awards but are seen by so few. With Miramax films not included, The Walt Disney Company has never won an Oscar for Best Picture — nominated yes, but never a win. In my opinion, they already have the foundation to make an Oscar-winning Best Picture, and it can be found in the Magic Kingdom, courtesy of Walt Disney himself: The Carousel of Progress. Not only would it win the Best Picture Oscar but I think it would also be a major blockbuster at the box office.

Built for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in New York City, the Carousel of Progress is a lasting legacy that is all from the mind of Walt Disney. This attraction was designed to show the progress of the American family from the turn of the 20th Century to the future. At the closing of the fair, the Carousel of Progress made its journey from New York to Disneyland, and then finally moved to its permanent home in Magic Kingdom in 1975. Since that time the story has basically stayed the same entertaining millions for decades.

The rotating theatre shows four scenes of the same family in different decades and how their lives change based on the evolutions in technology. Now how does this translate to an Oscar-winning blockbuster film? Simple, just use the story of the attraction, and make it a movie. All the ingredients are right there, and the themes and storyline you could explore are very popular right now.

Come with me as I pitch my idea for how my favorite Walt Disney World attraction would make a great movie.

Option 1: The This Is Us Version

NBC has a major hit on its hands with the new show This Is Us. The story of the Pearson family and all of the challenges they face are explored in the multi-decade spanning show. We watch as the young parents struggle to raise their kids, and then we follow the family as the kids are shown in their adult lives.

The Carousel of Progress is a multi-generational, multi-decade story. Imagine a film where we have the children from The Carousel of Progress, Patricia and James, as they deal with their parents John and Sarah in their twilight years in the future, while at the same time we watch as John and Sarah raise Patricia and James in the previous two decades. This would allow us to see the multiple perspectives that make This Is Us popular while showcasing the story of our beloved attraction characters.

Think of the possibilities of the emotional pull of the story as we watch John and Sarah raise their kids and then watch their children, James and Patricia, struggle with the old age of their parents and the difficulties of their own adult lives. Rover the lovable dog, would make a great addition to the movie, and could even elicit tears from the audience as we watch the family bury him after passing away at a very old age.

Grandpa and Grandma, who are never more than a sound bite in the story could fill the role of wisdom and be the sage advice to the characters as the movie progresses while the decades change. As the credits role, the sounds of the Sherman Brothers classic song There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow play, leaving not a dry eye in the theatre and a standing ovation from each sellout show.

Option 2: The Forrest Gump Version

1994 gave us the decade-spanning, historical moments blockbuster that was Forrest Gump. This movie gave Tom Hanks his second Best Actor Oscar, and won all the major Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. Not only was it an award winner, but it was a crowd pleaser with a final take of over $330 million dollars at the North American box office. Forrest Gump is a movie about how a guy grows and changes; this is the same as The Carousel of Progress, only instead of watching one guy, we could watch a whole family. In the age of reboots, sequels, and remakes, now is the time, now is the best time for a Carousel of Progress movie.

The first scene from the attraction could be the start of the movie at the turn of the century, the early 1900s. This would make a great start to show the changes in technology and be the perfect start to the movie, with the future Christmas dinner book-ending the film.

The story would have to be reworked a little from the attraction. The grandfather from the attraction could take the first scene, which instead of starting at the beginning of the decade, could start in the 1920s. The grandfather could be a young boy at the start of the movie and we could watch him grow and start his family in the second scene, which could be the mid-1940s. This could introduce the character of John, and we could then follow his growth.

John would then take over act three of the movie, which would take place in the late 1960s or perhaps the early 70s. John could meet Sarah and we could watch their relationship flourish with the birth of their children James and Patricia.

We could watch the successes and failures they experience as we watch their family grow, and the heartaches of being young parents. The grandparents could make their appearances as side characters now — even Uncle Orville, the annoying houseguest throughout the attraction, could make an appearance for comic relief. As the family grows, we could insert our family into famous historical moments or at least have them play out in the background.

The final part to the movie would mimic the final act of the attraction with the Christmas dinner of the future, or in our case the 21st Century, where James and Patricia and their families are together with John and Sarah. We could watch as John tries to cook the family dinner with the new voice-activated stove that he must burn and cause the family to order pizza.

John still needs to be the narrator in the final act of the movie. This continuity from the attraction to the movie must be kept in order to tie the story up from beginning to end, as well as maintain the foundation of the story from the attraction to the movie.

What I have always liked about The Carousel of Progress is that the family is a regular family that is no different than mine, except mine is not a bunch of Audio-Animatronic figures… at least I think. They, as a group, would connect with audiences and, if the right cast was put together, it would become a classic like It’s a Wonderful Life.

I don’t know why Walt Disney Pictures hadn’t thought of this before, but The Carousel of Progress would make not only a great movie but, if treated with care, it could also be the blockbuster Oscar winner that fans of the attraction see it for what it is. We watched as the pirates of Pirates of the Caribbean became a billion dollar franchise and Oscar-nominated (Johnny Depp did get nominated for Best Actor for his first pirate appearance). We wait in anticipation for what The Rock will do with the movie version of The Jungle Cruise, so why not The Carousel of Progress? The public, unfortunately, had to endure The Country Bears movie so I think it’s time for The Carousel of Progress to see its name on the movie marquee. Please make this happen Walt Disney Pictures!

Bill Gowsell
Bill Gowsell has loved all things Disney since his first family trip to Walt Disney World in 1984. Since he began writing for Laughing Place in 2014, Bill has specialized in covering the Rick Riordan literary universe, a retrospective of the Touchstone Pictures movie library, and a variety of other Disney related topics. When he is not spending time with his family, Bill can be found at the bottom of a lake . . . scuba diving