Disneyland Childhood Part 3

This edition: America Sings
March 30, 2010
Welcome back to another edition of Disneyland Childhood. Well, last time, I talked about the Country Bear Jamboree, so for this article I'm going to talk about a similar Disneyland attraction: America Sings.

As always, the best way to start this is with a little history.

In the 1960's, Walt Disney was planning on making a new expansion to Tomorrowland with a new batch of attractions. One of the attractions he was planning for this update was the General Electric Carrousel of Progress. This attraction was first broadcasted at the World's Fair in 1964, and it was brought to Disneyland in 1967, just a year after Walt's death. The attraction was basically a large theater, which rotated to show different shows on different stages. The Carrousel of Progress featured an audio-animatronic cast, and the show basically showed the history of technology.

The Carrousel of Progress was a fairly popular attraction at the Disneyland park, and General Electric's sponsorship allowed it to be one of the few attractions at the park that didn't require a ticket to ride. However, the attraction did not have a very long run. In the early 1970's, Marc Davis, who had previously worked on the Country Bear Jamboree, had come up with an idea to make a new audio-animatronic show that basically showed the history of American music. The attraction was made in honor of the upcoming bicentenial of the United States of America. At first, the company was planning on having the attraction in Main Street, but Tomorrowland's Carrousel Theater was too good to pass up. So, in 1973, the Carrousel of Progress was closed and moved to Walt Disney World in Florida, and Disney imagineers rushed to make this brand new show.

America Sings opened in the summer of 1974, and it gave the Carrousel Theater a major development. The theater's exterior was changed from a dull, monotone theater to an awesome, eye-popping, red, white and blue faccade. Of all the buildings in Tomorrowland at the time, this one really stuck out like a sore thumb. Another unique thing about this attraction was while Carrousel of Progress rotated clockwise, America Sings rotated counter-clockwise. Also, unlike Carrousel of Progress, America Sings only used the lower portion of the theater, while the upper portion was used to house the Tomorrowland Speed Tunnel for the Peoplemover ride.

Now, on to the synopsis of the ride.

As we enter the theater and take our seats, we see on stage this little gazebo with a blue curtain around it. As the audience takes their seat, a cast member comes in and greets the guests over a loud speaker and introduces them to the show.

The show begins with a fanfare playing. The curtain opens revealing the show's hosts: Sam the Eagle (voiced by Burl Ives) and Ollie the Owl (voiced by Sam Edwards). After the fanfare, Sam begins singing "Yankee Doodle". He then turns to the audience and tells them that "Yankee Doodle" was America's first popular song. Ollie then asks Sam what kind of music we're going to be listening to, and Sam explains that we'll be witnessing the history of American music from the late 1700's to the modern times: music that could be happy, sad, or of love.

Then, for some unknown reason, Ollie starts singing, "All around the cobbler's bench, the monkey chased the weasel. The monkey thought it was all in fun..." and then a little weasel pops out from the top of the gazeebo and goes: "Pop goes the weasel! Heeheeheehee!"

This is about the time when the theater starts rotating to the next stage of the show. As the theater rotates, Sam and Ollie sing a rendition of "Yankee Doodle", the lights all go out, and the whole theater fills up with stars. This is probably one of the most awesome effects I've ever seen on a Disney attraction.

Now, we begin the first act of the show, which takes place in a swamp in the old south. When the lights come up, we see a quartet of geese who sing a medley consisting of "Dixie", "Little Liza Jane", and "Camp Down Races", and they sing in brilliant four-part harmony.

After which, we cut to another part of the stage, where we see a bloodhound in a rocking chair enjoying the good life while the Goose Quartet sings "My Old Kentucky Home" in the background.

Next, Sam introduces us to the Swamp Boys, a band of alligators, frogs and racoons who sing "Polly Wolly Doodle".

Things then get a little darker as Sam introduces us to a mother possum who sings the dreary "Single Girl" song.

We then see a fox with a prison backdrop behind him singing "Down in the Valley". Once he finishes, the weasel from earlier pops out of nowhere to say "Pop goes the weasel" again.

Then, the whole stage emerges with a gospel choir consisting of hens and foxes singing "Down By the Riverside" in this show-stopping finale.

This concludes the Old South segment. This is when we see Sam and Ollie riding a donkey leading us into the next segment. The theater rotates with the lights out and the room filled up with stars like before.

We are now in the second act of the show: Headin' West. This segment opens with the same Goose Quartet from the first act, this time dressed like mine workers. The first song they sing is "Drill, Ye Terriers, Drill".

The second song they sing is "I've Been Working on the Railroad". As they sing this song, a mine cart goes across a train track on the stage controlled by a rabbit and a fox. Then, a train whistle is heard. The rabbit and fox go the other way back across the track as the geese sing "Fireball Mail", and they crash.

Sam then introduces Saddlesore Swanson, a turkey with a guitar who sings "Old Chimson Trail". An interesting fact about this character is the guy who did his voice refused to go on the attraction because he was afraid of the moving theater.

Next, a terrier riding a horse comes onto the stage. This dog sings "Who Shot That Hole In My Sombrero?" Next to him is a TNT barrel, and the weasel pops out of it to deliver his catchphrase.

Sam and Ollie then introduce the Boothill Boys, a pair of vultures wearing top hats who recite "The Tale of Billy the Kid".

Finally, another terrier comes out with a guitar and sings "Home On the Range" while other critters surround him and listen. Unlike any of the other segments in the show, this is the only segment that doesn't end with a show-stopping finale.

The theater then rotates to the next act of the show: the Gay 90's. As usual, the lights go out, and the theater fills up with stars.

As this act opens, we see our good friends, the Goose Quartet. This time, they really do look like a barber shop quartet judging by the way they dress. Anyway, the lead tenor goose sings "She May Be Somebody's Mother", followed by the other three joining in for "The Bowery" and "After the Ball is Over".

Then, the lead tenor goose joins a mother rabbit who sings "Down in the Licensed Saloon".

We then cut to a showgirl pig who sings "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey" to Sam and Ollie. This is followed by the weasel popping up to deliver his famous catchphrase.

Sam then introduces Blossom-Nose Murphy, an extremely drunk goose being held by a police dog. He sings "Sweet Adeline", but the Goose Quartet echo his words...you know, just in case the audience doesn't understand him. Then, for some unknown reason, the dog hiccups.

Following this is a really big horse driving an old-fashioned car singing "The Old Grey Mare" and being backed up by the Goose Quartet.

Then, descending from the ceiling is a bird in a cage who sings "Bird in a Guilded Cage" along with a fox on the stage who admires her.

This is followed by the segment's finale where a bunch of can-can dancing geese come in as well as two storks on unicycles, and other animals. They sing "Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay". This is followed by the weasel popping out again to deliver his catchphrase followed by a hiccup.

Now, Sam transitions us into my favorite segment of the show: Modern Times.

This segment takes place in a dark city alley. It opens with the Goose Quartet dressed like caddies who sing "Ja-Da", "At the Darktown Strutters' Ball" and "Singing in the Rain". After they're done singing, their mini stage spins around.

Two cats and two foxes come in slowly on a car singing "A Tisket, A Tasket" and then "Boo-Hoo".

A pig rises from another point in the stage playing a piano singing "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar". After this, the weasel pops out of the piano to deliver his famous catchphrase yet again.

Now, this part is nuts! Lights come on to reveal in the center of the stage this stork with long hair, sunglasses, and a guitar. He plays "Hound Dog" and "See Ya Later Alligator" while bouncing his legs. How did they make an animatronic like this? He's being backed up by a chicken on bass and a porcupine on drums.

A box opens up above the stage revealing another stork and a frog both playing guitars. They sing "Shake, Rattle and Roll".

Then, above the stage, a rooster comes in on a motorcycle with his ditzy girlfriend riding with him. They sing "Twistin' U.S.A.".

Now, it's time for the grand finale! All the performers from this act return to the stage and sing Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World". As they sing this, all these multi-colored chase lights go off and on throughout the song! What an awesome way to conclude an awesome show!

After this number, the theater rotates back to the park, and Sam and Ollie wrap up the show by singing "Auld Lang Syne". After this, the weasel comes out one last time and says, "Goodbye goes the weasel!" The curtain closes, and the guests exit the theater as a jazzy-rock version of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" plays as exit music.

Like most attractions at the Disney parks, America Sings has gone through some changes over the years.

I think the one thing about this attraction that everyone remembers is the incident that happened with Deborah Gail Stone. Two weeks after the attraction had just opened, this 18-year-old cast member was killed when she was crushed between the building's rotating wall and a stationary wall. The attraction abruptly stopped when guests in the adjacent theater heard her screaming. The attraction was closed for two days after the incident while safety lights were installed. Eventually, the walls were remodeled so that they would breakaway if a similar incident occurred. Stone's parents attempted to sue Disney for the fate of their daughter, but they lost the lawsuit since Deborah was not following the safety guidelines.

For those of you who have seen America Sings during the last couple years of it's run, you may have noticed a couple of geese were missing. Before the attraction had even closed, the goose quartets from the first two acts became trios.

You know the G2 droids in the queue for Star Tours? Well, believe it or not, those are actually the skeletons of the two lost geese from America Sings, only with slightly different heads. If you look carefully, you might recognize their long necks, webbed feet, and feathery tails.

By 1988, America Sings had seemed very out-dated, plus it was getting very low attendance. The attraction officially closed on April 10, 1988, and the Carrousel Theater was reduced to this...

This is the dreaded sign that has been taunting guests for eight straight years! During that time period, there was no word on any new attraction. The theater just sat empty and was used mostly for office space for the time being. Guests who have seen this sign have been wondering for a long time what the new attraction was going to be. Well, there was one plan, but it was never publicly announced. Michael Eisner was planning to replace it with a futuristic rock and roll show called "Plectu's Fantastic Intergalactic Revue" (That's quite a mouthful!). It was going to open in 1994 along with The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter replacing Mission to Mars and The Timekeeper replacing American Journeys in the Circle-Vision Theater. The idea for the project was scrapped in 1992 since Disneyland Paris led to budgeting problems. Still, the Carrousel Theater remained closed for a majority of the 90's, and that huge building took up a prime location in Tomorrowland making it painfully obvious to guests that it used to be an attraction. It didn't help much that Mission to Mars and the Skyway (adjacent to the theater) also closed within the 90's causing that whole section of the park to be a boarded up downtown block.

About a year after America Sings closed, Splash Mountain opened in the newly-renamed Critter Country. According to Marc Davis' wife, Alice, this attraction had gone way overbudget while it was in production, and when America Sings had closed, it helped the company afford the attraction. A lot of the animatronics from America Sings took up residence in Splash Mountain, and they're still there today, which is nice as a majority of the characters fit in with the attraction's theme. When it opened, Marc Davis refused to ride it because he was very upset over the closure of the attraction he worked so hard on.

In 1996, an announcement had been made that Tomorrowland was going to be getting an extreme makeover with some brand new attractions. By the end of the year, the Carrousel Theater was torn apart, and construction began on the new attraction that was set to replace it.

The building finally reopened as a new attraction in the summer of 1998 called Innoventions. This is an attraction where guests can play with newly-invented innovative inventions.

The attraction begins with a preshow of an audio-animatronic robot named Tom Morrow, voiced by Nathan Lane.

While Innoventions was pretty innovative for it's time, it has grown to be a pretty boring attraction. It has made a lot of changes over the years with some new interactive areas and some new shows within the attraction, but other than that, it's not much of an attraction. The Carrousel Theater should have stayed, but to be honest, I don't think Innoventions is going anywhere anytime soon.

On a whole, America Sings was definately a really awesome show. I find it to be one of the best shows that has ever been shown at Disneyland. Only the second best; it loses only to Fantasmic.

In memory of America Sings

Note: All rights of the photos taken from Yesterland.com belong to Werner Weiss (whom I give a special thanks to for granting me permission to use those photos for this article) and Chris Bales. All other photos with logos within them are all property of their respective owners (all rights reserved).
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