Monday, September 26, 2011

Gone But Not Forgotten ~ America Sings

Gone But Not Forgotten ~ America Sings
I have many fond memories of both the Carousel of Progress and the show/attraction that replaced it at Disneyland, America Sings. I loved these encouraging, historical shows that got you excited to look forward to and be part of the next development of technology and music. As a person who loves music and enjoys singing, I did my share of Church choir and Worship Band I loved the music and felt touched when I heard the music that ties us Americans together. I’ve always believed that a truly intelligent person will like music of many styles and this attraction gave you a chance to take a look at the American music of the past.
In 1973 Disney removed Carousel of Progress and moved all the Audio-Animatronics characters to Florida for use in the Magic Kingdom. America Sings replaced Carousel of Progress a year later in the same rotating building.
This show was a big hit during 1976 and the bi-centennial of America. It was a must do along with the Main Street Electrical Parade. This excitement about America continued for several years.
America Sings used the same Carousel Theater that its predecessor vacated, with its outer ring of six theaters, all connected by divider walls, revolving mechanically about every four minutes around the six fixed stages in the center of the building. Unlike Disneyland's Carousel of Progress, which rotated clockwise, America Sings went counter-clockwise. Also, unlike Carousel of Progress, America Sings only used the lower level of the Carousel Theater. The upper level was used to house the SuperSpeed Tunnel (which later became the Game Grid of Tron) that the PeopleMover went through.
America Sings was comparable to Disneyland's Country Bear Jamboree, in that it featured a singing cast of audio-animatronics. The show's Masters of Ceremony were an American bald eagle named Sam (voiced by Burl Ives) and an unnamed owl rumored to be named Ollie (voiced by Sam Edwards). The image of Eagle Sam was designed by Disney animator Marc Davis, as were the other characters. Eagle Sam is completely separate from the Sam the Olympic Eagle character designed a decade later by C. Robert Moore (also a Disney employee) for the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Like the Carousel of Progress, the first and the last scenes of America Sings involved the loading and unloading of guests, while the other four scenes, or "acts", depicted a particular era. However, the identical load and unload theaters each featured a small curtained gazebo with a backdrop showing a park. The curtains would open to reveal Sam and the owl standing on a two-level podium, with Sam standing on the higher level, introducing or closing the show.
Between each act, as the theater rotated, the lights blacked out, and the theater illuminated with flashing stars; during the rotations, Sam sang about the next era the audience was about to enter, reprising the chorus of "Yankee Doodle".
Also, the Weasel would come up in each of the acts, quoting the title line: "Pop, Goes the Weasel", for a total of five times. At the very end of the show he changed the line to, "Goodbye, Goes the Weasel."
The characters in America Sings were patterned after the characters from the concept art for an animated movie called Chanticleer, that Walt Disney scrapped back in the 1960s.
The songs
Norman “Buddy” Baker arranged a selection of songs chosen to represent a panoramic view of American music.
·         "Yankee Doodle" - Eagle Sam
·         "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair" - Eagle Sam
·         "Pop Goes the Weasel" - Ollie and the weasel
Act 1 - The Deep South
·         "Dixie" / "L’il Liza Jane" / "Camptown Races" - Geese Quartet
·         "My Old Kentucky Home" - Colonel Houndstoothe (Bassett hound in rocking chair)
·         "Polly Wolly Doodle" - The Swamp Boys (gator trio, frogs and harmonica-playing raccoon)
·         "Single Girl" - Mother Possum
·         "Down in the Valley" - Coyote
·         "Down by the Riverside" - Hens, Foxes, Swamp Boy Frogs
Act 2 - Headin' West
·         "Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill" / "I’ve Been Working on the Railroad" / "Fireball Mail" - Geese Quartet
·         "The Old Chisholm Trail" – Saddlesore Swanson
·         "Who Shot That Hole in My Sombrero?" - Sombrero-wearing dog
·         "The End of Billy the Kid" - The Boothill Boys (vulture duo)
·         "Home on the Range" - Tex Ranger (dog)
Act 3 - The Gay ‘90’s
·         "She May Be Somebody’s Mother" / "The Bowery" / "After the Ball" - Geese Quartet
·         "Where is My Wondering Boy Tonight" - Geese Quartet & Mother Rabbit
·         "Won’t Your Come Home Bill Bailey" - Showgirl Pig
·         "Sweet Adeline" - Blossom-Nose Murphy (goose) & Geese Quartet
·         "The Old Gray Mare" - The Old Gray Mare & Geese Quartet
·         "Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage" - Bird in a Gilded Cage and Fox
·         "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay" - Storks, Geese Quartets (male and female), Pig, Bird in a Gilded Cage and Fox
Act 4 - Modern Times
·         "Ja-Da" / "Darktown Strutters’ Ball" / "Singin’ in the Rain" - Geese Quartet
·         "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" / "Boo-Hoo" - College Quartet (male wolf, male fox and two female cats)
·         "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" - Piano Pig
·         "Hound Dog" / "See You Later Alligator" - Rooster, Stork, Porcupine, Hound Dog and Alligator
·         "Shake, Rattle and Roll" - Rooster and Frog
·         "Twistin' U.S.A." - Motorcycle storks
·         "Joy to the World" - Modern Times cast (except Piano Pig and College Quartet)
·         "Yankee Doodle" (reprise) - Eagle Sam
·         "Auld Lang Sync" - Sam and Ollie
·         Exit music: "Stars and Stripes Forever"
On July 8, 1974, nine days after the attraction opened, 18-year-old Disneyland cast member Deborah Gail Stone was killed when she was crushed between the building's rotating wall and a stationary wall. Stone had ventured too close to the area between the rotating wall and the fixed stage wall and was caught between them. A guest in the adjacent theater heard her screams, but she was already dead when Disneyland staff got to her.
Afterwards, America Sings was closed for two days while safety lights were installed. Eventually, the walls were remodeled so that they would break away if a similar incident occurred.
America Sings closed on Sunday, April 10, 1988. According to Alice Davis, wife of the late Marc Davis, production of Disneyland's Splash Mountain had gone way over budget and the only way to recover was to close down America Sings and use the characters from that attraction. Show sponsor Del Monte had already ended its sponsorship. The Carousel Theater sat empty and motionless for ten years. During this time, the carousel theater's external appearance was unchanged. A large sign in front of the building showed Sorcerer Mickey alongside text reading, "Sorry, we're closed to imagineer a brand new attraction." For many years guests wondered what the new attraction was going to be. For a few years, during the planned 'Disney Decade' started by Michael Eisner, a new audio-animatronic show called Plectu’s Fantastic Intergalactic Revue was to open. It was to have been an outer space-themed musical-variety revue featuring a troupe of Audio-Animatronics itinerant alien musicians whose spaceship has landed in Tomorrowland. The idea was part of the original "Tomorrowland 2055" plan and was planned to open around 1994. However, Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992, ended up costing billions of dollars, so the whole "Tomorrowland 2055" plan was scrapped due to budget considerations.
America Sings was finally replaced by Innoventions, a version of the Epcot attraction of the same name, in 1998. Most of the Audio-Animatronic animals were moved to Disneyland's Splash Mountain log flume, which opened on Disneyland's 34th anniversary on July 17, 1989. In 1986, two years before America Sings officially closed, two audio-animatronic geese were taken out of the attraction. They had their "skin" removed, which left only a robotic skeleton, had their heads replaced, and were used as two talkative G2 droids in the queue to Star Tours, which would open in early 1987. Ironically, one of them (named G2-9T) still sings a modified "I’ve Been Working on the Railroad" (retitled "I've Been Working on the Same Droid"). (This may have been changed with the Star Tours upgrade.) As a result, the geese quartets in Acts 1 and 2 became trios until the ride ceased to operate. The rock and roll stork in the finale is now used by Imagineers for training new Animatronics programmers, acting as a final exam of sorts. The remainder of the show's Audio-Animatronics were recycled.
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