Under a huge, gleaming dome suspended from spiraling pipes, the GE exhibit, called "Progressland," depicts the history of electricity, from its beginnings to the mighty bang of nuclear fusion. The multipart show, produced by Walt Disney, uses a unique theater. Here the seated audience is carried past a number of stages; there are reflecting mirrors, startling visual and sound projections, and, in the climax, neutron counters and other instruments to document graphically the demonstration of controlled thermonuclear fusion.
This view from the Better Living Pavilion shows the latticework roof of piping that supported the pavilion dome. This design provided a large expanse of show and exhibit area without the need for supporting pillars. (CD #39 Set 191 #30)
General Electric was one of the biggest hits of the Fair, with long lines waiting to see Walt Disney's new Audio Animatronic figures extol the wonders of electricity. This view from 1964 shows how the lines filled every available space, more than surpassing the highest expectations the designers had foreseen. GE was lucky this empty space was available; it had been planned for another pavilion that never materialized. (CD #19 Set 99 #15)
The lines were just as long in 1965, but the addition of a new covered waiting area, dubbed "Progresslane," at least allowed guests to stay out of the harsh summer sun. (CD #15 Set 75 #19)
Carousel Theater. In the first part of the program, separate auditoriums, each holding 250 people, circle into position and are carried past stages on which life-sized, three-dimensional, animated human figures move, talk, laugh and act out the story of electricity in the home from the Gay '90s to the present. A late 19th Century home is shown. Its inhabitants struggle with all the latest luxuries: telephone, gas lamps, gramophone, kitchen pump, a hand-cranked clothes washer and a hand-pumped, air-suction vacuum cleaner.
Once inside, audiences were treated to a unique show that demonstrated how electricity was making differences in the lives of a family in the 1900s, 1920s, 1940s and present time. The audience traveled from scene to scene in a rotating auditorium, accompanied by a catchy tune from Richard and Robert Sherman titled "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow". (CD #TBD Set 346 #3)
A home of the '20s comes next, with coffeemakers and sewing machines, "monitor"-topped refrigerators and a homemade cooling device for hot weather: an electric fan that circulates air over a cake of ice.
While the appliances and clothes changed over the years, each act featured the family's father and dog relaxing in the kitchen. The dog's name did change in each scene to reflect common canine names of the time. (CD #TBD Set 346 #7)
The '40s are recalled with the little, round television screen, plus some odd applications of electricity: e.g., housewives mixing wallpaper paste with cake mixers. (CD #TBD Set 346 #13)
The glories of today glitter in a living room at Christmastime, a glass-enclosed, electrically heated patio, a kitchen that all but runs itself.
This scene from the final act shows several of the family members enjoying Christmas, with plenty of new GE appliances to help them celebrate. (CD #18 Set 91 #1)