|Opening date||June 29, 1974|
|Closing date||April 10, 1988|
|Replaced||Carousel of Progress|
|Replaced by||Innoventions |
Star Wars Launch Bay
|Attraction type||Rotating Theater|
|Theme||American Musical History|
|Hosted by||Eagle Sam (Burl Ives)|
Ollie Owl (Sam Edwards)
|Additional Voices||Rex Allen|
|Sponsor||Del Monte Foods|
America Sings was an attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, United States, from 1974 to 1988. It featured a cast of audio animatronics animals that entertained the audience by singing songs from various periods in America's musical history, often in a humorous fashion.
America Sings opened on June 29, 1974, replacing the General Electric-sponsored Carousel of Progress attraction, which had moved to the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in 1973. America Sings used the same Carousel Theater as its predecessor. The building had an outer ring of six theaters, connected by divider walls, that revolved 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 rotated in a counterclockwise direction. Also, unlike Carousel of Progress, America Sings only used the lower level of the Carousel Theater. The upper level was eventually used to house the SuperSpeed Tunnel in 1977 (which later became the Game Grid of Tron) that the PeopleMover transportation attraction passed through.
Written primarily by Marc Davis and Al Bertino, America Sings was comparable to Disneyland's Country Bear Jamboree, in that it featured a singing cast of audio-animatronics animals. The show's Masters of Ceremonies were an American bald eagle named Sam (voiced by Burl Ives) and an owl named Ollie (voiced by Sam Edwards). 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 Ollie 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, at some point in each act, the Weasel would suddenly appear on the scene, spouting 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 in the 1960s (since it was much cheaper to animate humans in The Sword in the Stone).
On July 8, 1974, nine days after the attraction opened, an 18-year-old hostess, named Deborah Gail Stone, was accidentally crushed to death between two walls of the building between 10:35 p.m. and 10:40 p.m. A narrow channel between a stationary wall and a rotating wall was open and Stone either fell, stepped backwards, or tried to jump from one stage to the other as the rotating wall began to move (it moved every 2 to 4 minutes, which was how long each act was). Her death was pronounced at 11:00 p.m., when the carousel was being reset for a new cycle. One of the audience members heard Stone's screams and notified park staff. Others thought it was a part of the show. By the time the audience member and the staff got to her, Stone had already died from her injuries. Stone's parents sued Disneyland for the death of their daughter, which resulted in a small settlement.
Following Stone's death, the attraction was abruptly closed down, remaining closed while Disney installed safety lights and had the area where the incident occurred cleaned. Later, the walls in the theater were remodeled so that they would break away in case a similar accident happened. The attraction reopened on July 11th, three days after the incident.
America Sings was born out of the company's desire to celebrate the United States Bicentennial. It did not quite fit the theme of the land, but its relevance to that period in the United States made it appropriate. However, once the Bicentennial was over, the attraction became more misplaced, in a land dedicated to all things futuristic. Disney's Imagineering team began dreaming up new ideas for Tomorrowland, that included a new show in the carousel theater more fitting for the land of the future. Separately, in the summer of 1983, the idea for a log flume attraction that would become Splash Mountain was conceived by Imagineer and Disney Legend Tony Baxter. Knowing America Sings was eventually to close for a more appropriately themed show, the idea developed to give most of America Sings' audio animatronic figures a new home in Splash Mountain.
In 1986, roughly two years before America Sings' impending closure, two audio-animatronic geese were taken out of the attraction. Their "skin" was removed, leaving only the robotic skeletons. Their heads were then replaced, and they were used as two talkative G2 droids in the queue to Star Tours, which would open in early 1987. One of them (named G2-9T) still sings a modified "I've Been Working on the Railroad" (retitled "I've Been Looking at the Same Bag") in Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. As a result, the geese quartets in Acts 1 and 2 became trios until America Sings closed for good.
Show sponsor Del Monte having already ended its sponsorship, America Sings officially closed on Sunday, April 10, 1988. Within days, crews began to move most of the Audio-Animatronic animals to Splash Mountain, which opened in the summer of 1989. 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.
The Carousel Theater was used as office space for ten years. During this time, the carousel theater's external appearance was unchanged, and the upper level continued to house the Tron tunnel for the PeopleMover until that attraction ceased to operate in 1995. A large sign in front of the building showed Sorcerer Mickey alongside text reading, "Sorry, we're closed to imagineer a brand new attraction." This gave guests some hope that a new attraction was in the works, but the building was not touched for nearly a decade. For many years guests wondered what the new attraction replacing America Sings was going to be. For a few years, during the planned "Disney Decade" started by then-Disney CEO 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 had 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 the Disney company billions of dollars putting them in debt, so "Tomorrowland 2055" was scrapped due to budget considerations.
From its closure until 1996, the inside of the lower level of the Carousel Theater was used for storage and office space leaving only remnants of deteriorating sets and backdrops as well as the empty, unused theater seats. America Sings was finally replaced by Innoventions, a version of the Epcot attraction of the same name, in 1998 as part of the Tomorrowland update of that year. The building was then redesigned and reopened in 2015 as the Tomorrowland Expo Center, hosting the Star Wars Launch Bay.
Norman "Buddy" Baker arranged a selection of songs chosen to represent a panoramic view of American music.