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The Things You May Not Know About the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair
1. The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair was a pivotal event in Disney history. The fair provided a unique opportunity for Walt Disney to perfect many of the technologies that would become synonymous with Walt Disney World, including Audio-Animatronics and the OmniMover vehicle system.
2. Walt Disney was originally approached to create an eight-acre “children’s village” (sort of an eastern Disneyland), but Walt declined, realizing that New York would not provide the necessary funds to make the park permanent.
3. Walt instead opted to create individual attractions sponsored by different corporations. The fair would prove to be notable for the debut of two of the most beloved Walt Disney World attractions, “it’s a small world” and the Carousel of Progress (or Progressland as it was called at the fair).
4. Those weren’t the only attractions Disney created, however. Visitors could also ride the Magic Skyway, which transported Guests through the land of dinosaurs and cavemen. They could also marvel at a life-like Abraham Lincoln at “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” the first fully realized Audio-Animatronic figure.
5. Unfortunately, for a time it appeared that the fair was the only opportunity to see Lincoln. For many years it was feared that the figure was lost. Much to everyone’s surprise, it was eventually discovered in an abandoned crate in California of all places. It found new life as the centerpiece of a 2005-2006 traveling exhibit called Behind the Magic: 50 Years of Disneyland (along with the now infamous packing crate). You can see an updated version of the attraction at Disneyland.
6. The most popular of the Disney attractions, and the third most popular attraction of the entire fair, was the Carousel of Progress. Its popularity would turn out to be enduring. Eventually relocating to Walt Disney World, the Carousel of Progress has gone on to become the longest running stage show in the history of American theater.
7. As pivotal as the 1964 event was, it wasn’t the first World’s Fair that Walt Disney was involved with. Way back in 1939, he produced a four minute Mickey Mouse cartoon for the Nabisco pavilions at the New York and San Francisco World’s Fairs.
8. In the course of developing “it’s a small world,” a full scale mockup was constructed at the WED studios in Glendale, California. Walt Disney would board a boat (on wheels and elevated to the proper height) and be pushed through the attraction to ensure that the sightlines and all of the details were exactly right.
9. Speaking of details, Walt also provided one important element to the Carousel of Progress. The attraction was all but completed when Walt decided it needed one last touch, a playful Animatronic dog added to each scene.
10. At the conclusion of the fair (which lasted two years), nearly 47 million people had experienced at least one of the four Disney exhibits.