America Sings was a Musical Revue at Disneyland. Musical Revue shows were popular among the Imagineers in the 60s and 70s. Shows like The Tiki Room and the Mickey Mouse Revue don’t take up a lot of space, but can get reasonably high capacity, making them great attractions from an operational perspective. Due to differences in the type visitors, shows don’t stay as popular at Disneyland as they do at Walt Disney World. The waning popularity, mixed with some awkward theming, eventually led to the show’s closure.
America Sings opened on June 29, 1974. It was created to replace the Carousel of Progress, which had moved to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World the year before. The show involved six animatronic sets – an introduction, a postlude, and four acts – that showcased music from different eras of American history. Because the show was in the Carousel Theater, each scene was in a different location in the building, and the outer rim of the building rotated, moving the seating guests form one scene to the next. Sam Eagle and Ollie Owl served as the Masters of Ceremonies for a trip through history. The pair introduced each of the four acts by singing a variant of “Yankee Doodle” while the theater moved the guests on to the next scene. This mirrored what the Carousel of Progress had done in the same building, which sang “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” as the theater rotated. The four acts were The Deep South, Headin’ West, The Gay ’90s, and Modern Times.
The theme of the show was a celebration of America for the Bicentennial Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1976. The theme did not really fit Tomorrowland. There isn’t quite an area in Disneyland that would have been a perfect home for the show. The Deep South would have loosely fit New Orleans Square. Headin’ West would have fit Frontierland. The Gay ’90s would have been close to Main Street, USA. Because the Carousel Theater was empty, it made practical sense to put the show in Tomorrowlandm but it didn’t make thematic sense.
Marc Davis and Al Bertino were the lead Imagineers on the show. About ten years earlier, Marc had worked on an animated adaptation of a play called Chanticleer. He recycled some of concept art for character designs he had made and turned them into the animatronic characters of America Sings. When the ride closed in 1988, many of these figures were immediately moved to the ongoing construction site of Splash Mountain, where they were reprogrammed to fit the new ride. Fortunately Marc Davis had also been an animator on Song of the South, so the America Sings characters fit the style of the new Splash Mountain characters.
After America Sings closed, the Carousel Theater sat empty for about a decade, and then opened as Innoventions. However, there had been other plans for the theater. The mostly likely replacement was another musical show, called Plectu’s Intergalactic Musical Revue. In this show, the musicians would have been aliens to fit with the intergalactic theme of Tomorrowland 2055. Because of the financial struggles of Euro Disneyland, the Tomorrowland update was scrapped, and Plectu went along with it. Not many details of the show are known, but we do have a few pieces of concept art.
It’s fun to look back at the history of old attractions. And now that Splash Mountain is being rethemed, it will be interesting to see if they are going to reuse the original America Sings animatronics somewhere else. These animatronics have been in the parks for a long time, and we would love to see their legacy continue and see them used somewhere else. Or maybe at least have a a couple hidden in the new Princess and the Frog retheme.