Music Behind the Ride: Circle-Vision 360°

Circle-Vision films are part of Disney parks history.  In this Music Behind the Ride, I'm looking at the films and their music from across the parks.  

Pioneered by Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney envisioned a film system like the popular Cinerama.  Iwerks fashioned a 360 degree camera rig to get a film in the ultimate surround experience.  Among the Disneyland Park opening attractions in 1955, the Circarama theater was in located in Tomorrowland.  The circular theater (with no seats) surrounded the audience with 360 degrees of screens and projectors.  Tomorrowland updated in 1967 and the attraction was renamed Circle-Vision 360°, along with changing the screens/projectors to 9 from the original 11.  

The other Circle-Vision 360° theaters began appearing in later parks as opening attractions - Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland in 1971, Epcot in 1982, Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, and Disneyland Paris in 1992.  Currently, the only films appear in Epcot's World Showcase.

In the Tomorrowland Circarama theater, A Tour of the West ran from 1955-1960.  Guests cruised by Beverly Hills, the LA freeway, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Las Vegas strip.  Also included was a high speed chase down Wilshire Boulevard and a speedboat segment in Newport Harbor.  Next came America the Beautiful, originally shown at the 1958 World's Fair in Belgium.  Running from 1960-1967, this trip around America showed sights of New York Harbor, factories in Pittsburgh and Detroit, Oklahoma cattle, Monument Valley, and the Golden Gate Bridge, among others. 

America the Beautiful (version 2) debuted in 1967 in the updated New Tomorrowland.  This updated film showed sights across the country – from historical sights to national parks.  For music, we hear orchestral underscoring by Buddy Baker with instrumental and choral arrangements of America the Beautiful and Battle Hymn of the Republic.  The film remained in the theater until 1984.

Next came American Journeys from 1984-1996.  This new film featured more stunning landscapes with facets of American life and culture.  A sweeping orchestral score by Basil Poledouris accompanied the film.  At the same time, the Epcot film Wonders of China was shown from 1984-1996 with music direction by Buddy Baker.  America the Beautiful made reprise showings before the theater became the queue area for Rocket Rods in 1998.  The show building sat unused until Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters opened in 2005.

Opening with Magic Kingdom in 1971, the updated America the Beautiful film was shown in Tomorrowland’s Circle-Vision theater.  In 1974, the film left the theater to return with additional Bicentennial footage in 1975.  Taking its place was Magic Carpet ‘Round the World – a film narrating scenes around 20 countries.  Buddy Baker composed the underscore, which changed instrumentation and melodies by country.  America the Beautiful returned to stayed until 1979, and Magic Carpet had a reprise until 1984.  Just like Disneyland, American Journeys took the theater from 1984-1994. 

In 1994 The Timekeeper was brought over from Disneyland Paris.  The first Circle-Vision show to feature a storyline and animatronics.  The inventive show included characters Nine-Eye and Timekeeper (voiced by Robin Williams). The film From Time to Time featured time travelling to dinosaurs, Ice Age, da Vinci, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.  The thrilling thematic music was composed by Bruce Broughton.  The Timekeeper moved to seasonal showings in 2001 and closed for good in 2006.  The building became Monsters Inc Laugh Floor in 2007. 
Located in the Canada pavilion, the highlight edutainment attraction is the Circle-Vision theater.  Opening with Epcot in 1982, O Canada! took at glimpse of Canadian scenery, landmarks and events.  This film also featured the cheesy song Canada (You’re a Lifetime Journey).  After years of requests, the film was thankfully updated in 2007.  Newly added was narrator Martin Short, a rerecording of the song and a new orchestral score by Bruce Broughton.  In 2019 the film was replaced with a new film, Canada Far and Wide.  In addition to the new footage, narration was provided by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara with a brand new score by (Canada’s own) Andrew Lockington.

The China pavilion has the other Circle-Vision travelogue film in World Showcase.  Wonders of China opened with Epcot in 1982 showing the Chinese landscape, way of life and famous landmarks.  Music direction was by Buddy Baker.  Running until 2003, the film was finally updated (along with much of China since the 80's).  With new music by Richard Bellis, Reflections of China opened in 2003.

Le Visionarium: Un Voyage a Travers le Temps opened with the park in 1992 as the headline attraction in Discoveryland.  The area was based on the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells instead of the usually dated future of Tomorrowland.  The score to the French original was written by Bruce Broughton (different than the American edition).  This version closed in 2004 and replaced by Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. 

Magic Carpet ‘Round the World was shown from 1983-1986.  American Journeys took the theater from 1986-1992 and Visionarium: Featuring From Time to Time played the theater from 1993-2002.  In 2004, the building became…you guessed it…Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters.
These films have had music and arrangements by Buddy Baker, Richard Bellis, Bruce Broughton, Basil Poledouris and Andrew Lockington.  Unfortunately, the only official music releases have been the America the Beautiful (1967 edition) in the massive Musical History of Disneyland compilation and Reflection of China Suite appeared on the Four Parks: One World album.  Here's hoping for the Poledouris and Broughton official releases some day. 

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  1. The reaction when the same time when Basil Poledouris was an incredible American film composer and Andrew Lockington is an incredible Canadian film composer, like Basil Poledouris.