The 1964 New York World’s Fair – A New Disney Technology is Born

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

As a new member of the Disney Parks Blog team, I will be updating readers on some of the latest events and news from the Disneyland Resort. Today, I’m excited to share a special piece of Disney history with you.

'it's a small world' at Disneyland Park

As Michelle Harker shared yesterday, we’re marking a historic time for Disney Parks this week with the anniversary of the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair, which opened on April 22, 1964. The Fair featured four spectacular attractions, produced by Walt Disney and his creative team, which went on to become the beloved Disney Parks experiences.

In a 1964 episode of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” Walt Disney previewed the attractions being developed for the Fair, featuring a new, innovative form of animation. He explained that “…Disneyland gave us a new art and a new type of artist – one that works with a slide rule and blow torch instead of pencil and brush. Just as we had to learn to make our animated cartoons talk, we had to find a way to make attraction figures talk, too. We created a new field of animation.”

This new form of animation was so advanced, a name had to be developed for it: “Audio-Animatronics technology.”

'Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln' at Disneyland Park

Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers from WED Enterprises (the original name for Walt Disney Imagineering) developed this breakthrough technology for the creation of what would become legendary Disney Parks attractions:

  • “it’s a small world” was the centerpiece of the UNICEF pavilion and took visitors to more than 100 countries with child-like Audio-Animatronics figures singing the tune written by Disney Legends Richard and Robert Sherman.
  • “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” was Walt Disney’s personal tribute to the 16th president. “Ever since I was a small boy in Illinois, I’ve had a great personal admiration for Abraham Lincoln,” said Walt Disney in his introduction for the attraction, created for the State of Illinois pavilion.
  • The Carousel Theater of Progress was developed with the assistance of General Electric and told the story of man’s progress and the rise of “push-button living.” The Carousel of Progress was a Disneyland park attraction from 1967 to 1973. The show then moved to Magic Kingdom Park in 1975, where it was rewritten and restaged with the new name, “Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress,” in 1994.
  • Ford’s Magic Skyway took audiences back in time to the world of the dinosaur, populated by enormous Audio-Animatronics figures. Guests of Ford’s Magic Skyway travelled through the vignettes using technology that would later be the inspiration for the PeopleMover, a Tomorrowland attraction in Disneyland park from 1967 to 1995.

What is your favorite Audio-Animatronics figure at the Disneyland Resort?


  • I remember the 1964 NY World’s Fair as I went many times. It’s a Small World was my mothers and fathers favorite and I think this is where my love of Disney started!!

  • My fave Audio-Animatronics is the dolls on its a small world. They are just so precious and cute

  • Welcome to the blog Ms. Erin!

  • Yeah, they are the same dinosaurs.

  • Are the dinosaurs along the Disneyland railroad the same ones from Ford’s magic skyway?

    If you like the Fantasmic dragon, you should watch him (her?) from next to the Columbia’s dock. Watching the dragon from a sideways angle you can really see the neck move. It’s amazing!

    • Hello Katherine,

      Nate is correct – the Audio-Animatronic dinosaurs that guests see while riding the Disneyland Railroad between the Tomorrowland and Main Street Stations are the same figures that appeared on Ford’s Magic Skyway during the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair. Great catch!

  • Thanks so much for this memory Erin!

    I too saw all the Disney exhibits at the 1964 World’s Fair. I can still remember the awe that I felt as a 14 year old Boy Scout riding in that Ford Fairlane into time and space at the conclusion of the Ford’s Magic Skyway attraction. And to this day, the Carousel of Progress is still one of my favorite things to do at the parks.

    What wonderful memories and what I wouldn’t give to be able to go back in time and do it all again. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that I still enjoy the Disney Parks as much as I do.

    Thanks for the memory!

  • We lived in Queens not too far from the World’s Fair. I went 13 times over the two years of the Fair. My favorite was the Carousel of Progress and I know I saw it at least once every time we went. I remember sitting near the middle upfront during my first ride and when the dog barked I jumped (Hey I was 8 years old). It wasn’t until 1977 during my honeymoon at Walt Disney World that I got to see it again, although I missed the original song.

    Lincoln was also amazing. When he stood up for the first time the audience gasped. No one believed he wasn’t an actor. Such great memories.

  • I know they are not the most high tech but I love the tiki birds!

  • The 1964 World’s Fair was such an important chapter to Disney history. Arguably there would have been no Florida Project at all if Disney would not have been involved. Without the tremendous efforts of people like Rolly Crump, Mary Blair, Claude Coates, Blaine Gibson, Paul Frees, Bob Gurr, The Sherman Brothers and many more The Fair would not have been the huge stepping stone for Disney. Great job Erin!

  • We saw all of these things at the Fair in 1964. My Dad enjoyed it so much, we went back to the Fair in 1965! (we lived in Michigan).
    I was 10 years old and I remember trying to figure out if the family in the Car. of Progress were robots, or people pretending to be robots!

  • I thought that audio-animatronics technology was born before the 1964 World’s Fair…like in the 1963 Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. The use at the fair would be more of an evolution than a new development.

  • We love the Carousel of progress, we love to sing the tune along with them…would be nice to update a bit.

    Would love to see Figment updated and done the way it used to be with all the flowers blowing the smells like in the 80’s or early 90’s liked it better than now.
    We also LOVE the hall of presidents and the American Adventure.

  • My favorite is in Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s sitting on top of a bridge as the boat goes by, drunkenly singing and laughing. He has dirty legs and feet and you can see the leg hair as you pass under him. He’s a hilarious character. =)

  • Welcome Erin!

    This is a hard one, because I really love the audio-animatronics in general!

    I have to say that I love Pirates of the Caribbean and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. (I love the new Lincoln figure) And I love the dragon in Fantasmic, its awesome!

    As I understand it, the Disney family is very protective of the use of Walt’s image, so that may be one of the reasons why there has not been an audio-animatronics figure of Walt.

  • America Sings! no longer around.

  • Clinton, you are lucky! I would of loved to see these in 1964, but i was only 3 yrs old. They were probably so ground breaking at that time.
    I Love the Carousel of Progress today. It takes me back to a simpler America, which was great.

  • If Murphy the advanced Fantasmic Dragon counts, then it is that fire breathing Audio-Animatronic figure.

  • My favorites no longer exists in the park. I loved the Country Bear Jamboree esp. the mounted buffalo head on the wall and the littlest bear that sat on the edge of the stage holding his teddy bear (and after every number he would squeeze it and it would squeak). lol

  • I love all the Audio-Animatronics at Disney but I have alway wondered why that haven’t made one of Walt Disney, himself. Now that would be something to see!

  • My favorite is the rocket to the moon. I remember as a youngster walking through the Que watching the engineers preparing the ship for take off and then the alarm sounds when a duck comes in for an emergency landing, too cool. I miss that attraction and I know my daughter (10 y/o) and her many season pass friends would’ve loved it too.

  • Welcome!

    My favorites are probably all in Pirates. I never saw the old Pirates but I love the current rendition in Disneyland

  • Welcome Erin.
    Nice story.

    • Thank you, Lori! I’m very excited to join the team.

  • I saw all these attractions *at the Fair!* Woot!

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