Sunday, January 04, 2009

Early Tomorrowland Exhibits: Circarama

Initially presented by American Motors, Circarama was previewed before opening day with the film “A Tour of the West.” Circarama used eleven 16mm projectors mounted on the roof of an American Motors car (thus the red color for the letters "car" on the marquee in pic #3) to create a completely circular picture on a 360-degree screen. Guests stood in the center of the screen and were able to look out in every direction and observe views of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Las Vegas, Balboa Bay, and the streets of Los Angeles. The patent for Circarama was filed on the one-year anniversary of Disneyland by both Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, and was granted four years later on June 28, 1960.

1960 brought a number of changes: in June, the film was now “America the Beautiful” and the sponsor became The Bell System. The film process changed, coinciding with the opening of the New Tomorrowland on June 25, 1967, this time using a 35mm print that was enlarged from the film of nine 16mm cameras instead of eleven. A few Bicentennial scenes were added in 1975 and ran until January 3, 1984. The film was changed again on July 4, 1984, this time to “Wonders of China” (shown in the morning) and “American Journeys” (shown in the afternoon & evening), lasting until July 7, 1996. The attraction closed down for good in 1997, with "America the Beautiful” (the 1975 version) returning for the final year (July 11, 1996–September 7, 1997).

Today, guests play Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters where this attraction used to be. The fact that the vehicles in this attraction can rotate is surely an homage to Circlevision!

Many thanks to Wescot2000 for helping correct my info by pointing me to Jason at Disneyland Nomenclature. See more vintage & current Tomorrowland photos at my regular website.


Aaron said...

I can still remember standing in the theater watching the America Journeys film. Those were the good ol times in Disneyland. Thanks for th post.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

I miss Circlevision! Regarding BLAB; the only thing positive I can say is, yes, they spin.... Nice post, thanks!

Major Pepperidge said...

The Astro Blasters is an OK attraction... but it is a gussied-up shooting gallery. I think the thing about "America the Beautiful" is that, as corny as it sounds, you could sense the film maker's love and pride in America and its wonders - - I remember walking out and feeling good ("Wow, I'm lucky to live here!") - - and it might have even inspired folks to go see those places for REAL. When you walk out of Astro Blasters, all you think about is your high score.

CoxPilot said...

The original films were shot by Paul Mantz and Frank Tallman, of TallMantz Aviation. (Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Flight of the Phoenix, etc). The plane was a B-26 with cameras mounted in the Bomb Bay. Always enjoyed the effect, and watched it many time just to get out of the heat of the summer.

Davelandweb said...

Lee - Thanks for the extra info. Wasn't that a similar way to how Cinerama was shot?

Katella Gate said...

Although I am not as sentimental over the Circarama Films as I am, say, Adventure thru Inner Space, I can't begin to say how impressive the experience was.

The cinematographer for America the Beautiful knew exactly what he was doing. There was not one, but several moments when you could hear the audience actually gasp with amazement.

TokyoMagic! said...

My favorite film was the 1967 version of "America the Beautiful." I never cared for "American Journeys." It was too obvious that all the people in the film were hired actors, but with ATB, you could see the occasional bystander staring at the was more natural. Also, the music and narration of ATB was the best. I was very surprised that they made an effort to bring it back that last year that CircleVision was operating (was that 1997?) I guess now the only park with CircleVision is EPCOT. Unfortunately, Tokyo and Paris also replaced their theaters with Buzz.

Westcot2000 said...

American Journeys and Wonders of China each had their final performances in July 1996 to make way for America the Beautiful's farewell season in 1996-1997.

ToykoMagic!: America the Beautiful was definitely a more charming movie. The one weird thing was that still pictures were used for the St. Louis aerial panorama shot.

For an excellent post regarding the history of Circlevision visit

George Taylor said...


Great post!

My first visit was in February 1996 and we did get to experience the "Giant Phone Booths" where you could make a call to anywhere in the US. We called my mom and she could barely hear what we were saying.