BACKSTORY (July 17, 1955–Sept. 7, 1997): 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. The original films were shot by Paul Mantz and Frank Tallman, of TallMantz Aviation.
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).
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FROM VACATIONLAND MAGAZINE, SUMMER 1960
America the Beautiful
America's magnificent natural and man-made wonders are on view for Disneyland's guests this summer in the unique Circarama film "America the Beauitful" presented as a free attraction through the courtesy of the companies that form the Bell System communications network.
The Circarama process, first developed for Disneyland by Disney Studio technicians, has been exhibted only two other places in the world: the Brussell's World Fair where it was an important part of the United States special exhibit in Moscow last summer.
Circarama tells its story through a 360-degree circular "screen" (actually 11 screens blended to ahcieve the effect of complete circle vision) shown through 11 synchronized projectors. The audience enjoys the show from the center of the circle.
The Bell System's presentation of Circarama is housed in the graceful and futuristic exposition building at the left of Tomorrowland's entrance, just past the World Clock.
Entering visitors are given a demonstration of cross-country Direct Distance Dialing by Bell System representatives, then invited to view the wide-ranging story of communications, told through a dimensional, curving mural that carries out the theme "…from sea to shining sea."
The Circarama film, "America the Beautiful" is presented in regular showings throughout the day in the adjacent Circarama theater, only one of its kind in the United States.
FROM VACATIONLAND MAGAZINE, SUMMER 1967
Bell Telephone New Circle-Vision Film
Expanding and re-developing what was one of the most popular shows in Disneyland the past twelve years, the Bell System announces the completion in Tomorrowland this summer of an entirely new exhibit pavilion and an all-new “America the Beautiful” presentation.
Through the versatility of “Circle-Vision 360,” an enlarged theater-in-the-round where guests view the motion picture on a screen that completely encircles them, Bell presents a trip through beautiful America.
In addition to the “America the Beautiful” presentation, the show also presents a display of present and future communications systems and techniques. Most advanced of these systems will be Bell’s futuristic “Picturephone,” where guests can actually see the person to whom they are talking.
New Tomorrowland Presents Restaurant of the Future
Cox Pilot and Circarama and the ATT &Satellite
As I recall, there was a satellite that circled around on a big arm on top of the building that housed the Circarama show that included space and satellites. Both the arm and the satellite would turn, and they were a replica of the AT&T telecommunications satellite. It was a big deal in those days because of the TV broadcasts of the Olympics. Later the big ball stopped turning (another detail that was left to fall apart). A little side note: one of our airplanes, called the Piper Comanche, broke its lines during a show. It was the largest, green and cream colored, plane. It was very powerful, and actually should have been on 100 feet of control line. Our circle would only allow 50' of line, so we had to use steel fishing line with special connectors, and we would set the engine to "full rich" so it would run slow. BUT; on very hot days, the full mixture would lean out, and the plane would start to go full speed half way through the flight. When that would happen, you could only hang on until the fuel ran out in about 5 minutes, and keep the plane below the fence line just in case. The fuselage of the plane would start to slide off the wing, and then the lines would give out, and the plane would slam into the fence at about 60 mph.
That particular day we had a bit of a Santa Ana wind, and a gust took the plane above the fence line just as the lines broke and off it went. It did a half roll and zoomed right towards the clock about 20' off the ground. At the last minute, it rolled over again and took a right turn and slammed right into the big round AT&T sign on the SIDE of the building that faced our circle (not visible in the photo), smashing the plastic. One man near the sign was showered with plastic and was very upset. We gave him the plane, and it seemed to calm him down. We paid, and WED began to re-think our being in the park.