July 1955 – September 1997
Tomorrowland – Circarama/Circle-Vision 360 was located right at the edge of the land, overlooking Main Street USA. Guests arriving through the main entrance to Tomorrowland found the theater on the left, across from the Monsanto Hall of Chemistry. The theater building is now part of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
While most of early Tomorrowland celebrated technology and space exploration, one attraction used state-of-the-art technology to showcase present life in America, the birthplace of much of that innovation. Circarama was a show with a giant in-the-round theater, displaying massive images that put viewers right in the middle of scenes. The theater’s first, short-lived show was A Tour of the West, which highlighted scenes of the American west in the present and recent past.
The show went dark in 1960, to make room for Circarama’s most famous show: America the Beautiful. This patriotic film took audiences on a journey across different American landscapes. America the Beautiful was an incredible success, and quickly became one of Tomorrowland’s most popular attractions.
In 1967, Disney upgraded its in-the-round theater, and the bigger and better theater became known as Circle-Vision 360. With the new theater came an upgraded version of America the Beautiful, which remained in Tomorrowland until the attraction’s closure in 1997.
Guests arrived in the theater to find 11 massive screens above them. The show displayed a panoramic film across all the screens, providing guests with a completely immersive experience. The America the Beautiful show covered many famous regions of the United States, including: Williamsburg, New York Harbor, Times Square, the Vermont woods, Detriot automobile manufacturing, Pittsburg steel mills, Oklahoma cowboys, Montana wheat farming, Utah copper mines, Hoover Dam, Monument Valley, The Grand Canyon, UCLA, San Francisco, theGolden Gate Bridge, and later, Cape Canaveral. The show used all of the screens to provide incredible detail for each scene, so guests could visit over and over and see something new each time.
Circarama/Circle-Vision 360 met the same fate as virtually every other early Tomorrowland attraction. With constant innovation and newer and more exciting thrill rides in the land, older shows and walkthroughs just couldn’t keep up. Attendance steadily declined over the years, until the theater was no longer a highlight in Tomorrowland. So in 1997, Circle-Vision 360 finally closed its doors. Parts of the theater would be incorporated into the Rocket Rods preshow, and the entire building would later evolve into the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters attraction.
Circarama is a reference to Cinerama, a three-projector system in some theaters that displayed ultra-large films.
The America the Beautiful show actually made its debut at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.