|By Keith Mahne|
The sounds of beating drums, the sight of igniting torches and the art of dancing puppets all came together in harmony as part of the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration in a parade called Tapestry of Nations. The parade was truly mesmerizing as the artistry and excitement that emanated from this production was extremely impressive. Let's travel back to the turn of the century and revisit one of the best Disney parades ever created as we remember Epcot's Tapestry of Nations in today's new article...
"The gateway of time has opened and the spirit of humanity has brought us together. Let us reach out and touch. Peace and goodwill to all who gather here for this earthly celebration. May the spirit of humanity bring us together...may the promise of the new millennium light the child within your heart. And now...as the millennium drums unite and become one heartbeat, let us fly together hand in hand on the wings of joy, kindness, compassion, and love."
-From the Introduction to Tapestry of Nations
Tapestry of Nations was a parade in Epcot that ran around the World Showcase Lagoon from 1999 to 2001, after which it was rethemed as Tapestry of Dreams. The parade had a unity and world peace theme and featured a variety of large puppets and massive rotating drum units. The leader of the parade was the Sage of Time, who was represented as a stilt walker in an elaborate costume featuring alchemy symbols, gold trim on a white robe, a staff, and a headpiece resembling a sun with a face...
|Sage of Time|
Tapestry of Nations featured a total of 40 puppets. Some of the more glamorous ones were called Aztec Man, Bird Man, Inverted Marionette, Angel Girl, Wiggle Girl, Disc Man, Hammered Man, and The Sprite. Each puppet weighed between eight and eighteen pounds and added anywhere from fifteen to eighteen feet in height to the person who controlled the puppet.
The puppets were designed by Michael Curry who also designed the puppets for The Lion King on Broadway and a variety of Disney theme park shows. The puppets and performers were not supposed to represent any specific culture, but rather a unity among countries. To make sure that the puppets would have the proper visual presence as they made their way around World Showcase Lagoon, giant cardboard cutouts were tested all around the water when the show was still in production.
At the core of the parade was the music. The infectious sounds of the parade were composed by Gavin Greenaway, the same person who scored IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth. Recorded at Abbey Road in London with members of the London Symphony Orchestra and a thirty-member chorus, the music included a chanted "language" that meant nothing but sounded like words. The music for Tapestry of Nations included an instrumental part of the Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand song that was later dropped when the parade became Tapestry of Dreams. The music from Tapestry of Nations was divided into five areas: The Sage of Time Prologue, Millennium Heartbeat, The Great Millennium Walk, Reach for the Stars, and The Human Spirit. When the parade was altered into Tapestry of Dreams, new spoken introductions by the Dream Seekers were recorded and the voices of children could be heard during the music speaking their dreams in many different languages (the Tapestry of Nations music has been added to the Disney Avenue Music Player and is track #179 in the playlist which you can access from the desktop version of our site)...
In 2001, the parade became Tapestry of Dreams. Wishes from children around the world were heard throughout the parade's soundtrack. The middle of the parade had a tribute to Walt Disney, "...the greatest and most wonderful dreamer of all!". In this version, the Sage of Time was replaced with the Dream Seekers, a trio of elf like characters that would open and close the parade and collect Dreamtale coins that children would receive at the Epcot Kidcot stations. The three Dream Seekers included:
- Leonardo Columbus, who represented discovery, invention and genius.
- Elfin, who represented nature, magic and emotions.
- Cosmo, who represented space and the unknown.
Besides the Tapestry of Dreams version, there were actually three versions of Tapestry of Nations, each having differences in their audio. The original version featured a much more serious sounding Sage of Time and ran from the parade's debut in October 1999 to the middle of December 1999. The narration was changed to give the Sage a more gentle sounding tone in his voice, this version running until the Millennium Celebration's conclusion in the spring of 2001.
After the conclusion of the the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration in 2001, changes to the script brought in the theme of human dreams, which would carry on to the Tapestry of Dreams version, though still retaining the character of the Sage of Time. This version ran to the middle of the summer of 2001 when the Tapestry of Dreams version finally debuted. The final version of the parade ran nightly, although in a reduced fashion compared to Tapestry of Nations, and was eventually canceled in March 2003.
|Super Bowl XXXIV halftime show featuring the giant Sage of Time and some parade puppets|
Outside of Epcot, Tapestry of Nations served as the theme of the Super Bowl XXXIV halftime show and featured a massive sized Sage of Time as a backdrop in addition to an appearance by the parade's walkaround puppets.
Out of all the parades that Disney has “retired” from the parks, Tapestry of Nations is definitely the one I miss the most. I can recall being at Epcot, and looking at the times guide to see when the next performance would start. Even if you weren’t positive of when the parade would begin, and perhaps you and the family were just casually strolling around the park, you would know it was time for the parade to start by the pulse of the music. That unique “heartbeat” of the drums rang throughout the park, it lured you in, and made you stop and admire. When you think of what Disney magic is, Tapestry of Nations, and eventually Tapestry of Dreams, was truly a piece of it at it’s finest. Although I won't get my hopes up, I would love to see the parade return to the Park, maybe as a special event for a future Epcot anniversary, so that those who weren’t lucky enough to see it first hand, and even those who have, can once again revel in the magic that was Tapestry of Nations.
And now friends, in the video below you'll find some great footage taken from a variety of YouTube and Vimeo videos and edited into a twenty-two minute movie of the Tapestry of Nations parade at Epcot. I feel the video captures a good bit of the spirit of the parade and even features a few clips of the Super Bowl XXXIV halftime show where you'll see a massive sized Sage of Time and the parade's walkaround puppets that I mentioned earlier. Enjoy...
(For your viewing pleasure, please remember to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player in the top, left-hand corner of the page prior to playing the video below if you are on a desktop computer.)
Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.