Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Tribute to Walt Disney's America On Parade

By Keith Mahne




Many of the attractions and entertainment offerings found at Walt Disney World and Disneyland were inspired by Walt Disney's love and involvement of America. Walt's name alone is both folklore and the reality of American free enterprise. In the creation of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Walt Disney has shown America as something in which every citizen may find great pride and inspiration. This tradition carries over into one of the most beautiful and patriotic parades in Disney's history, America On Parade. Join us as we pay tribute to this Disney classic in today's new article...









As the saying goes, everybody loves a parade, and what better time to stage one at the Disney Parks than during the nation's Bicentennial. Because of Disney's vast experience and expertise in producing entertainments on a grand scale, it was very fitting, as America came to its 200th anniversary, that Walt Disney's company take a leading role in using Disneyland and Walt Disney World as a showcase for the best that America has been and has to offer. And so, the long task of collecting reference material on which to create this new and exciting event began...




America On Parade concept art





From the outset, the project's goal was not to glorify the famous wars of America, as others had done in the past. Instead, the purpose was to present the lighter, more beautiful aspects of America, those things which have helped make it a great nation. Research on America's history, people, achievements and lifestyles was conducted for nearly a year. Thousands of man hours went into producing the basic concept for a parade...




Concept art for the Betsy Ross float

Concept art for the Betsy Ross float

Large rocking chair for the Betsy Ross float

The completed Betsy Ross float




As the concept unfolded, it was decided that the parade would be far more than a historical look at our country. The moving pageantry would also recreate memorable moments, such as the first Thanksgiving, Sunday in the park, school days, and many other events. Important American creations and contributions, such as transportation achievements, and inventions like the light bulb, electric iron, and the photograph, would also be featured. Our beloved pastimes and ways of life including sporting events, popcorn, hot dogs, ice cream, television, movies, and the circus would also become highlights of America On Parade. After a grueling process, the research was complete and it was now time to let the Disney teams of artists and designers begin to dream and visualize America through renderings of various styles...











To present 200 years of American history required the creation of more than 300 new Disney characters called the "People of America." Averaging approximately eight feet in height, the doll-like characters were designed to fit in proportion with America On Parade's larger-than-life scale, which allowed the audiences, young and old alike, to view the parade as though it was through the eyes of a child. While this was an entirely new family of characters, experience gained from previous pageants proved essential to the Disney staff in the design and creation of the "People of America"...











After all the imagination and planning was implemented and construction had taken place, the success of the event itself was judged by performance. In the final analysis, it was the people, both on the stage and behind the scenes, who made a creation like America On Parade the spectacle that it became. Finding the talent Disney needed to fit their needs required untold hours of searching, auditioning, selection and, of course, training. Casting for all aspects of the parade had to be completed months before the pageant's debut. During its 15-month run, America On Parade would require the direct involvement of literally thousands of people, each with a specific, assigned task...










America On Parade enjoyed the distinction of being the first parade produced simultaneously at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. During its June 14, 1975 through September 6, 1976 run, the parade was a temporary replacement for the Main Street Electrical Parade for the United States Bicentennial, which was a huge event all across the country at that time in the nation's history. To see America On Parade is to truly experience America...











Those lucky enough to see the parade in person were graced with a delightful sampling of the people, creations, events and accomplishments of America, all the things that have combined to make the country great. From the first sights and sounds of the parade to the grand finale, there were moments when one would laugh, smile and maybe even shed a tear of joy in recalling a memory of times gone by. The fun-filled procession of the old parade was a continuously moving "stage" that captured the spirit of Americana in a grand display of colorful people and settings, along with an outstanding musical program presented in an excitingly different format...


































In 1976, the parade was featured in a nationwide broadcast special titled Monsanto Night Presents Walt Disney's America on Parade starring Red Skelton. It certainly is a classic Disney TV special and offers us a wonderful look at the parade in all her glory. So friends, take your places along "Disney Avenue", and get set to celebrate. Here is America On Parade...

(For your viewing pleasure, please be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player at the top left-hand corner of the page before playing the video below if you are on a desktop computer.)








Source: 1976 America On Parade Guide Book






*******








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.

1 comment:

  1. What a great article. I try to explain to people why Walt Disney was so great and brought such a rich life to us, especially in the 20th century, but my words never seem to convey. I finally just settle on "you just had to be there". Thank you for all your work on Disney Avenue.

    ReplyDelete