04 July 2009

A dazzling, fun-filled pageant

Disney’s America on Parade first rolled down the thoroughfare of Main Street U.S.A., in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, on June 14, 1975. While this was almost a full thirteen months before the country would celebrate the Bicentennial, Disney was never one to come late to a party, or leave early for that matter. A fact well represented by the parade making its final journey on September 6, 1976, two months after the Bicentennial of the United States.The Bicentennial was not just a big deal for Disney, it was a birthday party that was celebrated in every corner of the country. For its part, Disney’s America on Parade researched the history and social commentaries of the United States before settling on a parade that would feature fifty floats. While some would have been satisfied with a brief glimpse at each of the fifty states being represented by these floats, Disney instead chose to depict the spirit, achievements, ideals, histories, and icons of the entire country. By choosing elements that created common bonds from sea to shining sea, the parade had much more of a resounding impact on each and every individual who had the chance to view it. This impact was felt by, according to Disney’s estimates, as many as twenty-five million guests.Like all things Disney, music was a key element. After two years of digging and scrounging, and compiling a list of songs large enough to enamor any music buff, Disney settled on using the sound of a music box. The true trials of music were only beginning, however. According to David Jacobs, in the book Disney’s America on Parade:
“Eventually they found a beauty – a completely restored 1890 band organ – in Sikeston, Missouri. Known as “Sadie Mae,” the instrument had some two hundred pipes and worked on the same principle as a player piano, except that punch-hole piano books were used instead of piano rolls. That was fine – except that the researchers discovered that only one man in the world was capable of making piano books by hand, and he was in Belgium.”
All’s well that ends well, the music was sent to Belgium, the instrument and her piano books were assembled in a little music town known as Nashville, the score was recorded, then embellished with a moog synthesizer, and Sadie Mae’s melodious tunes boomed loud and clear from the loudspeakers.The typical traveling parties of princesses, pirates, dwarfs, fairies, and courageous heroes would not do for such a national moving monument, although they did have their place in the parade. Instead the People of America were crafted for the floats. These eight foot tall figures, most of which were identical with their only differences being added through costuming effects such as clothes, propping, and hair, embodied the same spirits of America that the floats did themselves. To add to the quality of the production, the costumes were as authentic as could be constructed, right down to the stitching. Like all good ideas that refuse to go away within Disney, the People of America were recostumed in the early 1980s and became the first walk around characters in EPCOT Center’s World Showcase.Over the fifteen month run of Disney’s patriotic pageant ran twice a day, once in the afternoon and again in the evening hours. Disney’s America on Parade served to swell the hearts of men, women, and children alike while it celebrated the Fourth of July each and every day. With so much emphasis being placed on celebrations this year at Disney Parks, I can think of no better way to celebrate this day, our Independence Day, by remembering all that has come before us, the determination and soaring hearts of all our people, and all the promises we carry forward with us into the future. That is the story that Disney’s America on Parade told us, and those are the ideals that it sent us out into the world with.


Believes in Fairies said...

I remember this parade!!!! I have photos somewhere... and if I can EVER find my info for my printer/scanner to add to my new laptop I will have them saved on disc too. Thanks for the memories!!!!

Anonymous said...

I was in this parade the summer og 1975. It was a blast!!!