13 August 2018

Before the Parade Passes By

Music is one of the core ingredients to creating a successful environment in the world of Disney theme parks. Most of the time, guests stroll through a given land or attraction space and don’t even take note of the soundtrack underscoring their adventure. On rare occasions they may hum along to a well-known song or theme, but stopping to take note of the music is not a beloved pastime when it comes to theme park touring. What I have found, however, is that the more my musical and cinematic IQ grows, the more I appreciate certain areas of the parks, and in no land do I take more notice of the background loop than when I am on Main Street, U.S.A.

The selections here actually consist of a large swathe of music, from songs that were popular at the turn of the century, to music from musical and theatrical productions that are set around the turn of the last century. Among these songs you may find Old Timers’ Waltz Medley, Dearie, Junk Man Rag, Before the Parade Passes By, Mary is a Grand Ol’ Name, Many a New Day, and Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby, just to name a few. This selection of songs comprises approximately half of the arrangements present on Main Street.

However, as I said in the opening, Main Street really takes on a life of its own for me when the song is from a play or film that I recognize. Thinking about productions that highlight turn of the century main streets from towns big and small, it should come as no surprise to find songs from musicals like Oklahoma, The Music Man, and Yankee Doodle Dandy. These musicals are filled with pure Americana, just the same way that Main Street is itself. Neither may be an authentic representation of what life was like during these times, but it is the image that we have created and kept for ourselves over the years.

A pair of Disney feature film musicals also have a series of selections highlighted on Main Street. Like the musicals above, they too are set in and around the early part of the last century, but aren’t as commonly known as some of Disney’s musicals like Mary Poppins. That said The Happiest Millionaire and Summer Magic fit the formula perfectly. The Happiest Millionaire, focuses on the lives of a well to do family, their fascination with alligators and Detroit, and a story of young love. Main Street features Fortuosity and Let’s Have a Drink On It from this film, and is partially responsible for my continued singing of Fortuosity around my house. Summer Magic, on the other hand, also features stories of young romance, but they are wrapped up in a tale of a down on their luck family being rescued from their fate by their saving grace, and town meddler, Burl Ives. It also features some of the most iconic, if under recognized, music of Main Street in the form of Flitterin’, Summer Magic, and Beautiful Beulah.

There is another song that blends the recipe for inclusion in the above categories. The song comes from a musical, but also turns up in a non-musical Disney film. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the majority of guests who recognize Hello, Dolly’s Put On Your Sunday Clothes associate the song most closely with WALL-E. As this isn't the only song from Hello, Dolly present on Main Street, but is certainly the one that gets guests singing only strengthens my case.

Popular musicals are, on the whole, filled with memories and always waiting for someone to come along and revive them for the next generation. On occasion there is a definitive version of a production that gives it an iconic status and forever brands it into the popular lexicon. Folks like the aforementioned Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Music Man, and Oklahoma fit just such a mold. The gift that the music of Main Street has given me, however, is the ability to rummage through the Disney catalog and find wonderful movie moments that I hadn’t discovered before. The Happiest Millionaire and Summer Magic may not be classics by standard definitions, but they have given me a lot of joy and, in return, they add to my experience when I hear pieces of their soundtracks on Main Street.

Music and Main Street go hand in hand. Even if you aren’t paying attention to the soundtrack that leads you down the street, there’s a window to find where singing lessons occur. We would be remiss if we didn’t, at the very least, mention The Trolley Song from Meet Me in St. Louis that is performed a handful of times throughout the day on Main Street or the live on the spot recitals from the Dapper Dans.

The practices of creating a place in any theme park or resort rely heavily upon the skills and disciplines of filmmaking. Set design and storytelling are part of the formula, but the score is just as important to setting an appropriate scene. Main Street, U.S.A. has brought to life many songs and musicals for sharp eared guests, while conversely allowing guests to also appreciate musicals a bit more in their home movie viewing life. The effect can be summed up in a single word, Fortuosity. If you don’t happen to recognize this byword, may I suggest thinking of it in the same vein as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and then seek it out. It’ll enhance both your life away from the parks and your Main Street experience.

No comments: