Friday, February 9, 2018

Olympic Spirit At Disneyland - 1980's (Mega Post!)

In August of 1984, Los Angeles played host to the Summer Olympic Games. Five months earlier, Disneyland was preparing for this major event, by celebrating "Olympic Spirit Weekends."

The "American Gazette" Parade was making it's return to the park. Featured on a special float in the parade, were the Olympic greats listed below in the park entertainment guide. Those same Olympians were available at a "meet and greet" in front of the Opera House for photos and autographs.

The back of the entertainment guide had a spot for autographs. Greg Louganis' signature can be seen in the middle of the page. He had won a silver medal in diving at the 1976 Olympics and went on to win 4 gold medals during his Olympic career, two of which were earned that summer at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Bob Seagren signed the page below (middle, left). He was the one Olympian pictured on the inside of the entertainment guide. He had already won gold and silver medals in pole vaulting and went on to have a career as an actor and TV spokesperson. He played a gay football player (and Billy Crystal's boyfriend) in the 1970's sitcom, Soap. He was also a co-host for six years on the news and entertainment show, P.M. Magazine.

The guide included an order form for a special "Olympic Spirit Passport."

The Disneyland passport was actually a small ticket that was attached to the back of a solid bronze medal.

The ticket was good for entry into the park after 5 p.m. for six weeks in the summertime. I had a Disneyland Annual Passport at this time, so I knew I wouldn't use the ticket. I did want the medal however, so I ended up ordering a "Child's Passport" and saved $3.00 off of the adult price!

There was also an ad for the Olympic Spirit Passports in the Spring 1984 issue of Disney News Magazine.

Going back to the entertainment listings, the band that was appearing on the Tomorrowland Terrace Stage that day was "Airplay." And here they are, in all of their 1980's splendor! I hope they were playing Flock of Seagulls' "Space Age Love Song" or Peter Schilling's "Major Tom." That would be like, really tubular, you know?

This wasn't the first time that Disney ran a promotion saluting the Olympics and the U.S. Teams. One year earlier, in February of 1983, Disneyland had "Celebrate America Days."

Several Olympian athletes (including Bob Mathias and Edwin Moses) made guest appearances in 1983, but I did not get any autographs that year.

The "American Gazette" Parade was debuting that year and as mentioned earlier, returned one year later for the 1984 Olympic promotion.

The bands listed on the Tomorrowland Terrace Stage were "Pizzazz" during the day, and "Krash" in the evening. I guess "Airplay" had the weekend off, but what happened to "Sunshine Balloon", "Sound Castle" and "The Establishment"?

"Show Biz Is" was playing on the Space Stage. Let's not even get started with how much they ruined the beautifully designed Space Mountain complex by turning the open-air Space Stage amphitheater into an enclosed theater! Note the Bongo and Lulubelle characters on stage (from the Bongo segment of the 1947 film, Fun and Fancy Free).

During "Celebrate America Days," Disneyland held a "Discover America" contest. Guests received a game card upon entering the park. If you scratched off four "like" attractions in a row (America Sings, America The Beautiful, or Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln), you were a winner.

There was no purchase necessary to receive a game card. The rules stated that you could go to the Information window next to Disneyland's Main Entrance and request a game card. Game cards were also available by mail. There was one Grand Prize of a trip to the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. And there were three First Prizes of a trip to Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

The most common prizes were a Disneyland Passport or a USA Olympic Pin. The odds of winning either of those prizes were 20 to 1.

Here's what the Disneyland Passport looked like:

And here is the pin:

This button was also available during the special event, but now I can't remember if they were handed out to guests as they entered the park, or if they were for sale in the shops. It was 35 years ago, after all!

Now let's take a look at the "American Gazette Parade," which ran during both years of Disneyland's Olympic promotions. These pics were all taken during it's 1984 return to the park. I really liked this parade! Unfortunately, Disney doesn't use this many dancers OR musicians in their parades anymore.

The first float was a nod to Disneyland's "America On Parade" logo from 1976, with Mickey, Donald and Goofy dressed as revolutionary soldiers.

That logo was actually taken from a July 1939 cover of Mickey Mouse Magazine. And the magazine cover itself, was a parody of Archibald Willard's "The Spirit of '76" painting from 1875.

If you look behind the "Disneyland Olympic Spirit" sign on the first float, you can see some people standing and holding signs. These were the former and current Olympic athletes that were appearing at the park that day. The signs included their names and the Olympic events that they won their medals in.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the first "era" represented in the parade, which was the early 1900's.

Here we have the 1920's, with some rolled down hose-wearing, fringe-shaking flappers, dancing the Charleston. This parade featured quite a few live bands. Riding on this float are musicians wearing long racoon fur coats, which was a fad in the '20's.

Next we have some "gangsters and their molls" dancing to the 1922 song, "Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)" by Fred Fisher. Note the trumpet player sitting in a bathtub on the float.

Then came the "1940's" with couples jitterbugging to Louie Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing."

A Betty Grable "look-alike" was riding on the float with the band.

I didn't get a picture of him, but on the back of the 1940's float, was a young "Frank Sinatra" look-alike, singing into a microphone. Chasing after him was this group of "fans" carrying autograph books. The "fan" just out of frame on the far right was older than the others and wore a large button on her chest that read, "Fan Club President." That lady had actually played Mrs. Claus the year that I was in "Fantasy On Parade." I wish I had taken a better photo of her in this parade!

For some reason, this salute to American sports was wedged in between the 1940's and the 1950's units of the parade.

The 1950's unit included a prom theme, with performers dancing to Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes." The couple pictured below, were supposed to be the high school "nerds" with the taller girl towering over the shorter guy.

The last unit was the 1980's. The current exercise and aerobics crazes were represented by dancers and roller skaters performing to Wham's, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." Headband and leg warmers alert!

"The American Gazette" Parade was brought back for a third time in 1985. By then all references to the Olympics had been removed, new opening and closing units had been added, and some tweaks had been made to the other units. There are three different videos of the parade posted on YouTube and they are all from 1985. Here is a link to one of those videos:

Friday, December 29, 2017

50th Anniversary of Walt Disney's The Happiest Millionaire (Mega Post!)

This year marked the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney's, The Happiest Millionaire. The film was the very last live-action film that Walt Disney oversaw production on, before passing away in December of 1966.

The Happiest Millionaire was originally a 1956 Broadway play, starring Walter Pidgeon in the title role.

The play itself, was based on the book, My Philadelphia Father by Cordelia Drexel Biddle (with Kyle Chrichton), which was published in 1955 and told the story of her eccentric millionaire father, Anthony J. Drexel Biddle and his family.

Walt Disney aquired the rights to the story in the early sixties, but he wasn't planning to make it a musical until the huge box office success of Mary Poppins in 1964. The Sherman Brothers, fresh off of their double Academy Award win with Mary Poppins (for Best Score and Best Song), were brought in again, to compose the music for The Happiest Millionaire.

I'm going to attempt to give a condensed synopsis of the movie. For anyone that wants to skip my synopsis, you can scroll down to the image of the white plastic "Happiest Millionaire" VHS case from Walt Disney Home Video and the other film-related merchandise.

Okay, here we go. Picture it....Philadelphia, 1916! "Elegant" millionaire, Anthony J. Drexel Biddle (Fred Mac Murray) and his wife (Greer Garson) live in a large Philadelphia mansion with their "elegant" family and a handful of servants.

John Lawless (Tommy Steele), an Irish immigrant who is "one day off-the-boat," comes dancing down the street and singing about a potential job that is "nearly" his, with said "elegant millionaire and his elegant family." He tells us that we might call that luck and we might call it fortune, but he calls it, "Fortuosity."

"Fortuosity," is his byword. It also happens to be his "never feel alone" word, and his "twinkle in the eye" word.

Among the Biddle family members are tomboyish daughter, Cordelia/"Cordy" (Lesley Ann Warren). While growing up, Cordy was taught how to box by her father, who happens to run a boxing school at home under the name, "Biddle Bible Class."

Cordy has two brothers, Livingston (former Mouseketeer, Paul Peterson on the left) and Tony (Eddie Hodges on the right). They are always scaring away Cordy's potential suitors, by warning them that if they get too amorous with her, she'll give them "a jab, a right hook, or an uppercut!" Of course they do this through song ("Watch Your Footwork").

This leads Cordy to question her femininity. While looking into her bedroom mirror, she asks herself if she's "Valentine Candy" or boxing gloves.

John Lawless ends up getting hired as the butler and that's cause for a song and dance number with Mr. Biddle, Cordy and one of their servants, Mrs. Worth (Hermione Baddeley).

Yes, Hermione Baddeley....the Banks' maid in Mary Poppins and Bea Arthur's maid in Maude.

At the suggestion of Cordy's aunt Mary (Gladys Cooper), Cordy chooses to leave home and go off to a boarding school for girls.

While away at school, Cordy's roommate, Rosemary (Joyce Bullifant) teaches her how to "vamp it up" and land herself a man. Through a song called "Bye-Yum Pum Pum," she tells her that it's necessary for her to "slink across the floor as if it's a dreadful bore!" She also adds that she must be "oh-so mysterioso," because "the men in college always acknowledge, a woman who dances in a trance." This song might just be my favorite in the category of "little-known Sherman Brothers songs."

Cordy and Rosemary attend a society party, where Cordy figures she will be able to use her newly acquired man-luring techniques. Rosemary is the blond doing the tango on the far right.

Cordy is off in another room practicing her vamping, when Angier "Angie" Duke (John Davidson) sees her and tells her that she isn't like the other girls and that he likes that.

They end up waltzing while singing, "Are We Dancing?" Personally, I think this scene is a little reminiscent of the one from Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1965 TV Special, "Cinderella," in which Lesley Ann Warren dances with Stuart Damon while singing "Ten Minutes Ago." But that's not a bad thing!

Cordy and Angie fall in love during a montage of scenes showing them going on dates, which mostly seem to involve driving all around the countryside in his car.

Angie's passion turns out to be automobiles, and his dream is to move to Detroit and "invent new motors and design new rotors," as he declares in the song, "Detroit."

Meanwhile back in the Biddle household....did I mention that Mr. Biddle raises alligators? That's just one of the things that makes him an eccentric millionaire. Well, a window is left open in the conservatory where the alligators are kept, and being wintertime in Philadelphia, the alligators freeze! John Lawless helps Mr. Biddle thaw out his "babies" by the fireplace, and then has to wrangle them back into their holding pools in the conservatory.

Okay, here is where the movie (and probably this post) starts to feel a little long. And since I'm short on images for this last part of the film anyway, I'll speed it up a little.

Cordy comes back home with Angie and they announce their engagement to the family. Mr. Biddle isn't too happy about it at first, but Angie eventually wins him over. Cordy meets Angie's snooty-patootie mother, Mrs. Duke (Geraldine Page). There ends up being some conflicts and misunderstandings among the families and Cordy ends up calling off the wedding. The primary problem being, that Angie gives up on his own personal dream of going to Detroit and decides to enter into the family's tobacco business, because that's what his mother expects him to do.

Angie goes to a bar to drink and decides that he is going to (among other things) just run off and join the Foreign Legion. John Lawless, who was sent to follow him and look after him, starts a fight at the bar to keep Angie from running out and doing anything rash.

Angie ends up getting arrested. The families come to bail him out and that is when he stands up to his mother and tells her that he is going to follow his own dreams after all. He picks up Cordy and throws her over his shoulder and they run off to elope.

And they all lived happily ever after!

The movie was originally 164 minutes in length, for it's initial premiere in New York City. For it's Los Angeles premiere, the film was edited down to 144 minutes. The studio ended up shortening it even further (by another 26 minutes) for it's general release. The movie was not a financial success and unlike many of Disney's earlier films, it was never re-released in movie theaters. I saw The Happiest Millionaire for the very first time, after it was released on Walt Disney Home Video in 1983 (the 144 minute version).

I always say that it's an odd little movie (okay, not so little) but I completely fell in love with it and it's soundtrack (with the exception of the two songs Fred MacMurray sings by himself). After watching it that first time, it didn't take me very long to find a used copy of the soundtrack on vinyl.

I recently did a search on ebay, to see what other merchandise might have been available at the time the film was released. I found a small selection of items, including this comic book.

A book of paper dolls also turned up in my search.

Joyce Bulifant's character (Rosemary) was represented on the back cover.

And here's a strange movie tie-in, a book of The Happiest Millionaire "play money."

A coloring book and children's records were also available back in 1967. I wonder if any of these items were sold at Disneyland?

A songbook was published, containing all of the Sherman Brothers music from the film.

Individual sheet music was also available.

In 2002, the soundtrack was remastered and re-released on CD, and included two bonus tracks. One of these is, "It Won't Be Long 'til Christmas," which is a song that was cut for the shorter versions of the film. The other is a demo track (sung by Richard Sherman), for a song that never made it past the pre-production stages.

And in 2004, Disney released the original "Roadshow Edition" (the long version) of the film on DVD.

We will wrap up this post with a few "sort-of-related" tidbits here:

The same year that The Happiest Millionaire premiered, Club 33 opened at Disneyland. Located in New Orleans Square, the private club is decorated with many historic and antique pieces. A phone booth was specially built for the club, using the leaded glass panels from the phone booth featured in the film. The original prop can be seen on the far right of the photo below.

Here's a picture showing the Club 33 phone booth, back in 2010.

Lesley Ann Warren visited Disneyland in 2012 and was photographed with Mickey in front of the film-inspired piece. (Photo from the Disney Parks Blog.)

Also on display in Club 33 are Bill Thomas' costume sketches for The Happiest Millionaire. Mr. Thomas was nominated for an Academy Award for his costume design (the film's only nomination), but lost to John Truscott for his costume designs for the film, Camelot.

Lesley Ann Warren and John Davidson were paired up once again, in the 1968 Walt Disney film, The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band. (That film will have to be the subject of a future post......maybe.)

In 1974, The Happiest Millionaire song, "Fortuosity" was sung by Ruth Buzzi and Sandy Duncan during the TV special, Sandy In Disneyland. The interesting thing here is, that they sing the song while traipsing through a Doombuggy-less Haunted Mansion. I remember seeing this as a kid and thinking, I want to do that!

That same 1974 TV special also happens to include John Davidson, singing with Sandy Duncan while strolling down Main Street. Right after that, he sings The Carpenters song, "Top Of The World" while riding on the Main Street Fire Engine. I've included the link to the special in it's entirety, just in case anyone is interested. (John Davidson's appearance begins at the 24:23 mark.)

Fast-forwarding six years to 1980....John Davidson was on hand at Walt Disney World, to unveil the Magic Kingdom's newest attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

This year, Disney actually came out with a 50th anniversary pin for The Happiest Millionaire. The pin was available exclusively to Disney cast members.

The pin's design was taken from the cover of this 1967 long-playing children's record.

A very happy 50th anniversary to Walt Disney's The Happiest Millionaire!

**BONUS!** Major Pepperidge of Gorillas Don't Blog, has generously shared with me a couple Happiest Millionaire-related items from his collection. Thank you Major!

This first item is a special 1967 Disneyland Grad Nite flyer.

It offers Grad Nite attendees the chance to buy discounted tickets for The Happiest Millionaire, which was playing at The Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

This second item is an ad from the back cover of a "Two Wonderful Ways To Enjoy Disneyland" flyer.

Now I'm wondering if over they years, tickets for other Disney films were available at Disneyland's Main Gate?