Fantasy On Parade 1981 - Part 1 (The Disney Classics Units)
This is a follow up to my "I Was A Teenage Christmas Tree" post from December of 2010. In that post, I included some personal items that I had saved from my short stint of working in the Christmas parade at Disneyland back in 1981. Now we will take a look at the actual parade, in it's entirety.
I took all of the "backstage" pictures in today's post. The photos of the parade on Main Street were taken by my grandfather, who came to see me in one of the parade performances. I have some additional photos that were given to me by "Knott's Illustrated", who's personal collection of theme park pics just happened to include several of "Fantasy On Parade" from the very year that I was in it. Those photos will be the ones that were taken in the Plaza with the Tomorrowland entrance palm trees in the background. Thank you, "Knott's Illustrated"!
"Cinderella" had just been re-released in theaters for the Christmas season, so the parade started with the Cinderella unit. The photo below shows the "Knights on Horseback" leading the parade.
Next, is the "Fanfare" section of the Cinderella unit.
Following the "Fanfare" trumpeters, was the "Pumpkin Coach". This picture shows it backstage, behind It's A Small World. I wonder if that warehouse is still standing? There were actually two "Cinderellas" that rode in this coach at the same time. There was a curtain running down the middle of the coach and there was a different Cinderella sitting on either side of the curtain. The idea behind this was so that each Cinderella could give her full attention to one side of the parade route, for the entire duration of the parade. I have seen a photo of this same coach being used back in the sixties with just one Cinderella sitting inside of it.
The "Court Dancers" followed Cinderella's coach. They are shown here getting ready to "step off" at the parade gate in Town Square. The gold colored building in the background is the Administration building which housed offices as well as the Primeval World diorama for the Disneyland railroad. The beige building next to the dancers is the side of the Main Street Opera House. I remember running into the guy in the purple costume in the employee cafeteria at Knott's a couple years later. He had been hired as a stuntman-cowboy. Or maybe he was a train robber?
Last up in this unit was the "Castle Float". This float had been used one year earlier (with a different paint job) in the Fantasyland unit of Disneyland's 25th Anniversary "Family Reunion Parade".
As a parade cast member, we had all been given schematics showing every unit of the parade. This first one shows the Cinderella unit.
Next in the parade, was the Pinocchio unit and it began with Geppetto and Pinocchio riding on the "Workbench Float". You can just make out the head of Figaro behind Geppetto. There was a puppeteer under the float that operated Figaro and next to him you can see part of the fishbowl that Cleo was swimming around in. Cleo was actually a small figure connected to a wire that allowed her to circle around inside the bowl.
Following Pinocchio and Geppetto was the "Village Float". The Blue Fairy was at the front of that float and while I don't have any photos of her, she can be seen in a video that I have provided a link for at the bottom of this post. Foulfellow/Honest John and Gideon could also be seen dancing around on this float.
The next float was "Stromboli's Wagon". The person dressed as Stromboli actually drove the float, which included several stages with dancing puppets (these characters can also be seen in the video at the end of the post). Jiminy Cricket was on the rear of the float, standing in the middle of an oversized "Official Conscience" medal.
The Pinocchio unit schematic:
The Jungle Book unit was next. Here we see Mowgli, King Louie and Baloo, along with some of Colonel Hathi's herd of elephants. Also in the distance, we can see a thatched roof of the float carrying the "Jungle Band" that played "The Bare Necessities" and "Colonel Hathi's March" on horn instruments.
Herbie, The Love Bug came next. There was a stuntman-cop that drove around on a miniature motorcycle and interacted with Herbie. One of the stunts performed, was Herbie "swallowing" the cop and then spitting him out onto the ground through one of the side doors.
The Jungle Book and Herbie schematics:
The Alice In Wonderland unit began with three large teapots surrounded by dancing "Butterflies and Flowers".
Next, came Alice and the Queen of Hearts with a "Card Drill Team" and "Card Band".
Here are Alice and the Queen right before stepping off in Town Square.
This shows the schematic for the Alice In Wonderland and Song of the South units. I don't have any pictures of the Song of the South unit, but an actor playing "Uncle Remus" rode in a wagon and sang "Zip-a-dee-do-dah", while Br'er Bear and Br'er Fox followed along behind him on foot. You would not see this in any Disney park today! I was even a little surprised to see this at Disneyland in 1981! You can see brief footage of him in the video below at the (2:30) mark.
The Dumbo unit was next, led by the Casey Jr. float. A clown in drag with a baby carriage is cut out of the picture on the right.
The Casey Jr. train was long and included a calliope, some animal cages, and a caboose. In this backstage photo, two half-dressed "monkeys" are relaxing in a cage, waiting for the parade to start. The tall white building in the background was the Global Van Lines headquarters. That is where the Team Disney building stands today. The show building for It's A Small World would have been directly behind the photographer here.
This next backstage photo has a lot going on in it. On the right is the caboose of the Casey Jr. float and right behind it is the Firehouse Float. If you look closely, you can see the head of the Dumbo costume hanging on hook inside the window of the Firehouse. The two female cast members in the foreground were playing Mickey (on the left) and Minnie (in the plaid on the right). "Minnie" is chatting with a guy that played one of the toy soldiers in the Christmas Finale unit of the parade. In the background we can see Mrs. Claus chatting with a Monk from the Robin Hood unit, and Prince John's Royal Coach. Snow White and one of the Cinderellas are visible just beyond the coach.
Here's a shot of Dumbo riding in that Firehouse float, but this photo is from 1979's Very Merry Christmas Parade.
Following the Dumbo unit was "Goofy's Car". The concept of "Goofy and his Jalopy" had been used before in Christmas parades dating back to the 1960's and had also been used in the traveling "Disney On Parade" stage show.
Below is the schematic for the Robin Hood unit. Included on the same page are the "Dog Catcher's Truck" and "Peter Pan" units. I dont' have pictures of these, but the Dog Catcher's Truck was driven by Pete (without his peg leg) and carried real doggies! Pluto would follow along behind and open the door to the truck, allowing the dogs to escape and run around in the street. There was a "dog catcher" stuntman that walked around with a net and would eventually wrangle the doggies back into the truck after performing several comic stunts (including falling on the ground and having all the dogs run over him).
"Mary Poppins" was the last unit before the big "Christmas Finale" unit. Bert and the Penguins are seen here right before they step off at Town Square. (Behind them are the windows of the Mad Hatter Shop just outside of the parade gate.) Note that one of the penguins bent over to show his rear-end just as I was taking the picture.
I took this photo of Mary Poppins and the Chimney Sweeps right before the "Rooftop" float left the backstage area to begin it's way down the parade route.
Here's that float parked backstage near the Small World show building. One of Santa's Elves was climbing around on the float and "Chip and Dale" were walking by holding their "heads". We will eventually see why they are wearing aprons and chef hats. The green building on the far right is the "Roundhouse" where the Disneyland trains and monorails are kept when not in operation.
The Mary Poppins unit schematic:
The parade isn't over yet! Part two of this post will include the "Christmas Finale" unit. If you count all of the characters, dancers and musicians just in the units that we've covered so far, you can get an idea how many people were hired for the Disneyland parades back then.....not to mention all of the live horses and canines! Unfortunately, they do not do parades like this anymore! :-(
Even though we haven't finished covering the parade, I'm including the link to the parade footage below. (The Cinderella unit is missing here and the footage begins with the "Village Float" of the Pinocchio unit.) Enjoy!