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: