Friday, November 3, 2017

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 and 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 a 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.

The Dumbo Circus and Goofy's Car schematic:

Leading the Robin Hood unit, were Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Little John and Friar Tuck. Following behind them was Prince John in his Royal Coach, escorted by some Royal Elephants, Hippos and Rhinoceroses (Rhinoceri?).

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!


K. Martinez said...

Wonderful post, TM! The parade schematics are a huge plus. I've never seen anything like that before. Thanks for sharing it.

TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks, Ken! I'm glad you enjoyed it...and I'm glad I saved those diagrams all these years!

Major Pepperidge said...

Very nice article; I love the backstage photos! Just out of curiosity, was the taking of photos frowned upon? Or didn't anybody care? And yes, the diagrams are cool too, I've never seen those before.

It's funny, every time I see a Jiminy Cricket "walk around" character, I think that his head and hat need to be way bigger. And the Queen of Hearts, why is she so skinny? She should be big and beefy!

This reminds me that Irene's brother had a bunch of photos of a Disneyland Christmas parade, I think they might be from the 1980's, though there is no way to be sure.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, back then, Disney did not have a "no backstage photos" policy. However, I was told at the time that personally, the parade supervisor did not like people to take photos of the characters when they were not in full costume. So I did it anyway....since it was not against park policy.

I'm not sure why they cast a skinny person for the Queen of Hearts, but I think the character is always that thin...even the "walk-around" character in the park. I can tell you that in this particular year's Christmas Parade, the Queen of Hearts was played by a six and a half foot tall man. I believe that they always cast a man to play that part. But hey, Mickey Mouse was played by a female that same year (as we will see in Part 2 of this post, next month).

Oooooh! I hope Irene's brother took pics of this parade! Do any of his pics go back as far as 1981?

Anonymous said...

Very nice photos. To think that there was once a time when Disney re-released its movies in theaters. The last time they did that was with The Lion King (in 3D!) back in 2010. Though they also re-released Toy Story and Monsters Inc. during that time as well. With the exception of dollar kids movies that some theaters host, you don't really see Disney or any other company doing that anymore. I guess it's just superfluous in a time of DVDs and streaming. Still would be nice if they still did it, though.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, unfortunately almost none of the photos from Irene's brother are dated (being old snapshots). These appear to be older than the examples from the 1990's that I've been sharing from Irene's bro, but I'm not sure if they go back to '81. There are two pictures of the dog catcher gag that you refer to, as well as a sign saying that it is the "Very Merry Christmas Parade", though I guess they've used that name for 40 years now. Sometimes it is frustrating to not know the date!

TokyoMagic! said...

Disney Dudebro, that is how I saw most of the animated Disney classics in my childhood, through re-releases. Disney had a pattern of re-releasing their movies every 7 years or so. It's odd to think of a time when you couldn't just own copies of your favorite movies, yourself. I lived through that time and when a Disney movie came out in the theaters, we knew there was only a limited time to go and see it. It was sort of the same thing with "The Wizard of Oz." It would be on TV once a year and you would have to wait until they broadcast it that one time. Then you'd have to wait another year before they'd show it again. That film did get a limited one week theatrical re-release in IMAX 3D for it's 75th anniversary a few years ago.

TokyoMagic! said...
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TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I will have to some research on that "Very Merry Christmas Parade" name. I don't believe they have used that name since the eighties, so those pics may very well be from then. I know the parade had been called that for a while through the late seventies, and 1981 was the first time in many years that they went back to the name "Fantasy On Parade." I also know that starting roughly around 1994, Disney began to use the name "Christmas Fantasy" for the Xmas parade and being the lazy you-know-whats that they are now, they have not changed the name...or the theme song, in over twenty years. I liked the parade and the theme song back in the nineties, but now they are both just old and tired. Tokyo Disneyland changes their Halloween parade (yes they have a Halloween Parade) and their Xmas parade floats AND soundtracks every single year. They also sell the new soundtrack to the parade every year in the shops throughout the park. That is just one of the reasons I started to blog nearly 10 years show how Tokyo Disneyland isn't as worried about the "bottom dollar" and that they will spend the money to give their guests something new and fresh and of quality, while we get the same old and tired parade every year with an occasional new float when there is some kind of monster hit like "Frozen," which forces them to spend the money.

But I digress! I would love to see those "Very Merry Christmas Parade" pics taken by Irene's brother! I hope you will post them eventually. Also, I do need to research that name and see when was the last year that they used it for the parade.

Major Pepperidge said...

I did about two minutes of research before I left my second comment. Typical! I think I read that the "Very Merry Christmas" name was first used in '77 or '78. The Christmas parades often retained so many of the same elements for many years that it is hard to pin down a more specific date just by looking for clues. And of course the Main Street buildings don't help, since they changed so subtly. Very cool how TokyoDisneyland refreshes their parades every year! I wonder if I'll ever make it to that park. I scanned all of the photos from Irene's brother yesterday, now I have some minor adjustments to make, and they'll be ready to share sometime in December.

Stefano said...

Thanks, TokyoMagic, this is the Disneyland Christmas I'd like to experience again: big tree and garlands on Main Street, two trees in the castle moat, cheerful parade --- and that's it.

The employees were always so well matched in non-masked character roles (Bert does look like a young Dick Van Dyke); did casting audition people for these parts, or did some eagle eyed director have an eye out for resemblances?

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, YAY! I'm glad to hear that you will be posting them soon....I can't wait to see them.

Stefano, yes....Christmas wasn't overdone in the park back then. And the Christmas decor and parade didn't start in early November either! In fact, when I was in the Christmas Parade, it only ran for the two weeks of Christmas vacation/winter break, and that was it. As for casting parts for the parade, you did have to audition. The better dancers were given parts like chimney sweeps and dancing butterflies and flowers. I'm not positive whether or not the "face" characters (like Snow White, Mary Poppins and Bert) were cast during those same auditions or not, but I believe they were.

Melissa said...

Wow, all these pictures are amazing! Herbie and Robin Hood in a parade together makes me happier then I would have ever imagined it would.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I were at the Christmas parade and Walt Disney World. I had walking pneumonia and a dental crown had popped off a few hours earlier. We were trying to get out of the Magic Kingdom to just get me back to the hotel room, but there was simply no way to fight through the parade crowds on Main Street. My sister was asking every cast member Insight if there was anyway they could get us out through the alternate route, but they all refused. Finally, I just collapsed on the pavement where I was and had a good cry. A really sweet family moved the strollers they weren't using to make room for my sister to sit beside me. And then the parade started, and I completely forgot my raw throat, rattling chest, fever and chills, and bleeding mouth because Disney Christmas parades are the best thing ever.

TokyoMagic! said...
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TokyoMagic! said...

Melissa, I'm so glad to hear that this post made you happy. Wow, being at WDW while having walking pneumonia does not sound like fun....not to mention the crown coming off of your tooth. That must have been a pretty darn good parade to make you forget your worries and ailments! I wish that I had more pics of the costumed characters from the Robin Hood unit of the parade. I meant to include a link to a previous post that I did about those characters, so you have reminded be to go back and include that in the post. Thanks! In case you are interested, here's that link:

Robin Hood Characters in the Disney Parks

Chuck said...

TM!, what a fantastic post!

Looking at recent overhead imagery and comparing it with your other photos for a location reference, I believe that warehouse in the Cinderella coach photo is gone now.

According to my photo albums, they were still using the "Very Merry Christmas Parade" name in 1993, the first year I saw the parade. I don't remember what they used in 1994, the only other time I saw it (both on Christmas Eve).

Snow White Archive said...

Terrific post TM! Great pics. Especially interesting are those backstage. For some reason, I find the idea of two Cinderellas in the same pumpkin coach to be fairly humorous. If that was done today, it seems like more than one park guest would whip out their phones and attempt to race across the parade route to capture video from both sides... just to show the comparison between the two. I know I probably would. :)

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating, I am loving it. I missed the Park in the '80's and most of the '90's so this is kind of strange to me.

The detail of having two Cinderellas in the coach, one for each side of the parade is such a "Disney" detail. Always striving for the good show.

Thank you for sharing your experiences, it must have been so much fun.


TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, thank you! I didn't think to check an aerial "today" shot. You are right, it looks like that warehouse is long gone. Thanks for the info about them still using the "Very Merry Christmas Parade" name in 1993. I do think that by 1994 (or thereabouts) they started calling the parade "A Christmas Fantasy" and never changed it again. I wish they would write a new song and come up with a different name. After all, they change the name and soundtrack for the fireworks shows every so many years.

SWA, thanks! That would make for some interesting video footage if someone did that. Now that I think about it, it would be pretty funny if the curtain between the Cinderellas fell down, revealing the two of them. Maybe one of them would just drop to the floor and remain there for the rest of the parade.

JG, I'm glad you enjoyed these two posts. It was a lot of fun working in the parade. If it had involved more hours and better pay, I could have done it for many more years. But it was a fun job to have while still being in high school. You are right about the two Cinderellas being such a "Disney" detail!