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:


K. Martinez said...

But... but... but, I do want to get started on how they ruined the Space Mountain complex. They really did ruin it.

That's a nice photo of the Space Stage. I usually watched a show while dining on the upper level of The Space Place dining area overlooking the stage. I have great memories of that.

So you got Greg Louiganis' signature while you were at Disneyland? That is too cool!

Also, nice parade shots from Small World Plaza. I like the Uncle Sam parade character too. He's great! I miss these more old-fashioned parades compared to the highly stylized high tech parades they put on nowadays.

Thanks for another great post, TM!

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, go ahead! I give you permission to get started on how they ruined the Space Mountain complex! They ruin everything, don't they? And yes, I got Greg Louganis' signature while I was at Disneyland....also Bob Seagren's....and "the rest." I liked the Uncle Sam character too and miss the type of parades that they used to have back in the day. In that Uncle Sam pic, did you notice that the Small World clock had it's "blue and white" color scheme and also the, "Sorry Folks, It's A Small World is closed" sign? I wish I had gotten a better photo of that sign!

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, so cool that you got all those autographs! Even some Olympians from 1932 and 1936, and that one guy who participated in FIVE Olympics in rowing. I’ve hardly done ANY Olympics. The bronze medal is a very cool extra, I am amazed it isn’t plastic. Meanwhile, you love Sunshine Balloon, The New Establishment, and Sound Castle, but what about “The Better Half”? Huh? Why do you hate them so much? They have feelings too, you know!

I am impressed that you were already documenting your visits to the park so thoroughly, even in 1984 - something I never did.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I took a lot of pics, but I wish I had taken a pic of the Olympians when they were seated at the tables in front of the Opera House, signing autographs....or at least a better pic of them on the parade float. I'm also a little surprised about the solid bronze metal. I guess Disney was still aiming for quality at that time. Today, it would probably be made out of resin, or it would be in the form of a cloisonne pin. And I can't believe that I forgot to mention "The Better Half." I do love them, but unfortunately they aren't half the band that they used to be.

Stefano said...

Some fine nostalgia here---the American Gazette Parade reminds us that Disneyland could put on entertainment that was a leetle sexy, while never straying from the wholesome; think the Tahitian Terrace dancers, nubile live mermaids, bare-chested hunks in the Indian Village.
I recall an item in the L.A.Times during the Olympics: "Theme Parks: Open Season". Apparently locals feared mobs of visitors and stayed away from Southern California's amusements; we only have to wait till 2028 for a replay of light summer attendance! I was at Disneyland shortly after the Olympics ended; crowded, but not oppressive.

Your photos are historically important for another reason; this is Disneyland just before Michael Eisner headed the company. It is less than 3 years to Star Tours, which road eventually leads to the carving up of a beloved river for You-Know-What Land.

Speaking of ruining things --- I think the beginning of the end for Tom Sawyer's Island was noticeable that summer of '84; by then the secret escape tunnel from Fort Wilderness had been sealed off forever.

TokyoMagic! said...

Stefano, I never thought about the scantily-clad performers over the years, but you are right. I think there were even some scantily clad men in the Tahitian Terrace show (twirling their fire poles!)

I remember that summer of '84, when the crowds stayed away from the theme parks. I was working at Knott's that summer and management let a lot of the new-hires go before summer was even close to being over, simply because of the low attendance. I'll have to plan to go to DL in 2028, just to avoid the crowds.....if that pattern repeats itself the next time Los Angeles hosts the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, by then the admission price will probably be $500 for one day/one park.

The carving up of the river and the island (and the berm with it's 50-60 year old trees!) still makes me sick when I think about it. And I do believe that the "major" ruining of the park began with Michael Eisner....if you don't count the ripping out of the Mine Train thru Nature's Wonderland in '77 or Captain Hook's Pirate Ship and Skull Rock in '82, which by the way, I do count! I think the secret escape tunnel from Fort Wilderness disappeared long before '84. I seem to remember it being gone by '76......but I could be wrong about that. Maybe someone will confirm that date for us here.

Thanks for commenting on my post!

Chuck said...

TM!, I'm pretty sure the escape tunnel was still there in late October of '76. We always made a point to visit TSI and hit every single cave, and that was my last childhood visit to the Park.

TokyoMagic! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, I have three different versions of TSI maps that I picked up during three different visits to the park. On one version the secret escape tunnel is shown and on the other two versions, it has been removed. The map showing the tunnel is coded "D-776 R-2" and the other two have "D-776 R-3" and D-776 R-4" printed on them and the tunnel has been removed from both of them. I'm not completely sure how to read the codes. I'm assuming the "R" stands for "Revised" or "Revision." I could have sworn that I got the maps during different visits to the park in 1976, but I could be remembering the dates incorrectly after all these years. I do remember going into Fort Wilderness and being surprised to see the door closed with a padlock on it and the sign above the door removed. We immediately went to the tunnel's exit down along the shore and found that it had been "covered over" with faux rockwork. Maybe that was during a 1977 visit?

The Magic Ears Dudebro said...

Can't say I'm a big fan of the Olympics, but any excuse for Disney to get patriotic is a good one for me. Nice blog post! ;)

TokyoMagic! said...

Disney Dudebro, I'm not a very big fan of the Olympics either. I only watched a smidgen of the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics last month, and I didn't watch any of the events. The last time I had any interest in the Winter Olympics was back in 1994, when Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were battling it out on the ice!

WaltsMusic said...

Hi TM, first time poster here. The youtube video was done by me. Taken originally with my old Sony Betacam on a trip to the park when I was stationed at Naval Hospital San Diego. Unfortunately I transferred the beta film to VHS and stored for years. Wish I would have kept the beta, it would have been much better quality. At least i kept most of the parade intact. I once had the entire America Sings on beta and my wife convinced me to edit it down when we transferred to VHS. Oh the horror!

TokyoMagic! said...

Hi WaltsMusic. I think we have all tossed things out that we later regretted getting rid of. I am just glad that you have some kind of record of the American Gazette Parade....and America Sings too. I hope you don't mind that I included your video in my post. I just checked out your blog and really like what you have posted so far. I'm going to add you to my "blog list!"