Sunday, August 04, 2019

America On Parade, September 1976

Years ago I found 20 slides from Disneyland's Bicentennial celebration, "America on Parade"; the parade ran twice a day, and this is from the nighttime show. I can't say I was super thrilled to discover them - as a rule, photos from the parades are not my thing, which is why I will run the images on Sundays when most people aren't looking! Due to the low light, some of the photos are not as clear as I'd like, but I'm going to include them anyway in the spirit of completeness. 

It looks like our photographer found a primo spot to stand - presumably up near Main Street Station's platform. At first I thought, "Man, that guy must have had one powerful flash!", until I realized that the floats had powerful spotlights on them. D'oh.

Anyway, here's Christopher Columbus, sailing the ocean blue in 1492.

America on Parade replaced the "Main Street Electrical Parade" for two years - clearly AoP didn't necessarily work as well for night performances. It's hard to tell, but it looks like one of the doll-like characters walking past was supposed to represent a Native American.

There's something you don't see every day: a turkey the size of a giraffe terrorizes the pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving. Some of the floats for this parade were so tall that they needed to be designed to collapse or fold in some manner.

I'm not sure what's going on here, but it looks very strange. At first I thought it was a catapult of some sort, but it appears that a "witch" is being dunked into a cauldron (?), while to the left a man has been sentenced to some quality time in the stocks. Truly something to celebrate!

Homesteaders are building a new home on the frontier. It's in the shape of a wacky parallelogram! This confused wildlife so much that critters would just sit down and wait to be eaten.

Here endeth part one!


TokyoMagic! said...

There's something you don't see every day: a turkey the size of a giraffe.... Ha, ha! We just saw a giant turkey here on GDB, yesterday!

Look at those nice, polite kids in the last pic. They are holding onto their balloons, not by the strings, but by the balloons themselves, so that they don't block the view of the parade for the people behind them.

Thank you for these, Major! I loved America On Parade. It is tied with the Main Street Electrical Parade as my all-time favorite Disneyland parades.

"Lou and Sue" said...

I saw this parade during the daytime and remember that it was "haunting!" But it had to be even creepier at night. Those big-headed figures were one of the strangest ideas that the Disney folks ever came up with.


"Lou and Sue" said...

TokyoMagic! Please don't take it personally that I did not like that parade. Maybe it's like eating liver - you either love it or you hate it. It'll be interesting to hear what the other gorilla bloggers have to say . . .


Graffer said...

That parade always gave me the creeps. The blankly staring hydrocephalic characters were hideous. It was worse at night because they were about to star in my nightmares.

TokyoMagic! said...

Sue and Graffer....ha, ha! And Sue, I don't take it personally! I think the early versions of the Mad Hatter and Seven Dwarfs costume heads (which were much larger and more disproportionate) were even creeeeeeepier! ;-)

Nanook said...


This was the 'heebie-jeebies' of Disneyland parades. And speaking of "hard facts..." - where else but in a Disney parade would one see a poor soul 'showing off' in a stockade-? This parade kinda made SpectroMagic [with its Spectromen] seem downright "normal". Bye bye Bicentennial.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

Count me as one who LOVED America On Parade. It's my all-time favorite daytime parade next to Main Street Electrical Parade as well.

Glad to hear you're in the spirit of completeness in regards to this batch of AoP photos. Looking forward to more. Thanks, Major.


I LOVED AMERICA ON PARADE!! I’m not really a parade person - in fact I despise the park parades of the 1990’s and 2000’s. They have become a problem with the normal flow and operations of the Disney Parks . But AMERICA ON PARADE and The Main Street Electrical Parade are an exception. I think I really liked The American Gazette Parade too ( it was kinda like the Carousel of Progress as a parade)
I’m 51 years old now and I can remember the first time I saw AOP like it was a week ago! I loved it - the music , the characters the great sets and floats. At the time AOP was the largest parade ( pageant ) ever done by Walt Disney Productions and was the first such celebration to run at both parks at the same time. For those you you who were afraid of the parade , of course the idea is the Story of America as told through children .... so the “People of America” were done as large dolls and all the floats and sets are toys! And the music created on on of the most grandest sparkling Band Organs ever made, The Sadie Mae ( I understand she is on display at the Grand Floridian Hotel) the band organ tracks were enhanced with a Moog Synthesizer by Don Dorsey the creator of the Main Street Electrical Parade Music . One time Don did a presentation at WDI on some of his work and the sailing ship “mast creaking “ SFX on the “Sailing Sailing “sequence was created in Jack Wagner’s studio on a old piano stool - Jack would gently lean from side to side and the piano stool creaked - by playing the recording back slowly, it sounded like the deep creaking of soaring sailing ship masts!
America on parade was one of the most popular parades ever done at Disneyland & Walt Disney World and is well remembered with its giant set, colorful costumes and bouncy upbeat All -American music!

Chuck said...

Columbus' ship bears more than a passing resemblance to the tuna boat restaurant in July, 1955, before they'd finished painting it.

I liked this parade, too. It's the first one that I have vivid memories of.

And seeing pictures always makes me think of a story I've told before about peeking over the back wall of the campground on the east side of West Street in October of 1976 and seeing the giant eagle float parked there. I remember dragging my dad up to the top of the caboose-shaped climbing frame so he could see it, too.

I've enjoyed these today, mMjor. Here's to the Spirit of Completeness!

stu29573 said...

My trip to Disneyland came two years before AOP, so I never saw it, but I feel I've seen it through all of the pictures! I agree that it looks better in the daylight. I never thought the dolls were too creepy, and the floats were really something, so put me in the "like it" column!

Andrew said...

This parade looks like it would be pretty fun based on the sheer weirdness of it. I bet that that strangeness only increased when it was performed at night (I didn't know that was done.) Imagine that giant turkey looming over you as it rounded a corner, with the lights of Main St. in the background...

And Mike Cozart, thanks for that very cool fact about what the Grand Floridian band organ was originally used for!

K. Martinez said...

Mike Cozart, thanks for recapturing all that was magical about America on Parade. I was a jaded teenager (16 years old) when I first saw it and it really impressed me. Next to the Main Street Electrical Parade, it has the best parade soundtrack too. For me, there has never been a daytime parade before or since that was quite like it.

Chuck, I remember your story you shared about peaking over the back wall of the campground to discover AoP's giant eagle parade float backstage. I bet as a kid seeing that in itself was a thrill.

Melissa said...

It's not a witch; it's a "scold." In colonial times, a husband could have his wife brought to trial for nagging or talking too much, and the punishment was the dunking stool. Somewhere - I can't remember where - I've seen a brochure or some other printed material confirming that's what's going on on this float.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, I have been hoisted on my own petard. PETARD, I SAY! Thank you for pointing out the polite kids, I didn’t notice, but you are right, they actually thought about the people behind them. How rare! I thought “Light Magic” was your second-favorite parade.

Lou and Sue, you’ve sent at least one photo from Lou, with the giant sammich. Folks will see it here someday!

Lou and Sue, if I know TokyoMagic!, he is furious. ;-)

Graffer, what if those giant dolls had realistic eyes that tracked/followed you? That might actually be worse!

TokyoMagic!, I guess those early costumes were creepy, but I have always found their weirdness to be endearing somehow.

Nanook, just wait until installment #3, where we’ll see the “electric chair” float. ZAP.

K. Martinez, I know I saw AoP, but to be honest, I don’t remember it vividly. Probably because I had the souvenir book, and remember the photos in that much more. At that time, anything Disneyland related was OK in my book.

Mike Cozart, I’m not sure if we can blame parades for interrupting the normal flow at the park - it wouldn’t be such a problem if not for the giant crowds of APs. I like that the park still offers regular parades (I mean, they seem to be phasing out fireworks, after all), even if I am not a big parade watcher, personally. If you were 8 years old (or so) when you first saw AoP, I think you were right in that “sweet spot” where things that impressed you REALLY impressed you. That’s about the same age I was when I truly became interested in what Disneyland was, beyond just the fun rides. It’s the same thing for kids of a certain age who saw Star Wars; it rocked their world, and to this day it’s the best thing they ever experienced! Funny that they used Jack Wagner’s creaky piano stool for the sailing ship creaks. It’s kind of amazing that all of the money and work that went into America on Parade was done for a parade that only ran for two years.

Chuck, I thought the same thing about Columbus’ ship! I love your memory of being able to see the eagle float from the campground, and looking at it with your dad!

stu29573, I guess we should be fair and realize that cameras of the day weren’t great at capturing anything at night; to the eye, I’m sure the parade looked much better than in these photos.

Penna. Andrew, most parades were performed twice daily; we always felt extra clever when we planned ahead and were “trapped” on the side of the park that we wanted to be! Ever since the nuclear wars of 2099, I see giant turkeys all the time.

K. Martinez, I liked your mention of being a “jaded teenager”; it’s funny how we all go through phases where we can’t even admit that we love the things we love! Nowadays there are so many rabid Disneyland fans, but back in the day it was NOT COOL in any way, and I just resigned myself to not being cool. Who cared!

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, you might be right about the "scold", but it's still a very odd thing to "celebrate" in a parade about America, don't you think?

"Lou and Sue" said...

Just curious, do any of you knowledgeable Disney folks know what else these parade designers created (besides this parade)?


Melissa said...

Incredibly odd!

Melissa said...

But I guess it's one of those harsh realities like the dead settler?

Dean Finder said...

Disney loved those big head characters. They continued into the Epcot era with World Showcase dolls.

Major Pepperidge said...

Lou and Sue, Wikipedia says that the parade floats were designed by "New York theatrical designer Peter Larkin", but I don't know if he was ever involved in other Disney parades, unfortunately.

Melissa, yes, I suppose it was a "harsh reality"! It makes me wonder what other odd concepts didn't make it to final build.

Dean Finder, oh boy, I'll bet they just repurposed the old AoP doll heads! I think they ran America on Parade on both coasts, so there was no shortage of giant dolls to use.

JG said...

The concept of parade characters with disproportionate bodies and giant heads is fairly common in Europe, especially in Portugal and Spain and their new world colonies.

James Bond dodges bad guys in a Rio de Janeiro parade with big head figures in "Moonraker".

I guess Disney was trying to connect this America parade with those traditions. It seems like there could have been almost anything that would be better to include in tableau than a ducking chair and the stocks, but I am not a New York theatrical designer, so what do I know?

I'm not a parade fan, and I don't really recall this one. The only Disney parade I recall and enjoyed was the Electrical Parade. For the most part, they are a noisy distraction that clogs up traffic and closes some of my favorite attractions. On the plus side of the ledger, the queues for some other favorites are nearly empty, assuming you can get to them.

Thanks Major.