Monday, December 04, 2023

Christmas Parade, 1963 - PART 1

Today I am sharing the first of four blog posts featuring 25 very nice photos of the big Disneyland Christmas parade from the 1963 season.

Before the parade began, guests gathered around the tree in Town Square (or maybe it was just in the way, causing a traffic jam). It looks beautiful in the bright SoCal winter sunshine. Note the roped-off area with seating, I don't know if those would be available for special guests or if anybody could sit there. 

Alright, let's get this parade started! And what better way to kick things off than with Vesey Walker leading the Disneyland Band? I'm going to say that they are playing "Jingle Bells", I can tell by the position of the fingers of the Saxophonist! The giant presents behind the seated guests hold a surprise, but you won't see that until the final parade post.

Thanks to "Jason's Disneyland Almanac", I can tell you that this parade took place on Sunday, December 22nd (the Candlelight Processional was performed that same day). The temperature reached a pleasant high of 72º Fahrenheit (22º Celsius) with a low of 53º (or 11º Celsius). Attendance was 42,050. Jason's book mentions the debut of the "Parade of Toys", as well as the "Christmas In Many Lands Parade" - I assume that these photos show the latter. And for those who need to know, the park opened at 10:00 and was open until 9:00.

I can't tell if these children represent Switzerland or Austria - or some other country. Any guesses? Note the pantomime horse, imported from Pantomimia. 

Next is Czechoslovakia; I've always wondered if those kids are really of Czech origins, and if so, how did the park find them? If you look to the left, you can see two Guides (one with a yellow rectangle behind her). This parade was a few years before "It's a Small World", by the way.

A little ballerina stands atop a paper boat. The flag of Denmark tells us that this must be a salute to Hans Christian Andersen's "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", a beloved (and sad) tale that Disney used in "Fantasia 2000". 

A group of beautifully-costumed carolers from Victorian England recall Charles Dickens. For years, carolers like this strolled the park during the holidays - these might be those same performers. 

Well, that's it for part one. Stay tuned for more from this 1963 Christmas parade!


Nanook said...

That tree is just beautiful - surprisingly well-proportioned, and not 'a bit too slim'. I love the lady just above Vesey Walker's head, all decked out in her mink stole and [oddly-contrasting] hat.

In images #4-6, we can easily see a Strong Super Trouper follow spot sitting atop the opera house. How classy.

Happy Disneyland kickoff to the holiday season. Thanks, Major.

JB said...

1) That IS a nice looking Christmas tree. It appears to be a real tree, too. Just the right amount of flocking. And while the larger balls are probably 6" in diameter, they fit the scale nicely. SEE? Trees DO have scale! I also notice how they placed the largest balls at the bottom, and the smaller balls at the top. I wonder if the guests are 5/8 scale?

2) Yes, definitely "Jingle Bells"; and for the reason you gave, Major. Those finger positions are a dead giveaway. As Nanook noted, the lady just above Mr. Walker is wearing a fur coat, or stole; very chic and sophisticated. She probably owns half of Anaheim... Walt owns the other half.

3) These look like the von Trapp kids, so I'm gonna say they represent Austria. I think that's Augustus Gloop closest to us; followed by Heidi. In the front, Hansel und Gretel are coaxing the horse forward. Yes, Pantomimia is known around the world for their easily trained pantomime horses.

4) Behind the standard bearer we can see Peewee Herman watching the parade; he's a bit young here. The Opera House look especially nice with its holiday decor.

5) My mom taught me how to fold those paper boats when I was about 4 years old, and I can still do it! I think it sparked my interest in origami.

6) It occurs to me that our photographer is standing in a slightly elevated position... where? Or perhaps he's just holding his camera up above his head?

Nice series of pics, Major. Looking forward to the next batch.

TokyoMagic! said...

I wonder if those children performed in the parade everyday, or if they used different children throughout the Christmas season? Maybe when the little tykes weren't performing in the parade, they had them in a backstage warehouse, assembling Mickey Mouse ears until the wee hours of the morning.....with Kathie Lee Gifford as their supervisor.

Thanks for these parade pics, Major! As you know, I do love a parade. At least, the vintage ones!

Budblade said...

I really like the benches along the parade route. That’s sooo much better than sitting on the curb or having to stand the whole time. Lucky ducks!

Chuck said...

Those chairs in the first photo are interesting. The one time I saw the candlelight processional (1994), the only chairs set up on the square were facing the train station, where the mass choir ends the processional and performs in front of. These are facing the parade route.

This looks like it was a fun parade to see. And since it's 1963, it's not like we can take this opportunity to get in line for Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion. Looking forward to the rest of the bunch.

Stefano said...

This is one month to the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. Crowds and performers alike may be glad they're in Disneyland, able to smile again. Here is the last Christmas of 1950s America ( some might say that was X-MAS 1962); next month the Beatles debut on Ed Sullivan, and the '60s are off and running.

I saw an internationally themed parade like this in February or March of 1971. The park was promoting an "it's a small world" weekend: the attraction was free for all, the read along small world record was passed out to children on exiting, and there were lots of young people in costume performing dances from many lands. This visit included my first time on the Matterhorn Bobsleds; between shows, a boy and girl in Eastern European attire sat in the front compartment of the sled--she looked like the girl leading the horse. I was terrified, and fixated on the ribbons of her wreath flailing behind her as we zoomed through the mountain. I was off and running after that, no thrill ride too much for me.

JG said...

Major, these are fine holiday photos and I’m enjoying the comments too. Thank you!

I think in that era, the tree was real, but today, well, who knows? It’s probably animatronic and has to be connected to the phone app.

Chuck knows how I feel about parades, I’m getting in line for the Matterhorn, or maybe the Subs.

Stefano has a sobering comment, this was the end of an era and we didn’t realize.

Glad to see those costumed kids are keeping the subdued decorations in Czech. Every story by HC Andersen was a sad one, even the little mermaid has a bitter ending. I couldn’t read the Little Match Seller without weeping, I’m just a big softy.

I think those big gift boxes are full of parts for the Pirates of the Caribbean.


Anonymous said...

Yes, the tree was 'real' back in those a point that is. It's a somewhat 'manufactured-real' tree, consisting of an actual tree brought in right after Thanksgiving which was hoisted on a temporary stand behind the Coffee House. Then over a period of several days, additional branches were added from other trees, the source of which I have no idea where they came from but I assume from the same entity to provided the tree. This then made for a perfectly shaped tree suitable for decoration and eventual placement on-stage. It was fun to see how quickly all this took place. KS

Anonymous said...

KS, I did that same thing several years when we still did a live tree brought in from the forest. I used to drill holes in the trunk in the "empty spots" to add branches to produce the correct shape.

After we moved and started buying farmed trees that were shaped during growth, it wasn't necessary.

Thanks for confirming that process, it does sound like fun. I get that the decor should happen while guests are not in the Park, but watching the decorations go up is a fun time too.


Anonymous said...

I love these! The Christmas parades are a perfect fit for Disney magic.
Thanks, Major!


Ken is correct … that once the live (once live) tree was brought to Disneyland “support tree donors “ pieces would be used to help fill in areas that might have had damage during transport or maybe low growth areas and restore its fuller shape. The live trees were sourced each year in advanced and “groomed” until they were ready to be cut and debt to Disneyland . Over the decades the Disneyland Christmas tree has come from various parts of California including San Bernardino and Idyllwild mountains. The Disneyland switched to artificial trees in the 2000’s for several reasons … ecological pressure and safety. Over Disneyland’s history the tree has caught fire and a few times snapped in two because of high winds. One time - over night - an entire new smaller tree was strapped onto the larger lower half , filled and shaped then flocked to help blend the two pieces together . From the 70’s on the trees were always lightly coated ( painted ) with a fire retardant to help maintain a unified color and potential fire.

Like how many residents of the Lake Arrowhead area have some of the giant mushrooms from Santa’s Village in their yards , lots of Orange County residents have giant ornaments from past Disneyland Christmas trees that have been auction off for charity like CHOC children’s hospital.

For Disneyland’s 50th two souvenir books had been proposed and started to be put together , then abandoned for some reason … one was a book 50 Disneyland Christmas…. Another was on the Emporium Animated Window Displays ….. oh well … maybe one day ….

Kathy! said...

That's a really tiny girl in the Czech portion, how did she march for the entire parade? And is the boy riding the pantomime horse on the front horse person's head? A girl in red seems to have a carnation in the last pic, did the carolers hand them out? And hey Babushka, down in front! Thanks for the festive photos, Major.

Chuck said...

Is that really a pantomime horse or is it a real horse dressed to look like a pantomime horse? Kathy! brings up a great point at how uncomfortable it would be to be inside that horse bent over with somebody on your shoulders.

I remember being in Disneyland the weekend before Thanksgiving 1994 and being able to see the top of the Christmas tree backstage over the parade gate in the NE corner of Town Square, right where KS describes. This was back when they waited until Thanksgiving night to Christmasify the Park overnight. I also remember noticing that the tree had been augmented with donor branches.

DBenson said...

Time to break out "Disneyland Around the Seasons" from the Disneyland USA tin, or pretty much any vintage Disneyland/World of Color episode for boomer holiday vibe. The Christmas Day Parade broadcast is still a thing, but over the past several years it's become more about live singers in front of castles. The Macy's parade is similarly more about plugging music acts -- back in the day they'd plug big holiday movies, and there were usually a few huge ones. Remember "Doctor Dolittle"?

If you don't have the Treasures tin, the two-disc "Alice in Wonderland" (animated version, of course) includes "One Hour in Wonderland", the 1950 television special that's an accidental template for the weekly show (still a few years in the future, launched to raise cash to complete Disneyland). It's a perfect after-Christmas mellow-out. Make sure you have Coca Cola in bottles for when Hans Conreid calls for a break.

K. Martinez said...

This is the kind of parade I miss at Disneyland before they had the I.P. driven spectacles. I remember parades like this. Parades like this have more soul.

Thanks, Major.

"Lou and Sue" said...

That tree is gorgeous!

Pic #1: The lady on the left, in the brown suit, needs Static Guard desperately.
Too bad it wasn't invented yet.

Fun comments and fun day celebrating in Disneyland. I wonder if Walt was watching this parade?

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Kathy, I bet the carolers were passing out those fresh flowers. When I was in the Christmas parade, many moons ago, there were "Wenches" (that was their official title!) who were a part of the Robin Hood unit, and they carried similar baskets of flowers, and passed them out as they went down the parade route. Can you imagine....someone had to make sure that there were fresh flowers available for every parade performance! Those were the days when they went "all out" with the parades.

I have a post that will publish on Friday (if I don't bump it up a day or two), which includes an article about the selection of a live Christmas tree and the preparation that goes into it, prior to decorating it. The article is from a December 1981 cast member publication.

KS, in the later years of using a live tree, they kept it backstage, near the Ball Rd. entrance, because I remember seeing it on my way to work, while driving past the property. I remember that they used the guy wires, just as they did when it was inside the park, to keep it standing very straight while they decorated it. But then when the holiday season was over, and they returned the tree to that same backstage spot, it was always leaning over and looking quite sad. I guess at that point, there was no reason to worry about it anymore? Although, you'd think that safety would still be a concern.

Anonymous said...

Chuck...I had the same question about the horse myself and took a larger view to reach my conclusion that it is not a real horse for several reasons. Fist its size relative to those attending to it, the strange 'blinder' look on the eyelids and, the look of the bridle/bit. Yet, I see no separation between the hoof and street which perplexes me as to how it would move across the surface. During the relative low budget times of that era, a real horse in a parade would be cheaper than building a mechanical one. And then you have the children all hovering around it in a rather attentive way. So...what a conundrum. In today's world this would never fly if it were real. And I may be imposing today's thinking making it hard to believe.

I trust my guys implicitly. But, they can spook for no reason at all no matter how "bomb-proof". Summertime, all it takes is they get bit on the rump by a horsefly. You don't want to stand in front of them for that reason. I joke that I wear a jet-pack when riding them just in case I have to "punch-out". It's not a scary or frequent as I may be suggesting. But it's my job to take all possibilities in consideration. Riding in parades requires a very calm horse used to all the sights and takes a lot of training and exposure. Then again, there is no guarantee that I will arrive safely to my destination in my car either. KS