Friday, 23 January 2009

the parade turns 40

For more information on Disney On Parade:
Don't forget to "like" for up-to-date articles and images.

Anyone remember Disney On Parade? Long before Disney On Ice was a touring mega-hit we (the older generation) had the privilege of watching Disney On Parade. Disney On Parade received it’s first preview on December 16th 1969 in Long Beach, California, before it’s official opening in Chicago on December 24th 1969. It was an instant success. Walt Disney Enterprises joined forces with TV’s NBC and formed a company called Nawal Productions to oversee the production. The show itself was a major breakthrough in family entertainment, combining screen performances of Disney classics before characters would flood the stage in song and dance. Over the years four separate units were produced each featuring different aspects of the Disney legacy.

Each Disney on Parade would be slightly different to the previous. Naturally, the main focus remained, the Disney movie legacy. The final three units all featured a similar finale, It’s A Small World, but all slightly different. Alice In Wonderland, Jungle Book and Cinderella & Dumbo were the main attractions in the first unit. Pinocchio featured in the 2nd unit , while Fantasia and Snow White took a sizeable chunk of the 2nd act. Sleeping Beauty and the Three Caballeros were major players in the third. Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks were the popular choice for the final unit.

Australia was lucky enough to receive the first two units, Alice and Snow White productions. The Alice unit performing in 1971/ 1972 and the Snow White unit performing through 1975/1976. Australia was the first country to receive the shows outside of the United States and Canada. Mr Brian Treasure, then general manager of TVW-7 in Perth, started negotiations with Nawal Productions to bring the show to Australia. Nawal Productions joined forces with TVW-7 and Michael Edgely International Pty Ltd and Bullen Bros to present the show to the audiences ‘Down Under’. Department Store, Myer was the official Disney On Parade “headquarters” offering official, “fashions, toys and accessories” – advance characters were sent out for in store appearances, Snow White, Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Pluto helped advertise the show to the young audience.

While the show toured arenas in the United States, Australia (at that time) had no such venues – the largest circus tent ever seen in Australia – was imported. Seating was divided into four different sections – Mickey Mouse Seating or Donald Duck Seating (each side of the stage) or Goofy Seating or Pluto Seating (directly in front of stage). The stage measured 140 feet by 56 feet, the tent covered 2 acres and supported over 8 tons of canvas. In Adelaide, a gust of wind ripped a hole in the canvas during the Alice In Wonderland production number causing a flying rig to crash to the ground injuring a number of performers. As they say, the show must go on.

Today, Disney On Parade seems to be a forgotten part of the Disney legacy. The concept of taking the characters "out of the park" was obviously a huge success, Disney On Ice is still giving children of today the same kind of thrill I had when I was young. The final word comes from some Disney On Parade publicity: "Although it is all very bippity-boppity-boo and cynics may scoff at those giant cartoon characters bobbing about on the enormous stage, the kids love it. So do most of the parents".

If your interested in Dosney on Parade, I started a separate blog at

Sunday, 4 January 2009

the ritchie family: the best disco (group) in town

My all time favorite disco group was The Ritchie Family. Remember them? You should, they were responsible for the mega-hit, The Best Disco In Town. Let’s look at who this family was and what happened in their time-span.

The Ritchie Family (who were not related) consisted of Cheryl Jacks, Cassandra Wooten, and Gwendolyn Oliver. The group took its name from creator, Ritchie Rome with tracks written by the same team responsible for The Village People. Their musical debut came in 1975 with the album, Brazil. It fared well on the dance charts across the world.

Their second outing is probably the most famous. The album, Arabian Nights contained, The Best Disco In Town. The track consisted of two parts, easily broken down for a single release. With the single number 1 in various countries the group embarked on a world-wide promotional tour, even including Australia. The concept album was heavily hyped and saw moderate success.

In March 1977 the group released their third album, Life Is Music, with the title track being released as a single, it received heavy radio airplay, the song reached Top Ten in Australia. The album fared less well.

At this time, Producer, Jacques Morali took total control of The Ritchie Family with his partners: Henri Belolo, Phil Hurtt, and Horace Ott. Ritchie Rome was removed from the creative team. The group was rushed into Sigma Recording Studios for a fourth album to be released in August the same year, African Queens. Very much a concept album, the three women sang about the lives of Nefertiti, Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba.

Following African Queens, the group changed record labels State-side. Sadly with all the changes it was decided to move the Ritchie Family in a new direction. Out also were Cassandra, Cheryl and Gwendolyn.

To this day, it remains a mystery as to what actually happened. The new “family” went on with moderate success for a few years. None of the original albums have found their way to a CD release. A few generic compilations have surfaced. The Sigma Sound Studio was closed in 2003, with the majority of tapes becoming the property of Drexel University Music Archive.

The original line-up have never reunited or appeared together since 1977. It’s also unknown if they have stayed in contact. I love the original Ritchie Family. They left us with some wonderful music.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

silver jet - 28 hits for dancing

Flashing back to the late 1960’s, our family record player was on it’s last legs, so my parents trotted off to Savery’s to buy a new 3-in-one stereo system (record player, radio & cassette player). This was serious furniture! All housed in a huge cabinet that, at first glance, looked more like a buffet dresser than a stereo system. I think my mother was sold on that idea. The salesman must have made some good commission because he told us to take three albums “of your choice from a vast selection of modern recordings”. We ended up with this…28 Hits For Dancing by the Fred Silver Band. (I’ve always loved the odd “Stereo-Dancing” addition to the title.) I haven’t heard this album in years…but it was perfect for stereo dancing on your new 3-in-one system!

This was my introduction, oddly enough, to songs by The Beatles. Although instrumentals, I’d always think The Beatles were singing songs from “28 Hits For Dancing”.

These Boots Are Made for Walkin"
Can't Buy Me Love
I was Kaiser Bill's Batman
Pretty Woman
There's A Kind of Hush
Monday, Monday
Silence is Golden
Sloop John B
She Loves You
Winchester Cathedral
Barbara Ann
A Hard Day's Night
All My Loving
Paperback Writer
I'm A Believer
Don't Ha Ha
Yesterday Man
To Whom it Concerns
No Milk Today
I Want To Hold Your Hand
Dear Mrs. Applebee
Penny Lane
Happy Together