Friday, 23 January 2009

the parade turns 40

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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


Kevin Kidney said...

All of this is FANTASTIC! Thank you for taking the time to share this great collection of images and memorabilia!

Darryl Rosin said...

Oh, memories. I saw the 75/6 show in brisbane, with almost no memories of it except the enormity of the crowds and the tent. A do remember a few of the characters doing a street parade through my suburb's shops and 'concert' hosted by a local radio station at a park just down the road. My older cousin got the cast to sign my favourite Disney LP.

I took my kids to Disneyland last year. They were very supportive of me living our my childhood dream through them.


Anonymous said...

I was in the audience of Disney on Parade on the night of the collapse of the flying rig in Adelaide's Bonython Park. I think it was 1971 and I would have been about seven. From what I remember, the rig was shaped like the top of a large Hills Hoist, slowly rotating from the apex of the big top, while each of the performers (four or six I think) hung below dressed as butterflies with large wings attached to their backs. The rig was covered with many coloured light bulbs. They were hanging from the rig and starting to individually rotate as part of the finale of the show when the rig slightly lowered by a couple of feet. At first it appeared that this was part of the show, but it soon became apparent that something was wrong. It seemed that the rig was hanging by a safety chain for a few seconds, when suddenly this broke and the rig plummeted many metres below to the stage. The audience screamed and everyone stood up. An MC came on the stage and asked if there were any doctors in the house. The performers were trapped under the rigging and very badly cut from the shattered light bulbs. The audience was asked to leave. I understood that the sister of the promoter Michael Edgley, Christine or Christina, was one of those injured.

spacepotato said...

The accident with the flying rig made front page of the Advertiser (newspaper). Yu are correct, an Edgely sister was injured but I can't recall her name.

Chris said...

Hi! I was the original Peter Pan in the very first Disney On Parade. 40 year anniversary, eh? I'm as old as dirt. -Chris Mills

spacepotato said...

Thanks for checking it out Chris. By the time the show reached Australia the Peter Pan sequence had been axed. The show layout was changed in a few places that differ from the original shows in the US. I have no idea why.