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Al Lutz
Women's Soccer Team at Disneyland - July 11, 1999

Sign near the castle

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team stopped by Disneyland July, 11th, and here are a few photos of the rather quickly put together event, with a few comments of my own. 

A sign [above] was placed above the presentation area in front of the castle. You'll note the word "Congratulations!" was a cut out - they also had a second choice to put in there, probably the word "Welcome!" [as in all the other signs on the parade floats and such] just in case the team lost. Apparently they made the deal for the appearance at the park way before the actual game took place.

Early morning TV interviews
From left to right: Carla Overbeck, Tiffany Milbrett, Julie Foudy, and Brandi Chastain.

If you ever see someone [or a team] saying "I'm Going to Disneyland / Walt Disney World!" after a sporting event on TV, you can be assured that by that point they've usually agreed to spend a good part of that day at the park working hard to take advantage of the many media opportunities that are offered by such a situation. Chances are they won't be riding Space Mountain or spinning in the Teacups, since they are all doing press and media interviews, shoots for video and then usually a morning parade and noontime ceremony. 

These events are usually always scheduled early in the day to maximize exposure on the evening newscasts and give enough time to be included in the next day's newspapers. Disneyland and the parties involved don't miss a single angel for exposure here - the park's justly famous publicity machine furthers both causes quite admirably.

Carla Overbeck, Tiffany Milbrett, Julie Foudy, and Brandi Chastain [photo above] were doing early morning TV interviews at the Plaza Inn [which was closed all morning for the press and media to use], with a view behind them of both the Astro-Orbitor and the Matterhorn. The shot above was taken just after 9 AM. 

Parade starts off Very enthusiastic dancers lead the way

The parade kicked off on Small World Mall at 10:15 AM - after cast members distributed lots of little American flags to the crowd for them to wave around. These shots were taken as they came to the top of Main St. near the hub. 

The parade started with a banner [above] and some quickly choreographed dancers kicking around a few soccer balls. Let's just say kindly that these folks should remain dancers and avoid soccer careers... 

First float full of players - one view First float full of players - second view

Here are two views [above] of the first float full of players, along with Pluto.

 Second float full of players - one view Secon float full of players - second view

Here are two views [above] of the second float - Minnie and Mickey were on this one with the team. After they passed this point, red, white and blue confetti began to be shot off of the roof-tops for the rest of the route, a very nice Disneyland touch. 

Running a bit late from the promised 11 AM start - the activities for rest of the morning then moved over to an area set up in front of the castle. Media types had the best seats of course, along with a set of camera and photographer's bleachers set up for them. The public itself got to view the show from either side of the main presentation area.

Pressler and those mice intro the players
Paul Pressler, Mickey and Minnie.

In what I personally think was a missed opportunity, Paul Pressler took advantage of the situation to make the speech and presentation at the castle. It should be noted that Disneyland now has a woman in charge for the first time, Cynthia Harriss, and Pressler could have handed over the ceremony to her to run. It certainly would have suited the "Girl Power" theme this team has helped foster so much better. Harriss by and large has been proving herself a much better public speaker lately anyway in recent park events - with a sense of showmanship and style Pressler has shown in the past he is lacking in. 

As we've seen so many times before, Pressler stumbled on his speech, totally lacking in charm and warmth. Try as I might, in taking all these photos [there are over a hundred total I took of all the events], I couldn't get one of him smiling, every single one came out with a grimace from him instead. A very hot and humid day probably didn't help him a lot, but it really didn't seem to affect the others involved in the presentation as much.

Even Pressler's one attempt at humor during his remarks left the crowd rather quiet. Granted no one really wanted to hear him, they wanted to see the team, but Harriss probably could have turned that around. [I won't even comment on the rumors that originally she was going to handle this, until Pressler stepped in to take advantage of the media opportunity.] 

Michael Eisner [who was a no-show] in my opinion really missed a great chance to have the public see him framed with a real positive and upbeat event. He could have made the final presentation of a Crystal Castle to the team and gotten the press's mind off of his latest battles with Katzenberg.

After Pressler's speech, they did a roll call of all the team members as they came out one by one to form an assembly out front.

Pressler talks to two of the players
Pressler with Carla Overbeck and Julie Foudy.

Two of the team members Carla Overbeck and Julie Foudy [above] then said a few words after the roll call, and just before they end the show, Pressler congratulates them on winning the game and thanked them for visiting the park.

The event ended with the small orchestra playing the song "Go the Distance" from "Hercules" as one of the Animazement cast members sang - with a big finale of daytime fireworks shot from the castle to close it all. Sadly, hot and humid conditions made the smoke from it all lay low to the ground as it dispersed through the crowd, we were all dusting off ashes and coughing at the end. There really wasn't much the pyrotechnic guys could have done to avoid that. 

Start of daytime fireworks
The start of the fireworks, before the ash cloud overtook the crowd.

Afterwards the team took a few moments to say hello to some of the fans, and the looks on a lot of the younger girl's faces were just priceless. The team then left the park after the noon hour for a downtown Los Angeles rally, then boarded flights that night to New York for another whirlwind round of interviews and TV appearances. Overall it was a very well put together event, except for the missed opportunities noted above. 

It should be noted truly is the kind of thing that Disneyland really does best. It was a wonderful surprise for the regular visitors to the park, and attendance probably got a bit of a boost when the word got out the team would be there. This is also the kind of event that makes having an Annual Pass worthwhile, since one can just drop in to catch it.

A very special thanks goes to Roger Longenbach [a.k.a. DisneyMedic] for helping to identify the players in the photos above!

 

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