A Brief History of Disney and the Rose Parade, Part Two: After Walt

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

Last week, I wrote about the connections between the Rose Parade and Disney while Walt was alive. This week, I try to finish the story by covering the Disney connections after his passing.

I am sure I may have missed a few things and I hope those who can fill in those gaps with post comments.

For the 1971 parade, Disney worked in conjunction with the City of Anaheim in the capacity of consultants and designers on their 1971 Tournament of Roses Float entry.

The title of the float was "A Dream Come True in Anaheim."

The official description of the float was: "Anaheim creates, in flowers, the dream that came true within the city's boundaries, of course, this dream come true is DISNEYLAND. Appearing on the entry are 22 of the famous Disney characters—Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Show White, Alice in Wonderland, The Wolf and Three Pigs. Some of these are highly animated floral figures. At the rear of the float are the newest characters featured in the latest Disney full-length cartoon feature, The Aristocats. Two 'youngsters' Angela Dutton and Jimmy Sundali appear on the float in a big oversized bed. lso on the float is a floral version of the castle & moat."

Interestingly, and something I didn't include in my book Who's Afraid of the Song of the South because I just recently discovered it, Disney gave permission to the Sunkist Corporation to use characters from the feature film Song of the South on their float titled "Tales of the Briar Patch" that same year.

Disney had released a statement in the entertainment newspaper Variety in February 25, 1970, that the film was "permanently on the shelf as offensive to Negroes and present concepts of race" but re-released the film in 1972, where it became the highest grossing Disney re-release up to that time.

Appearing on the float were characters Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and other animal and bird figures, such as crows and squirrels. The official description of the float was as follows: "Brer Fox peers forth from his habitat in an old log, while Brer Bear stands in the middle of a winding path. Hanging from a branch just behind Brer Bear is Brer Rabbit. Two black crows are surveying the scene from their perch high in the brightly colored autumn trees."

Rose Bowl Football teams from Ohio State and Stanford met for the first time on December 21, 1970 at Disneyland. The teams visited the park with their coaches, Rose Queen Kathleen Arnett and her court, along with their hostess, Disneyland Ambassador Marva Dickson. After a greeting at the front gate by the Disneyland Band and Mickey Mouse, the group marched down Main Street. Goofy and the Scatcats, from The Aristocats, joined the group in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle for photos.

In 1973, the theme of the parade was "Movie Memories," so Disney used it as an occasion to tie in with its "50 Happy Years" promotion. The Disney Brothers Studio began in 1923 producing the "Alice Comedies" shorts, so 1973 marked its 50th birthday.

The Disney float started the parade (directly after the motorcycle riders) but it was actually a caravan extravaganza, including four Castle turrets, a Castle float, The Love Bug, a Wishing Well, Monstro the Whale, three Teapots, a Circus Train, a Hunny Pot, Floral Plaque, two Peter Pan-themed pirate ships, and an Uncle Scrooge cycle.

The official description was:

"This unique and special entry in the 1973 Rose Parade honors the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney Productions. A block-long cavalcade of more than 100 famous Disney cartoon characters promenade in a fanciful atmosphere of make-believe to recreate the most celebrated memories from Walt Disney's film classics.

"Movies represented are Cinderella, Snow White, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, Jungle Book, Song of the South, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Love Bug, The Aristocats, and other famous Disney Characters."

Characters who are not in the feature films included Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, the Three Little Pigs and Big Bad Wolf, Chip 'n' Dale, and Scrooge McDuck.

The City of Glendale decided to produce a float to join the celebration of Donald Duck's 50th anniversary that was still ongoing for the 1985 parade. To further enhance the float, they decided to include Clarence "Ducky" Nash, a longtime resident of Glendale and the decades-long voice of Donald Duck.

Unfortunately, Nash became ill and was unable to ride in the parade as planned, as he was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center on New Year's Eve. Tony Anselmo, the current voice of Donald, had gone to the parade specifically to see Nash on the float and was disappointed. The beloved Nash sadly died the following February.

On March 11, 1985, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses gave a special Certificate of Appreciation to Disneyland "In recognition of your contribution to the success of the Tournament of Roses and with thanks for many years of support."

In 1986, Lawry's licensed Mickey and Minnie for their float and produced a pin, but, because they had mistakenly not gotten permission for any merchandising, only 14 pins of Mickey and Minnie waving from the back of the float were produced and given to the Lawry's board of directors. The official Tournament of Roses pin guide for that year lists the pin as "not available."

For the 1988 parade, four Disneyland Electrical Parade Float Drivers were chosen to drive the California Bicentennial Foundation Float (celebrating the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution). The Disney Company was a co-sponsor and the float featured an original Disney designed buffalo character, "Bicentennial Ben," official mascot of the Foundation.

Mickey Mouse rode on top of the "We Are the People" float, the first float in Rose Parade history to represent an entire state: California. "It depicts the Constitution and Independence Hall, connected by two giant flags to a future represented by astronaut Buzz Aldrin astride a Martian landscape."

Disneyland drivers were also at the controls of the Pacific Financial Company's float, and the Pac 10 float.

In December 1992, Disneyland hosted another Rose Court Jubilee featuring Tournament of Roses Queen Liana Yamasaki and her court, along with bands from participating college football teams in a parade down Main Street. Disney helped design the City of Glendale's 1993 float that featured Sorcerer Mickey.

Jack Lindquist, then president of Disneyland, told the Los Angeles Times in its November 12, 1992, edition that the Disney characters would be contributing "a new dimension in this great New Year's Day celebration." Lindquist said the "Mickey's Toontown" characters will present a pageant "saluting the [1993] tournament's theme," which is "Entertainment on Parade," during the march down Pasadena streets. He said Disneyland also would sponsor the 1993 parade's theme float, a multilevel Toontown house, to tie-in with the opening of Mickey's Toontown.

On December 29, 1993, the marching bands from UCLA and Wisconsin performed on Main Street, U.S.A. in the Rose Court Jubilee, a special parade that was featured during a one hour CBS-TV Special, Coming Up Roses, which aired on January 2, 1994. This time the colorful pageant featured the princesses or heroines of Disney animated classics accompanying Rose Court Queen Erica Beth Brynes and her court.

In 1995, Disneyland sponsored a float in the parade titled "Salute to Sports," featuring floral statues Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto in sporting gear, and live cheerleaders in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. The Disneyland Resort again hosted the Rose Court Jubilee parade at Disneyland in December 1994 with the Rose Queen and her court and the football teams.

On December 29, 1996, there was a Rose Court Jubilee parade at Disneyland, along with bands from Northwestern and USC, but this time there was a "battle of the bands" with Nortwestern in the Castle forecourt and USC in Town Square.

For the 1999 parade, Disney assisted with the entry from the Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks WOW (Wonderful Outdoor World) program. Eight 12-year-olds were asked to create an equestrian unit, but all of the children were brand new to riding. Walt Disney Special Events helped with the creative concept for the unit, including costumes for the kids and decorations for the horses and mule train.

Over the years, Walt Disney Imagineers and Disney Entertainment executives have served as judges in the parade.

As mentioned, Roy E. Disney was the Grand Marshal for the 2000 parade, making him the first member of a family of a previous Grand Marshal (Walt) to be so honored.

For the first time in Rose Parade history, the parade began not with a traditional theme banner or a marching band or a float made of flowers, but with a "human theme banner" comprised entirely of people.

Designed by Stadium Stunts, this "Human Theme Banner" featured 2000 colorfully costumed Southern California high school students creating a formation spelling out the theme of the Parade: "Celebration 2000." The shape and color of the unit changed on musical cue to read "Fantasia 2000", the title of Disney's newest animated feature film, which opened in IMAX theaters on January 1, 2000.

On December 27, 1999, there had been another Rose Court Jubilee at Disneyland. Tournament of Roses' President Kenneth H. Burrows and Rose Queen Sophia Bush and Disney characters rode cars and floats down Main Street in the parade.

In 2003, members of the Disney VoluntEars from the Studio help to decorate the "Make-A-Wish Foundation" Tournament of Roses Parade float.

For the 2004 parade, to promote the opening of the new Disney's California Adventure Attraction "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" Disney produced a float called "A Sudden Drop in Pitch." The musical theme from The Twilight Zone television show played on the float over and over in keeping with the parade theme of "Music, Music, Music."

The float was the tallest in Rose Parade history, with a height of nearly 110 feet. It was so tall it has to be designed with 11 hydraulic pump to fold down to 17-feet high when the Parade went under freeway overpasses. The Tower was placed in the midst of Disney California Adventure landmarks like a miniature moving version of the Sun Wheel.

There were four stunt people on the tower that shook when lightning struck it. The exposed elevator in the tower shook as if caught in a tremor, and the roof sparks with flashes of lightning. In addition to the carbon dioxide smoke effects used on the tower, the float was the second in parade history to use pyrotechnics.

There was some minor controversy that relatives of victims of the 9/11 tragedy felt that a tower that would fall and had the name "terror" was disrespectful. There was also some criticism that Disney was more interested in commercially advertising its attraction than sticking to the actual theme of the parade.

The Rose Court Jubilee was held December 26, 2003, at Disneyland.

In 2005, to promote the 50th anniversary of Disneyland, Disney's float was called "The Happiest Celebration on Earth."

For the first time in Tournament of Roses Parade history, a two and a half minute opening ceremony and show featuring 150 Disneyland Resort cast members was performed, with the Resort float as its backdrop. After the ceremony, the float, decorated by cast Mmembers from the Disneyland Resort, led the parade.

The airy float, which drew its inspiration from Disney park castles with multiple turrets and spires, also featured members of the worldwide ambassador team, one from each Disney theme park, and a variety of Disney characters.

Mickey Mouse was the grand marshal for the parade.

"Mickey Mouse has brought entertainment, joy and laughter to families around the world for 75 years, and we couldn't think of a more ideal Grand Marshal to help us 'Celebrate Family' in 2005," Tournament of Roses President Dave Davis said. "Mickey Mouse became a part of the Tournament of Roses family when he accompanied Walt Disney on his Grand Marshal ride in the 1966 Rose Parade, and we are delighted to welcome him back once again to help us spread New Year's cheer on January 1, 2005."

In 2006, Disney had three floats in the Rose Parade. The first, titled "The Most Magical Celebration on Earth," wanted to remind the audience that the 50th anniversary celebration was still going on. The float, the parade's longest, measured 150 feet, and included five towering, strawberry powder-covered castles representing the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Each castle was surrounded by plants indigenous to their regions of the world, since the Disney Company was emphasizing that it was not Disneyland's 50th birthday but the anniversary of the birth of Disney theme parks worldwide.

In addition, ESPN and ABC Sports had a parade entry called "The Magic of Sports in High Definition," a float designed to capture the excitement of a game being experienced in HDTV.

There was also a Little Einsteins' float. Made of flowers, seeds, bark, leaves and other natural materials, the animated characters of Leo, Annie, Quincy, June and Rocket were interactive, with Rocket soaring 25 feet in the air. The float, titled "Making Music is Magical," was a cooperative effort between The Walt Disney Company, the Baby Einstein Company and the International Music Products Association.

OK, I am exhausted and the New Year has just barely started, but I felt some of this history needed to be recorded for current Disney fans and future researchers to enjoy.

I am sure there are some things I missed, so please feel free to include them in the comments. In addition, I had no desire to go back and include, for instance, all the appearances of The Muppets (Kermit and Miss Piggy first appeared in 1982) or Star Wars or Marvel characters. That's an article for someone else to write.

With all the acquisitions the Disney Company has made, it has become more and more complicated to include them in the official Disney history timeline. Should only events that took place from the moment of Disney's acquisition be included or should the entire history of the various franchises since they are now owned by Disney?

If you are interested in the Disney participation in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, pick up a copy of one of my latest books The Vault of Walt: Volume 2 for the whole story.