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Disneyland Article
When the Mouse Roared Back Part 2

Circus Fantasy
ID:
TMS-1684
Source:
MickeyMousePark.com
Author:
DLander In Time
Dateline:
August 05, 2009
Posted:
August 03, 2009
Status:
Current
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The year 1985 was a pivotal one for Disneyland, and it really set the stage for the following year, which the Marketing team aptly named, "Looks Like We Started Something! Disneyland "86". The new Eisner-Wells team had been busy the two previous years turning on a ton of work, and a lot of it would show up in '86. The "GiftGiver Extraordinaire" was continued over, but this time instead of every 30th guest winning, for the next nine months every guest won something every day! The prizes ranged from free popcorn, juice bars, Disneyland Passports, Disney home movie video cassettes (this was before DVD's), Kodak cameras, Mickey Mouse collectable watch, round-trip PSA airline ticket, 25-inch RCA TV, a collectible Mickey pin, and a 1986 Pontiac Firebird. A computer at the main entrance ticket office was programmed so that every morning, a Main Entrance Manager would enter in that days projected attendance and park hours. The computer would then randomly select which turnstile at what time would deliver a prize. For example, to award a Kodak camera at 1015 hours at turnstile number 12, the computer energized that turnstile so that whenever the turnstile paddle was turned a millisecond after that time, a ticket was printed out with the Kodak camera award printed directly on it. The Cast Member read the award, handed the ticket to the guest congratulating them. Now when the grand prize was awarded each day of the car, there would be a photo op with a Disney character, usually Mickey or Minnie. This was actually pre-staged, as the computer would show the time when the car would be awarded, so that the Character Dept would have time to schedule the characters around the park appropriately, and have the proper character available at the Main Entrance. It took us a little while before we realized how savvy our guests were getting; some of our annual Passholders had quickly figured out that if you stood just in the right spot, you could see Mickey or Minnie standing in a particular location ready to be brought onstage just as the GiftGiver machine went nuts announcing the winner of the car. We found that on average about 6 to12 Passholders were taking a chance and rushing the turnstiles in a guess as to when that time was going to be. We quickly huddled and changed tactics so that the Characters were not seen so that we stopped telegraphing when that event was going to take place. I do remember vividly one afternoon when a car was going to be given away late, sometime around 2pm, and no one had been through the turnstiles for over 30 minutes. When the time came for the car to be given away, all open turnstiles were activated, so that whoever turned the paddle first after the activation time, won the car. So here we were, the turnstiles had been activated for nearly 30 minutes, waiting to give a Pontiac Firebird away, and no guest in sight. Finally! Two young ladies came in view after purchasing tickets, walking and talking and smiling. I remember that as they both walked up, one of them motioned for the other to go first, thereby unknowingly giving her friend a new set of car keys. I also remember how excited she was for her friend, and I told her how classy she was for that moment. That year I remember as being really fun, everyone just seemed to be in a positive, upbeat mood. Not sure if it was a carry-over from the very popular and successful Los Angeles Olympic Games the year before, a strong economy, or just what it was, I only know that Disneyland began experiencing consistently high level of crowds never experienced before, and the guest were by and large really happy to be there!

When the Mouse Roared Back
1986 saw no less than 5 parades that year. People not in the theme park or entertainment industry perhaps won't grasp the enormity , of that seemingly simple statement. But the cost, the design effort, the parade floats, the resources allocated, the Entertainment team alone probably tripled in size within 3 years time. It was an enormous undertaking, but it also delivered some of the more memorable (and infamous) entertainment parades and events in memory. The Main Street Electrical Parade returned after a long hiatus, and with much improved audio along the parade route, plus tremendous technological improvement in the lighting elements, it's popularity hit new heights and drove nighttime attendance even higher. During the day, one of the most popular parades to have hit in a long time took advantage of a popular character who had been somewhat shunted off to the side, and brought her right back up to the forefront of 80's hip fashion, with the Totally Minnie Parade. As I had mentioned in my first article, The Walt Disney Company (recently renamed from Walt Disney Productions) also received an added financial bonus during this time with a massive increase in annual Passholders. Many of these Passholders became frequent fans and viewers of these parades, many even becoming close friends with the performers. The Totally Minnie Parade was a definite favorite with many Passholders who would stake out favorite locations and cheer on their favorite performers, and many of those performers responded back to their favorite Passholders.

As fun and entertaining as the Totally Minnie Parade was for guests and entertainers alike, two other less likely parades based on larger events, had their own quirks and dramas nearly every day. There was the Circus Fantasy Parade man that was one strange parade. It seemed to be Disney characters thrown together with some circus animals (although Brahma Bulls do not qualify as "circus" animals, in my opinion", along with dancers in bizarre costumes. I remember that other than clapping and waving at the Disney characters, and being amazed at the giraffes and elephants, mostly the crowds seemed quiet, even bewildered at the strange procession. Did I mention the incredible mounds of elephant poop that would occasionally adorn the parade route? The giraffe was pulled in her own wheeled cage it was just bizarre looking. The soundtrack was probably the worst production ever, as it the standard circus theme, with Disney Circus Fantasy lyric thrown in, and then repeated again and again, ad nauseum. Disney Cast were ready to run screaming after 3 days of that parade after hearing that soundtrack alone. That along with the first Circus Fantasy (mentioned in part 1), there were parts of 1986 that were, shall we say, less than stellar. The Circus Fantasy themes brought some guests that were something less than what Disneyland was used to having. Perhaps it was the Pig Races, or the motorcyclist who rode on a wire from Fantasyland up to the tip of the Matterhorn, and then backed all the way down. There was the Trapeze over Main Street that just seemed weirdly out of place, even though it featured a member of the famous Flying Wallenda's and was quite good. It was always my feeling that the Entertainment and Marketing divisions had been basically been given free rein creatively (and financially) and threw as much at the guests as they could come up with, and if the guests tolerated it, it returned for a year or two. Whatever guests really liked, well that was a different story. Then it could run for years and years like the Main Street Electrical Parade. On the other hand, that theory went south when it came to the Totally Minnie Parade. Here was a great parade, extremely popular with both Cast and guest alike, and it only ran for one year. Eisner and Wells were very pleased with the successes experienced at the parks, so the creative divisions were given a new lease on life. A key division seeing new life (loosely translated money) was the formerly secretive WED Imagineering, languishing for far too many years without the serious funding necessary to create the unique properties only Disney can create. With Eisner and Wells driving the company forward, one of the first initiates they drove was learning all about WED, and like kids in a candy store, happily turned on the funding machine to start a number of projects that would still have the turnstiles spinning. First off, they rechristened WED Imagineering to Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), in order to follow the new overall corporate branding. What were some of those cool new (in the mid "80's) projects that were coming, along with those that never saw light of day ?
 
Attractions Referenced

Matterhorn Bobsleds

 
Parades Referenced

Circus Fantasy

Main Street Electrical Light Parade

Totally Minnie Parade

 
Lands Referenced

Fantasyland

Main Street U.S.A.

 
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