Saturday, July 05, 2014

Grand and Glorious "America On Parade" Models


Four paper people in rectangular frames, looking like minimalistic strangers on a train, could be something you'd expect to see in a museum of modern art. But this small three-dimensional model made of cardboard, white paper, and plastic toothpaste caps is actually a piece of rough concept art created for one of Disneyland's most famous parades.

"Television and Movies"
America On Parade ran daily at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World during the 1975-76 US bicentennial anniversary. Consisting of fifty units and 150 performers, it was by far the most elaborate parade ever staged at the Disney parks.

Here are some very rare images—most of them shot by myself in the late 1980s using a Polaroid instant camera—of the wonderful scale models that Disneyland kept in storage at the time. Back then, the Disneyland Entertainment-Art Department preserved a treasure trove of artwork for Park shows going all the way back to the early sixties and Walt's lifetime. When I was just starting out as a young parade designer at Disney, I became fascinated by these fragile hand-made miniatures and assembled a file of snapshots for my own personal reference.  Around 1999, shortly after I had transferred out of the department to a new position in Glendale,  I learned to my horror that nearly all of the Anaheim model shop's archive had been destroyed or discarded in order to "free up precious storage space for other things." I've come to believe many of the photos I had taken might now be the only existing record of this (mostly vague) corner of Disneyland history.

"Thanksgiving Turkey"

"Betsy Ross"
The A.O.P models were made in 1974 by Clare Graham and a small team of artists under the creative direction of Bob Jani, who had also led the creation of the Main Street Electrical Parade. Built from simple materials, such as colored felt, paper, wire, and illustration board, these models guided the construction of the final full-sized parade floats.

The Transcontinental Railroad
I love these, and refer back to them often.  The stylization was a great inspiration to us in designing the "paper sculpture" look for Mickey's Soundsational Parade.  The model, above, of the two steam locomotives coming face to face at the completion of the first transcontinental railroad is one of my all-time favorites. It's a stunning unit, and I just wish the image were sharper.

"Schoolhouse"
"Wagons West"
"Industrial Revolution"
"Phonograph"
"Radio"
Some of the models from the section of the parade dedicated to "America's favorite pastimes"…playing sports and eating ice cream.  Some high-concept ideas here!

"Popular Sports"
"Ice Cream"
"Telephone"
The Capitol
Transportation
These "transportation" floats, depicting the 19th and 20th centuries are pretty fantastic, as well.  Some of the models shown here were photographed for a 1975 souvenir book (by David Jacobs) sold during the parade's run, but most historic Disneyland parade art is unpublished, lost, and unknown.   I'll try to share more photos in the coming months, even the out-of-focus ones!  

4 comments:

Len said...

These models are truly amazing. I'm looking forward to seeing many more of these photos.

Dean Mancina said...

I purchased a couple of felt parade float models at an auction about 20 years ago. I love them. Great memories. Do you have any information about Tony Urbano and any role he played in the AOP Parade? If not, I might have a bit of information for you about that. -Dean Mancina

Ryan Adney said...

Very interesting. For a company that values archiving and preservation so much it's surprising that these fantastic pieces weren't saved. It is great that you had the mind to take some pictures.

Matt said...

Cool - love that turkey! Thanks for having the foresight to photograph this stuff before it apparently got trashed.