Last year for Christmas I focused on the current, SamsDisneyDiary 12 days of Christmas, featuring 12 different Disney parks’ Christmas events covering Florida and California parks. This year, we are going back in time. Back 30 years to be exact, to the 1987 Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Day Parade. Originally aired 30 years ago on Christmas morning, the concept was very similar to today; a preview of what’s new at Walt Disney World and what to expect in the next few years. A 90 minute long commercial so to speak. And in 1987, it was the dawn of the Michael Eisner “Disney Decade”, the beginning of a massive decade long expansion of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Of course, the parade included lots of Disney inspired parade floats, high school bands and children’s choirs; but to me, the best part of the 1987 Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade was the segments with Regis Philbin “previewing” what’s in store. The show starts with a tradi
tional Disney dance and song, with clips of Disney characters in just about every corner of Walt Disney World enjoying everything from the beach, Minnie playing a little tennis, Pluto in Epcot’s Mexico, and the Voices of Liberty in American Adventure. There are even some characters enjoying a round of golf.
Joan Lunden and Alan Thick host the special from the Magic Kingdom, while Regis plays the field reporter interacting with guests on Main Street and providing the construction updates from throughout Walt Disney World with his progress report. The Christmas around America Parade is the centerpiece providing the bulk of the content, with a children’s choir wrapping up the show. The costumes and crowd are 100% 1980s and a fun nostalgic look at that time period in America. You may also notice the decorations on Main Street – not much compared to the Magic Kingdom 30 years later.
In the spirit of Walt himself, Regis gives us an update in his Walt Disney World Progress Report. Grab
your hard hats. Regis starts with The Emperious Lilly River Boat, the only thing that is recognizable on the 6 acre construction site that will be Walt Disney World Pleasure Island. According to Regis, Pleasure Island would feature “Funtastic” adventures – the abandoned water port would be transformed into an adventure filled island with creations like one of a kind night clubs with entertainment from outrageous comedy and magic, country western to 50s and 60s music, Jazz and more, fantastic eateries, markets and a rocking roller rink for all to enjoy at the new Pleasure Island. Not far away is the all-new 56 acres water
park, set to open in early 1989. Typhoon Lagoon would feature 9 twisting, turning water slides and waterways up to 400 feet long around a volcanic mountain, featuring the best surf and sun east of Hawaii thanks to the world’s largest wave machine and snorkeling with exotic fish and even sharks. Looking to relax in style, the magnificent water front paradise with turn of the century beauty and charm is set to open. Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian, the most luxurious accommodations at Walt Disney World features the charm of life at a leisurely pace with all the conveniences of today, like a nearby monorail stop near the lobby. Over at Epcot, Norway the 11th member of World Showcase, is under construction and will feature a Viking boat ride down white water rapids through a mythical Norwegian forest complete with trolls and water spirits. After showing some concept art of Norway, Regis directs our attention to World Showcase Lagoon and the new Illuminations that recently started its nightly run at Epcot. The World Showcase itself will be the backdrop for one of the most spectacular light shows imaginable; a breathtaking spectacle of music and lights unlike anything you have ever seen before.
And lastly – A brand new movie studio is being built right in the middle of Walt Disney World – The Disney MGM Studio. With opening scheduled for 1989, the studio will give everyone the opportunity to go behind the scenes to see how television programs and movies are made. The project includes a working studio where films and network TV shows are made and taped and animation studio facility where you can see the Disney animators working on the latest animated movies currently in development. A thrill filled one of kind ride though adventure guaranteed to knock your socks off, it’s Hollywood at its heyday complete with a replica of the Manns Chinese Theater where guests can relive great moments at the movies. You can even volunteer to step in front of the camera to recreate a classic scene from your favorite movies and TV shows.
WOW – That’s the beginning of the Disney Decade – just an amazing amount of construction in progress; and that wasn’t everything. So much more was happening at the same time, but I’ll save that for the 1988 Christmas Parade! As much as I love the look ahead, another segment in the parade also immediately caught my attention, and that was a look back. A look back to the creation and development of the classic “Cinderella” – The segment called “The Making of the Disney Classic C
inderella” featuring Leonard Maltin setting up the 1940s and what was happening at Disney Studios when Cinderella was developed, with
additional dialog from Disney Legend and Archivist David Smith, Disney Legend Ken Anderson and Disney Animation Legend Marc Davis – the segment is a history lesson, and a must for any Disney Nerd.
After some more parade, we check back in with Regis Philbin who was the Ringmaster, riding an elephant, for the “EPCOT Center Daredevil Circus Spectacular”; yes, that was a thing, and it happened 4 times a day. To the east, it’s the triple sway pole, to the west the wheel of destiny, to the north the space cycle and to the south the trapeze. We see some highlights along with some interesting 80’s theme music.
The parade wraps up with Santa and a 1200 member children’s choir. I don’t know about you, but I love looking back at these time capsules; a look into the parks, what’s new, what’s on the horizon some of which made it and some that didn’t. It’s also interesting that after 30 years, the conversation continues. While we watch this year’s Christmas day “parade” (if you want to call it a parade), the conversation will be centered on the new ToyStoryland, opening in 2018 and Star Wars Galaxy Edge opening in 2019.
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1987 marked the 5th annual Christmas day parade from Walt Disney World originally airing on Christmas day 1987. I hope you enjoy this look back 30 years as much as I did.