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Disney goes to the Rose Parade

Disney goes to the Rose Parade

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According to their official website, the first Tournament of Roses was staged in 1890 by members of Pasadena's Valley Hunt Club, former residents of the East and Midwest eager to showcase their new home's mild winter weather. "In New York, people are buried in snow," announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting. "Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."

More than 2,000 people turned out on New Year's Day to watch a parade of flower-covered carriages, followed by foot races, polo matches and tugs-of-war on the town lot. The abundance of flowers prompted Professor Holder to suggest "Tournament of Roses" as a suitable name for the festival. During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and motorized floats and today it is a New Year's Day tradition that is broadcast around the world.

In a ceremony held Tuesday, November 16, 2004 at noon at Tournament House (the beautiful Wrigley Mansion in Pasadena, California), Mickey Mouse was revealed as the Grand Marshal for the 2005 Tournament of Roses that has the theme "Celebrate Family". Tournament of Roses President Dave Davis was joined on stage by Disney Legend Julie Andrews to announce Mickey Mouse would lead the family-themed New Year's Day celebration in Pasadena, Calif. As Grand Marshal, Mickey Mouse will represent the Tournament of Roses theme to a worldwide television audience as he rides in the 116th Rose Parade, and as he tosses the coin before the 91st Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2005.

"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," said Davis. "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 Jan. 1, 2005."

"Gosh, it sure is swell be named the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade and I can't wait to see everybody on Jan. 1 in Pasadena," said Grand Marshal Mickey Mouse when accepting his role as the 2005 Tournament of Roses ambassador. "It's a big year for me with big doings for Disneyland's 50th and all, but being in the Rose Parade is a great way to start the New Year!"

"We have been good friends for many years and I congratulate Mickey on being named Grand Marshal of the 2005 Rose Parade," said Andrews, Honorary Ambassador of Disneyland's upcoming 50th anniversary celebration. "Mickey has touched the hearts of families everywhere, and I look forward to watching him on January 1st and to joining him next May as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disneyland."

Actually, Disney has a long connection with the popular Pasadena parade. Marge Belcher who had done live action reference modeling for the part of Snow White in Disney's first animated feature and who later married dancer Gower Champion adorned a Disney "Snow White" float in 1938. She was dressed as Snow White and accompanied by performers costumed as the Seven Dwarfs.

In my collection is a 1955 postcard showing the Helms Bakery float in the Rose Parade held in Pasadena the year Disneyland opened. The back of the postcard states, " HELMS OLYMPIC BAKERIES 1955 PASADENA TOURNAMENT OF ROSE FLOAT WINNER OF THE JUDGE'S SPECIAL AWARD! DESIGN FEATURES THE NEW DISNEYLAND". The float had Mickey Mouse at the front and a rose pink Sleeping Beauty's castle at the back circle. In the middle circle were flying pink Dumbos. There was a long curved pole with a silver balloon ball that has red lettering proclaiming: " DISNEYLAND". Helms Bakery was a very popular Southern California bakery that at one time even had bakery trucks that went through neighborhoods like an ice cream truck.

The 1955 Disneyland Float from the Tournament of Roses Parade.

50 Years Later.
The 2005 Disneyland Float for the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Someday I hope that Disney Historian Jim Korkis talks in print about his misadventures decorating the City of Glendale float for the 1984 Rose Parade. It was designed to salute Donald Duck's 50th birthday and Clarence "Ducky" Nash rode on it. Probably unknown to Disney pin traders is that a special limited edition, Disney approved Donald Duck Rose Parade float pin was distributed to those involved with the float. Jim showed me his pin which was actually presented to him by his late father, John, who was part of the Glendale city government at the time. And how many remember the Rose Parade that helped celebrate one of Disneyland's birthdays that started with a huge song and dance production number produced by Disney?

However, when we think of Disney and the Rose Parade, most of us think of the 1966 parade when Walt himself was the Grand Marshall.

J. Randolph Richards was the President of the 77th Annual Tournament of Roses and he reviewed over seven thousand suggestions for a theme from the cards and letters that came in from near and far. During his previous twenty-ones years of service he was a member of twenty-nine committees and chairman of fourteen of them. Realizing that the wonders of the present era of 1965-jet plane travel, communications satellites and orbiting space vehicles-"have seemingly reduced the size of the globe", Richards settled on the theme "It's A Small World".

On March 14, 1965, Richards made the announcement of the theme as well as his choice for Grand Marshall, Walt Disney. It was stated that it was very appropriate to so honor Walt because of "the universal acceptance of the Disney creations. He has penetrated barriers and boundaries, lessening the distance between the continents. This master showman has brought joy and laughter to millions in every part of the world. Many of the countries have paid tribute to his genius by singling him out for high honors."

If I were more cynical, I might point out that even though Disney's "it's a small world" had premiered at the 1964 New York's World Fair the plans had been announced to transplant the attraction to Disneyland with a planned opening of May 28, 1966 so this theme selection was wonderful publicity for the soon to be open new attraction as well as a deserved honor for Walt.

Richards really worked hard to make the local Pasadena parade more global in nature to fit the theme and he traveled extensively, getting commitments from twenty-one foreign countries to participate.

The official press announcement declared: "Mickey Mouse will ride in the Grand Marshal's automobile along the side of Walt Disney, whose agile pen created the lovable animated character many years ago. The rest of the Disney characters will be close by. A total of twenty-seven of the widely known cartoon creations will be taking part in the New Year's Day Festivities by walking along behind the automobile of the famed showman or riding on the entry of the city of Burbank, a design of Disney Studios in that community. It was Walt Disney's choice that if there was to be an entry revolving around his life and his creations that the Burbank float should be the one to carry out the motif. The Walt Disney Studios in that city is closely tied in with the story of this man and his creations. Therefore, in all probability such a choice was a sentimental one, reflecting his esteem for the San Fernando Valley municipality."

The Burbank float with design help from Bill Justice was entitled "Our Small World of Make Believe". The official description submitted to the Tournament of Roses was "the setting is an open book, a musical clef and an artist's palette, representing the three important elements of Disney legend-the story, the music and the creative art work."

The other floats weren't themed to Disney characters. In fact the float from the See's Candy shop was "The World of Red Skelton" with floral recreations of some of his characters like Sheriff Dead Eye and the Mean Widdle Kid.

It is surprising to me that not more photos of Walt and the Burbank float have appeared in print or for sale since the official 1966 program for the 77th Annual Rose Parade featured advertisements from a half dozen photo companies offering "gorgeous slides as well as 8mm and 16 mm color movie film. Each company offered free bonuses from a 33 1/3 LP record with narrative and background music of the parade to another that offered a full script to another that had "six all new Disneyland slides". Unfortunately, the same short familiar clip of Walt in a convertible with Mickey and waving to the crowd is the only one that seems to pop up in compilation clips from the Disney Company.

And how many have forgotten that Roy E. Disney was the Rose Parade Grand Marshall for "Celebration 2000: Visions of the Future" which tied into "Fantasia:2000" but certainly didn't help that film at the box office?

So this year as you set your TIVO or VCR to record Mickey Mouse as Grand Marshall, you might smile knowingly that since you are a reader of jimhillmedia that you know this is part of just a long tradition of Disney's involvement with the Rose Parade.

To order a copy of either of these two photographs, please call the Tournament of Roses Public Relations Department at (626) 449-4100.

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