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Recycled Rabbit: How Disneyland's "Party Gras" parade eventually began surprising guests at WDW's 20th anniversary celebration

Recycled Rabbit: How Disneyland's "Party Gras" parade eventually began surprising guests at WDW's 20th anniversary celebration

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Regarding last week's "Hare Today, Gone Today" series, Robert C. wrote in to ask:

Jeff,

I really enjoyed today's "Roger Rabbit" article. It was great to see all of those old pictures of Roger in the park. One thing intrigued me, though. That picture that you posted of the Roger Rabbit float in Disneyland's 35th anniversary parade looked very similiar to the shot you posted of the Roger Rabbit float in WDW's 20th anniversary parade. So the Walt Disney Company try & save a few bucks in the early 1990s by recycling Roger? Shipping that particular parade float from California to Florida?

Robert, you don't know the half of it.

Back in January of 1990, Disneyland visitors were all smiles ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

... when the "Party Gras" first began rolling through "The Happiest Place on Earth." Arguably, this elaborate day-time parade was the real high point of the Anaheim theme park's 35th anniversary celebration.


Photo by Jeff Lange

The "Party Gras" was one of the most elaborate parades ever staged at Disneyland. With over 150 singers, dancers and stilt walkers making their way daily from Main Street U.S.A. to Tomorrowland as confetti rained down from above ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

Obviously inspired by New Orleans' annual Mardi Gras celebration, "Party Gras" featured lots of colorful, over-sized floats as well as dozens of cast members tossing souvenir coins and beads to people standing along the parade route.


Photo by Jeff Lange

But if you were to ask theme park enthusiasts about what they remembered most about Disneyland's "Party Gras," they'd undoubtedly mention the huge falloons of their favorite Disney characters that were prominently featured in this day-time parade.


Photo by Jeff Lange

"Falloon" (for those of you who don't already know) is one of those Disney-invented terms. It describes a cold-air inflatable that's anchored to a moving parade float base. Balloon + float = falloon. Get it?


Photo by Jeff Lange

Anyway ... The falloons that were featured in Disneyland's "Party Gras" really were huge. At 45 feet in height, this color-air inflatables were so tall that that theme park's Skyway actually had to be shut down whenever this parade was moving through the park. Reportedly out of concern that this Fantasyland-to-Tomorrowland (and visa versa) attraction might accidently clip the falloons with one of its "sky buckets." Were the Skyway to be operating while "Party Gras" was underway, that is.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Yeah, "Party Gras" was very popular with Disneyland visitors. So much so that many theme park goers were genuinely sorry to see this day-parade make its final pass through the Anaheim theme park on November 18, 1990. Only to be replaced by Disneyland's annual "Christmas Fantasy" parade.


Photo courtesy of Google Images

Clearly Disneyland's "35 Years of Magic" celebration had been a huge hit with theme park goers. Thanks -- in large part -- to the "Party Gras" parade. Which had not gone un-noticed by the entertainment staff down at Walt Disney World.  Who (at that point) were still struggling to come up with a way to pay for a brand-new day-time parade for the Magic Kingdom.

You see, these folks had already blown through most of their entertainment budget for 1991. What with trying to get "SpectroMagic" for its debut at WDW's 20th anniversary celebration.


Photo courtesy of Google Images

And given that creating a replacement for the enormously popular "Main Street Electrical Parade" had put such a serious dent in WDW's wallet ... There was just no way that Disney World could now afford to underwrite the construction of a brand-new day-time parade for the Magic Kingdom.

Which is when some enterprising WDW entertainment executive reportedly pointed out that Disneyland's popular "Party Gras" had just been mothballed to make room for that theme park's new day-time parade for the Summer of 1991, "Celebration U.S.A." So why should Disney World make itself crazy trying to come up with a successful (More importantly, affordable) concept for a new day-time parade for the Magic Kingdom when the "Party Gras" units were already sitting unused in a backstage warehouse at Disneyland.

So someone made a few phone calls. And for the price of one brand-new falloon ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

... Disney World got what many guests thought was a spectacular brand-new day-time parade. When -- truth be told -- the falloons that were featured in the Magic Kingdom's 20th Anniversary Surprise Celebration Parade were just old Disneyalnd "Party Gras" units that had received a few cosmetic changes. Roger got a new jester's hat ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

 ... Donald got some puffy arm sleeves as well as a new drum to play ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

... while Pluto got a pair of maracas.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Whereas Minnie's wardrobe stayed exactly the same. Her slit skirt and tutti-fruity hat paying tribute to that star of the 1940s, Carmem Miranda.


Photo by Jeff Lange

As did Goofy's get-up. Here's a side-by-side comparison of the Goofy falloon at Disneyland (left) and the very same float at WDW's Magic Kingdom.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Beyond that ... I guess that the thing that you could really consider surprising about WDW's 20th Anniversary Surprise Celebration Parade was that ... Well, these recycled "Party Gras" units (which had originally only been designed to survive a short six-month-run at the Anaheim theme park) would gone on to entertain tens of millions of Magic Kingdom visitors for an additional 32 months. 'Til the "Mickey Mania" parade finally made its debut in June of 1994.

And speaking of WDW's 20th anniversary ...

In addition to being JHM's official photographer & archvist, Jeff Lange also produces a best-selling series of Disney theme park DVDs. His most recent title is a disc that commemorates Walt Disney World's 20th anniversary celebration. For further information on this DVD as well as all of the other titles in Jeff's catalog, please follow this link.

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  • Interesting article, Jeff! I never got to go to the Park that summer to see Party Gras (since it was my last summer before graduating college and I had no commitments,  I went traveling cross-country instead). Now I'm sorry I missed it!  

    Somehow, I'm not surprised about WDW recycling the Party Gras floats (sorry, falloons). How long has WDW been using that "glass castle" float from the 15th anniversary parade? Or the big riverboat float?  

  • "And speaking of WDW's 20th anniversary ..."
    What a way to end this great article...but I want to know now!
    I never have been to DL and first visited WDW in 2003, so I've never seen the parade, but it looked so fun from these pictures!  I vaguely remember the characters dressed like that; Burger King must have had a toy deal or something in their kids' magazine about it.  
  • Party Gras really was the parade to end all anniversary parades, in my opinion!  Then, if you include the Dream Machine - it's safe to say the 35 was the best anniversary celebration - EVER.
  • Why isn't WDW doing fancy things for it's 35th Anniversary?
  • I remember thinking in 1990 "if this is how cool the 35th anniversary is, just wait until the 50th".   oh well

    They havent topped Party Gras, IMHO
  • The In Memory of Disneyland's Party Gras Parade Float: Daisy Duck/ White Rabbit: Jan. 1990-July 4th 1991: Appears in Disneyland's 36th Anniversary: 1955-1991.  In 2006 Walt Disney World Presented The Party Gras. Parade

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