Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Inc., formerly Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and informally known as Disney Parks, is one of The Walt Disney Company's four major business segments and a subsidiary. It was founded on April 1, 1971, exactly six months before the opening of Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida just outside of Orlando, Florida.
History with the Macy's Parade
The Disney Parks were first represented in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1971, when a float debuted to celebrate the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The "Disney World Castle" float closely the Magic Kingdom's center attraction; it was a Macy's marvel.
Years after its creation, Manfred Bass remarked, "That was really a lot of fun, working with the Disney people. They wanted us to reproduce the castle and celebrate it in the parade. We were in a sweat about the whole thing, but it was an exciting project." After being given some general information and "a little thin sketch," Bass and his crew began to develop the castle float design.
It was a challenge: in addition to the creative design aspects, there were also technical needs to consider. "Our goal was to make the castle look as big and grand as possible. And yet, all parade units have to be transported from Hoboken, New Jersey, into Manhattan on the night before the Parade. That means no unit can be more than twelve and a half feet high and eight and a half feet wide in order to fit through the Lincoln Tunnel. So how do you capture the majesty of the actual Disney World Castle given these physical restrictions? You have to create the 'magical box!'" Bass exclaimed.
That magical box is similar to a pop-up book. Various parts of the float are designed to fold up, fold down, or telescope into position. The sides of the castle were folded out, and various elements were put in place, including three telescoping turrets. The result was a wonderful world of Disney, courtesy of the Macy's Parade Studio team.
While the float was scheduled to debut alongside the newly-made Mickey Mouse balloon, high winds prevented the colorful gasbags from taking to the skies. The float was able to make its planned debut, boasting the likes of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, and Pinocchio. Throughout the years, the Disney World Castle float would be adorned with famous characters such as the Country Bears, Sleeping Beauty, The Rescuers, and the characters of Robin Hood. The castle float made its final appearance in the 1980 Parade and was retired shortly after.
On Oct. 1, 1981, the Walt Disney World Resort marked its first decade by launching the "Tencennial Celebration." Dubbed as the “Happiest Happy Birthday Ever”, the celebration spawned a new birthday song written for the celebration and a float that was scheduled to appear in that year's edition of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The float was named after the event and was recycled from the long-time Broadway Belle Showboat float.
Mickey Mouse took the wheel of the boat, as the "Kids of the Kingdom" performed the birthday song with special choreography in front of Macy's flagship department store in Herald Square. The Disney branding was stripped of the float after the 1981 Parade and returned to its former Broadway Belle self in 1982.
The world's first-ever Disney theme park, Disneyland, was scheduled to celebrate its 30th anniversary in the year of 1985 with the resort's largest promotion yet. Akin to many previous Disney Park anniversary celebrations, the Disney Parks would debut a new float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1984, dubbed the "Disneyland Celebration" float. The 36-six foot high, three-story-tall float was a replica of Cinderella Castle, complete with Gothic archways and spires. Below the towering structure was a carousel decorated with eight friendly horses.
Like the previous Disney Park floats, a gaggle of Disney characters appeared on the float ranging from classic characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck, to modern contemporaries such as The Gummi Bears. The float was retired after its sophomore appearance in the 1985 Parade, and would later become the elegant Beauty and the Beast float in 1992.
In 2005, the Disneyland Resort celebrated its golden 50th anniversary. The celebration was held across the many Disney Parks around the world and was the largest Disney Parks celebration to date. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade welcomed a float into its line of march to help celebrate its anniversary, titled the "Ship of Dreams". Previously known as the Marion-Carole Showboat, the float was given an updated color palette, changing from red and white to blue, white, gold, and red.
The float carried several dozen Disney characters, bringing with them a celebratory atmosphere. For the float's appearance on the NBC telecast, country singer LeAnn Rimes performed a special song, "Remember When", which was composed for the world-wide celebration known as 50 Years of Disney Theme Park Magic. The performance was accompanied by an array of pyrotechnics shooting from the float as a nod to the nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic!. The float was reverted back to its Macy's branding in 2006, and the Disney Parks have yet to make another appearance in the Parade.
Listed below are the guest stars that have performed/appeared on the float, alongside the respective songs which they sang during the NBC Telecast.
- 1974 - The Heywards
- 1975 - The Singing Rhodes Kids
- 1977 - Kids of the Kingdom
- 1978 - Robert Shields and Lorene Yarnell
- 1979 - The New Mickey Mouse Club
- 1981 - Kids of the Kingdom
Listed below are characters that have appeared on the float.
- 1972 - The Country Bear Jamboree, and Mickey Mouse
- 1976 - Goofy, Pluto, and The Shaggy Dog
- 1977 - Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Miss Bianca, and Orville
- 1978 - Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse
- 1979 - Maleficent, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip
- 1980 - Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and The Aristocats
- 1981 -
- 1984 -
- 1985 -
- 2005 -