Jul 12, 2007

America on Parade & Bob Jani

Don't you just love an internet adventure? I do, at least when they end up with me learning a little something. This one started with a swing by Daveland blog last night. I love lurking at vintage Disney sites on the web and there's a few I surf on a regular basis. Last night I was looking at Daveland's post with pictures from America on Parade.

During the Bicentennial back in 1976, Disney had a huge parade that was a celebration of 200 years of American popular culture. It was one of the larger parades Disney has put together with a lot of floats and extras dancing down Main Street. What's the thing that made the parade unique?

All the performers wore huge heads.

This was one of those love it or hate it type of gimmicks. I thought they were pretty cool at the time, but now they do seem a little silly and yeah, maybe a little creepy, but no more so than the same type of heads in Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans or Carnival in Brasil. Anyway, the post reminded me I had some pix of the concept models. It's still July, what the heck, be a little patriotic. I found the pictures and went to Dave Smith's Disney A to Z to see what he said about the parade. Smith mentioned the name Bob Jani.

I'm one of those Disney fans who knows just enough to be dangerous. On a good day I can name a half dozen animators and another half dozen Imagineers and some of those names would overlap. Who is Bob Jani?

Google. Google. Google. Wow! This guy had a short but amazing career. Someday I might put together a bio but in a half hour I found a few high points.

Outside of Disney, he produced two Super Bowl half times, the current Rockettes Christmas Show which has been playing since 1979 and Jani was responsible for Traveler, the USC mascot that's been charging down field after every touchdown since 1969.

For the Disney company, he produced and directed Disney on Parade, created the Electric Water Pageant down in WDW, America on Parade and the cherry on top? Main Street's Electrical Parade. Not a bad run at all. If he hadn't lost the battle with Lou Gherig's disease, I can only imagine what kind of high tech stuff Jani would have created.

These photos are small 3-d models of the parade floats and costumes. They were probably built using xerox copies of the original concept art. The models are made to understand just what a float is going to look like and to see if there's going to be any problems with the design when it lumbers down Main Street. Cheaper to fix it here than when it's a big ol' parade float

I especially like this giant turkey, because it's just as scary in the model as it is in the parade photos on Daveland's blog. I can only imagine the screams as kids stare up from their strollers into the long cavernous beak of the turkey from hell. Poor people still don't know why Thanksgiving fills them with a sense of fear and dread.

P.S. The web site Walt Dated World has some cool pix and info on AOP here


Davelandweb said...

Thanks for the extra info on the scary parade figures! I wonder if they still exist in a dark dank storage facility somewhere. Nice blog!

Uncle Skip said...

Thanks for the support. I still have a lot to learn about the tech side of this blog stuff. It took me a while to figure out how to post your first comment and now you come along with a 2nd!

I was going to tell people at your site I posted AOP stuff here but that felt a little too much like an ad.

I picture some huge underground cavern in Boron, Ca. filled with mysterious stencilled crates that say things like: "AOP Scary Heads" or "AOP TFH[turkey from hell] DO NOT OPEN!"

The truth is they were probably crushed and sitting in a landfill with Monsanto's House of the Future or sold at an early boneyard sale at Disneyland.