Podcast Episode 14 – Christmas Around the World

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Welcome to Episode 14 of the Retro Disney World Podcast: “Christmas Around the World” – We appreciate your support and hope you have been enjoying each and every episode. This marks one year of podcasts, so thanks for sticking with us and supporting this fun endeavor. Be sure to check out some of our previous shows.

Corrections & Comments

How discusses the infamous WDW Globes that now go for big bucks on eBay. We learn about their original cost and also how they were sold at the resort gift shops. Some clever listeners sent us audio samples from the Country Bears, as they refer to their original sponsors during the show. This very cool revelation is also joined by Todd letting us know that Bisontennial Ben is still around. Bisontennial Ben tweeted out after hearing himself mentioned on the podcast.  He is doing well.

The Souvenir Globes were being discussed on Facebook.  They were for sale in the Contemporary & Polynesian Gift Shops.  They retailed in 1973-1974 for $75.  They all mentioned that they wanted one, but they were too much money.  That calculates to be $330 with inflation.  They may not have been given out to travel agents as was previously discussed.  They were made out of paper, so it’s likely that there are not many still in existence.  It’s not Treasure Craft made souvenirs which are in abundance. 

Country Bear Jamboree, How vaguely remembered that Henry, the Bear said that the jamboree was sponsored by Pepsi Cola & Frito Lay, but he wasn’t certain.  Several viewers contacted him to confirm that Henry, the bear did say that. One of the viewers sent an MP3 of the actual song. 

Main Topic

The long awaited Christmas Episode is finally here. Brian takes the wheel to steer us into a great holiday episode featuring stores about the original Candlelight Processional, celebrity guests, amazing retro audio samples and tons more. Brian tells us about the Main Street garland and of course the history of the various holiday parades. This topic is loaded with content that will really spark some Christmas memories from Walt Disney World. Be sure to let us know if you remember any of these special events or have a memory we might have missed.

What Christmas was like in the early years of WDW- giving you a flavor of what it was like in the parks. 

Starting in 1971 – The pristine 1971 film you get to see the Christmas decorations that were up along Main St.  It was the garland across the street, some wreaths and holly & bows in places. 

The Candlelight Procession is the most famous & longest lived event.  In the last 20 years it’s been in EPCOT in front of the American Gardens Theater in the American Pavilion in World Showcase. It is a show that usually has a celebrity narrator and a choir that is made up of Disney cast members who perform portions of the story of Christmas and there are musical moments that are acted out.  The show runs about 45 mins.  The first year they did it was 1958 in Disneyland and then 1971 in WDW.  In the Magic Kingdom, the procession came down Main Street & they’d fill in in front of the train station.  The cast members would form a human Christmas tree.  The early years involved 1000 performers, a mix of cast members and outside groups.  1971- 1992, it was performed for a few nights.  They had a celebrity narrator.  There is a website that lists every narrator.  They moved it to EPCOT to accommodate more people and more nights.  1993 had 30 performances, 1994 there were 60 performances.   Once they moved to EPCOT they had one celebrity narrator per week.  Neil Patrick Harris & Whoopie Goldberg have been doing it for a number of years.  They do it for the month of December. 

Christmas now starts the first week of November, but in 1975 Christmas was a 15 day event Dec 20- Jan 3.  Most of Christmas was about big name entertainment that was performing in the parks.  

The garland spanning across the street was first used in 1971 and was retired in 2012 and instead wreaths with a candle in the center were hung from lightposts and the reason for that change was that when they design the Festival of Fantasy Parade, the dragon was too tall. 

In MK they had a variety of parades that they would run just for the 15 days during the  holidays.  1975, they ran a nighttime performance of American Parade.  In the 1908s they had Fantasy on Parade.  Late 80’s, early 90’s they had a Mickey’s Christmas Cavalcade, which was a character parade.  In the early days there were not fireworks every night, but during Christmas MK was open until midnight & there were fireworks every night.  In the 80’s they had Mickey’s, T’was the Night Before Christmas, performed in Tomorrowland.  Then changed to Tomorrowland Christmas with Stitch & Hayley’s Comet.  They also had a Castle forecourt show which was the Christmas Spectacular with Donald and Uncle Scrooge telling their version of the scrooge story.  Fantasyland had Fantasy Follies which starred characters, held on the retractable stage in fantasyland.  They only started in 1997 they started with lighting when they started the castle lighting.  In 1984, they started changing the Country Bear Jamboree to the Country Bear Christmas Special 1984- 2005.  The highlight was Big Al dressed like baby New Year.  They even dressed the mounted heads on the side.  The Christmas change was stopped because of budget (100K cost to change and change back). The only other christmas changed attraction was the Jingle Cruise which was started in 2014. 

Christmas Parade began in 1983.  It was broadcast live beginning at 1:30pm.  It changed over the years to becoming preproduced and recorded in November or early December. They now bounce back & forth between parks.  The first ones, Disney purchased the airtime to show the parade like a commercial.  They do not announce when they are recording the parade, they used to move the tree from the rose garden for the first month to Town’s Square.

In 1982 EPCOT celebrated the holidays.  Two trees, a tree on the bridge between Future World and World Showcase and a smaller tree in front of the American Pavilion.  The gingerbread houses started in the late 1990s, each of the pavilion has some sort of gingerbread.  D23 hosted a Christmas event.  Executive Chef for EPCOT told the story of the gingerbread display for the American Pavilion which was showcased at the Liberty Inn.  The Liberty Inn has a lot of windows, and a green house effect.  The chocolate & gingerbread display melted and they had to move it into the rotunda of the American Adventure attraction.  There was a gingerbread display at the Contemporary Resort shook apart due to the monorails.

Many of the countries also include trains in their Christmas displays.  The trains on display next to Germany used to only be displayed at Christmastime, bit they became so popular they decided to leave them out all year long.  There used to be train set under the tree at the American Pavilion.  They originally had a show called Holiday Splendor.  They had a celebrity performer.  This ran until the candlelight precessions.  They also add to Illuminations they add a hope for world peace narration and red and green fireworks burst.  Before Illuminations they ran Laserphonic Fantasy Fireworks show every night.  Lights of Winter was lattice work that we put up a canopy of 30,000 lights that would go up on the bridge between future world and World Showcase.  Every night they’d have Mickey’s Tree Lighting Tree Show where characters would perform.  Disney did not ever formerly announce why Lights Of Winter was retired in 2008.  Synchronized to music in the final years.  Winter Dandelions made out of light were also near there.

Disney Hollywood Studios

Look down Hollywood Boulevard and there was a huge tree next to the replica of Grohmans Chinese Theater.  At the base of the tree was a working train set with a miniature model of Hollywood that included the original Disney Studios and Burbank.  The light poles with the trees and the star on them. The chorus line of Minnie in the 5 & 10.  The very first year the park was open they put a Santa Hat on the Earful Tower.  The tree was ousted in 2001 for the Mickey Hat.  The tree was moved outside the park entrance decorated with movie reels and Hollywood stuff.  The precedence was set for that at the Animal Kingdom in 1998. They have a year round Christmas Shop called It’s a Wonderful Shop.  It has fake snow decorating outside.  The shop is laid out near the New York Street and has a second floor fire escape where they put a 6 foot Santa.  Osbourne Family Spectacle of Lights was headline news in 1990.  Jennings Osbourne a wealthy businessman in Little Rock, Arkansas would put this huge display of a million lights in front of his house.  It would cause traffic delays and aggravated the neighbors.  The court ordered him to darken the lights.  Disney bought the lights and they set them up on the residential street on the Back Lights Movie Tour.  There used to be one entrance and one exit & you would walk through with Christmas Music playing ending at Towns Square which was decorated with a carousel of angels and there was a stage where there was live entertainment.  Once they demolished residential street they moved them to New York Street and it became more crowded and less organized.  All of his lights were replaced with LED lights.  Originally it was a static light display and was then coordinated with music and became Osbourne’s Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village

Opened in 1973, there had been some debate

The Live Nativity started in 1975 or 1976, brochure from 1975 didn’t mention the event.  This show was performed under what was the Captain’s Tower for the first two years. 

The Glory & Pageantry of Christmas- Started with a group named Regeneration, 4 singers in Victorian garb would sing some songs. The baritone guy would start the narration.  As he’d tell the story the characters would walk out and freeze on the stage.  Eventually building living tableau.  The show ran 30-40 minutes.  There is a video from the 1980s.  They would black out parts of the stage to set the stage and add characters.  The cast members said that they would move around during the blackout periods to be able to maintain their still position when the light came on.   This became very popular so they decided to build a stage near the Empress Lily, the cast members remember that it got noticeably colder when the stage moved to the water.  Initially it was performed 2 times a night for a week and then 3 times per night later.  Each year they’d add cast members.  They kept adding angels.  The stage was in the same place that it currently stands, but it was much smaller and there was no back on it.  One year one of the angels fell into the lake.  The show was free, so the initial thought process was to draw local people in to christmas shop at the village shops.  Believe it ran into the early 1990s, and discontinued it when the West Side & Pleasure Island opened and it didn’t draw the shoppers.  Twelve Days of Christmas promotion, all designed to promote shopping.  One of them was the Marvelous, Magical Christmas Tree Stage Show.  It was a show that had a narrator, people in Victorian Garb and they would tell portions of Christmas stories & sing songs.  The Christmas tree in the 80’s and 90’s the tree was about 40 feet high & surrounded by 5 foot packages laid out at the bottom of the tree & a field of red poinsettias around the base of tree.  They moved to a smaller tree outside the Once Upon A Toy Store and was decorated with toys until 2011, that they moved to a more traditional tree.  One year they had the exterior of Mickey or Minnie’s house, had that artificial ice that you could skate on, and they did an ice skating show.  The Christmas Store there used to have an old disk music box, that was very nostalgic of Christmas.  Their marketing for the Shopping Village was some of the best written stuff, that really made you want to go there.  They did a lot of things to bring the locals there.  The Captains Tower which brought in local entertainment. 

They didn’t mention the resorts, because there is so much so it will be included in another episode. 

Audio Rewind

Congratulations to our winner, Preston W., he guessed the Pirates of the Caribbean digging scene in the queue. Preston will get the autographed copy of The Progress City Primer. If you think you know the answer to the audio rewind this month, email us at podcast@retrodisneyworld.com for a chance to win the Main Street USA poster, styled like the ride vehicle poster. Send your guesses by January 11, 2016 – All correct answers will also be entered into the drawing for our next BIG PRIZE, which is a huge prize pack slowly built over the course of 2016. The Prize Pot is building…..

We finally get to pick our winner for the reproduction Paul Hartley map, from WDWMap.com – David Lambie. Thanks to all of our entries!

The winner of the annual prize, the replica Paul Hartley Map from WDW Maps is David Lambie.

Last month’s puzzler was Pirates of The Caribbean digging scene from the queue.  Won the autographed Progress City Primer autographed by Michael Crawford. 

Next month’s prize is Chris Buckholz poster of Main Street USA.  Every representation of a building on Main Street and put them on a poster in great detail.  

Next year’s big prize will be cumulative adding one a month for the year.  The first prize going into the prize pack is a vintage 1970’s orange bird yoyo still in the package.

RetroWDW Merchandise

We thank you for your purchases and we’d like to let you know about some of our newest items, which includes a top secret Captain EO tribute design. These are RetroWDW original works of art, done by How. Super neat stuff that is only available for a limited time. 

Latest design is to tribute to final closing of Captain EO.  See You Later Trashcans.  Also some surprised holiday themed designs.

Be sure to get your shirt, iPhone case, tote bag, pillow or coffee mug today: www.retrowdw.com/supportus

Some of Our Latest Designs

Listener Memories

We appreciate all your kind notes, emails and social media connections. This month we hit on the burning smell in Pirates of the Caribbean. Does it exist or is our listener remembering incorrectly? This same note mentions seeing Walt discussing the contemporary in an early film. None of us have heard of this, although we do discuss Walt’s very own chest of drawers. Todd gets to address the filming issues in The Magic of Walt Disney World, and how they rehased old footage that used different film sizes. Finally, we discuss some info about the WDW Waterski Show. Keep the emails, tweets and pictures coming! Please contact us – podcast@retrodisneyworld.com

What is the burning scent in the Pirates Caribbean?  They do not recall there being any smells except the water.  How read that they recently added some smells in there.   Also asked about a video with Walt introducing the Contemporary’s A Frame design, which the guys were not familiar with either.

Another email where Tim looked at the Magic of Walt Disney World film.  During that episode it was discussed that some of the footage inside the attractions looked different and that it didn’t have the same color or crispness.  He had said that chances are those shots were initially shot on 16mm.  This was a theatrical release so there was a 35mm print as well.  So the 16mm was blown up to make the 35mm and then copied again to make the 16mm copies of the entire film.  It makes sense because what was shot for TV was shot on 16mm film. 

Dick Nunis remembers that they used to launch a water skiing show early in the morning while people were waiting to enter the Magic Kingdom. 

Glen Simpson around 1983, EPCOT & Magic Kingdom would close early on Christmas Eve, around 6:30.  He worked in World Showcase as Lagoon Transportation Lead.  Part was to make sure the area was clean and well kept.  Around 5pm it was getting dark.  He was walking near  The American Adventure, looked across the lake to the Christmas Tree and it was tilted.  One of the guide wires had come apart, and the tree had tilted to one side.  They cordoned off the area, and since the park was closing.  They fixed the guide wires Christmas Eve. 

The Dreamfinder and the Figment of his imagination left a message talking about collecting the Christmas Wishes. 

Becky & George Miranda remembered their honeymoon at the Opening Day of EPCOT. 

Bill Simpson from the River boats and Glen Simpson from EPCOT opening crew and Paul Hartley wish the listeners a Merry Christmas.

Brian tells the story of Christmas Eve 1987 when he was given the envelope telling him about the gift of his first trip to Walt Disney World. 

Listener Memories

Keep the calls coming, sharing your memories and giving us feedback. If you would like to call and leave us a message, please dial 978-71-RETRO.

Tweet at us, send us a Facebook post or message, tag us on Instagram or send us your thoughts.

We hope you have enjoyed this episode! If you have any questions, suggestions or find errors please email us podcast@retrowdw.com.

Enhanced Show Notes by Donna (May 2021)

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