About the Column

Disney nametags: You see them everywhere but do you have any idea how many of them there are? Or how they're designed? Or their fascinating histories? Benson Myers, curator of the Nametag Museum, knows. And in his new column, It's All in a Nametag, he'll spotlight some of Disney's more interesting (and often obscure) nametags so that the next time you see a nametag pinned to a Disney Cast Member you'll know there's a lot more to that nametag than just ... a name!

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FROM: It's All in a Nametag Published Thursdays

Disney's America on Parade

We all love a parade. And some of the best parades happen on Independence Day, when favored sons of small towns nationwide hoof down Main Street. Not to be outdone, Disney created a parade to out-hoof them all: America on Parade!

One of the most important documents in history begins with these words:


"The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."


The 1976 Bicentennial quarter


The commemorative two dollar bill

The America on Parade logo


The twenty-foot sandwich float in America on Parade


The 'Sadie Mae' band organ used in the America on Parade soundtrack


The nametag worn at Disneyland for America on Parade


The nametag worn at Walt Disney World for America on Parade


Cannons blazing!


Liberty Bell ringing!


Liberty and justice for all!


Betsy Ross' really big chair!


Let there be light and sound!

That document is the Declaration of Independence, which established the United States of America as a nation free and independent of the rule of the King of England.

In 1976, the country gathered to celebrate its Bicentennial, or 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. A huge fireworks spectacular was staged in New York City with the Statue of Liberty as the backdrop.

As part of the celebration, the United States Treasury issued new currency: a 25-cent piece that featured a colonial drummer, and a two dollar bill that featured an engraving of the signing of the Declaration.

Patriotism as Parade, Disney Style

The patriotic fervor for the Bicentennial even spread to Disneyland in California and to Walt Disney World in Florida. Walt Disney once said:

"The Spirit of America is never more clearly seen than in those precious moments of public displays of patriotic feelings. As a child, I remember the intense wonder and awe with which I was left after singing the National Anthem or after fireworks on the Fourth of July. It is my hope that these feelings spring eternal in the minds and hearts of all Americans."

A new year-long celebration was planned for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, featuring a grand new parade called 'America on Parade'.

America on Parade was not just a celebration of the Bicentennial, but also a celebration of everything that made America unique. Special floats were created that featured people from history, like Thomas Jefferson, Betsy Ross, Christopher Columbus, Ben Franklin, Miss Liberty, Uncle Sam, Pilgrims, and Abraham Lincoln.

Other floats featured kitschy parts of popular culture, such as a 240 inch television set, American sports, and one especially bizarre float in the form of a twenty-foot high club sandwich.

Special costumes were also developed for the parade performers. Called 'People of America', the costumes were based on vintage ceramic dolls, and were intended to help guests view the pageant through the eyes of a child.

Probably the most interesting, and important, part of America on Parade was its musical soundtrack. Disney wanted a special musical instrument to provide a unique and memorable soundtrack for the parade. After selecting a series of songs that best helped to tell the story of America, Disney began a nationwide search for the perfect instrument. They found an 1890 band organ in a small town in Missouri that fit the bill.

The organ even had a name: Sadie Mae.

'Sadie Mae' and the Spirit of America

Sadie Mae was a keyboardless pipe organ, and featured ornately decorated pipes, drums, horns, and bells. It had a vast range of pipes that could replicate the sound of many musical instruments, including trumpets, trombones, octave violins, flageolets, piccolos, open and stopped flutes, clarinets, cellos, and basses.

When Disney first found the organ, it was in need of a complete restoration. After 1,400 hours of work, Sadie Mae was restored and taken to Nashville, Tennessee, to begin recording the America on Parade soundtrack.

One interesting thing about Sadie Mae is the way that the pipes play the music. It used special cards that had been punched with holes the organ could read, similar to the way a player piano roll works. What Disney did not realize was that there was only one man left in the world who knew how to make the cards that the organ required. He lived across the word in Belgium and was able to make the cards that the organ required.

The songs Disney previously selected were played on Sadie Mae and recorded, then processed with a special Moog Synthesizer. This gave the parade a sound very similar to the Main Street Electrical Parade. In fact, the floats in America on Parade used the same kind of sound control system. Each parade broadcast its own segment of the soundtrack via FM radio waves to speakers as they passed along the parade route. This ensured that the parade was always in sync with the performers, and that the guests watching the parade always enjoyed the best presentation.

(Hold on a second. Did I forget something? Nametags, of course! Disney made special nametags for Cast Members to wear during the America on Parade celebration, with separate designs for Disneyland and for Disney World.

Patriotism Set to Music, Sherman Brothers Style

Disney commissioned the Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert, to write a new song for America on Parade. The Shermans had written many songs for Disneyland and for Disney films. Their song America on Parade was entitled "The Glorious Fourth", and a very catchy song instantly recognizable as a Sherman Brothers work. Here are the lyrics:

"There's excitement in the air; it's a feeling we all share,
The day that Yankee Doodle throws his hat into the air!

Nobody's workin' today, you bet,
Family's are out promenadin'
Picnic tables are being set

The day's made for Disney paradin'
Bunting and banners are everywhere
Hot dogs and fresh apple pie

It's our historical proudly uproarical fourth, the Fourth of July.

A million sky rockets and roman candles zing zoomin' on high,
Red, white, and blue sparklers and spinnin' pinwheels raise cain in the sky,
And white flags wave? and the bands all play

You can't be sad if you try?
On the bang-up uproarious, flag waving
Glorious fourth, the fourth of July!"

To wrap things up, I thought I'd leave you with a few pictures [1 2 3 4 5] from America on Parade. They're from a series of promotional souvenir Panavue slides that were sold at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.


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