The Lists #18 by John King
The Seven Strangest Moments in Disney Television History
- Who is Bob Cummings kissing?
Opening Day Ceremonies for Disneyland (aired on June 15, 1955).
Television was a novel medium in 1955, and the ambition of trying to cover the entire festivities of the opening day of Disneyland was impressive. There were several hosts spread throughout the park, including a foppish Ronald Reagan and a beaming b-list movie star named Bob Cummings, who narrated a trip down Main Street U.S.A. after audiences met his entire family. Awhile later (at 41:10), a camera crept up on Cummings during a party sequence in which he is passionately kissing someone who … is clearly not the wife we met earlier. Cummings either was not given or else had missed an important cue. His response was as quick as the quip of a pimp: “As you can see folks, I’d like to stay at the Mardi Gras forever…”
Another fun moment (48:28) was when Sammy Davis Jr. rammed Frank Sinatra and Frank Sinatra Jr. on the Autopia car course.
- Whose idea for Danny Kaye singing a messianic tone poem to the future was this?
EPCOT Center: The Opening Celebration (aired October 23, 1982).
When the EPCOT Center opened, the sense of something momentous seemed justified. A cool promotional poster declared, “The 21st Century Begins October 1, 1982.”
Less cool than that poster was the rather long Broadway-esque song sung weakly by an elderly Danny Kaye at the start of the special. I suppose someone in programming was emboldened by his turn singing a worshipful song about Annaheim, California on the 25th-anniversary-of-Disneyland special.
NOTE: If you look carefully at 2:59, you can see Ray Bradbury consulting with Disney imagineers.
- Julie Andrews jazz-dances down Main Street to a fragmentary mash-up of Disney classics as if performed by an old-fashioned glee club channeling Blood, Sweat, and Tears.
Opening Day Celebration of Walt Disney World (aired on October 29, 1971).
Starts at 9:47. Get your groove on.
- Danny Kaye sings a hymn about Anaheim, California because Disneyland.
Disneyland’s 25th Anniversary (aired on March 6, 1980).
The special opens with this manic, beatific strangeness that is much more of an earworm than his song in EPCOT Center: The Opening Celebration. The song was brought back at the end of the show (45:02), and sung schlockily in a round in combination with “It’s a Small World,” with a group so large that the singers don’t stay in synch. Danny Kaye energetically conducts several hundred people whose backs are to him.
- “Boy, I hope she didn’t go in there!”
The Mousketeers in Walt Disney World (aired on November 20, 1977).
The original Mousketeers had Jimmy Dodd, an ideal father figure, as their leader. The 1970s New Mousketeers had a manager, Mr. Brown, whose fecklessness and foppishness knew no bounds. This special focuses intensely on the public image of these Disney kids and the dysfunctional private reality of their volatile relationships. Mr. Brown faces losing his job when little Nita goes runs away, although not because he has been a criminally negligent guardian, but instead because he has failed to present a full cast to their performance in front of Cinderella’s castle. The emergency situation leads to this exchange (at 33:17):
We have a team of rangers searching the wilderness area right now. It’s 7500 acres of swamp out there.
Boy, I hope she didn’t go in there!
- Do you know how to do the Pooh Polka?
Mousketeers in Walt Disney World (aired November 20, 1977).
A dream sequence (34:46) that somehow comforts Nita as a runaway. David Lynch wishes he were this weird.
- The. Entire. Thing.
Welcome to the World (aired on March 23, 1975).
Lucie Arnez? Check. Tommy Tune dancing like an anarchist? Check. Lyle Waggoner being fabulously bland? Check. Knock offs of the Partridge family? Check. A tap-dancing, banjo-strumming redheaded teenage boy in plaid pants? Check.
In all fairness, all the participants look like they are having terrific fun. The jokes are sometimes good, and are at least brave in their badness when not. But the thing has the flavor of a fever dream, like you’ve drunk too much warm Yoohoo while listening to Throbbing Gristle’s Mission of Dead Souls at top volume in a submarine, and then sat down to watch some television.
When Lucie sings “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair” in maudlin fashion after the scene of her Carmen Miranda routine with dancing apes with flaming heads, you begin to question your life choices, you know?
The cognitive dissonance during the dedication of Space Mountain is as delicious as a red velvet cake.
John King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.