I missed Videopolis by just a few weeks.
Perhaps I should explain. This month’s entry is all about a stage show that was presented on the Videopolis Stage in the Winter of 1989 through the Spring of 1990. It closed on April 29. The stage was part of a larger venue called Videopolis. This area was originally not even an official part of Disneyland, as it lay to the north, and outside of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad’s 1955 right-of-way. When the tracks were realigned to accommodate it’s a small world (1965), the area to the west was left as a large, open field. All through the late 1960s, 1970s and into the 80s guests were tantalized with all the possibilities for this rather large piece of empty real estate. And on June 22, 1985 all those dreams came true when Videopolis opened.
Videopolis was certainly a dream for Orange County teenagers, who had begun to find Disneyland’s appeal somewhat less than appealing. Tomorrowland Terrace’s somewhat “hokey” rock ’n roll bands were hardly the kind of cutting edge entertainment to appeal to the MTV generation. And the Tomorrowland Space Stage had recently been replaced by the new Magic Eye Theater, home of Magic Journeys (Captain EO would arrive a few years later). So when the kids saw Videopolis they embraced it with great enthusiasm. In fact, so much enthusiasm that within a few short years it became something of an operational nightmare for the Happiest Place on Earth. During the day families could gather to see cute stage shows like Circus Fantasy, the venerable Show Biz Is, or The Magic of Christmas for the holidays. At night hordes of teenagers descended on the venue to dance to live or DJ hosted music, show off the latest fashions in clothing and hairstyles, and vex the stodgy Disneyland security hosts (some of whom would remove same sex couples from the dance floor).
Despite the fact that the stage had hosted such unforgettable live acts as New Kids on the Block, New Edition, and Pebbles (as well as Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, and Janet Jackson), the decision was eventually made to turn the venue over to strictly stage shows. The dance club’s final night was November 26, 1989. Which is why I say I missed it by just a few weeks.
But you don’t miss what you never had. As far as I was concerned, the Videopolis Stage was home to One Man’s Dream, a charming show that had opened December 16, and ran for just a fewmonths. But during those months I saw it many, many times.
One Man’s Dream was installed a bit in haste, as a “stopgap” until they could put 1990’s big Summer attraction into the theater. The show originated at Tokyo Disneyland, where it ran for many years and even inspired a second edition. Here in California you had to have caught it fairly quickly.
The show opened with a portentous fanfare, and a curtain that opened to reveal another curtain, one that featured a stylized Sleeping Beauty Castle with lighted clouds and fireworks. This then opened onto a black and white stage setting complete with black and white Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
As a simple tune played, Mickey mimed picking flowers, presenting them to Minnie, and bashfully accepting a kiss. This was a bit odd, if you thought about it too hard, since Mickey Mouse was notable for being the first sound cartoon, not a silent.
No sooner had Minnie planted a resounding smooch on Mickey’s nose, than the stage filled with dancers in colorful costumes inspired by Mickey and Minnie’s own (the boys in red satin trousers, and the girls in polka-dot skirts). Elements of the scenery began to transform into full color, and with a timely lighting change we were soon enjoying the show in something close to Technicolor.
The show’s major musical theme was somewhat repetitious and insistent, built around the repeated phrase “One Man’s Dream.” The man, of course, was Walt Disney, and the dream was to create a world of magic and wonder and talking animals and dreams and magic and… magic. It didn’t really matter what it was all about, though, as the show was fairly fast paced, moving briskly through a series of set pieces built around several of Disney’s beloved classics.
The first “dream” was to take us to a wonderland where animals can sing. Specifically, it was Alice’s wonderland, and Alice herself was there, singing and dancing. In fact, it was soon evident that dance would be the major focus of One Man’s Dream. While Alice did sing about animals wearing little hats and trousers (“In a World of My Own”), her dance partners were some rather statuesque flowers, who could really kick up their heels (or should that be roots?).
As Alice and her flowery friends reached the end of their number, the music segued to a jazzy rendition of “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” from The Aristocats. But the cats that began slinking onto the stage owed more to Broadway’s Cats than to Duchess and her kittens. These cats didn’t need to sing, they could dance!
Where there are cats, there are bound to be dogs. And right on cue the music shifted to “He’s a Tramp,” and a crowd of rather scruffy dogs chased away the cats before presenting their routine.
The dancing animal portion of One Man’s Dream wound up with both a species change and a scene change. The cottage and its charming flowers transformed into a lush jungle in front of a new backdrop. King Louie and a troupe of dancing monkeys presented “I Wanna BeLike You,” culminating in a chorus line of semi-precision high kicks.
With the applause for Louie and his minions still resounding (chorus lines always get applause), the Jungle backdrop parted to reveal the deck of a pirate ship. A nautical fanfare blared out as pirates entered and began doing what pirates do all day, swabbing decks, carrying chests full of bootie and singing and performing choreographed dance routines (“A Pirates Life for Me”).
As more and more pirates filled the stage, Wendy was brought in and tied to the mainmast. The pirates celebrated her capture by pulling pirate flags out of the trunk. Hook and See entered in time to be serenaded with “The Elegant Captain Hook.” The revelry was cut short, however, by the arrival of Peter Pan and Hook’s deadliest nemesis, Mr. Crocodile. A full-scale battle ensued, with Hook finally chased overboard by the scheming croc.
Wendy and Peter then danced a charming pas de deus to “You Can Fly.” First time viewers felt a little let down that they didn’t actually fly, but then again… After making their way to the top of the stairs, and standing somewhat motionless in front of two strategically placed gaps in the scenery, Peter and Wendy actually did rise (somewhat slowly) into the sky and performed a brief but very effective aerial ballet.
An elegant stage curtain dropped to hide the last of the scene, and the next sequence began. This was dedicated to the Disney princesses. It is hard to remember that thirty years ago there were exactly three Disney princesses: Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. “Some Day My Prince Will Come” played as the Princesses and their respective Princes pantomimed a stylized dance. Music swelled, and the curtain parted to reveal a stylized ballroom with candelabrum and a massive chandelier. Waltzing couples filled the stage as the music segued into “Once Upon a Dream.” The scene ended with a series of showy dance variations and an elegant tableau. Curtain!
The mood shifted abruptly for the next sequence, devoted to the theater. As a zany version of the One Man’s Dream theme played, the penguins from Mary Poppins raced about the front of the stage. As they scurried about, the curtains parted to reveal an old-fashioned proscenium with a vaudeville “card stand” off to the side. The penguins made their exit as the last one pulled the top card to reveal the next one in the stack, reading The Ballet.
The small stage curtains opened as the music from Swan Lake filled the air. Classical ballerinas in ethereal white tutus danced onto the stage en pointe (that means on their toes), revealing the fifth member of the troupe: Donald Duck in a tutu. Needless to say, Donald couldn’t keep up, and as his temper got the best of him the curtain dropped.
The penguins returned to pull the next card, revealing the words The Opera. As “The Waltz of the Toreadors” from Carmen played, colorfully clad cast members filled the tiny stage and made way for Goofy as the Toreador. He only had eyes for the pretty girls, and ended up sprawled on the floor as the cast pelted him with flowers.
The penguins returned to pull the final card, this time revealing the words The Theatre. Ominous chords from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony set the scene, as the curtain rose to reveal a silhouetted Hamlet. As he turned around and stepped into the spotlight the audience saw that it was our old pal Mickey Mouse, dressed as the melancholy Dane, complete with long-haired wig. He attempted a serious moment (“To be, or NOT to be…”), but broke down almost immediately to reveal his true heart’s desire: the life of an actor.
Donald and Goofy joined Mickey and the three raised their voices in a spritely version of “An Actor’s Life for Me.” And what better place for actors than… Hollywood? The Vaudeville stage was swept away to reveal the Hollywood sign, and Mickey and his friends yielded the floor to dancers dressed as theater ushers. Before doing some fancy tap-dancing to “That’s Entertainment” they rolled out the red carpet.
The Hollywood glamor continued as the music shifted to a dazzling version of “Hooray for Hollywood.” Disney characters, dressed in glitzy versions of their iconic costumes, made their way down the red carpet, striking poses for their adoring fans. As the song reached a climax, a vintage limousine entered from stage right, and Mickey and Minnie, gowned and suited emerged to the biggest ovation. As a florid version of “You Oughta Be in Pictures” played, the two stars showed off some fancy dance steps.
Up to this point, One Man’s Dream had been a fairly typical “review” type theme park stage show. There had been a few slightly unusual moments, and the heavy emphasis on dance did give it a unique perspective. What happened next, however, pushed One Man’s Dream right into another dimension.
As the glamorous crowd began moving off the stage and into the wings, there was a sudden and dramatic shift in the music. The dulcet strains of “You Oughta Be in Pictures” was instantly replaced by an urgent new tune, strident and disjointed, with lyrics to match. This was a new original song, all about Walt’s most famous creation:
“Mickey Mouse… everybody from near and far, knows your name.
Mickey Mouse… there is no other star who’s got that fame.
You brighten up our days, in so many ways,
The greatest by far…
Mickey Mouse, our shining star!”
To visually emphasize this shift in tone, a shining golden backdrop consisting entirely of metallic fringe dropped into place. Dancers offered a virtual tutorial of 1980s dance moves, including the Pop and Lock, the Running Man, the Cabbage Patch and the Dougie. In the midst of the frenzy Mickey himself appeared to offer up some of his own hip hop moves.
Sensing a finale, the entire cast surged onto the stage at this point. The audience was treated to some truly surreal visuals, as characters such a Snow White, Pinocchio and the Big Bad Wolf hit it with their best shots. It all culminated in a glorious tableau that brought down the house.
But wait! There’s more! As the show’s main theme (“One Man’s Dream”) swelled for the final time (we hope), the curtain rose to reveal s glittering castle backdrop. The entire cast fell into a synchronized dance as the music reached crescendo after crescendo. Chase lights raced, scenery glittered, the cast spread itself across the stage and fireworks fountains burst from the front of the stage to the left and the right, as well as from directly overhead. The music hit a final, final crescendo as… the curtain closed to resounding applause.
That was One Man’s Dream, a “stopgap” show that flowered briefly, and ended up ushering in a whole new era of Disney theme park entertainment. But more about that in June.