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Saturday
Jul032010

America Sings

[ UPDATED 7-6 with new images and info ]

A look back at the Marc Davis / Al Bertino patriotic animatronic wonder and how some of it's pieces live on today.

Think of Carousel of Progress meets Country Bear Jamboree meets American Adventure.  It was hosted by an eagle named Sam, voiced by the great Burl Ives, and co-hosted by Ollie Owl.  Shows ran from 1974-1988 in Tomorrowland's Carousel Theater, Disneyland.  It replaced The Carousel of Progress which was moved to The Magic Kingdom in 1975.  The empty round building with it's rotating outer ring of seating and stationary set of inner stages was a perfect fit for such an idea.  Though I've always thought the Tomorrowland setting was not entirely fitting, America Sings was a really swell! 

 

 

After closing in 1988, a number of America Sings' audio animatronics were repurposed in the 1989 E-Ticket log flume adventure, Splash Mountain- Sam and Ollie, were not included in the move.  Splash Mountain's Song of the South premise with Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and friends was an inviting setting for these friendly Marc Davis critters.  Costumes, props, and character poses were changed to fit the new storyline.

Below you'll find side-by-side comparisons of these critters in both setting.  Also included are some Marc Davis concept drawings for America Sings.  Photos of sculpted maquettes- on display at Disneyland's Opera House (still there today)- are also presented.  Additional photos are from Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain.  

In October of 1992 the second and third Splash Mountains opened one day apart.  Tokyo Disneyland opened theirs on October 1 while Magic Kingdom opened their Splash Mountain on October 2.  To my knowledge, these rides did not receive any America Sings original animatronic figures, though they were both populated with many reproductions.

 

Foxes and Hens

In Act I - Early South -  foxes, hens and frogs sung Lay Down My Burden in gospel choir fashion.  The foxes and hens now can be seen aboard Disneyland's Splash Mountain's riverboat scene singing Zippity Do Da (without Uncle Remus... thanks to Michael Eisner, that rascal).

Also aboard the Zip-A-Dee Lady riverboat are two musical pigs, a hound guitar-playing dog, and a goose playing the part of river captain up top, and 3 female geese- all from America Sings.  The can-can geese came from Act III of America Sings, featured further below.

Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain was given a mere 12 characters aboard their riverboat compared the 17 aboard Disneyland's.  No foxes and no hound dog.  In fact, no foxes other than Brer Fox exist in Magic Kingdom's version of the ride.  I imagine the happy foxes could easily be confused with the mischievous Brer Fox set out to kill and eat the attractions main character, Brer Rabbit.

 

The Swamp Boys

The Swamp Boys were made up of the gator trio, a harmonica-playing raccoon (above lower left), and singing frogs.  In Splash Mountain they were divided up, minus the gator trio which stayed together (above lower right).  Notice in the first video posted above the harmonica-playing raccoon is not part of the trio.  Must have been in maintenance that week (or year).  You'll see further down in the post where the raccoon ended up in Splash.

I love comparing the two Marc Davis concepts (above upper left and upper center).  It appears the raccoon was originally supposed to be a harmonica-playing possum.  Are raccoons cuter than possums?  Maybe he wanted variety, considering the fact that a mother possum with her babies was to sing right after the Swamp Boys. The second rendering includes the raccoon and the frogs as part of the Swamp Boys.  This time the gators get clothing.

 
The Swamp Boys frogs (above upper right) appear twice in the Early South act.  They sing Polly Wolly Doodle with the other Swamp Boys and they appear again at the end of the act along with the foxes and hens to sing Lay Down My Burden.  You can see where they are today (above lower left).  The closeup photo of the frog (above lower right) is a replica found in Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain.  Notice the white eyes, lack of spots, and the different style hat.

 

The Boothill Boys

Before ever looking down on human passers-by with their evil grins as the humans approach Splash Mountain's largest drop, the vulture duo appeared in Act II of America Sings (above lower left and center).  For some reason the Boothill Boys didn't keep their top hats or clothing in California (above upper right) but their counterparts in Florida (above lower right) do wear clothes and have hats.  Why?  Not sure because tuxedos and top hats don't exactly fit the story.

 

Mule, Jitterbug-era College Students

In America Sings a mule ridden by Sam and Ollie in Act I - Early South.  Another mule carries the hound dog in Act II - Old West.  One of the mules (below right) can be seen in Splash Mountain "pulling" a wooden cart with America Sings' Jitterbug-era College Students, two female cats, a male wolf, and a male fox.  This time they wear country attire.

 

Saddlesore Swanson, the Turkey

Saddlesore Swanson sings The Old Chisholm Trail in Act II - Old West (above center).  For his Splash Mountain debut (above right) Saddlesore loses the spurs, gets a new hat and trades in his country guitar for one made out of a turtle shell and tree branch.  He keeps a red handkerchief around his neck, but one with a printed pattern this time. 

 

The Rabbit

During the I've Been Working on the Railroad number in Act II, a rabbit and a fox riding on a rail cart (above left) travel across the stage from left to right and back again.  Is this Brer Rabbit??  Marc Davis was directing animator on the 1946 part-animated, part-live action film, Song of the South.  The rabbit is not supposed to be Brer Rabbit, nor is the fox supposed to be Brer Fox.  Of course not.  But I imagine they were influenced by the Song of the South characters Davis worked with decades earlier.  Today you can see the America Sings rabbit playing the part of Brer Rabbit in Splash Mountain riding the same rail cart (above right).  This time he's wearing pants.

 

Geese 

I always loved the animation of the geese.  The facial expressions and the movement in their long necks.

Geese created for Magic Kingdom are given roles as fishermen (above left, center).  One has caught a boot.  The boot is no longer a real boot but one made of light-weight 'WonderFlex' to lessen the burden on the pole and goose figure.  One goose has caught the hat of another goose.  For more than a decade the hat was directly connected to the fishing line without a hook.  Finally at one point a hook was added. Hooray for details. One goose perpetually tries to catch the same jumping fish with a broken net.... that is if the jumping fish mechanism is properly functioning.  

A couple years before closing, America Sings donated the animatronic skeleton of a singing goose (above right) for the queue of Star Tours.  A binocular/Johnny5-like head was added with some other parts and some paint.  Compare the feet of the geese to the feel of the droid.  The droid definitely kept his webbed bird feet.  Of course a new voice was given.  He sings I've Been Working on the Same Droid, his own version of I've Been Working on the Railroad.  From what I know, Disney-MGM Studios in Florida was also given a goose for their Star Tours queue in 1989.

 

Storks and Can-can Geese

In Act III - Gay Nineties (above left) 4 female can-can geese take stage as another female goose sits in a bird cage above.  Two male storks with out-stretched wings rode old-fashioned bicycles.  The can-can geese still dance today aboard the Zip-A-Dee Lady riverboat mentioned earlier.  The goose from the cage is now on a large mushroom, under a larger mushroom (above lower right) in Splash Mountain today.  The male storks now dance in Splash (above upper right)

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (18)

I have such fond memories of that show! I wish they could bring it back...it was so much fun!!

July 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric Ross

Me too! Yes, Tomorrowland was not a great setting for it but that aside it was a great show. A better fit would have been Frontierland or Liberty Square if it were end up in Florida.

July 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTL98H8R

Wow, you guys know your stuff. I love how these great ideas and characters were recycled. The customized design and planning for America Sings translated really well into the layout of Splash Mountain -- fascinating.

July 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

This was always one of my fav attractions! I miss it and wish they would bring it back in some form or another.

July 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

Some of the geese from America Sings ended up in the Star Tours queue, too, and they really creep me out every time I pass them while waiting in line. But obviously you can't really tell that they're geese anymore because just the skeletons of their animatronic insides are being used as "droids."

July 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Yes. Haven't posted the geese yet. I'd also like to post about weasels and baby possums too. But for now, I'll add the geese.

July 6, 2010 | Registered CommenterFritz

Thank you for this!! It was, without a doubt, my favorite attraction at Disneyland. I'd ride it several times a day. No joke. And the Country Bear Jamboree. My cousin had the full LP of America Sings but would NOT give it up. Once it was released on CD, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It just stayed in my car stereo for a month. I know every word and can do every voice. (I think I just shared WAY too much.) I'm just sad that I can't take my niece and nephew on these classic attractions. Now it's all darkness, loud noises, strobe lights, and one good AA. Too much for stimulation for minds, young and old. At least we still have the Tiki Room, my niece's favorite attraction.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Wow, I wish ! had lived longer so I could have seen this great show. You guys are talking about how great it was when you were a kid, and I envy you, I wish I could have seen this too. Oh well, at least now everytime I check our blog I learn something new. And when I go to Disneyland I can smile to myself knowing something that not many people know. Thanks for the information!

July 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Thanks so much for your work in compiling these comparison photos and history...terrific blog!

July 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMitchB

Great post man!
What ever happened to the hippie stork in the final act? I once heard he was being used to train new animatronic programmers.

July 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReed

Back in 76' to celebrate the bicentenial, my elementary school and imagine hundreds of others were given the opportunity to go to Disneyland as a field trip. America Sings was one of the few rides we were ticketed to go on, along with The Hall of Presidents, It's A Small World and some others I don't remember- what I do remember was being ticked off that The Haunted Mansion and The Pirates Of the Caribean weren't included. America Sings was a favorite that day, in part because it was air-conditioned :)

July 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I was glad to find this. America Sings was a very clever attraction. I loved the sets and the way the characters popped/spun out of them. I especially liked those googly eyed frogs, the expression on the donkey's face in the old west section, and the birds in the Ta Ra Ra Boom De-Ay act. Great stuff!

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternamowal

i love disneyland and really wish i could have seen america sings. im just a kid so i hadnt heard of it till recently, i love the videos, i do know a lot about disneyland and this blog added somthing new to my knowlege!

I LUV SPLASH MOUNTAIN THOUGH, I DONT REGRET THAT HAPPENING!!!!

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternot tellin my name

See, I always thought the top hats and long coats made them look like old-timey morticians. Extra creepy AND very vulture-appropriate.

November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian G

The alligator that was in the Modern Times is now the first thing you see after the second drop(not the one outside or the one that brings you into the Laughin' Place) He can be found dancing while saying "I wanna be a smily crocodile, pretty sure, sure as your born" to the tune of 'How do you do'. And yes, the rock stork(with the crazy hair) is used in the upcoming animatronic programmer department. One of the 'Pop Goes Weasel' weasels comes down from the ceiling and yells "FSU!" right before you see the 'Boothill Boys'. And one or two of the Sam Eagles were used to make a Br'er Fox, they only used the mechanical pieces of it though. Thanks for the post, it brought back many memories.

January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I loved the ride and rode it often when I was a teenager. When America sings was closed in 1988, they destoryed 5 out of the 6 original attraction signs. I have the only America Sings Attraction sign in the world hanging in my living room. It lights up at a throw of a switch just like it did outside of the America Sings ride.

March 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjim

Seems strange to me that such a popular attraction doesn't have it's movie available. Sad really. At LEAST make the cartoon sections available! Please. Pretty please? I'm speaking of Splash Mountain, of course.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterL montin

A lady was crushed to death in that in 1974.

July 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkerenza

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