WDW Magazine History Sampler - Page 15


“ the world ” at EPCOT usually means making a trek around World Showcase , visiting each country ' s pavilion in turn . But what if the nations could come to you all at once , as a perfect blend of interwoven sights and sounds ? That ’ s what the Tapestry of Nations parade was all about .

To celebrate the turn of the century , Disney wanted to create an experience that highlighted timeless concepts of unity and peace . EPCOT ’ s focus on future innovation and worldwide connection made it the most natural setting for the Millennium events . Out of a theme of “ Celebrating the Future , Hand in Hand ,” Tapestry of Nations was born .
The iconic parade has become nearlegendary for many , living on in the hearts of fans and Cast Members alike . “ A lot of the effect that it had on guests came from the storytelling element of it ,” says Kaytee Sittler , a former Tapestry of Nations performer . “ The story for the millennium carried into people ’ s hearts in a way Disney never imagined .”
THE ELEMENTS An elaborately adorned Sage of Time introduced the Tapestry of Nations parade , announcing a theme of harmony throughout the ages . From his grand position atop a set of tall stilts , the Sage led the rest of the performers along the designated parade route between pavilions .
Immediately after the Sage came one of the five drummer floats . Inspired by a 24- hour astronomical clock , these fabulous floats served both practical and symbolic purposes . Each double-sided clock face was covered in 48 individual drums — 24 per side — which two performance drummers would use to keep the beat for the show . As the vehicle moved , one side of the clock turned forward , and the other wound backward to signify the importance of both the past and future .
The complete circle of Tapestry of Nations included 120 puppets in all .
In between the clock floats , larger-thanlife puppets adorned and manipulated by individual walking performers interacted with the crowds . The eight types of
puppets — Angel , Aztec , Birdman , Discman , Hammerman , Reverse Marionette ( and his miniature , Bobo ), Sprite , and Wiggle — were conceived by Michael Curry , who also worked on Broadway ’ s The Lion King and Animal Kingdom ’ s Rivers of Light . The puppets came in multiples for added emphasis on the theme of unity . These wearable works of art became the centerpiece of the parade , enhancing the beautiful conglomeration of worldwide cultures without focusing on any particular one over another .
Interestingly enough , the Tapestry of Nations actually utilized three identical parades that ran simultaneously . One complete parade went from the Mexico Pavilion to the Germany Pavilion ; the second covered the space between Germany and Morocco ; and the third ran
from Morocco to the United Kingdom . Each parade section began and ended at the same time to give the impression of a complete circle around World Showcase during the middle of the performance .
THE EXPERIENCE When Disney introduced Tapestry of Nations in 1999 , the parade garnered unprecedented acclaim from guests . Those who experienced the show seemed to feel an almost instant emotional connection to it , perhaps due to the interactive element . Today that crowdand-character touchpoint effect is more commonplace , with dance parties and roaming characters . But at the time , Tapestry of Nation ’ s guest interaction was groundbreaking .
Matt Wollbrinck , a former Reverse Marionette puppeteer , says , “ Tears of inspiration and joy were common throughout Tapestry of Nations ’ run . The guests were not sidelined spectators , but rather participants with extended invitations to become a part of this jubilant family . It truly was a celebration . A true human connection .”
According to Cast Members , one couple sat on the same bench in Germany each night for Tapestry . They didn ’ t want to miss a single performance .
Sittler , who wore the Sprite puppet , credits the cast ’ s focused training for this emotional effect , recalling that the puppeteers would go out of their way to draw in those on the margins . “ We were told to look for people who wouldn ’ t normally get noticed ,” she says . “ That ’ s where the magic is . You can tell when people don ’ t expect to be a part of the magic , so you can really surprise them with it .” With that directive in mind , the performers would often choose to interact with the grandmas or older brothers of a group rather than the little princesses in tiaras .
And their effort paid off in big ways . Tapestry of Nations ran twice each evening — once clockwise around the
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