Disneyland's Festival of Fools Remembered
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Once a year in Paris but everyday at Disneyland
One Year Ago
The following was written in April of 1998:
|In memorial: The Hunchback of Notre Dame Festival of Fools
at Disneyland. June 96 - April 98
In the pantheon of great Disneyland parades and shows, the Festival of Fools resides in the top echelon . It operated on so many levels (history, humor,and heart felt emotion to name a few), stirred a passion seldom seen among its most faithful (of which I am no doubt one), and brought 1239 fun filled energetic performances to the wondrous eyes of children young and old, that it's very difficult to sum up the run or my feelings toward it. The last show on April 18th 1998 at 7:15pm did manage to wrap it all up for me.
If you were among the lucky attendees you know why. From the journey of the street performers (most of them in tears the entire show), to the final gestures (such as Esmeralda and Pheobus finally getting their kiss), to the wild enthusiastic participation of the crowd (bringing back many of the oldsters banned by the management), it was as if all 1200+ shows were rolled into one powerful moment. My never ending thank yous to all the casts and crews of the festival. From the original Clopins to the very last Evil (I want that sweater). To all the Gigi's -- may you one day have the fire. To all the Frollos -- it will never be the last Festival, for it lives in the hearts of all who participated. To all the Esmeraldas -- dance my gypsy of fire! To the followspot operators - I saw you tie up that vexilattor's flag and I'll never forget the confetti you contributed us at the last show. To the techs in tower 6 -- be topsy turvey and dance all you want. To the Vexilattors -- sometimes a flag is just a flag.To the street dancers who fight with bread, accordions, or whatever is at their disposal to save Paris. To Guest Control -- you, more than anyone in the festival, have changed Disneyland forever. To the way crowds are warmed up before events, to the interaction you helped spark. To everyone I've left out, for I could go on forever, thank you thank you thank you.
But after all that, I still haven't shed a tear regarding
the Festival. And I now know why. Sunday night I snuck back into the arena for a few
minutes alone with the space. Just the work lights were on, a picnic for the next day had
been set up,and none of the props or carts were visible. But the place was alive.As I
looked around I could see, with my mind's eye, the whole cast performing as I will always
remember them. There was Pheobus saluting the stilt horse, there was Frollo on the bridge
saying 'this may be the last festival you'll ever see', and on and on around the arena.
Then I closed my eyes, and let it all come back to me. As I did, I felt an overwhelming
spirit of joy and happiness; not even an ounce of sadness.I will always smile, perhaps
wistfully, when I think of the festival. I will remember the fun times, the great
friendships I've developed, the joy the actors put into each performance, and the spirit
of the show -- to look beyond appearances for truth and beauty. I don't think the shows
creators or participants would want us to cry over the show. Instead we should live our
lives 'out there' and celebrate that we had this show at all. Foolishly yours forever,
One Year Later: Memories
Having gotten into Festival fairly late in the game, it's
kind of weird how much I miss the show. Not having seen or even being interested in seeing
"Hunchback of Notre Dame", I was not particularly interested in seeing Festival.
The first time I went was to a day show because a friend wanted to see it, so I went with
him. I liked the show, thought it was cool, but it didn't capture me. Somehow, and to this
day, I cannot remember why, I ended up going to a night show every night of Fourth of July
weekend in 1997 - and I was hooked. The more I learned about it, the more shows I saw, the
more people I met, the more I was shown and taught the absolute multitude of different
things to pay attention to during the show - the more I was hooked. Given the expanse of
the show, the performers were given much more latitude to really play with their parts,
and play they did. Friday nights after work during the summer, no matter how hard the week
had been, once I was seated for the 9:05 show, all was well, and I was happy, happy to
enjoy the show and the fireworks that followed soon after. I listen on occasion to the few
audio taped shows I have, and I remember how much fun the shows were, how much I enjoyed
certain performers, and even more than the show itself, how Festival had the greatest
impact on my life because of the people I met as a result of going to shows. There are a
few people that I would not have met and gotten to know if not for going to shows, and I'm
thankful beyond words for the friendships I now share with them. I also hooked one of my
friends to Disneyland partly because of Festival, and Festival was also one of the places
where I spent time with and got to know my now-Significant Other. The enormous amount of
time I spent in the queue, more often than not gathered around a trash bin for some
inexplicable reason, with numerous and varied people, laughing, talking, sharing, are
memories that I treasure.
I am standing in the queue for the Festival of Fools show
at Disneyland with this group of people I now call my friends. Over the last several
months I have done this so many times that I have lost count.
The wait in the queue doesn't seem so long because there is always someone there to pass the time with and with each wait, I get a little closer to each person.
Then, the spiel, and then, we all walk (no running allowed) to Deck 3 (my personal favorite) or wherever the majority of people want to sit or stand.
"Oh look Mommy, it's Gypsies." And then, aaahhh the Vexillators. YES!!! IT'S ROYCE!!! (Be still my beating heart.)
I became part of the show...I became part of an experience...I miss it very much.
I still listen to the cassette tapes I have of several shows, and remember what fun we had. I have a picture hanging up at work of Clopin kissing my hand with the Festival in the background.
The Festival is gone, and even though it may sound overly sentimental, the memory and friendships I have made will hopefully endure for a lifetime.
There are a couple of websites dedicated to the Festival of Fools:
The Disneyland Today for June 21, 1996,