12 Facts About Disney Legend Wally Boag
The Disney story is full of icons and legends. From its humble beginnings as the Disney Brothers studio, to the titan of industry that Disney has since become, countless artists, performers, Cast Members, Imagineers and more have come together to create that special brand of Disney magic. In that vast pantheon, there’s never been another quite like Wally Boag, “that loud, long, lean, loquacious, sometimes laconic lunatic who loves to deal, delve, and dabble into delirious dialogues and dynamic, dissertations.” Boag was a comedian, dancer, balloon artist, and voice actor, an artist cut from the mold of the old vaudeville stars.
Traces of Boag’s legacy can still be found throughout Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Boag had starring roles in Attractions at both parks, and even appeared in Disney film and television. Here’s a look back at the career of the man that comedian Steve Martin (himself a former Disneyland Cast Member) referred to as, “My hero, the first comedian I ever saw live, my influence, a man to whom I aspire…”
1. The Christmas Gift
In his autobiography, “Wally Boag: The Clown Prince of Disney,” Boag cites Christmas Eve, 1925 as his first performance. His mother was a vaudevillian and every year they had a show for the holidays. The five year old Boag was placed in a large Christmas package. He burst out of the box and performed a dance to the delight of the audience.
2. Wally Boag Dancing School
At age 16, Boag opened his own dancing school. Rates ran $.25 for group lessons and $.50 for private.
Two years after opening the dance school, Boag moved into the world of burlesque, playing clarinet and performing in comedy sketches.
4. Tom Gary
Before turning 20, Boag set out touring. Along the way he met performer Tom Gary. The two began performing together and Gary taught Boag how to tie a balloon animal, the schtick that would become a central part of Boag’s Disney career.
5. Julie Andrews
In 1947, Boag was performing in a piece called “Starlight Roof” at the London Hippodrome. During the show, Boag would ask the audience if there were any children who could sing. He would then bring a young girl on stage (the same every night) and she would perform the song “Polonaise” from Mignon. The girl, a 12 year old Julie Andrews, went on to leave her own mark on the world of Disney (along with Hollywood and Broadway).
Donald Novis, who also became a Disney legend, contacted Boag in 1955 about a potential opportunity to perform at the coming Disneyland park. Walt Disney signed Boag to a two week contract performing at the Golden Horseshoe Revue. Boag performed as both the “Travelling Salesman” and Pecos Bill, combining his balloon act with a fast talking salesman routine, re-appearing later in the show as Pecos Bill, where he sang and engaged in fisticuffs, spitting out a seemingly endless supply of teeth onto the stage (in fact, just lima beans stuffed in his cheek).
The two week contract stretched into a career that landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running stage production in show business history, totalling almost 40,000 performances.
7. Walt and Lillian’s Anniversary
Boag and the Golden Horseshoe Revue were one of the opening day attractions at Disneyland, but their first performance came on July 13, 1955 when the cast performed the act for Walt and Lillian Disney’s wedding anniversary. Walt even joined the act during the show’s finale.
8. Steve Martin
While working at the Golden Horseshoe, Boag met a young Cast Member named Steve Martin who came to watch the show during his free time. Martin studied the act and, according to Boag’s son Laurence, Wally eventually, “used Steve in a show called “Vaudeville Revisited” in the early sixties and would sell him jokes for two bucks a pop.”
9. Film and Television
Boag appeared in several Disney films (The Absent Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, and the Love Bug). He also appeared in a 1955 episode of the Mickey Mouse Club performing a song and dance routine called “Tie A Boagaloon” that featured his balloon animals.
10. The Enchanted Tiki Room
Guests at Disneyland and Walt Disney World are likely familiar with some of Boag’s work, they just don’t know it. Boag provided the voice of the macaw Jose, one of the four hosts of the Enchanted Tiki Room attraction.
11. The Diamond Horseshoe and Disney’s Contemporary Resort
After the opening of Walt Disney World, Boag brought the travelling salesman and Pecos Bill routine to the Diamond Horseshoe in the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland. He also began developing and staging shows at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. He remained at the park until 1973, when he returned to Disneyland.
12. A Disney Legend
Boag became a Disney Legend in 1995, and has his own window on Disneyland’s Main Street. The window reads, “”Theatrical Agency – Golden Vaudeville Routines – Wally Boag, Prop.”