The History of the Hoop Dee Doo Revue
Walt Disney loved the Wild West. It played a prominent role in his live action films, animated shorts, and park designs. He was known to regularly visit the Golden Horseshoe Revue when visiting Disneyland. Early Attractions at Frontierland in Anaheim included rides in Conestoga wagons, a stage coach ride, and even a pack mule ride that carried guests to the town of Rainbow Ridge. This passion carried through to the Walt Disney World Resort and, though he would not live to see its opening, Imagineers kept Walt’s vision alive through the creation of Attractions like the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, Ft. Wilderness, the Ft. Wilderness Railroad, and the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue.
Though it’s impossible to say for sure, the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue in Pioneer Hall seems as though it would have been especially dear to Walt’s heart. Combining music, dancing, vaudeville style comedy, audience interaction, and good food, the show provides the kind of immersive entertainment and theming that Walt so enjoyed. Since its opening, the show has been performed around 40,000 times for close to 11 million guests.
So, let’s take a little trip to the rootin’, tootin’ grounds of Pioneer Hall and the history of the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue.
1. Montana Pine and Carolina Stone
Imagineers wanted Pioneer Hall built as an authentic, hand-fitted, log structure. It took travelling to Montana for Western White Pines to get lumber that fit their needs and Imaginners used a total of 1,283 logs to build the hall. They also used 70 tons of stone from North Carolina. The finished product, which opened April 1, 1974 in Ft. Wilderness, resembled a genuine lodge from the Northwest Territories in the 1800s.
2. Town Hall
Original plans for Pioneer Hall included using it as a “town hall” type space where guests would bring their food from the cafeteria. After being seated, they could watch nature films, play games and more. Disney executive Card Walker jettisoned this idea, believing it would not create enough public interest or generate enough revenue to cover the expenses of creating the building.
3. The Creative Team
After abandoning the ‘town hall’ plan, Disney turned to Robert Jani, director of entertainment for Disneyland and Walt Disney World, to create entertainment for the space. Jani made a career out of creating spectaculars in and outside of Disney, having created Disney classics like the Main Street Electrical Parade, and America on Parade. Jani hired writer Larry Billman to create the show and Forrest Barruth served as the show’s original choreographer. Tom Adair, who also wrote lyrics for Sleeping Beauty and the Mickey Mouse Club, served as principal songwriter for the show.
4. We’re With You, Mother McCree!
The show went through several incarnations during the creative period and at one time was known as “We’re With You, Mother McCree!”
5. The Star-Spangled Washboard Band
While the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue was being created, Disney brought in a musical act called the Star-Spangled Washboard Band to perform in Pioneer Hall.
6. A Temporary Arrangement
The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue originally opened on June 30, 1974 as part of the Disney World Fine Arts College Workshop Program. Disney hired six students, three men and three women, to fill the roles of Six Bits Slocum, Dolly Drew, Jim Handy, Flora Long, Johnny Ringo, and Claire de Lune. Planned as a temporary engagement, the show proved so popular that, when the students returned to college, Disney brought in a regular cast. The permanent cast debuted on September 5, 1974.
7. Apple Pie
In the original show, guests were served pork ribs, fried chicken, and an apple pie for dessert. The show even featured a song called “Apple Pie Hoedown”. In 1979, strawberry shortcake replaced the apple pie and a new song, the “The Strawberry Shortcake Walk”, was added to the show.
8. Standing On The Chairs
On the whole, the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue has remained unchanged since its debut nearly 45 years ago. One notable change involved the ending. In early versions of the show, guests were asked to stand up on their chairs at the end of the show and waive their red and white napkins above their heads. This has since been discontinued.