“And now…as the millennium drums unite and become one heartbeat, let us fly; fly together hand in hand on the wings of joy, kindness, compassion and love. Behold! The great Millennium Walk!” — This narrative by the Sage of Time opened the Tapestry of Nations Parade that enveloped Epcot’s World Showcase starting in October 1999
Running twice per night, featuring 3 separate sections, which ran simultaneously, and ushered in the transition to evening and set up Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth. The three parade routes were: Mexico to Germany; Germany to Morocco and Morocco to the United Kingdom, and if you were in one of the middle places, you would see one of the parts of the parade start, and the other end where you were which gave the illusion that the Tapestry of Nations spawned the entire globe. Originally the parade was supposed to end on December 31st, 2000 however due to its popularity it was extended by 16 months and after 2001 started, the references to the millennium removed and on September 9, 2001, Tapestry of Nations came to an end. Debuting on the 24th of September that year, the revised version of the parade “Tapestry of Dreams opened, and ran until March 1, 2003. But, how did it all begin? What was the driving force and creativity behind it?
The main question Imagineers had to answer was “How do we celebrate the world?” and after 3 years, the longest amount of development time ever for a Disney show, the world saw what came of so much planning. Ironically, one of the original ideas for the title was “Tapestry of Dreams”, however Disney felt that changing it to “Tapestry of Nations, would do a much better job of defining the celebration in the parade that would capture the hearts of people from all across the world.
Disney called upon some of its top minds to help create Tapestry, and heading it was Gary Paben, who had well over 20 years of experience with Disney shows, and grew to include Gail Davies-Siegler (Choreographer), Gavin Greenaway (Composer), Michael Curry (Design), and John Haupt (Producer) formed the core team. Haupt said during the planning of the parade that, “There had to be an emotional connection, something that guests could react to, something that would touch them deeply.” And from this came the inspiration from the 15 drums that would represent the human heartbeat, to the individual floats, and the 120 puppets, down to the music itself.
Gavin Greenaway composed both the scores to Tapestry of Nations and Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth, and has worked closely with Hans Zimmer who has worked with Disney numerous times as well. The music was composed first and was important in helping design the other elements of the show such as the puppets and the massive drum floats that were used.
The design of the puppets created by Michael Curry (The Lion King on Broadway, 2 Emmy Awards and a Tony Award) came from inspiration from 4 places in particular. The Louvre, the D’Orsay, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and British Museum, and Curry used the description of “crushing them into tiny pieces that are exploded inside a giant snow globe” to get the art and designs of Tapestry of Nations. The major challenges right off the bat were creating something that could span the entire span of World Showcase Lagoon, puppets that could stand up to the elements every day for 15 months and designs that represented not just a specific country in mind, but aspects like patterns, shapes and colors that represent multiple ethnicities. Each style of puppet had a name, starting with the Sage of Time, followed by Bird Man, Aztec Man, Inverted Marionette, Angel Girl, Wiggle Girl, Sprite, Disc Man, and Hammered Man.
The final aspect to Tapestry of Nations is the giant Millennium Clocks that doubled as huge percussion units for the show and the only float as well! These were created to help give the vision of the past and the future and included amazing detail in the design. Marked with roman numerals giving the sense of when the clocks came from, to the separate clusters of drums on the rotating wheel that represent different nations (hidden Mickey’s on these as well!). The top of each drum is fixed with a “jewel” representing the dawn of the new millennium and each of the units were constructed in the Walt Disney World Central Shop.
Tapestry of Nations was simply one of Walt Disney World’s greatest spectacles ever created and is sorely missed today. If you have never seen Tapestry, or would like a revisit it, please check out the video below from Martin Smith who runs Martin’s Vids. He did an amazing job putting together video of the parade and should not be missed.