Housed in Tangiers Theatre, The Day of the Balloons opened in June of 1977. The multimedia presentation took guests on a hot air balloon journey across America to discover the country’s four gifts.
Open Date: June 1977
Location: Tangiers Theatre, Morocco
The Day of the Balloons debuted in June of 1977 in Tangiers Theatre, replacing the Bicentennial show, The Eagle Within. At opening, the 17 minute presentation ran at the top of each hour. Like the show before it, The Day of The Balloons was a multimedia experience with a computerized combination of Cinemascope and 12 slide projectors, along with stereophonic music and narration by Glen Yarborough. The show followed the discovery of the four gifts of America by visiting sites and scenes across the country by way of hot air balloon and seeing the gifts through the eyes of children.
The presentation began with film and slide images being projected, and Yarborough narrating: “Once upon a time, on an ordinary day, people all over America were going about their business in an ordinary way.” Ascending from the Grand Canyon, a red, white, and blue hot air balloon is carried by a special wind to take visitors on their journey, as Yarborough sings “This Land is Your Land.”
“If you want to learn the four gifts, you’ll have to follow me,” the wind tells the audience. The balloon is carried to the Havasupai reservation when guests learn the first gift – the natural wonders and wildlife of America. Traveling on to New York City, the second gift is revealed as America’s historical and cultural riches. In the bayous of Louisiana, the wind says “Discover the differences among us. No two people are quite the same,” as guests learn the diverse origins and ethnicities of American people is the third gift. The final gift is fun, shown on the ski slopes of Vail, Colorado. “The spirits are lifting; there is nothing better than fun.” In that spirit of fun, the boy in the snowy scene runs home and pelts his father with a snowball. The spirit is contagious, and a snowball fight erupts among the family.
“Follow me and enjoy your life,” the wind announces as nearly 100 hot air balloons rise over the crowd. As the balloons land in New Mexico, the crowd runs to the greet them in hopes of having their own journey. The presentation ends, and the hope was that guests left feeling uplifted by the message of America’s beauty, history, diversity and spirit of fun.
Scenes for the film were shot on location on the Havasupai Native American Reservation near the Grand Canyon, Arizona; across New York City; St. Martin’s Parrish near Lafayette, Louisiana; Vail, Colorado; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Filming the hot air balloons was challenging, according to producer W. M. Roberts. Because the balloons flight path is based solely on the wind, it took time, patience and resourcefulness to get the shots needed.
The locations themselves also provided their own challenges. In Arizona, the balloons and equipment had to be flown in by helicopter, as there were no roads where the filming was to take place. One shot required towing the inflated balloon into position a mile and half along a foot path. In New York City, just getting permission to fly the hot air balloons was an issue. During filming one day, wind threatened to blow the balloon out to see, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing in the streets of Brooklyn. The crew was subsequently arrested and charged for traffic code violations.
The final scene, shot in New Mexico at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, was touted by Busch Gardens as the most spectacular footage of hot air balloons every filmed. Students from local elementary schools and their parents were cast as extras to run toward the balloons as they landed.
Additional details on The Day of the Balloons will be added in the future.
The Ledger | Jun 24 1977 – accessed 1/31/2018