On this day in 1974, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue held its first public performance in the timbered hallows of Pioneer Hall at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness campground. The show got its start when Disney managers felt the need to better utilize the large performance space of Pioneer Hall, which had opened as a dining facility for campground guests earlier that year. Bob Jani, then Vice President for Live Entertainment at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, started a ball rolling that would eventually lead to the rootin’, tootin’ cast of the Hoop-Dee-Doo rolling into town on the stagecoach.
That first summer, the Hoop-Dee-Doo would be performed by college students, who had arrived in Orlando thanks to the Walt Disney World College Fine Arts Workshop. This program, an early example of Disney recruiting college talent for summertime work, helped staff a number of other Walt Disney World performance ensembles as well. From the 1st July, 1974, issue of Eyes and Ears of Walt Disney World:
Some other performances well worth seeing are the bands formed from our summer college program. Students from all over the country have come to Walt Disney World to learn and participate in the Entertainment field. Don’t miss the All American College Marching Band, the Bahamian Police Band and the Kids of the Kingdom in the Magic Kingdom. Over in Pioneer Hall, there’s a brand new dinner show called Hoop-Dee-Doo, featuring more of our students. Catch these shows, the kids do a fantastic job.
The people did indeed catch the show, and the Hoop-Dee-Doo wound up being a major hit that summer. So big a hit, in fact, that Disney found themselves stuck when fall rolled around and the raucous cast had to return to school. Realizing that they had a hit on their hands, and that this would be more than a seasonal attraction, Disney retooled the show with a professional ensemble, moving it from the purview of the College Workshop, and the rest is history.
So grab a pail of ribs and a washboard, head back into the kitchen for a mess o’ straw-berry-short-cake, play Shenandoah on the hi-fi, and wish – like I do – that you were Hoop-Dee-Doo’in it tonight. Ya-hoo!