Interview: Larry Billman (Pioneer of Disney live entertainment)

Larry Billman wrote and/or director hundreds of Disney live productions worldwide
Larry Billman wrote and/or director hundreds of Disney live productions worldwide

Larry Billman began his career as a performer on stage, screen and television before becoming a Writer/Director of Disney Resort live entertainment worldwide. For over 40 years he was involved in the production of hundreds of live shows at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Among those shows, Larry wrote the Hoop de Doo Revue, one of the longest running dinner shows in American history. That show debuted in 1974, and as of 2016, the show continues to delight audiences at the Fort Wilderness Resort in Walt Disney World. A few of his other credits include  the Disney Character Director of Disney on Ice, Director of Entertainment at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, and VP of Entertainment at Walt Disney World, to name a few. (See more photos and Audio Index below)

 

Larry Billman, (top left) with the cast of the Disneyland version of the Mickey Mouse Club, which led to the 1977 revised television edition
Larry Billman, (top left) with the cast of the Disneyland version of the Mickey Mouse Club, which led to the 1977 revised television edition

 

Larry Billman, as he appeared in the 1963 Disney movie, "Miracle of the White Stallions"
Larry Billman, as he appeared in the 1963 Disney movie, “Miracle of the White Stallions”
Larry Billman (left) and John Anello (right) working on the unique "Fun with Music" educational Disneyland show
Larry Billman (left) and John Anello (right) working on the unique “Fun with Music” educational Disneyland show

AUDIO INDEX

2:14 Larry Billman appeared in the 1963 Disney film “Miracle of the White Stallions”

6:13 After being a choreographer on the traveling Disney on Parade, Larry was hired by Bob Jani at Disneyland Entertainment; More on the history the 1969 Disney on Parade; Larry was assigned to work with the circus performers; Working with circus legend Barbette; A Disney on Parade mishap with a dancer

14:56 Became a writer/director for a Disneyland revue in Tomorrowland, originally called “See America First,” which included original Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni and Teri Garr. Music was written by Tom Adair and Paul Suter; The show’s title was changed to “Show Me America”; “Show Me America” was updated for Walt Disney World

20:26 Big name stars returned to Disneyland after “Show Me America” and Larry Billman and Barnette Ricci developed an opening number called “The Great American Music Machine” which featured a giant jukebox; There was later an opening with a pinball machine and later another show called “The Great Rock Circus”

23:20 Disneyland director of entertainment Bob Jani’s philosophy on Disneyland parades

25:30 The little-known “Fun with Music” educational show at Disneyland

26:47 Wrote and directed the All American College Singers shows which led to writing the Hoop de Doo Revue; The college program was supposed to run for six weeks

30:04 Bob Jani wanted Mickey Mouse Club-style kids at Disneyland; The Mickey Mouse Club stage show at Disneyland which led to the 1977 television version; The performers from the new television version performed at Disneyland

33:16 Japan Airlines worked with Disney to do a show called “Come to America” to encourage Japanese people to visit America, particularly Disneyland; The 1978 show toured to audiences of as many as 3,000; Did a second Japan Airlines tour in 1981 to announce the upcoming Tokyo Disneyland; Moved to Japan until 1985 and was the creative producer

35:40 Returning to America Larry’s job at Disney was not waiting for him; Prior to being in Japan, Larry worked with Irvin and Kenneth Feld on Disney on Ice; A little bit about Irvin; Larry helped shape Disney on Ice as it is today, rather than just having ice skaters and then a Disney act; Approached Kenneth about doing the Circus Fantasy marketing promotion at Disneyland; Larry went to work for Kenneth Feld on Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey circus, writing many of the shows

39:29 Invited to work on Tokyo DisneySea, what Larry enjoyed the most, working with Walt Disney Imagineering on the design of the park; Became the director of entertainment for Tokyo DisneySea

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