Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Snow White Cast Member Reunion (50th Anniversary - 1987)

On Friday the 5th of June, 1987, a never before event occurred at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In celebration of the film's Golden Anniversary, a reunion was held for all the past performers who had ever played Disney's first princess in the theme parks.

Disneyland Reunion - Video Screen Capture

By 1987, over one hundred women had portrayed the Snow White character.

In Orlando, 24 former princesses returned to WDW where the day included a parade down Main Street and a feast at the Crystal Palace. Officials at Tokyo Disneyland had hoped for a reunion too. The park had been open for four and half years, but unfortunately, all 17 of the former cast members were American. The affair had to be cancelled as they could not attend.

The largest reunion occurred in California The Anaheim park being the oldest, of course, drew the greatest number with around 70 royal ladies showing up. Here's a short television news piece on the Disneyland event...

Video posted by Hetchel.


One of the charming stories to come out of the reunion was that of JoAnn Killingsworth, who at age 31, was picked to portray the first Snow White at Disneyland in 1955. It was she who appeared on opening day in the 90-minute ABC television special, Dateline Disneyland. JoAnn is seen riding on a float in the Main Street parade, again during the Fantasyland opening ceremony, and finally a little later at her "Adventures" dark ride.

Parade...

JoAnn rides on the Snow White float with the Seven Dwarfs.

video
video excerpt

Fantasyland Grand Opening...

Snow White performs with Alice, Sleeping Beauty, and Petr Pan.

video
 video excerpt

Dark Ride...

A dash to the Snow White's Adventures ride.

video
video excerpt


The original ABC Dateline: Disneyland program can be seen on the Disneyland USA disc from the Walt Disney Treasures DVD collection. Learn more at Ultimate Disney.

The park organizers for the reunion especially wanted to locate this cast member who portrayed the first Snow White. Problem was...she wasn't a cast member. Her name wasn’t in the Disney personnel records so no one seemed to know who she was. Unbeknownst to JoAnn, she suddenly became the subject of a nationwide search, a quest to find the very first "first princess."

As it turns out, JoAnn, now 63 in 1987, was found only 15 miles away living in Newport Beach.
I worked for ABC, not Disneyland, so there was no record of me in the park. I didn’t know they were hunting for me until a friend read about it in the paper and told me. I really didn’t realize Disney was looking for me. If I had, I would have called somebody and said, ‘Here I am. Here’s Snow White!’

JoAnn Killingsworth at the 1987 reunion.


Blurbs about the Snow White homecoming made it into US newspapers from coast-to-coast.

Lakeland Ledger:



Clippings from June 5, 1987, Lakeland Ledger

_______   _______

Los Angeles Times

Originally printed June 6, 1987, LA Times.

_______   _______

Wilmington Morning Star:


 AP article, June 6, 1987, Wilmington Morning Star.


The reunion was kind of a unique occurrence in that Disney does not often encourage cast members, current or past, to publicly share their experiences of working for the Mouse. But put a bunch of Snows in the same space and they're gonna talk.


Suzanne Sinclair Crosby of Denver, Dee Sinclair Lewis of Burbank, and Christine Sinclair Romberlin of Matthews, N.C., are sisters and each portrayed Snow White at Disneyland. The Snow White reunion was their first sibling reunion in four years. Lewis recalled one 110-degree day in her velvet costume. “I fainted behind Dumbo, and one of the elephants took off his [costume] head and carried me to a rest area. It was not a great moment for Disneyland.”

Sharon Clarke Jones who lived in Honolulu was one of the Snow Whites who was a grandmother. She was a ticket taker at Disneyland in 1956 when “Walt Disney walked through the park one night and just picked me to be Snow White.”

Twin sisters Diane Abbott and Donna Housan each portrayed the princess in Florida and “love to get together and share our memories of playing Snow White.”

“No, it won’t be named Snow White or Snow Prince,” said Beth Bond-Sczempka of San Diego who married the man who played her prince when the pair greeted visitors at Disneyland in the summer of 1978. They were expecting their first child September 25. Edith Newberry, a former Snow White at Walt Disney World, also married a man who portrayed the Prince.*

* Anecdotes from published news pieces gathered together by Wade Sampson (aka Jim Korkis) in his 2009 Snow White Mouse Planet article.

1987 video screen-captures via Hetchel.


Coverage of the event also appeared in the Summer 1987 Disneyana Collector newsletter (next post).


It will be interesting to see if Disney does something similar in 2012 for the 75th Anniversary. If so, we'll get 25 more years of anecdotes and another generation of Snow Whites to look forward to.

9 comments:

  1. Wonderful vintage footage !
    Love the videos, make me smile to see the costumes of that period ^^ Especially the dwarfs'
    Thank you for the time you spend on those wonderful articles ! :)

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  2. Glad you liked it Alexandre. It's quite enjoyable researching these Snow White events.

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  3. Yeah, those vintage videos are really fascinating. Thanks for sharing them. :-)

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  4. What a great event that would have been to see in person. I wonder if they would repeat something like that for the 75th?

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  5. LJR-- You're welcome. I'm really glad Disney has released some of these vintage videos. They're a window to another time for sure.

    Tokyo-- I'd sure hope they would, but so far I haven't heard anything as to what might be planned at the parks for the 75th.

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  6. Thanks Tony. That means something from a blogger like yourself.

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  7. Very comprehensive! Thanks for the videos.

    Just have to say: I'm glad they now have men playing Peter Pan!!! What was up with that? Mary Martin influence gone too far, eh?

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  8. Yeah, the Peter Pan on opening day did not look like a boy...or even Sandy Duncan. :)

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