July 12, 2010


Stepping out onstage with a fresh, colorful bunch of Mickey Mouse balloons is definitely up there with my favorite experiences.

I remember pulling those fifty red strings connected to mouse-eared, helium-filled childish delights through one of the doorways separating backstage from the visible parts of Disneyland. Maybe between Mission to Mars and America Sings. If you went among guests through that Tomorrowland gate, you were headed for the balloon vendor under the PeopleMover's straightaway or near the (pre-Nemo) Submarine Voyage. You and your bunch might even walk out to the courtyard of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Main Street vendors were resupplied through the doors by Bank of America.

No matter where you arrived onstage, you would be met by guests wanting balloons. Without any means to handle cash, though, you couldn't sell them. All you could do was lead a little parade to the Cast Member whose balloon bunch had dwindled to single digits. With one arm raised overhead, your red, pink, blue, and yellow cloud was a latex version of a Tour Guide's riding crop.

When you reached the vendor waiting for you, he or she took hold of the bunch, trying to keep the strings from getting hopelessly snarled. There was a surprising amount of pull, especially in anything above a slight breeze. Keeping the strings straight was a constant chore. Once the handoff was made, the balloons settled overhead, and the vendor—usually now surrounded by moms, dads, and kids trying to be patient—could turn to the task at hand.

Then, one by one, fifty Mickeys were introduced to new friends. I remember feeling like it must have felt to be Bert selling kites.


DIsney On Parole said...

I was always jealous of the balloon sellers... It always looked like fun...
Thanks for sharing this!

TokyoMagic! said...

Another great vintage photo! Thank you for sharing these!

So did someone come out to check and see if the vendors needed more balloons or did they just bring more out after a certain amount of time? I was wondering the same about the ice cream. You didn't have anyway of contacting someone to tell them you were low on inventory, did you?

Terrance T said...

I worked in Outdoor Vending from 1998-2000 and never did I get a shot at working balloons as e had tri-color teams (red, yellow, blue) and I was on the red team. I must say that it would have been a challenge on windy days and just holding those balloons in general while selling and collecting money.

BTW, the "Yellows" costumes with the multi-colored latex balloons were the essence of Disneyland.

Yellows said...

I always wanted to be a character! Not the right height!

You've given me a great idea for a post! I'll write up something on working as a vending relief. Thanks!

Welcome to another ODV hasbeen! Back in '83, the only "teams" we had were for canoe races! One day you might be on popcorn, the next ice cream, then balloons (selling or inflating). Churros started my last summer, and I got out just as glow came in.

"Yellows" were definitely THE look. I can't imagine having to wear today's ODV apparel.

Okie said...

That would be a great experience. I think my kids would get excited and point at the balloon vendors almost as much as at the characters. :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful story, thank you.

Now off to watch "UP".