As graduation season comes to a close, let’s take a nostalgic look back to another time—to “a warmer kind of sunrise” and the 1970s Grad Nites at Walt Disney World.
Grad Nite was first held at Disneyland in June 1961
. . . when more than 8,500 students gathered for the largest graduation party ever thrown in the United States. The event became an instant tradition, with attendance increasing more than tenfold by the end of the decade. In 1972, Grad Nite was introduced at Walt Disney World, with an all-new Magic Kingdom serving as the backdrop to special live entertainment and activities catering to graduates. To glimpse the culture of American youth of the era, look no further than these perfect slices of time.
That’s why we’re so lucky that a mid-’70s film promoting Grad Nite at Walt Disney World survives. To advertise the event to schools across the United States, vice president of entertainment and Disney Legend Bob Jani spearheaded the project, enlisting Bob and Gary of the Saltwater Express—the hilarious duo that performed folk tunes at Captain Cook’s Hideaway at the Polynesian Village—to write the script and perform a catchy song.
Dressed as pied pipers, we see Bob and Gary recruit graduates for the biggest Grad Nite yet—with Walt Disney World entertainment’s Susan Hatfield playing the magical Glinda. Keep an eye out for glimpses at the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village and Space Mountain, fresh new additions to the Vacation Kingdom in 1975.
We hope you enjoy this nostalgic throwback as we “move along” to a different time and the “dawning of a brand-new generation.”