History of the Orange Bird: Disney Parks History

Orange Bird Merchandise Disneyland

When it opened, the Magic Kingdom had a special mascot for Adventureland. It never spoke. It was never mentioned by name. But still, it was widely popular.

The Orange Bird was the mascot of the Sunshine Tree Plaza pavilion when the Magic Kingdom opened. This pavilion which included the Tropical Serenade (the Disney World version of the Enchanted Tiki Room) and food and beverage locations, was sponsored by the FCC, a Floridian orange juice promoter, and wanted Disney to make a character for them as part of the sponsorship deal to use in their advertising. The result was the Orange Bird.

The character could not make a sound, only communicating through thought bubbles. Its head was a cartoon of an orange, and it appeared in this pavilion and was used in various orange juice advertising over the years.

For the first decade of Walt Disney World, the Orange Bird was a main feature of Adventureland. It was prominently featured in a restaurant and had a walk around character that would meet with guests.

But this bird also took on a life of its own beyond the Disney parks. Numerous commercials, ads, books, and other products were made using the character during its early years, most having nothing to do with Walt Disney World.

Even a song was written for the character by the Sherman Brothers and it was sung by singer Anita Bryant who also served as a kind of voice for the character. Unexpectedly this move would be the beginning of the end for the lovable and popular Little Orange Bird.

The song gained popularity and Anita Bryant and the Orange Bird were now connected in almost all media appearances, often with Anita interpreting the Orange Bird's thoughts in a way easily understandable in video settings.

But this connection would prove toxic to the Orange Bird as a character. Anita Bryant became significantly involved in a protest against a pro-LGBT piece of legislation in Florida, leading to a boycott of the FCC's products by supporters of the legislation and subsequent removal of Anita Bryant from the FCC's payroll in an attempt to avoid a further public scandal, and this would decrease the media appearances by the character, who was left without their traditional partner.

The Orange Bird would remain a part of Disney World through the mid-1980s until the FCC ended its sponsorship. The Orange Bird was then removed quietly from the park. Not a trace was left in the Magic Kingdom of the former Adventureland character.

This might have been the end of the character, left only in memories and some leftover video footage, if not for a place far from the Magic Kingdom.

Tokyo Disneyland is not operated by the main Disney company but has full rights to use any of its characters and often adapts itself and the characters to Japanese culture to better appeal to its audience.

The Orange Bird was chosen to help honor the Japanese holiday Orange Day, and it was a massive success, despite the character having no introduction prior to this in the park. It has remained a constant presence in Tokyo ever since, appearing on merchandise throughout the year.

This caused Disney to test merchandise for the character in the Magic Kingdom, where it was and continues to be a success. The character even returned to its former home in the Sunshine Pavilion and has now spread to sell merchandise at Disneyland, where the character had never been featured in any way.

In the end, it was Tokyo Disneyland that saved the Little Orange Bird from obscurity, bringing it back without the political scandal, just as a lovable cartoon bird. It allowed for a soft return to the character that allowed it gradually to return to the parks, where it now is a constant part of merchandise in parks it was never in before from Tokyo to Epcot.