Getting to Know Orange Bird
Spring is almost here, and that means the return of one of Walt Disney World’s most breathtaking annual events: the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. The explosion of color and life that the festival brings to the park is always a delight. The various topiary sculptures are stunning works of art, and the flowers around the park are breathtaking. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan of this festival.
Among the many things I love about the Flower and Garden Festival are the prominence of two characters: Orange Bird and Spike the Bee. Though not as well known as icons like the Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) they are two of my personal favorites.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a look at the history of each, starting with the little orange bird in the sunshine tree…
There are a long list of adorable characters created by Disney over the years, but for my money not many rank above Orange Bird. Created for the Florida Citrus Commission, Orange Bird debuted in March of 1971 as a costumed character at a press event. About six months later, he found his way to Adventureland. His made his nest at the Sunshine Tree Terrace, where he remained until 1986, when he disappeared for a time (much to the chagrin of his fans).
Orange Bird was designed with the head of an orange, and his wings are orange tree leaves. He was designed to be, ““the friendly face of Florida sunshine and fresh squeezed Florida orange juice.” Because of that, he became somewhat omnipresent throughout the state of Florida. He appeared on billboards and parades. The Sherman Brothers wrote a song for Orange Bird, which was sung by Anita Bryant.
The song, “The Orange Bird Song,” was a catchy little tune, in the tradition of the best Sherman Brother’s tunes:
“Little Orange Bird – in the sunshine tree
Won’t you think of something sunny just for me?
Think of funny thoughts or a sunny word
That will make me happy, Little Orange Bird…”
Somewhat sadly for the happy little bird, he cannot speak or sing. He expresses himself through little orange colored thought bubbles. Because of this, some of the other birds tease him. His story was told in a small book which came with the Anita Bryant record. Another Sherman Brothers song, “Orange Tree” served as the albums b-side.
In addition to his appearance in book and song, he was a meetable character in the Magic Kingdom. He also appeared in a few short films, including “Foods and Fun: A Nutrition Adventure,” and “The Orange Bird and the Nutrition Bandwagon.”
After his removal from the parks in 1986, Orange Bird drifted into obscurity, though he still retained a significant number of loyal fans who remembered the charming and quirky little avian. His revival truly began in Tokyo Disneyland, where he first appeared in 2004 as part of Japan’s annual “Orange Day” on April 14. He quickly developed an obsessed fan base. With a growing group of new fans, and old fans nostalgic for his return, Orange Bird finally made his triumphant return to the Magic Kingdom in 2012 (though not as a meetable character).
In addition to his presence at Sunshine Tree Terrace, he is featured prominently in merchandise throughout the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot. Items like Orange Bird spirit jerseys, Orange Bird mouse ears, an Orange Bird backpack, Hawaiian shirt, and even a pitcher in the shape of the little bird can be found at the festival.
This is in addition to other merchandise available year round, such as an Orange Bird hat, Orange Bird Magic Bands, a Pop Funko figure and more. He can also be found in a graphic novel by Disney, “Disney Kingdoms: Enchanted Tiki Room” where he appears alongside birds like Jose, Pierre, Fritz, and Michael of the Tiki Room.
Next week, we’ll take a closer look at the history of Spike the Bee, from his days tormenting Donald Duck, to his life among the flowers at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival.