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Disney Paints the French Quarter for Movie’s Premiere

June 20, 1996

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ It was a first in the French Quarter _ the parade was rated G, the celebrants were fully dressed and the bars weren’t crowded.

The Walt Disney Co. hit town Wednesday to premiere its latest animated feature, ``The Hunchback of Notre Dame,″ shown on multiple huge screens before 65,000 people in the Louisiana Superdome.

Before the movie, Disney staged a glitzy 45-minute show featuring clips from its previous animated hits, and performers singing songs from them and highlighting scenes ranging from ``The Little Mermaid,″ with a mermaid swimming above the stage, to ``Aladdin,″ with Aladdin and Jasmine riding a flying carpet above the stage.

The movie sparked cheers when Quasimodo saved Esmeralda and when he was carried off by a throng of cheering crowd at the end of the show.

``It was wonderful,″ said Tommy Johnson, 6. ``I love the hunchback guy. He was the coolest.″

Leading up to the show, a huge Mardi Gras-style parade rolled despite thunder and lightning _ but without the heavy drinking and liberal displays of flesh that sometimes accompany the city’s annual pre-Lenten bash.

``It’s nothing like Mardi Gras, but people are having a lot of fun,″ said Lt. W.C. Johnston, a police veteran of 21 Mardi Gras seasons. ``It’s all families and kids. The only trouble is kids crying or parents looking for bathrooms.″

City fathers touted the event as a major economic boon to the city, but at least one bar manager was not getting too excited.

``Business will probably be up a little, but this is much more of a family-oriented event,″ said Bill Warshauer, vice president of Pat O’Brien’s Bar, a French Quarter lounge near the parade’s start-up point.

The parade featured 14 floats brought from Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California, 2,100 float riders and marchers and 12 local bands.

All the famous Disney characters were there _ Snow White, Donald Duck, Goofy, and, of course, the leaders of the pack, Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Thousands of children hopped around eagerly.

Judi LeBlanc, 4, said the parade was special for her: ``The real Walt Disney is here today,″ she explained. ``My sister told me.″

The company would not say how much it spent on the event. Disney distributed 65,000 tickets by lottery around the world.

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