East vs. West: The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom

“East Side, West Side, all around the town…”

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom in their patriotic best!

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom in their patriotic best!

The Dapper Dans are one of the few shows that both Florida’s Magic Kingdom and California’s Disneyland Park have in common. (Fantasmic! which will be covered here at another time, is one of the others.) This makes me happy on a lot of levels – I’m a big fan of the show and I consider the Dapper Dans a vital piece of what makes Main Street theming work; I think they’re absolutely necessary on both coasts. However, I really appreciate that the two Resorts otherwise offer different forms of entertainment for the different crowds each receives. I’m a big believer that each location should provide you with unique and special experiences to make it worth traveling there. But having a few classics like the Dapper Dans to tie both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom back to a time Walt Disney was nostalgic for just seems fitting and right.

In this entry, I’m going to make a few observations about what make the Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom similar and different to the Dapper Dans of Disneyland.

What’s the same?

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom can be found in most of the same places that their Disneyland counterparts inhabit: in front of the Firehouse, strolling up and down Main Street, and hitching a ride on the Main Street vehicles. They also participate in the Flag Retreat in Town Square.

Like their West Coast brethren, the Dappers Dans in Florida play the Deagan organ chimes. I was also happy to see some of the same choreography I know so well from Disneyland turn up at the Magic Kingdom. When I made a special request for “Sidewalks of New York”, I was thrilled to recognize the familiar hat-lifting and tap dancing routine making an appearance. And yes, it was just as much fun to watch this number with the Magic Kingdom Dapper Dans as with Disneyland’s group!

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom play the Deagan organ chimes too!

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom play the Deagan organ chimes too!

What’s different?

Some differences between the East Coast and West Coast versions of the groups are superficial. For example, some of the costumes are slightly different – in the autumn, the Magic Kingdom Dapper Dans wear a more fall-inspired color combination, whereas the Disneyland Dapper Dans are pure Halloween orange and black. The Disneyland Dapper Dans all wear nametags on their outfits to identify them, whereas the Magic Kingdom Dapper Dans didn’t when I saw them. The only way I learned one of their names was by spending time talking with one of them about my fondness for the Disneyland Dapper Dans. (Shoutout to Dapper Myron who was so friendly and welcoming to this Dapper fan!)

The Magic Kingdom Dapper Dans sang some but not all of the same songs I was used to hearing at Disneyland. Although it was surprising to me that (as best as I could tell) they sang their sets without wearing microphones! The Dapper Dans of Disneyland wear head mics that connect wirelessly to sound systems in the areas where they perform around Main Street so they can be heard above the general noise of the passing crowds.

However, I was totally delighted to hear a completely different set of “bad” jokes told by the Magic Kingdom Dapper Dans than the jokes I’d heard at Disneyland! Again, I love it when it’s recognized that the two Resorts are distinct and play to disparate audiences.

Another difference I discovered was that at Disneyland, all of the Dapper Dans swap in and out of different lineups of who they may sing with depending on the days they are there. However, at the Magic Kingdom, the Dapper Dans seem to perform more regularly as a team, with certain groups always performing together. As at Disneyland, you’ll generally find the same performers all day long, however depending on the schedule, one *group* may be swapped out for another midday! (Or at least this was what I observed on my most recent visit – as with everything Disney, performing schedules are always subject to change.)

Probably the biggest difference I noticed though was the age range of the Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom and how that really reinterpreted the show for me. While there were certainly some younger faces in there, it was a completely alternative experience to see a more mature grouping of singers forming a more traditional-style barbershop quartet. At Disneyland, the Dapper Dans tend to be a younger group overall – the “original boy band” indeed! 

But there was something about hearing the corny jokes “sold” and perennial songs sung by an older group that felt more natural somehow in this older, more genteel part of the country. (As an aside, I saw and experienced more “southern hospitality” and good manners in my trips to Walt Disney World than at any other times in my life, both from the cast and the guests, so perhaps that informs my views as well.) I could believe that some of these gentlemen might actually have heard these classic jokes in their youth and had more credibility repeating them. Whereas at Disneyland, I have to picture the Dapper Dans as being *of* the time of the jokes and “living” them currently. They’re two different styles and they both work fine in their respective parks.

Beautiful fall-colored outfits.

Beautiful fall-colored outfits.

Although truly the older sibling, Disneyland feels like a more modern park to me than the Magic Kingdom, and as such, a more modern, youthful Dapper Dans team works there. Whereas the Magic Kingdom felt like stepping once again into my childhood where a barbershop quartet “should” be a group of distinguished mostly older gentlemen evoking a certain long-ago time in American history. So really, from my perspective, ultimately each park has absolutely the right Dapper Dans for them, and they’re both perfect compliments to each of their own versions of Main Street, U.S.A.!

Have you seen the Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom? How do you think they compare and contrast to the Dapper Dans of Disneyland?

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