USC band films Disney Parks’ Christmas special in 2009

The USC Trojan Marching Band films the Disney Parks’ Christmas special in 2009. (Photo/USC Trojan Marching Band archives)


USC Trojan Marching Band to salute Disney’s 100th anniversary at halftime show

Saturday’s performance will feature 14 songs from Disney films. It’s just the latest connection between the Spirit of Troy and the entertainment giant.

October 06, 2023 By Brett Padelford

The Spirit of Troy’s halftime show tomorrow promises to be a little more magical as the organization celebrates the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Co. in advance of the official commemoration on Oct. 16. The band will perform 14 songs from the company’s 61 animated features ranging from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to 2021’s Encanto. Disney fans may also notice a familiar voice announcing the songs. Bill Farmer, who has voiced Goofy and Pluto since 1987, will be the USC Trojan Marching Band’s special guest announcer for the evening.

The halftime show will be only the latest connection between The Walt Disney Co. and the Trojan Marching Band. The band has performed multiple times for Disney productions, and its alumni have shaped the company for decades, beginning with a trip Walt Disney himself took to the Rose Bowl in 1955.

Watching halftime of the Rose Bowl Game pitting USC against Ohio State, Walt Disney was impressed with the performance given by the Trojan Marching Band. Its director, Tommy Walker, had gained fame the previous decade as the band’s drum major who was also the place-kicker for the football team. He had taken over directing duties of the football band after graduating from the university.

Trojan ties to Disney’s world

Walt Disney offered Walker the position of entertainment director of his new project in Anaheim called Disneyland. Walker organized the opening-day festivities for the park that July, founded the Disneyland Band — with his father Vesey as director — and introduced fireworks spectaculars to the nighttime entertainment schedule. He would work for Disney for 12 years before founding his own company.

Also starting work at Disneyland its inaugural year was 21-year-old Robert Jani. Jani, who had played drums in the USC band, became head of the park’s fledgling Guest Relations Department. He then joined the army and returned to USC as the university’s director of special events. In 1961, he helped introduce Traveler as the university’s mascot before forming his own entertainment company. He returned to Disney in 1967 and rose to the rank of creative director of Walt Disney Productions. Jani is most known to Disneyland fans as the creator of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

The band has performed multiple times for Disney productions, and its alumni have shaped the company for decades.

When then-director Arthur C. Bartner brought the Trojan Marching Band to Disneyland in advance of the 1974 Rose Bowl, Jani took notice of the band’s performance and hired Bartner to run the All-American College Marching Band at Walt Disney World. This began a 28-year career for Bartner leading the group of student musicians from universities nationwide in Florida and later California each summer. Many USC band members spent the summer with Bartner at Disneyland and alumni of the Disney program became graduate assistants for the Trojan Marching Band. Bartner and his USC staff also led massed bands of young musicians for the openings of Epcot at Walt Disney World in 1982 and Euro Disneyland in 1992.

Another notable USC Band alumnus to go on to work for Disney was Richard Sherman, one half of the famed Sherman Brothers, who wrote songs for Disney films and theme parks for decades. Richard and his brother, Robert, composed the Academy Award-winning score for Mary Poppins, and contributed numerous songs to Disneyland, including “It’s a Small World.”

Composer Mark Watters played saxophone in the band under Bartner’s baton. He has written music for many Disney productions, including Doug’s 1st Movie and multiple Winnie the Pooh films.

With USC’s proximity to Disneyland, numerous band alumni have gone on to perform professionally as musicians at the park, including recent graduate India Anderson. Anderson, who in 2019 became USC’s first female drum major, now performs as a tuba player in the Disneyland Band.

Spirit of Troy: Disneyland regulars

The Trojan Marching Band itself has performed numerous times at Disneyland, usually preceding the Rose Bowl Game. The band also appeared on the televised 30th anniversary of the park in 1985 and the 2009 Disney Parks Christmas Parade Special. The Trojan Marching Band’s first of three appearance at the Super Bowl was a Disney-produced salute to the 100th anniversary of Hollywood in 1987. The band has also performed at Walt Disney World and, in 2005, was the first marching band to perform at Tokyo DisneySea while touring Japan.

The Arizona-USC football game kicks off 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with halftime starting at approximately 9 p.m.