Disney Orange Bird: The Origin Story

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means we may earn a small commission from links you click on this page at no extra cost to you.

While shopping for souvenirs at Disneyland or Disney World, you’ve undoubtedly come across Disney’s Orange Bird, the cute orange bird with the big, round head. His presence on shirts and MagicBands might have you wondering just who this little guy is. Meet Orange Bird, a Disney character whose beginnings didn’t start with a cartoon short or animated film.

It’s his connection to Magic Kingdom that brought him to life. And the history of Orange Bird might run deeper than you expect.

Though his backstory might have been eclipsed by his charm, he’s been capturing the hearts of Disney fans for decades. Join us as we dive into Orange Bird’s “orange-in” story!

Orange Bird from Disney
Image: Disney

Disney Orange Bird

From a partnership between Walt Disney and the Florida Citrus Commission, a new Disney character emerged. Orange Bird. Although recognizable in the 1970s-80s, it wasn’t until 2004 that Orange Bird gained icon status. He’s admired for his cute appearance, ability to think orange thoughts, and well-established roots in Disney history.

Check out our infographic at the end of this post to get the whole Orange Bird history in a bite-size format.

Bringing Magic Kingdom to Life

Construction of Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
Construction surrounding Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom in 1971. Image: Triumph Books / Orlando Sentinel

With the success of Disneyland came the vision for Magic Kingdom. In order to fund an attraction’s construction and maintenance, Walt Disney utilized corporate sponsorships as a financial resource. The Florida Citrus Commission (or Florida Citrus Growers) struck one such deal with Walt, making them one of the first sponsors of Magic Kingdom.

Sunshine Tree Terrace at Magic Kingdom
Sunshine Tree Terrace. Image: Walt Disney Archives
Tropical Serenade poster featuring birds and totem pole

The Florida Citrus Commission agreed to sponsor the Tropical Serenade attraction (currently known to us as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room) and the attached juice bar, Sunshine Tree Terrace. The initial sponsorship deal came at a cost of $3 millions dollars and a 10 year commitment.

A New Disney Mascot

The Florida Citrus Commission wanted a persona to represent Florida citrus. They wanted a mascot who could represent Florida citrus outside the park as well as at Magic Kingdom. Walt agreed. However, he did not want to use one of Disney’s recognizable characters as it wouldn’t have been the right fit for this type of project. So they decided to come up with someone new, which gave way to the creation of Orange Bird.

Orange bird was designed for the Florida Citrus Commission in 1969 by animator and Disney Legend Bob Moore, along with publicity art designer Don McLaughlin. Orange Bird has a unique set of characteristics. He doesn’t talk, sing, or speak. He communicates by thinking orange thoughts in the form of orange clouds over his head.

Orange Bird at Magic Kingdom

Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom
The home of Orange Bird in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom.

Would you have guessed Orange Bird was there on opening day at Magic Kingdom? In 1971, Orange Bird could be found in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom. After guests exited Tropical Serenade, they would step into Sunshine Tree Terrace where they could enjoy soft-serve ice cream and beverages. It’s also here where guests would be greeted by Orange Bird sitting on his perch in the Sunshine Tree.

There was also a strolling Orange Bird character at Sunshine Tree Terrace to take photos with guests. The strolling character was designed by Disney Legend Bill Justice, who is known for working as an animator on classics like Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, as well as his Audio-Animatronics work on Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion.

In the Media

As mentioned earlier, the Florida Citrus Commission wanted to use the cute little character as a spokesperson (or spokesbird!) outside of Walt Disney World. In the 1970s, Orange Bird appeared in TV commercials, on billboards, and even had a presence at various citrus stands along Florida interstates. In the early 1970s, Florida Welcome Centers gave out orange juice samples in Orange Bird paper cups. Through these appearances promoting Florida citrus, some Magic Kingdom guests became familiar with Orange Bird before even stepping foot in the park.

Vintage Orange Bird advertisement and coupon for Florida orange juice
Vintage print advertisement featuring Orange Bird.

He was first introduced in a Florida orange juice ad alongside Anita Bryant. Here we see the shy little bird thinking his orange thoughts.

In September 1980, Orange Bird got his starring role. He appeared in an animated educational film about nutrition and health called Foods and Fun: A Nutrition Adventure.

Vintage Orange Bird Disney Merchandise

Being a character present at the opening of Magic Kingdom, a lot of adorable vintage Orang Bird Disney merchandise is in existence today. Along with appearing in commercials and animated shorts, you could find Orange Bird’s likeness on a variety of merchandise in the 1970s and 1980s. It wasn’t uncommon to find Orange Bird banks, playing cards, charm bracelets, and other merchandise for sale at Florida citrus stands off the interstate.

Vintage Disney Orange Bird merchandise: Orange Bird bank, Orange Bird plate, and Orange Bird ashtray.
Vintage Orange Bird bank (left) Vintage Orange Bird ceramic wall plate (top) Vintage Orange Bird ceramic ashtray (bottom). Images: Van Eaton Galleries

An album written by the Sherman Brothers called The Orange Bird is one of the most well-known pieces of Orange Bird memorabilia. The Disney Legends wrote new songs for the album with one exception. The tune “I’ll Fly the Skyway” was originally set to be used under a different name in The Aristocats. No reason to let good art go to waste!

The album featured songs and storytelling with the singing talent of Anita Bryant. You’re told the story of Orange Bird heading south for vacation after he’s been rejected by other birds for speaking through his orange smoke. His journey eventually leads him to a family on a picnic, and in turn, a new home.

Another Vacation

Disney Orange Bird ornament
Image: Disney

Magic Kingdom added a second juice stand to the park in Fantasyland. With the added juice stand came the added cost to the Florida Citrus Commission. Additionally, the rate to renew the contract increased as well. The Florida Citrus Commission determined they couldn’t recoup their investment and ultimately decided to not renew the deal. The partnership lasted from 1971 until its 1987 expiration. With the deal gone, so too was Orange Bird.

Orange Bird Flies Again

Sunshine Tree Terrace
Image: Disney

In 2004, Orange Bird’s reintroduction to Disney fans began in Japan.

Orange Bird was part of the Orange Day celebrations at Tokyo Disneyland. This was a relatively new holiday in Japan, whose festivities include exchanging oranges or orange-colored gifts with the one you love. Orange Day was promoted by Japanese and U.S. citrus growers like Sunkist. The Walt Disney Company took notice of Orange Bird’s success began creating Orange Bird merchandise at Tokyo Disneyland regularly, as well as at Disney Stores in the United States.

Orange Bird figurine at Sunshine Tree Terrace
Image: Steven Miller

Orange Bird got his biggest reintroduction to the public in April 2012 during Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary. Sunshine Tree Terrace was slated for a routine rehab when Disney Imagineers began sharing childhood memories about Orange Bird. Walt Disney Imagineer Jason Grandt tracked down the original Orange Bird figure from the Archives, giving them the opportunity to bring Orange Bird back to his Adventureland home.

The original Orange Bird figure was restored and installed at Sunshine Tree Terrace at Magic Kingdom during the celebration of Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary.

Orange Bird at Disney Today

Orange Bird mural at Disney Springs in Orlando, FL
Image: Disney

Orange Bird has a presence seen throughout Disney Parks today.

You can visit him in his original home at Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom. Spot him at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim or at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Florida. At Disney Springs in Florida, check out the beautiful, hand-painted Orange Bird mural. It’s just around the corner from Erin McKenna’s Bakery.

Orange Bird Disney Merchandise

Disney Orange Bird merchandise
A sample of Orange Bird merchandise available from past and present.

The Orange Bird renaissance has firmly cemented Orange Bird’s place in Disney history, as well as given way to an explosion of merch. You can find anything your heart desires from plushies to MagicBands.

Fans across the globe can’t resist getting their hands on the adorable Orange Bird clothing, bags, art, and collectibles as a way to bring his signature cuteness into their home and daily lives.

Orange Bird Mouse Ears

Disney Orange Bird ears headband
Image: Disney

Part of the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival 2023, these ear headbands show off the cutest orange bird in town with sequin bow detailing.

Orange Bird Scented Plush

Disney Orange Bird scented plush
Image: Disney

It won’t be hard to think orange thoughts when you’re cuddled up to an orange-scented plush!

Orange Bird in Comic Books

Disney Kingdoms Enchanted Tiki Room comic with Orange Bird cover
Image: Amazon

This is the variant edition for the first issue of the Enchanted Tiki Room comic book. The artwork was created by Jason Grandt, who had a hand in bringing Orange Bird back to Magic Kingdom in 2012.

Orange Bird Mugs

Disney Orange Bird mug
Image: Disney

Looking at that cheery little guy on a coffee mug surely has the same effects as caffeine, right? Well, now you can have both!

Orange Bird Fun Facts

  • Orange Bird made an appearance in The Bing Bong Book.
  • Orange Bird is featured in exhibits at the Orange County Regional History Museum in Orlando, Florida and McKay Archives at Florida Southern College
  • Orange Bird is a canary.
  • Orange Bird’s first appearance as a costumed character was at a press event in Lakeland, FL on March 3, 1971.

Disney Orange Bird Infographic

Disney Orange Bird infographic

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top