How Disney Changed The Super Bowl Halftime Show

It seems everyone had a ball this weekend watching the intense Super Bowl LVII.

In a nail-biting game, the Kansas City Chiefs overcame the Philidelphia Eagles and won 38-35. And completing the famous Super Bowl tradition, on Monday, February 13, Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs made their grand appearance at Disneyland Park.

This year’s Super Bowl also saw global superstar Rihanna give a multi-level halftime show, performing a medley of her greatest hits including “Umbrella” and “Diamonds.”

But did you know that Disney had a greater influence on the Super Bowl Halftime Show than many might think? Well, we’ve got the full story.

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Credit: Orange County Register

Rihanna’s halftime show performance (and surprise pregnancy reveal) was full of big choreography, iconic fashion design, and a powerhouse of music hits.

Her halftime appearance follows shows from other fellow superstars like Beyoncé, Madonna, Coldplay, and 2020’s Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. Their performance alone is the most viewed Super Bowl halftime show on YouTube, with almost 270 million views.

And interestingly, though the famed halftime show often attracts the biggest names in music (everyone from Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake to Bruce Springsteen and Bruno Mars has graced the stage), there’s actually no paycheck involved for the headlining act.

But the Super Bowl halftime show has actually not always been so high-profile.

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Credit: ABC

No, originally the Super Bowl halftime show was filled with marching bands and local performers from the host city of the big game.

The first Super Bowl, back in 1967 when the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs, featured the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, the Grambling State University Marching Band, and the Anaheim High School Ana-Hi-Steppers Drill Team and Flag Girls.

Their setlist included a very classic list of songs including “The Sound of Music,” “Bugler’s Holiday,” and the “William Tell Overture.”

Doesn’t sound as epic or as concert-like as what we’re used to now, does it? Well, then Disney came along.

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Credit: Disney

In 1991, Disney changed the game. (Excuse the pun).

Disney had produced some halftime shows over the years, including the 1977 Rose Bowl with the Unified All-City Band and the New Mouseketeers singing the “Mickey Mouse Club Theme,” the 1984 show at Tampa Stadium with the University of Florida and Florida State University Marching Bands singing “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and the 1987 Rose Bowl with Mickey Rooney, the Grambling State University and USC Marching Bands singing songs like “What a Feeling” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

But with the Gulf War in full swing, ABC invited New Kids on the Block to perform as a treat for the military children participating in the show.

The halftime show was titled “A Small World Salute to 25 Years of the Super Bowl.” and featured over 3,500 local children from different ethnic backgrounds performing songs with Disney characters.

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Credit: ABC

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and even Winnie the Pooh were there to sing a medley of songs like “It’s a Small World After All,” “We Are the World,” and “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” followed by New Kids on the Block performing hits like “Step by Step.”

After Disney’s introduction of the popular music act New Kids on the Block to entice wider viewership of the football game, the halftime show was forever changed. In 1992, Gloria Estefan performed a tribute to the Winter Olympics, and in 1993, Michael Jackson made history with his halftime arena production.

Starting with Super Bowl XXXII in 1998, commercial sponsors presented the halftime show; within five years, the tradition of having a theme, which had begun back with Super Bowl III, ended, replaced by major music productions by arena rock bands and other high-profile acts. 

Since New Kids on the Block performed at the football game, America has seen acts like U2, Shania Twain, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake, and the infamous Janet Jackson appear on their screens singing their biggest hits.

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Credit: ABC

Disney went on to produce two more halftime shows. In 1995, the theme was “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.” and featured Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett singing “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” alongside an Indiana Jones stunt show much like the one found in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.

In 2000, the theme was “Tapestry of Nations.” The millennium celebration show was a big production with Phil Collins,
Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton, and an 80-person choir from Georgia State University. An orchestra performed EPCOT’s “Reflections of Earth” from the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration soundtrack), while Phil Collins sang “Two Worlds” from Tarzan (1999).

During Super Bowl LVII, The Walt Disney Company released a moving Super Bowl commercial featuring 100 years of Disney Parks, movies, and magic. Both the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, of course, regularly play a significant part in the Big Game as every winning team cheers, “I’m going to Disney World!” This year, Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, said “I’m going to Disneyland!”

Let’s see if, in the future, Disney will go back to producing halftime shows. We know we’d love to see Disney songs, Disney Park production levels of performance, and Disney movie themes appear in a nostalgic Super Bowl. What do you think?

Would Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, or Katy Perry return to the halftime stage and perform a “Small World” of hits? Only time will tell.

About Melissa Cannioto

Melissa is an author, adventurer, and chatterbox, who has worked at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and Adventures by Disney! A British native, she has traveled the world seeking new experiences, and now resides in Florida with her husband, an Air Force pilot. Find her children's book at