Robert F. Jani, who produced such spectacular celebrations as the U.S. Bicentennial celebration in New York Harbor in 1976, a revitalizing stage show for Radio City Music Hall, halftime entertainment at the Super Bowl and some of the Walt Disney organization’s most storied events, has died.
A spokesman for his firm, Robert F. Jani Productions, said he had died Sunday night at his Palos Verdes Estates home after a three-year struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known commonly as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 55.
Both on his own and with the Disney company, where he worked for 11 years, Jani put on much of the live entertainment that has become standard fare at Disneyland and Disney World. Among his achievements were “America on Parade,” “The Main Street Electrical Parade” and, as a consultant, master plans for Euro Disneyland (to open in 1992) and the new Disney/MGM Studio Tour at Walt Disney World in Florida.
In 1978, he was responsible for the revival of Radio City Music Hall’s “Magnificent Christmas Spectacular.” That was the year he left Disney’s employ to found his firm. From 1979 to 1982, he was in charge of all live stage productions at the New York City hall, dubbed the “Showplace of the Nation.”
He had taken over the hall after a 35-day restoration and was credited with its revitalization after a long period of decline. His other productions there included “America,” “Encore” and “Manhattan Showboat.”
Jani also staged the 1983 Super Bowl entertainment in which spectators amazed themselves and a national television audience by spontaneously hoisting 103,000 synchronized flash cards into the air, filling the Rose Bowl with bright rainbows. It was believed to be the biggest stunt-card spectacular of all time.
Jani drafted the master plan but did not provide the staging for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. That contract eventually went to David L. Wolper. In 1981, Jani produced “The Glory of Christmas,” with a cast of 400 and a small zoo of animals at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.
Survivors include his wife, Joan; his mother, daughter and son. Contributions are asked to the USC Neuromuscular Center at 637 S. Lucas Ave., Los Angeles 90017. A memorial service is scheduled for Monday at 4 p.m. at the Rolling Hills Covenant Church in Rolling Hills Estates.