The Main Street Electrical Parade is a nighttime parade, created by Robert Jani and project director Ron Miziker. It features floats and live performers covered in thousands of electronically controlled lights and a synchronized soundtrack triggered by radio control along key areas of the parade route.
Versions of the parade existed in five Disney parks worldwide, however, as of August 21, 2017, only one continues to exist. The version at Disneyland Park in California's Disneyland Resort ran from 1972 to 1996, and again in 2017. The neighboring Disney California Adventure park hosted the parade between 2001 and 2010. Another version, at the Magic Kingdom in Florida's Walt Disney World Resort, ran between 1977 and 2016, with two major gaps during 1991–1999 and 2001–2010.
The parade has also spun off several other versions that ran or continue to run at Disney parks around the world. An updated version runs at Tokyo Disneyland as the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: DreamLights. In 2014, Hong Kong Disneyland premiered a spiritual successor to the Main Street Electrical Parade, the Paint the Night Parade. An extended version of Paint the Night premiered at Disneyland on May 22, 2015 as part of the park's 60th anniversary celebration, and is scheduled to move to Disney California Adventure in 2018.
The original Disneyland copy of the parade ran at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom as "Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade" from June 5, 2010 to October 9, 2016, when it closed in preparation for a limited-time run at Disneyland. The Disneyland run started on January 20, 2017 and was planned to run through June 18, 2017, but due to popular demand, Disney extended the parade's run to August 20, 2017. Disney has not made any announcements regarding the parade's future.
The predecessor to the 1972 Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade was the Electrical Water Pageant, a show made up of fourteen 25-foot-tall (7.6 m) screens with electrical lights placed on them. Not long after the Electrical Water Pageant debuted, Card Walker commissioned the development of what became the Main Street Electrical Parade to provide Disneyland with a similar nighttime visual spectacle. The parade's design used nickel–cadmium batteries, which the Disney movie studio had recently started using, and Italian-made miniature bulbs that Disneyland staff had seen in light displays along Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Disney arranged for the Parade's original floats to be constructed by the Chicago-based company responsible for those holiday displays.
Two months to deadline, Disney discovered the float contractor was far behind schedule and decided to finish the floats itself in a backstage area at Disneyland. Disney brought on welders, electricians and other temporary workers to assemble the floats and hand-tint and install 500,000 bulbs. The engineers who helped create the parade also created the first automated parade show-control program. This allowed the 2,000-foot (610 m) long parade route to contain multiple radio-activated "trigger zones". Using radio-activated triggers as each float entered a zone, the audience would hear float-specific music through the park's audio system. Each zone was between 70 to 100 feet (21 to 30 m) long, and the zoned system meant that every person watching the parade would experience the same show, no matter where they stood along the parade route.
The first rehearsal was a disaster; a float crashed into a building on Main Street, U.S.A., and some performers' costumes emitted sparks. Despite these obstacles, the parade successfully debuted on schedule on June 17, 1972. The original parade floats featured the Blue Fairy, a large drum pulled by the Casey Jr. Engine, Cinderella, a Chinese dragon, and a circus calliope. Until 1977, some of the floats, such as the elephant train and the American flag finale, were flat screens on manually-pushed rolling platforms similar to the Electrical Water Pageant.
The Main Street Electrical Parade had counterparts of the same name and layout at Magic Kingdom in the Walt Disney World Resort, which ran from 1977 to 1991. It was replaced by a similar parade called SpectroMagic, which ran from 1991 to 1999, reopened in 2001, and ended on June 4, 2010. In 1992, the version from Magic Kingdom went to Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris and ran there until 2003. It was then replaced by Fantillusion, a nighttime parade from Tokyo Disneyland that had earlier replaced the Tokyo version of the Main Street Electrical Parade, which ran from 1985 to 1995.
On June 14, 1997, a presentation of the Electrical Parade called the "Hercules Electrical Parade", ran on Broadway, Manhattan, New York City for the opening of Disney's New Amsterdam Theater and the film Hercules. Disney arranged for the lights to be all turned off on about eight blocks of Broadway up to the theater. All businesses complied, with the exception of Disney rival Warner Brothers. It was led by a custom Hercules title unit made for this one time only use. It was shown on national television on a one-hour promotional program featuring the music and making of Hercules.
The Main Street Electrical Parade closed at Disneyland in 1996 after a 24-year run. Light bulbs certified as having been part of the show were sold to collectors. The replacement show, Light Magic, opened in 1997 and was an immediate failure. Disney quickly cancelled Light Magic but held off in bringing back the popular Main Street Electrical Parade. However, the parade was refurbished and appeared at Magic Kingdom in May 1999 for a limited engagement, just in time for Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration. The parade ended its run at Magic Kingdom on April 1, 2001 and SpectroMagic was brought back the following day.
The Main Street Electrical Parade floats were then sent back to California for the parade's return to Disneyland. These plans changed after Anaheim management saw the poor attendance figures for the spring break season at Disney California Adventure and feared that the park would fail to attract large crowds during the crucial summer season, unless they had a big draw. So, Disney announced that the popular Main Street Electrical Parade would be coming to Disney California Adventure Park on July 2, 2001, in honor of the first summer of the park. The name of the show was changed from the Main Street Electrical Parade to Disney's Electrical Parade. Most of the 1996 parade floats returned.
On the 2008 Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade special, Disney announced that the first new float would be added to the classic parade in 20 years. It was announced in 2009 that two units would be returning as well.
Disney's Electrical Parade at Disney California Adventure ended its run on April 18, 2010, and was sent to Magic Kingdom as part of the Walt Disney World 2010 promotional package "Summer Nightastic!" The parade was not modified from its Disney California Adventure run, with the drum still saying "Disney's Electrical Parade". While it was initially announced that the parade would stay just through the summer, Disney later announced that the parade was on an "open-ended" run.
The parade ended its run at Magic Kingdom on October 9, 2016, in preparation for its limited-time return to Disneyland park in California, which was scheduled to run from January 20 to June 18, 2017, before being extended to August 20, 2017. A special ticketed premiere event, costing US$95, occurred on January 19, 2017.
Over the years and numerous iterations of the parade, the roster of floats has changed. The version of the parade that has appeared in Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, and Disneyland Paris has maintained a continuous set of units. These include The Casey Jr. train from Dumbo carrying Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy, and subsequent floats based on Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Pete's Dragon, and a patriotic American float titled "To Honor America". Previous units included the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio, a circus float connected to Dumbo, an It's a Small World unit, and a promotional float for Return to Oz in 1985, but it was destroyed by a fire.
Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: DreamLights features a number of floats featured in the western incarnation, though they are upgraded or alternate models. As of the 2017 renewal, the floats are Blue Fairy, Knights of Light, Mickey's Dreamlights Train, Alice in Wonderland, Disney Fairies, Pete's Dragon, Peter Pan, Toy Story 3, Aladdin, Tangled, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen and It's A Small World,
There were 3 versions of the parade.
Version A (Disneyland version) was built in 1972. This version ran at Disneyland Park (in Anaheim) from 1972 until 1996. It then ran through Times Square in New York as the "Hercules Electrical Parade" for one night only before being moved to Magic Kingdom (in Orlando), where it lasted from 1999 until 2001. After that, it moved to the struggling Disney's California Adventure Park (in Anaheim), where it ran from 2001 until 2010. When it ended there, it moved back to the Magic Kingdom (in Orlando), where it lasted from 2010 until 2016 It then left Magic Kingdom (in Orlando) to move back to its home park, Disneyland (in Anaheim), where it ran from January 19, 2017 until August 20, of the same year.
Version B (Walt Disney World version) was built in 1977 and premiered in Magic Kingdom (in Orlando). It was a clone of the one that was running in Anaheim. It lasted there until 1991, where it moved across the Atlantic to Disneyland Park (Paris). It lasted from 1992 up until 2003, where it was sent to Hong Kong Disneyland, but never appeared there.
Version C (Tokyo Disneyland version) was built in 1985 and has not left Tokyo Disneyland Park. It premiered in 1985, and closed in 1995. When it closed, it was refurbished into "Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: DreamLights". In 1997, the Swan Lake Unit was sent to Disneyland Paris.
The Main Street Electrical Parade's underlying theme song is entitled "Baroque Hoedown." The original version was created in 1967 by early synthesizer pioneers Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley and appeared first on the album Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music from Way Out. Originally, the parade's soundtrack had the same themes as the current recording, but was a different arrangement by Jim Christensen and Paul Beaver. In 1977, it was updated and arranged by electronic music artist Don Dorsey and Jack Wagner at Jack Wagner Studio, which was used until January 2009 in Disney's Electrical Parade.
When the parade returned to Disney California Adventure in June 2009, it began using the updated, orchestrated DreamLights soundtrack from Tokyo, but with changes made as certain floats in the California parade are not included in the Tokyo parade. The soundtrack for the current version, the 2009 version of Disney's Electrical Parade, The Main Street Electrical Parade (the last run ending in 2016 at Magic Kingdom), and the now-concluded 2017 run of the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disneyland, as well as Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade DreamLights version were arranged, programmed and performed by Gregory Smith. Smith also arranged the music for Disneyland's Remember... Dreams Come True show (which also contains a snippet of the original Don Dorsey arrangement, which then concludes in a grand orchestral finale arranged by Smith) as well as Magical: Disney's New Nighttime Spectacular of Magical Celebrations fireworks shows.
The soundtrack to the parade has been released numerous times:
Dorsey used 11 synthesizers to create the soundtrack: Moog Model III, Mini-Moog, Steiner-Parker Synthacon, Oberheim 8-voice, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, Fender Rhodes Piano, New England Digital Synclavier II, Bode 7702 Vocoder, Roland MKS-80 Super Jupiter, Yamaha DX7 and Yamaha TX7.
Wagner provides the synthesized vocoder voice for the intro and outro to the parade. Bill Rogers provided the synthesized vocoder announcement when the Disneyland version of the parade made its first visit to Magic Kingdom in 1999. When the parade went to Disney California Adventure Park in 2001, the original Jack Wagner announcements for the Disneyland version of the parade were used as the basis for the announcements at the new park. Since the park does not have a Main Street U.S.A., the announcements had to be updated with minor changes. These included the insertion of the words "Disney" and "Disney's" to reflect that the show's name had changed to Disney's Electrical Parade. These same announcements were used when the soundtrack was updated, albeit with a pitch change to reflect the change in the key the soundtrack was in. Minor harmonic changes were also implemented via the vocoder for the updated soundtrack's version of the announcements, but these did not effect their sound quality or the ability to understand them.
While the original soundtrack is played solely on synthesizers, the Tokyo Disneyland version uses an orchestra with adult and youth choirs in addition to harmonies and synthesizers. This version also includes Character voices in both English and Japanese. This version was also orchestrated, programmed, conducted and performed by Gregory Smith. During the Christmas season at Tokyo Disneyland, the Electrical Parade gets a new soundtrack; it is mostly the same soundtrack with added Christmas songs, mixed in with the theme music. For Tokyo Disneyland's 30th anniversary, a show stop was added to the parade, it includes a 2-minute Christmas medley; fireworks from Cinderella Castle are synced during the show stop as well. The showstop is only performed once a year as part of a private event for Disney/JCB Card holders.
The 2009 version of Disney's Electrical Parade at Disney's California Adventure, its 2010 run at Magic Kingdom and its 2017 run at Disneyland utilize much of the soundtrack created for DreamLights, with new loops created for the Cinderella, Pinocchio, and To Honor America units. However, the new soundtrack retains a more electronic sound than that of Tokyo's in that many of the orchestral parts of the DreamLights soundtrack have been replaced by synthesizers in this version. Whereas the Magic Kingdom used a newly recorded vocoder introduction for its 2010 version of the parade, the original 1977 Jack Wagner introduction was pitch-corrected to match the updated soundtrack and integrated into Disneyland's 2017 version of the parade.
Media related to Main Street Electrical Parade at Wikimedia Commons