Disney Fan’s Guide to the Main Street Electrical Parade
In August of 2019, the Happiest Place on Earth will embrace its history by bringing back one of its most famous presentations. Yes, the Main Street Electrical Parade is poised to make a triumphant return to Disneyland.
No matter whether you read this now or long after the fact, you’ll still want to understand what makes this presentation so special. Here’s everything you need to know about the Main Street Electrical Parade.
The Origin Story of Main Street Electrical Parade
Do you want the most logical explanation for the creation of the nighttime parade? It’s jealousy. Disneyland, the older park, witnessed its younger sibling, Walt Disney World, introduce the Electrical Water Pageant in 1971, only a few days after the actual park’s opening.
The fact that we still have the Electrical Water Pageant today speaks to the immediate and lasting popularity of that exhibition. Disneyland officials wanted something of their own. Their creation, Main Street Electrical Parade, subverted expectations while having a profound impact on Disney fans.
Beginning with the first performance in 1972, guests at the Happiest Place on Earth fell in love with a bright nightly spectacle. From that point forward, some sort of nightly event has remained a part of Disneyland.
Humorously, the earliest performances of Main Street Electrical Parade were fraught with peril. The first floats were notoriously difficult to steer. On one awkward occasion, a float drove into a building at Disneyland. That must have been an embarrassing call to the insurance company. “We have insurance on our floats and our buildings, right? Is that one deductible or two?”
All kidding aside, the electrical part of the parade provided unparalleled entertainment. It wasn’t easy, though. The costumes tended to spark and sometimes shocked the wearer. These issues would lead to changes over the years. Before we discuss them, however, let’s talk about the show itself.
Explaining the Main Street Electrical Parade
Imagine that one house in your area that takes things too far at Christmas. They have more lights than Thomas Edison could have ever dreamt possible. Holiday tunes reverberate from their yard across the neighborhood. They’re either viewed as festive or criminally insane, depending on the perspective.
The Main Street Electrical Parade is like that as a nighttime show. The parade features a bunch of floats, each of which has lights strewn seemingly everywhere. A former parade director once indicated that the floats utilize 500,000 lights and have enough power to operate the entirety of Main Street, U.S.A.
On the train float, everything from the steam valve to the wheels to the engine has its own set of unique lights. On the drum float, the name of the parade is brightly displayed for all to see.
The first version of this exhibition was a spectacle of the highest order. Save for the annual Rose Bowl parade, no one in Southern California had ever witnessed anything like it.
The Narration of Main Street Electrical Parade
The show began with a booming narration that went:
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,
Disneyland proudly presents
Our spectacular festival pageant
Of nighttime magic and imagination
In thousands of sparkling lights
And electro-syntho-magnetic musical sounds,
The Main Street Electrical Parade!”
Then, a familiar tune played. Baroque Hoedown has been associated with the Main Street Electrical Parade since the beginning. Famously described as “harpsichord gone country,” it’s the musical piece that reinforces the unique style of the parade. This presentation is somehow quasi-futuristic and retro.
One of the most telling parts of the show during this era was the spinning turtle. It mirrored the amphibious floats that participate in the Electrical Water Pageant. Disneyland wanted a land version of the water parade at its twin park, and the Main Street Electrical Parade is the result of that aspiration.
The Retirements and Returns of the Main Street Electrical Parade
The history of this parade is fascinating to behold. At the time of publication, it’s poised to return to Disneyland for two months in August of 2019. By the time that you read this, however, it may have already gone away and returned again. Such is its odd track record as a nighttime parade.
Sadly, the original version of the show closed “for good” in 1996. Disney turned its departure into a colossal event, selling tickets and memorabilia for the final presentation. By this point, the parade was already a huge part of Disney parks. Magic Kingdom had, perhaps ironically, taken inspiration from Disneyland and introduced their own version in 1977. It would close in 1999, relatively soon after the West Coast parade had ended.
Tokyo Disneyland got into the act in 1985. Their iteration, the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade, later evolved into DreamLights in 2001. That parade is still in operation today. A Disneyland Paris version also ran from 1992 through 2003.
At Disneyland Resort, the Main Street Electrical Parade returned with the opening of Disney California Adventure in 2001. It played nightly there until 2010. Right when it closed in California, the parade came back to Magic Kingdom and would stay there until 2016.
The Triumphant Return of a Disneyland Classic
The real thrill for fans of the Happiest Place on Earth came in 2017 when the parade returned briefly for its 45th anniversary. Now, Disney has just announced this latest return engagement of their most famous nightly show.
The Main Street Electrical Parade is expected to run from August 2nd through September 30th. Given everything that we know, it may receive an extension, but you shouldn’t bet on that. To the contrary, the one thing that we’ve learned in the 21st century is that this parade comes and goes at the most unpredictable times.
You should plan a trip to Disneyland to watch it while you can. Speak to an agent at MickeyTravels to book a trip before the end of September. Capitalize on this rare opportunity to watch a unique piece of Disney history.