Walt Disney at Disneyland Park

This Week in Disney History: Main Street Electrical Parade Debuted in 1977

posted on June 10th, 2011 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Vintage Photo of the Main Street Electrical Parade

Can a person ever see enough cool photos of the Main Street Electrical Parade?

That’s exactly what came into my head when I found this photo in one of our archives several weeks ago. This vintage promotional shot (no year specified) showed the parade like I’ve never seen it, placing 15 floats, fireworks and an illuminated Cinderella Castle all in one frame. I’ve been saving this photo to share with you on just this occasion – the anniversary of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Vintage Photo of the Main Street Electrical Parade

This nighttime spectacle, in which scenes from Disney films come brilliantly to life against the backdrop of a night sky, is the longest-running parade in Disney theme park history. It’s also one of the largest Disney parades, consisting of 23 floats, 80 performers and more than 600,000 lights.

The parade originally debuted at Disneyland park on June 17, 1972.  The Magic Kingdom park received its own version which debuted June 11, 1977, and was performed nightly through 1991. It returned 1999-2001, and again for a third time in 2010. Last year, I met a cast member who worked on the parade during its original debut who described to me what a big deal this parade was at its launch. At the time, he said, no one had ever seen anything like it – an entertainment spectacle that combined music and technology in a way that left spectators staring in awe.

Tinker Bell in the Main Street Electrical Parade

Today’s parade is only slightly modified from the original version. It’s now led by Tinker Bell, instead of the Blue Fairy from “Pinocchio,” and the soundtrack has been enhanced to include music from “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” It also now features energy-saving LED lights.

Do you remember your first Main Street Electrical Parade experience?

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Filed: Disney History, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

40 Comments 6 Replies

1

Salvador on June 10th, 2011 at 10:25 am

What was the date that it debuted at Disneyland in 1972?

2

Eric on June 10th, 2011 at 10:35 am

…The Blue Fairy from Snow White??

 

Jennifer Fickley-Baker on June 12th, 2011 at 11:22 am

Sorry! Major mistake on my part. For some reason I always place Blue Fairy in the wrong film. “Pinocchio” is correct.

3

Liz from UT on June 10th, 2011 at 10:56 am

I love this parade! I wish it would come back to California where it belongs!!

4

Michael on June 10th, 2011 at 11:01 am

My father was one of the original producers of the Parade! I remember him showing me and my siblings 8mm film of the original parade, and I absolutely loved it. It should be a permanent fixture at the Magic Kingdom. It’s just so ridiculously wonderful.

5

Chris on June 10th, 2011 at 11:02 am

One of my first memories of Disney World is sitting on my father’s shoulders watching the Main Street Electrical Parade on our first trip. I was five at the time. Last year, I had the privilege of watching it again, this time with my three-year-old on my shoulders. The first sounds of the parade brought tears to my eyes when I realized what a “full circle” moment it was!

6

Teresa from PA on June 10th, 2011 at 11:04 am

What a beautiful shot! I would love to get a copy of that framed and on my wall!

7

Scott on June 10th, 2011 at 11:26 am

Blue Fairy = Pinocchio

8

Sarah from MI on June 10th, 2011 at 11:48 am

Yep! 1985 and my family’s first trip to the World. It was simply the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. Probably most things were but it was a parade! of lights!

9

Kristi from CA on June 10th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

This is my all time favorite parade, but the old version. I am not a Tinkerbell fan and was disappointed when they had her start leading the parade.

I wish they would restore the Blue Fairy and the parade to the original and bring it back to CA.

10

Barbara from NY on June 10th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I first saw the Main Street Electrical Parade when I first went to Disneyland in the early 70′s ,and was thrilled when it came to Walt Disney World! I think it is the most magical of all parades, I love it and was so happy when it returned to Disney World. I have seen the parade many many times over the years in both parks, and every time I see it I feel like a kid again seeing it for the first time!!

11

Norma on June 10th, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Last week my grandkids saw it for the first time. The 2 1/2 year old sat transfixed and named every princess as they came into view. Up until then she would only refer to them as “Princess” regardless of which one it was. We were taken back that not only did she actually know their names, but could correctly identify each and everyone. Thanks for a lasting memory.

12

Angie from TN on June 10th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I think we saw the parade at Christmas in 1977. It was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen. We even bought the soundtrack. I, too, got to take my own kids last year, and hearing that music for the first time in so many years brought tears to my eyes. I videotaped it so my dad and sisters could re-live it as well. We all agreed, it’s the best parade, EVER!

 

Jennifer Fickley-Baker on June 12th, 2011 at 11:23 am

Angie – Which float is your favorite?

13

Daniel on June 10th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Best parade in the history of the world! I love MSEP. I can’t wait to see it again. I’m so glad it came back, I hope it never leaves :)

14

Brian on June 10th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

My father was in that first season of the MSEP back at Disneyland, so our whole family has a special connection to that parade. I still have the old black and white Cast photo from that season. I’ll have to remind him of the anniversary today and scan that photo sometime soon for others to enjoy. Thanks for the reminder!

15

aldous from ON on June 10th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

We’ve seen this parade a few times and it is wonderful! I believe it was in 2005 when we first saw it.

16

Mary on June 10th, 2011 at 2:46 pm

That is the one thing I remember from my childhood! I hear the music and it gives me goosebumps :) I love it

17

Patrick from FL on June 10th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

The Main Street Electrical Parade does not feature any music from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction or movies.

 

Jennifer Fickley-Baker on June 12th, 2011 at 11:24 am

Patrick, according to our Entertainment department, a bit of the score from Pirates was added in when the soundtrack was digitally recorded for the 2010 debut.

18

Carrie from WA on June 10th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

It was 1986 and I was 10. My family had driven across the country from Tennessee. It was the most amazing thing ever!!!! I enjoyed sharing it with my children at DCA in 2006. I wish it’d come back to DLR!!!!

19

Kevin from CA on June 10th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Is the parade coming back to CA anytime soon?

20

David on June 10th, 2011 at 4:36 pm

The Main Street Electrical Parade literally changed the course of my life. I saw it in 1978 as a 13 year old and I remember staring at the speakers above me outside the old Magic Shop, wondering in amazement how the main theme continued as the music on the floats changed. Then my dad bought me the theme on an old vinyl picture disc, and as I listened to it on my stereo in my room, I discovered for the first time what stereo sound was. From that point forward I began listening to everything with renewed focus on stereo, remembering the magic of the parade. Over time I found myself experimenting with four track recorders, mini-studios, learned to play the guitar, and now produce my own original music on an 8-track home studio, complete with interesting stereo pans. I even recorded a version of the Main Street Electrical Parade theme, duplicating the sounds on a keyboard, and mixing it all in stereo. It seriously changed my life.

21

Antonella from NJ on June 10th, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I remember seeing it on June 26, 1994. :-) My husband took me to WDW as a surprise birthday present. That was the 1st time I visited WDW ever. That trip was extra special since I found out on my birthday that I was pregnant with our 1st child! The experience of that parade was amazing! That trip definitely made wonderful memories for me. Still today, me and my family make it a point to see the parade if it schedule to go when we are at WDW on vacation. It never gets old to me! ºoº

 

Jennifer Fickley-Baker on June 12th, 2011 at 11:25 am

What a special trip! I’m happy your hubby decided to plan your special birthday here at WDW.

22

Kristi on June 10th, 2011 at 5:12 pm

When is it coming back to California?? :(

23

ANALUISA on June 10th, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Yes, I remember seeing it July, 1982. I was 13 yeas old and I loved. It was wonderful and I cant forgot it.

24

melissa on June 10th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

i first saw the parade in 1978 when i was four years old (first trip to Disney) and it was the most beautiful thing i had ever seen. it is my favorite parade and i am hoping to see it this year when we make it over to FL with our whole family so we can share their first time viewing this parade.

25

JUDY on June 10th, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I remember first seeing the Electrical Parade at Disneyland. I was teary-eyed and overwhelmed at the lights and music. I have the CD of the parade and listen to it daily. This last January when we were at WDW, we saw the parade 4 times. I love the precision that the patriotic dancers stepped. And of course, Pete’s Dragon is one of my favorite characters!

 

Jennifer Fickley-Baker on June 12th, 2011 at 11:26 am

Pete’s Dragon was my absolute favorite part of the parade. I remember sitting on the sidewalk on Main Street, and thinking how HUGE the dragon was!

26

Debra on June 11th, 2011 at 12:27 am

I have been to WDW MK on 13 different visits and multiple times on some of those visits. But I seen MSEP for the first time on Sep/10. It is the best parade I have ever seen and Disney just has to keep it a constant. It’s the best!!

27

Brian from CA on June 11th, 2011 at 3:32 am

He we at Disneyland would like our parade back. The reason why I think we should get it back is because it was ours to begain with and when people think about Disneyland they think of the castle and pirates but they also think of Main Street Electrical Prade. Every time I go to Disneyland that what I think about. I was five and that was first disney parade that I have ever seen and I was there in 1996 for its farewell show but it here and its alive and I think it should be back at DL not DCA or WDW but on its own Street. Main Street. Hey got-to remember it has its own Window on Main Street. :)

28

Brian from CA on June 11th, 2011 at 3:42 am

@ David: Most of the time Disney does not realise that with just put on a good show that they can make a huge and significant change in people’s lives. This is why I love the WDC.

@Kristi: It was suposed to come back this summer and be apart of Sound Sational Summer and even be in Disneyland park but by large requests in Florida they got to keep it for another season. Lets hope that it comes back soon!

29

paul on June 11th, 2011 at 6:37 am

This was one of my favorites as a child at Walt Disney World! I even remember when the gentleman who did the music for MSEP had a show inside the restaurant across from the Gran Prix Raceway and was surrounded by all these synthsizers and equipment. It was a definite MUST SEE any time you visited! Anyone recall his name?

30

TRACIE on June 11th, 2011 at 7:48 am

This parade is one of my most cherished memories. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE bring it back to California.

31

Marie from TX on June 11th, 2011 at 8:28 am

Glad they have enjoyed it at WDW but I sure wish they would send it back to Disneyland. Wonder what happened to the plans to get it back on Main Street? That I would love to see!

32

Terry from CA on June 11th, 2011 at 11:46 am

I am from San Francisco, Ca. originally.In Summer of 1977, as a 9th grader, my Sister & I flew(1st time flying) to Disneyland & saw the Main Street Electrical Parade!!! LOVE THAT PARADE!!! Then When it closed in 1991, I was there with My kids & husband! I still have the circular pin that lights up from that closing year!! & it STILL WORKS!!! – 20 years later!! I am still a premium annual passholder.. Disneyland is where my current husband fell in love with me & we were married 6 years ago on July 15th, 2005.. spent our honeymoon in Disneyland that same weekend of the 50th anniversary.. planning by the grace of God to be there for the 100th anniversary!!!

33

Terry from CA on June 11th, 2011 at 11:48 am

OOPS I meant 1971!!!!That’s when I saw it , during the OPENING year!

34

Terry from CA on June 11th, 2011 at 11:49 am

Man I am bad at these dates.. late June of 1972!!!

35

Mary from MI on June 11th, 2011 at 11:18 pm

My Husband and I was visited Walt Disney World for ten days in May and the Electrical Light Parade was one of our highlights. I would say that our top three would be the Electrical Light Parade, followed by the Keys to the Kingdom tour and the tour of Animal Kingdom was just great, we ended up having a private tour just the two of us with a great guide. I wish I could recall her name I would give her a plug.

 

Jennifer Fickley-Baker on June 12th, 2011 at 11:28 am

I’ve heard great things about Keys to the Kingdom.

36

jesus from CA on June 13th, 2011 at 12:19 am

my first expirience at the magic kingdom was last year in november for the christmas party i will never forget that specially when u see the castle it so big and it a great expirience

37

JULIEN on June 13th, 2011 at 4:37 am

first time seeing was in 1997 at Disneyland Paris!

38

Alexandra on June 21st, 2011 at 9:13 am

This is one of my favorite parades. When it returned in 1999, Disneyland made a VHS (yes it was back then) of the parade, with Cinderella giving you a backstage tour. My sisters and I watched it over and over when we got back from vacation. Between the Main Street Electrical Parade video and our Sing along Songs “Disneyland Fun” tape, we were never far from the Magic. :)

39

Rob on June 24th, 2011 at 11:15 am

when is spectromagic coming back??

40

Rob on June 24th, 2011 at 11:15 am

I miss spectromagic!

40 Comments