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Sixty Years of Innovation: Main Street Electrical Parade Lights Up the Night at Disneyland Park

Erin Glover

by , Editorial Content Director, Disneyland Resort

We’ve been exploring some of the innovations that Disneyland has seen through its sixty-year history, from the idea of the park itself to the invention of Audio-Animatronics technology. Today, let’s jump ahead to the 1970s and the introduction of what would become one of the most beloved parades in the history of Disney Parks.
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The Main Street Electrical Parade was unlike any parade that had come before it, with “thousands of sparkling lights and electro-syntho-magnetic musical sounds.” Actually, the parade featured more than half a million sparkling lights, with more than 500 miles of wiring, and used an electronic synthesizer, giving it a unique and distinctly recognizable sound. Even to this day, anyone familiar with the parade gets a rush of nostalgia with just a few notes of the iconic “Baroque Hoedown.”

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The parade made its debut on June 17, 1972, and went on to evolve and grow throughout its decades-long run, with new floats like the 108-foot-long “Honor America” finale, added in 1979, and a reproduction of Sleeping Beauty Castle to celebrate of the 25th anniversary of Disneyland. It has delighted guests around the world at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland.

‘Paint the Night’ Parade Starts May 22 as Part of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration

The evolution of nighttime parades continues at Disneyland park with the debut of “Paint the Night” on May 22. This next iteration of the iconic electrical parade takes the innovation even further, with with more than 1.5 million individually controlled lights, nearly all of which will be energy-efficient LED lights.

Comments

  • We spend (the now required) 2 hours to line up at the curb by the castle (it used to be 45 minutes, but it’s popularity has forced ever longer wait times) every trip to Disneyworld, as this parade is always the high point of the trip, no matter what else the activity.

    Much better than Spectromagic (both the music and the floats), and happy they brought back the original iconic parade. You can’t improve perfection (or nostalgia), and the 2 hour wait time (the whole park it seems crowds into Main street up through the castle) speaks to it’s success.

    Eric

  • OK Erin, my guess for the ’80s is Star Tours, with a close second Splash Mountain….. SM does so much, with its story-telling combined with that thrilling plunge, but ST ushered in a new genre of thrill rides, with its video simulation style. Here’s to three in a row!

    • Both good guesses!

  • Grew up with the Electrical Main Street Parade. Had the great pleasure to see it again last year at Walt Disney World. Hope to get the chance to see the Paint the Night parade at Disneyland this year.

  • YAY!! I’ve been dreaming about this magical parade and I am so happy it’s coming back to California. This makes my day. 🙂

  • Although “Baroque Hoedown” and the parade are inextricably linked in the minds of most people, its composer Jean-Jacques Perrey was not aware of the song’s use in the parade until he visited the park years later.

  • I love this parade so much. It is part of the Disney Magic that I love. I need to plan a trip to Disney World so I can see it again.

  • I miss the original MSEP from Disneyland pre-1996 “retirement.” I even have a lightbulb collectible from the retirement of the original parade. The versions they have since brought back to California Adventure and the one that is currently at Walt Disney World is just not the same. The music is a bit different (more electronic like), the pixie dust and the changes in the floats just don’t do it for me.

    I am looking forward to this new and innovative parade, however.

    When we had a Disney themed wedding in 2009 we walked out of the chapel after being pronounced Husband and Wife to the Baroque Hoedown (and I walked in to A Whole New World). The original parade and music will always be in our hearts!

  • It was a great parade. I’m so glad that Paint the Night will be pretty much the 2.0 version of the Electrical parade.

    In 1997, Disneyland had the short-lived Light Magic. And (despite good intentions) it was just not a good replacement for the Electrical Parade. In retrospect, that was a really odd era. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    It will be great for Disneyland to have a nighttime parade again.

  • Woohoo! I’m two for two Erin! May I go for the three-peat? 😀 And nice post by the way, MSEP is always the perfect end to a day at the park…

    • You’re on a roll, Dustin! Yeah, see if you can guess what I’ve got planned for the ’80s!

  • The Main Street Electrical Parade music is really timeless. One day when my little sister was upset I put the soundtrack on our home stereo and she immediately calmed down then started dancing. She’s only three, never seen the parade or pictures and the music is so infectious she loves listening to it and always has me play it for her. She knows instantly knows it’s Disney and starts shouting “Disneyland” when she hears it. Now I’ve got her all excited for Paint the Night. Its a real piece of magic.

    • I love that! 🙂

  • The music is what makes it so fantastic. It’s ebullient, and really something different from the norm. I think party of the reason I love electronic music so much to this day is because I was weened on the Electrical Parade as a kid.

    What’s amazing, though, is that is hasn’t dated. My kids are interested in Disneyland’s nighttime parade, but I honestly couldn’t believe how excited they got when they heard the Electrical Parade music–they both went wild!

    I only wish Disney would bring the parade to the West Coast. It’s a Top 10 Disney achievement!

  • The Main Street Electrical Parade is my all time favorite parade. I can’t stand still to that music. The music is even the ringtone on my cell phone!!!!!

  • Although most of the floats in the original Main Street Electrical Parade when it first debuted in 1972 were just flat 2D screens that either had to be pushed or pulled along the parade route.

  • I will always have a soft spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade. It’s the parade I grew up with during annual family trips to Disneyland and frequently wish it was still in California. But I’m excited for the debut of “Paint the Night” and hope it can stand up to my nostalgia for its predecessor!

  • As much as I love the Electrical Parade, I hope that Walt Disney World will get a brand new Night Parade soon.

  • Really really really miss sprectro magic! It is by far the best night parade to date.

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