Designing Main Street Electrical Parade
For more then three decades, the Main Street / Disney's Electrical Parade is enchanting people around the world with it's 'spectacular festival pageant of nighttime magic and imagination in thousands of sparkling lights and electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds'.
The parade, a beloved procession of Disney stories brought to life in shimmering colored lights and bouncy, bubbly music, was created by Bob Jani and Ron Miziker. It soon became one of Disney's most popular attractions ever built.
The predecessor to the Main Street Electrical Parade is the Electrical Water Pageant. One night Bob Jani noticed the perfect darkness surrounding the lakes of the Walt Disney World Resort. While the property was so vast, no horizon or city lights could be seen. The place seemed to him the perfect backdrop for a nighttime spectacular.
In the autumn of 1971, the 'Electrical Water Pageant' parade premiered. The nightly display was made up of a string of fourteen barges that traveled around Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake for the Magic Kingdom area resorts. The vessels featured seven 25-foot tall screens with electrical lights placed on them.
In order to expand it's nightly entertainment offer and to motivate it's personnel (after the Walt Disney World Resort opened), Disney decided to bring the magic of a nighttime spectacular to Disneyland California. Soon the idea of the Main Street Electrical Parade was born. The building of the original parade took place in a warehouse in Chicago and California. Many technical problems had to be solved.
When it originally debuted in 1972, many of the floats of the Main Street Electrical parade were flat screens on rolling platforms (similar to the Electrical Water Pageant). The reason was to increase readability. Walt Disney Imagineers weren't sure how many lights they could put on a float that time and most units were hand pushed or pulled down the street, therefor lights were aligned so you could read them on both sides of the street.
The Blue Fairy was the only 3D float. Although, as soon as the parade went down the street the first night, Imagineers started thinking about three dimensions. When the original parade retired and reopened in 1977, the entire parade was three dimensional.
The 1977 Main Street Electrical Parade was the result of an elaborate creative process.
The 'Bear Balancing on Barrels' unit (DL, WDW, DCA).
- The concept.
- The concept developed by the Walt Disney Animation Studios.
- The positioning of the little lights.
- The color scheme.
- The selection of fabrics.
The unit is covered with fabrics so the audience doesn't see the lights on the other side.
- The clay model.
A model is made to give ironworkers an idea of how the float should look like.
- The metal frame.
The metal frame is sprayed to make it rust proof. Then it is covered with the fabrics.
- The light bulbs are carefully attached.
- The 'Bear Balancing on Barrels' unit goes down the street.
The Main Street Electrical Parade has a a synchronized soundtrack triggered by radio control along key areas of the parade route. The musical theme used throughout the parade was adapted from a synthesizer piece known as “Baroque Hoedown,” written in 1967 by Gershon Kingsley and Jean-Jacques Perrey.
It was discovered by Disney entertainment creators, who produced a recording of the main tune interwoven with Disney themes suitable for the various parade segments. The soundtrack is notable for its use of the vocoder voice effect.
In the past three decades, the Main Street Electrical Parade had some memorable performances. In 1978, Disney brought the magic of the Main Street Electrical Parade (Alice in Wonderland, Elliot & Pete's Dragon units) to Miami for the Orange Bowl half time show.
To help celebrate the world premier of "Hercules The Movie", the nighttime spectacular was staged on June 14th, 1997 in New York City (on 42nd St & 7th Ave). Hercules and Pegasus were the lead float in this special parade. They were followed by the classic Main Street Electrical Parade floats. Disney arranged for the lights to be turned off on about 8 blocks of Broadway, up to the New Amsterdam Theater. More then 3 million people were part of this once-in-a-lifetime event!
During the 1999 solar eclipse (August, 11), Disneyland Paris staged a reduced version of the Main Street Electrical parade at noon.
After its successful run at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland, an updated version (using the LED technology) of the parade winds its way through the heart of Disney's California Adventure Park. Recently, a Tinker Bell float was added to Disney's Electrical Parade, This new unit was the first to be added to the classic parade in 20 years.