For many guests at a Disney park, the magic seems to come alive even more at nighttime. The lights on Main Street are illuminated and the castle seems to sparkle in the night. The highlight of the evening is a wonderful parade full of classic Disney characters, all illuminated by thousands of tiny lights. The Main Street Electrical Parade was the first parade of its kind to appear on land at a Disney park.
After the opening of Walt Disney World, employee morale at Disneyland was low. They felt that little attention was being given to their park. Disneyland was also experiencing a lack of nighttime business. Company president Card Walker knew something had to be done to fix these problems. He asked Bob Jani and Ron Miziker, who were in charge of entertainment for Disneyland and Walt Disney World, for a nighttime event to be created for the Disneyland Resort which would keep guests in the park, as well as help improve employee morale.
While researching ideas for this nighttime event, Ron discovered that around the turn of the century, shortly after getting electricity, big cities would have parades with strings of lights. He was intrigued by this idea and suggested a parade with lights to Bob. Because the Electrical Water Pageant at Walt Disney World was so popular, they decided to move forward with creating a similar land parade for Disneyland.
Once planning for the parade was completed in February of 1972, the construction of the parade had to take place quickly in order to meet their June deadline. The Silvestri Light Company in Chicago was tasked with building the parade floats in March. After a while, Ron learned the light company behind schedule. Ron traveled to Chicago where he discovered the company did not have the time or technology to properly construct the parade floats to meet the deadline. The floats were then sent back to California via moving vans where they were completed. Crews had to work constantly to get the floats finished in time. Many of the rehearsals were even cancelled in order to allow for more time to complete the floats. Many of the parade floats were still being worked on just prior to going through the gates on to Main Street for the debut of The Main Street Electrical Parade.
The music of The Main Street Electrical Parade is instantly recognizable to many Disney fans. This music, however, was not composed specifically for the parade. Bob Jani wanted the parade to feature calliope music or music from Fantasia. Tasked with finding other options for the parade’s music was Jack Wagner, who you may recognize as the voice asking you to “stand clear of the doors” on Walt Disney World’s monorails. Jack thought something electronic would be fitting for the parade. The electronic music picked for the parade was a composition entitled Baroque Hoedown. This music was used for the theme of the parade with Disney compositions added throughout to correspond with the parade floats.
The Main Street Electrical Parade debuted at Disneyland on June 11, 1972. The parade floats for the first version of The Main Street Electrical Parade were created similar to the floats of the Electrical Water Pageant. Many of the floats were flat screen lit up images pulled by Cast Members. The dimensional floats, such as Casey Jr. and Mickey’s drum, were previously existing floats which had lights added to them. Despite few rehearsals and floats being completed just seconds before moving onto Main Street, the parade was very well received from its first performance. Today the Main Street Electrical Parade is a classic parade at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, where it is the current nighttime parade.