The popular Main Street Electrical Parade recently made the cross-country journey from Disneyland in California to Walt Disney World in Florida, where it currently sits inside a backstage parade barn behind the Magic Kingdom theme park awaiting its official public debut on June 6.
This morning I had a chance to wander through the magic-filled warehouse as Disney lit up the parade. On hand were also various Disney cast members, each of whom plays a crucial role in bringing the classic parade to life each night.
But before we get to the behind-the-scenes details of how the Electrical Parade operates, here’s a video tour of a few of the parade’s many floats:
The Main Street Electrical Parade has been one of my favorite Disney attractions for as long as I can remember having seen it. Watching its sparkling lights circle the Hub at the Magic Kingdom is one of my earliest Disney memories. So, needless to say, today’s chance to not only walk among its incredible floats but also learn more about how the parade operates was one of those extra magical Disney moments.
The parade has seen many variations over the years, having first premiered at Disneyland, later coming to Walt Disney World, and bouncing back and forth a few times. Variations of the parade have also found their ways overseas to Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland. But I’m told that the one that is now back at the Magic Kingdom for Summer Nightastic at Walt Disney World is truly the original – with some modifications. The “Dumbo” circus floats have been replaced by ones from Pinocchio and Tinker Bell now leads off the parade. The famous “Baroque Hoedown” music has also been tweaked over the years, but retains the electronic bouncy feel that we all remember.
Take a step back behind the scenes, it’s easy to imagine that there are people inside each of the larger parade floats, driving them through the streets. But what about those cute little bugs and the turtle from the parade’s “Alice in Wonderland” unit? I have always wondered just how those amazingly interactive creatures quickly maneuver so close to gets. Are they remote controlled? Or does can a person fit inside?
Show producer Gene Harding showed me exactly how they work:
Yes, I had fun riding on that drive unit. It is surprisingly sensitive, allowing piloting cast members complete control – which is exactly how those cute little parade bugs are able to rush right up to you and stop on a dime, spin around, and continue down the parade route.
In talking with a few of Disney’s other Main Street Electrical Parade experts, I learned that the parade floats communicate with each other via wireless connections. The parade music for each float is stored onboard and is played back perfectly in sync with the other nearby floats. Likewise, the relatively new lighted “pixie dust” trail that spans the length of the parade hops seamlessly from float to float, also perfectly timed by the wireless connection. Meanwhile, a small team of cast members outside of the floats is monitoring them at all times, ensuring that no connections are missed and that all runs smoothly.
To transport the Electrical Parade from Disneyland to Walt Disney World (again), each float was packed up, some requiring more attention than others. Larger floats were carefully disassembled, with some bulbs needing to be removed and some wires needing to be cut. All was pieced back together in Orlando to get ready for the show.
Disney released this look at the parade making its journey from one coast to the other:
The Main Street Electrical Parade officially debuts as part of Walt Disney World’s Summer Nightastic on June 6, though a one-day-early preview will be held for all of the Magic Kingdom’s guests on the night of June 5. Summer Nightastic runs through Aug. 14, though it’s likely (but not guaranteed) that the Electrical Parade will remain in Orlando for several more weeks/months.
Photos from our behind-the-scenes tour of the Main Street Electrical Parade, including a few of myself posing with some of the floats (I couldn’t resist!):