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Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade Is A Must See, Even For Those That Have Seen It Before

50 years ago Disneyland first introduced the Main Street Electrical Parade, and from basically day one it has been an iconic attraction. The parade ran continuously from 1972 to 1996 before moving to Walt Disney World, and while the parade has never stayed away from its home at Disneyland for too long, it’s always a welcome sight when it returns. And for its 50th anniversary the parade is better than ever, as it has all the classic elements you love as well as brand new floats, making it a parade fans need to see, even if they feel like they’ve seen it before.

I was invited by Disneyland to visit the park when a special preview performance of the Main Street Electrical Parade was held prior to the show’s official return to Disneyland on the evening of April 22, What makes this parade special is that, while it trades on the nostalgia that we often expect from Disney, it also brings something new to the table, and both elements need to be seen to be appreciated.

A Piece Of Disneyland History Is Back

The song “Baroque Hoedown” wasn’t written for the Main Street Electrical Parade but most people associate that sound with this show and when the electronic voice announces the parade, and that music starts, it’s difficult not to get excited, and I certainly did.

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Because the parade was first designed in the early ‘70s, the post-Walt Disney era, when Disney animation was not at its highest point, the parade itself relies a lot on the golden age of Disney characters. It’s Snow White and Cinderella. It’s Peter Pan and Pinnocchio. While these characters are never too far away in modern parades, they also share the stage with a lot of more recent films.

With the vast majority of the parade remaining unchanged, with the exception of a 50th Anniversary logo on the side of the iconic drum float, watching this parade is like peering into a time capsule. It’s a step back into the Disneyland of another era, and that’s pretty amazing. A kid watching this parade in 1972 saw the same things you are seeing, and he was just as amazed by the giant glowing dragon.

Main Street Electrical Parade Finale Float

(Image credit: Disneyland Resort)

There Are New Elements In The Main Street Electrical Parade As Well

While most of the parade is the same parade it once was, there is a brand new finale, and one that’s is not be missed, as it brings many more modern Disney characters into the Main Street Electrical Parade, but it a way that doesn’t break the overall nostalgic feel of the rest of the show.

The finale is one long float with a collection of Disney characters, all much more recent. You’ll see characters from Encanto. You’ll see Raya and Mulan. You’ll see Moana and Hercules. However, the characters are all designed to pay homage to the great Mary Blair, the Disney artist that designed the famous Dolls from It’s a Small World. And the actual final float is a small version of the incredible facade of that attraction.

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The old and the new come together in a way that I won’t say is seamless. The new finale certainly looks more modern than the rest of the floats, but the two eras do compliment each other quite well.  And the finale float has the added bonus of giving you a reason to watch the parade twice. Each side of the float spotlights different characters that aren’t easy to see from the opposite side, so you’ll want to catch it from both angles to see everything.

Tinkerbell in Main Street Electrical Parade

(Image credit: Disneyland Resort)

The Main Street Electrical Parade Is As Wonderful As Ever

My own memories of the Main Street Electrical Parade. I went to Disneyland a couple of times as a kid in the 1980s and while it’s almost certain that I saw this parade, I have no memory of it. My only memory of ever seeing the parade is trying to catch a glimpse of it from Tomorrowland on Grad Night, just a few months before it would leave. The students were being corralled in Tomorrowland to eat dinner while the regular guests watched the parade. After they all left, the students were turned loose.

For that reason watching the parade last night was like watching something I had missed out on in the past for the first time. It was incredible. I had certainly seen the parade before. I had seen the floats on TV, I’ve heard the music, but being there was something different.

And it wasn’t just different for me. I didn’t just watch the parade as it went by, I watched people around me. Many of them had almost certainly seen this parade before, but it was clear that seeing it again was just as special. 

Maybe it’s because the Main Street Electrical Parade is a piece of comforting nostalgia, that’s certainly part of it, but the other part was that this was a parade inside Disneyland. That is, quite simply, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. Parades are one of the last big things to come back to the parks a day time parade is still missing from Disneyland

The Main Street Electrical Parade is the first parade since the pandemic shutdown that every guest with a ticket to Disneyland will be able to see. That’s not just nostalgia for classic Disney, but nostalgia for simply the way the world was a couple of years ago. 

Disneyland runs on nostalgia for a lot of people, but for me it also runs on empathy. When I see a little kid hugging their favorite character or getting off a ride with a huge smile on their face, I can’t help but feel good for them. The same feeling happened here. You can feel the happiness of people seeing this and it makes you feel just as good.

Joining the Main Street Electrical Parade will be the return of the Disneyland Forever fireworks as well as an improved World of Color at Disney California Adventure. We don’t know how long the Main Street Electrical Parade will be back. It certainly won’t be here forever, and after it goes away, it will likely also come back again one day. But that will be another time, and in this time, this is the parade we need, and the one a lot people need to see.

Dirk Libbey
Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.