Fond Memories of the Past and The Main Street Electrical Parade

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By Craig Barton
 
“Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.” – Walt Disney
 
Like so many others my age, much of my love for Disneyland is rooted in childhood nostalgia. Some of my earliest childhood memories are from family trips taken to Walt Disney’s “Happiest Place on Earth.” Memories like riding Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time, or closing my eyes through all of the Haunted Mansion, only opening my eyes at the end to see which hitchhiking ghost was along for a ride in my “Doombuggy.” Memories such as meeting a character for the first time or getting a taste of the most wonderful chocolate milkshake I’ve ever tasted. Recollections of “Yesterland,” attractions no longer there, like the Peoplemover, Adventure Through Inner Space, or the Skyway.
 
One specific memory of the Skyway comes from my teenage years and helped introduce me to another Disneyland classic as well. During my freshman year of high school, my choir had traveled to California to perform at the Disneyland Hotel. Of course, that gave us the opportunity to explore the park for a day. With a limited time to get as much done as possible, we ran (or walked swiftly per Disneyland guidelines) from attraction to attraction, attempting to ride everything we could. Nighttime found us boarding the Skyway from the Fantasyland Chalet toward Tomorrowland. As we passed slowly over Fantasyland, the pathway between Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Matterhorn was lit up.
 
Illuminated by thousands of sparkling lights and electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds, if you will.
 
The Main Street Electrical Parade began its first run in 1972, and had been in the park on-and-off for nearly 20 years before this personal moment. Perhaps I had even seen it before as a small child, but this was the time it truly stood out to me. From above, I could see floats both to the north and south of our Skyway bucket as the parade had at this point stretched toward the “it’s a small world” mall area, and it was a twinkling and sparkling line of beauty. Though it only lasted for a few short seconds as our bucket passed through the Matterhorn to enter Tomorrowland, it was a vision that stayed with me. It was a moment I hoped to experience in the future, perhaps even when I had a child of my own to share it with.
 
Sadly, this was not to be. Disneyland’s Skyway closed in 1994, and just a couple years later (1996), it was announced the the Main Street Electrical Parade would be “Glowing Away Forever.” With Adventure Through Innerspace gone for 10 years (1985) and the Peoplemover removed from commission in 1995, it seemed a huge piece of the Disneyland my generation had grown up on was missing. Only memories were left.
 
Sure, there was a tribute to Innerspace in Star Tours, the attraction that had moved into that area (the giant microscope used in that ride was viewable in a brief scene in the original Star Tours film), and the empty chalet for the Skyway reminded us of what had once been there (the Peoplemover track remains in Tomorrowland to this day), but all that was truly left for us were the memories.
 
Walt Disney once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world,” and this was very true. New attractions were being added that would thrill many more generations to come. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye (opened in 1995) thrilled many a visitor with new effects and thrills at every turn. Splash Mountain (opened in 1989) sent guests careening down a five-story waterfall perfectly tied into the tales of Uncle Remus. It wasn’t that many of us found Disneyland lacking. We just missed what we had grown up with. So many memories were made in those attractions; now they were nostalgic memories.
 
The Main Street Electrical Parade’s replacement was a different story. Light Magic was to be a new nighttime entertainment spectacular on Main Street, complete with fiber optic lights and a new story to captivate the power of dreams. However, it failed to live up to the magic that the Electrical Parade had generated over its many years. In fact, the highlight of Light Magic for many seemed to be towards the finale, when the Electrical Parade’s familiar tune, “Baroque Hoedown” returned briefly with an Irish Step-dance type arrangement. Many pointed out other problems with the show, including a confusing storyline and stationary floats that made it a non-parade with obstructed viewing for many. But ultimately, it wasn’t the Main Street Electrical Parade. Light Magic lasted only one summer at Disneyland, placed on “permanent hiatus.”
 
Disney brought the Electric Parade back in 2001, this time to Disney California Adventure, and renamed it Disney’s Electrical Parade. It enjoyed a long run before its move to Walt Disney World in 2010 and drew crowds, but many felt it missed the magic of not being part of Disneyland and running on Main Street, USA. Once again, the nostalgia factor had come into play.
 
This past year, Disney announced a limited time, (presumably) final run in 2017 in its original home, Disneyland’s Main Street, USA. Many, myself included, have made plans to see this sparkling nighttime parade one more time before its run ends on June 18th, 2017. While I may not be able to ride the Skyway with my wife and daughter, I will be able to revisit some of the nostalgia that I so longed to share with my future family twenty-five plus years ago. For many, the Electrical Parade may seem outdated, especially compared to Paint the Night, the newest nighttime light parade introduced to the park in 2015. For others, it may not have held as special a memory as it has for others. Some may be seeing it for the first time, with no idea as to the history that comes with a forty-five year-old parade. But for many of us, it’s a chance to revisit a fond memory of the past one more time – something that can’t be done with other removed attractions.
 
It leaves me thinking of the challenge and promise of the future. What does the future hold for Disneyland? What might my daughter view as nostalgic when she visits with her family? Disneyland may never be completed indeed, but the nostalgia factor will always be there – I just hope there are opportunities for her to revisit it like I have the chance to do.


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