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David Koenig
The Bulbs are Back in Town
Coming this summer: The Main Street Electrical Parade to… DCA

After a five year absence, it looks like this summer the Main Street Electrical Parade is finally returning to Southern California—just not to Main Street. To bolster attendance at Disneyland's fledgling sister park, the popular parade instead will run at Disney's California Adventure.

Disney is targeting a July 3 or July 4 return date. They hope to begin casting for the parade in less than two weeks. It will run nightly, for an undetermined period, along the Performance Corridor through DCA's Golden State and Paradise Pier areas.

To cut costs, DCA's current Eureka parade will be cut back to a single afternoon performance, and the Electrical Parade will make a single evening run. That way, as many as 70% of the cast and crew can be used in both parades.

The Main Street Electrical Parade's farewell season in 1996 was the most successful promotion in Disneyland's history. The finale was extended later and later, well into fall, and helped boost attendance that year to a record 15 million guests. Many fans traveled across the country to see the beloved parade one last time; locals returned night after night to stake their territory along the increasingly crowded parade route.

Little did they (or Disney) know, the parade proved too popular to kill. Comparisons to the Electrical Parade doomed its successor, Light Magic. In the meantime, parts of the Electrical Parade suddenly began popping up everywhere except at Disneyland. MSEP floats were shipped to New York to promote the opening of Hercules. Some units were sent to Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and mostly to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, where an abridged version of the parade ran for two seasons, ending three weeks ago.

Most of the floats—the whirly bugs, Pete's dragon, Mr. Smee's boat, the Cinderella canopy—are now back in Anaheim. Even the Snow White mine train unit was returned.

DCA will get most, but not all, of the parade that left Anaheim at the end of 1996. "The Pinocchio unit was sent to Japan and taken apart after the parade left a few years back," says one insider. "Thus, it will not be a part of the production. As of this moment, I am unsure of the status of the flag (the finale)."

Disneyland has closed off its parade warehouse to all cast members, except the technicians who are working feverishly to reassemble the floats. "The big problem, however," says the source, "will be trying to get the (floats) over to DCA from the back of Disneyland!"

The parade's return was announced at meetings in the Team Disney Anaheim building Friday and Saturday. During the Friday meeting, the head of the Entertainment division addressed about 40 Entertainment managers, leads, performers, maintenance and show services cast members.

Saturday morning was a smaller, strategic planning meeting headed by resort president Cynthia Harriss. The meeting centered on ways to deal with possible negative public reaction to the news.

"One statement that was mentioned was the worry that would this parade's return destroy Disney's reputation," said an attendee. "As you know, the Electrical Parade promotion sold out Disneyland for days and the company made a large profit from its final season. I guess Cynthia and Disney are afraid that with its comeback people will view Disney retreating on their word solely to obtain a profitable summer season in DCA."

In fact, Harriss was said to attribute the parade's return to the disappointing attendance at DCA. She allegedly said the highest guest count during the sunny, much-anticipated spring break was 22,000—about 10,000 fewer than DCA's modest capacity. Adding MSEP should help solve DCA's two biggest problems: luring guests into the new park and keeping them there after dark.

Noted were several challenges, at least publicity-wise, in reviving the parade:

(1) The fact that it's not in Disneyland.

(2) The fact that it didn't "glow away forever." Advertising it as a "special limited engagement" might help.

(3) The guests who might feel burned that they bought commemorative light bulbs. Among the peace offerings being considered is allowing collectors to trade in their souvenir bulbs for a free ticket to DCA.

Disneyland's public relations department sounded genuinely surprised at the news. "Certainly nothing's official at this point, or I would have been told something," a rep said. He wondered how they could run the Main Street Electrical Parade in a park without a Main Street, but then admitted that placing the proven crowd-pleaser in the under-performing DCA would be "strategic."

One way or the other, expect Disneyland to market the parade's return as a favor to its loyal fans.

The Bulbs are Back in Town

Photos of the Electrical Parade on this page were taken during the Walt Disney World run by Karl Buiter -see the entire MousePlanet photo layout HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.

LINKS

Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)

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