Disneyland Recharges its Electrical Parade with Paint the Night

May 22, 2015, 1:12 AM · I was a wide-eyed 7-year-old when the Main Street Electrical Parade ended its run at Disneyland. I was enthralled by that parade: the music, the colors, the lights. Especially the lights. I love things that light up. It was also the first time I felt emotional attachment and loss when a Disneyland classic "glowed away." I was just a kid, but I wrote a strongly worded hand-written letter to Michael Eisner (I still have a copy) pleading him to not take it away, arguing that "Disneyland doesn't need new technology."

At last, almost 20 years later, a new nighttime parade has hit the streets of Disneyland, and as it turns out, it's pretty spectacular what new technology can do.

Paint the Night
Photos by Robert Niles

Paint the Night, one of three new nighttime spectaculars for Disneyland's 60th Anniversary, is jam-packed with visual splendor and is consistently entertaining from start to finish. It's BRIGHT - almost blinding at times, thanks to the more than 1.5 million LED lights, neon, strobes and other special effects.

Monsters Inc.


More Mack

I especially enjoyed Sorcerer Mickey's kinetic sculpture at the very end - I could stare at that thing for hours. Entertainers wear elaborate costumes that are themed to each float and light up in sync with the music and choreography. One of my favorites was the jellyfish following the Little Mermaid float, with long glowing tendrils that spin and twirl.

Little Mermaid

Ariel and friends

Fans like me who are nostalgic for the Main Street Electrical Parade will appreciate nods to the original, like the big drum at the beginning of the parade, and the infectious "Baroque Hoedown" song, mixed in with Owl City's tune "When Can I See You Again?" which you might remember from the end credits of Wreck-It Ralph.

Slinky Dog and Woody

If I have any criticism, it's that the characters and films represented in the parade are the obvious choices, but not necessarily the *best* choices. "Paint the Night" first debuted at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2014, and Disneyland got the same parade with the addition of a Frozen float. That probably worked out great for Hong Kong, but in Anaheim it's strange to see Mack the truck from Pixar's Cars rolling down Main Street USA when Cars Land is in the theme park next door. The Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. floats also feel somewhat redundant at this resort, considering that California Adventure has a daytime parade entirely dedicated to Pixar. Wouldn't it be more interesting to see the video game world of Wreck-It Ralph, or the San Fransokyo skyline of Big Hero 6, brought to life with snazzy electric lights, instead of the same characters from the same films used over and over again?




Nevertheless, I was mesmerized by "Paint the Night" and I enjoyed seeing an old friend made new again. It pays tribute to its predecessor while updating the tech considerably, with newer characters and films, and stunning lighting effects galore, all set to a toe-tapping pop beat that feels fresh but not out of place at Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom.

Mickey Mouse

I'm thankful that the show stop was eliminated from Hong Kong's version - nothing kills the momentum of this parade and it's all high-energy goodness from start to finish. My childhood memories have returned, even brighter and shiner than I remember.

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Replies (7)

May 22, 2015 at 4:51 AM · You know what would've also been cool? If they had somehow worked in the floating lanterns from Tangled. Or the cybernetic world of Tron!
May 22, 2015 at 9:52 AM · This is one of those parades that you want to like but it falls short. I would seriously dub it "Video on Parade", since quite a few floats use the video technology. The Ariel float, Frozen float, Princess float, and Mickey floats are very nicely done with nods to past Disneyland and WDW parades. After watching it, it feels like the Mickey float with Donald and Goofy on the lighted balls should lead the parade, with Tinkerbell following. THAT would make a far better opening.

Otherwise, it feels like a rave on the street. The music needs to change as well. The Owl City song worked GREAT in Wreck-it Ralph. Notsomuch as the underliner of a nighttime parade.

May 22, 2015 at 10:31 AM · If they would've made a TRON float, I would've fainted
May 22, 2015 at 11:38 AM · Oh my goodness, I loved this show! Possibly Disney's best parade ever.

Yeah, I'd love to see some of the less popular franchises get their turns in a parade, but the nature of these things is that a franchise gets a unit only if Disney's certain that pretty much everyone in the crowd has seen that movie and knows the characters. The units in Paint the Night pass that test. Tron, Big Hero 6, Tangled, etc., alas, do not.

May 22, 2015 at 2:23 PM · It only took them 20 years to find a new parade that hopefully works and stays around. I was disappointed that Light Magic didn't last. I saw it many times in the summer that it appeared. I felt the parade gotten better in the months following the disastrous debut. The light show was very good and the dancing was terrific, but the poor reputation sealed its fate.
May 24, 2015 at 7:35 AM · What about the wall projections on the Main Street buildings, as rumored? Did that take place?
May 24, 2015 at 11:04 AM · I have to agree with one of the people on here. This parade falls short. It's very hyped up, but then you watch it and it's kind of like, "Meh." The floats are pretty, but any float will look pretty with lights on it. The music is awful and cheesy. It lacks the magic feeling that the Main Street Electrical Parade had. Unfortunately, it's very difficult for anyone to remake anything that was previously a success. The Paint the Night parade needs some work. The music needs to be changed. Maybe something with a moving melody. Add more classic Disney films. And hire a choreographer for the dancers.

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