Recently, my partner inherited a couple of boxes of family pictures. Because of how the world works, it has become my job to go through them and figure out what’s actually there. This includes things like figuring out who people are in the pictures, not helped by the fact that my partner and his brothers look astonishingly alike; if they’re under ten, I refuse to work out which one is which. Also, I don’t know anyone not in the immediate family. However, what I was perfectly able to do was look at a couple of pictures and say, “Oh, that’s Disneyland. Probably America on Parade.”
My family wasn’t much for the daytime parades; we mostly knew them as “a time of day you shouldn’t try to cross the park.” Still, they are a recurring theme at Disneyland. America on Parade actually replaced my beloved Main Street Electrical Parade during its run, as it ran once in the afternoon and once at night. (Most parades, from what I can tell, run twice, in reverse the second time so the floats can get back to their storage barns.) There was have been parades themed to any number of various anniversaries, things they’re generally trying to promote, and Just Kind Of Parades.
Honestly, park parades don’t hugely interest me. I caught Fantasmic! from the start at Grad Nite, when I was in high school, because we happened to come out of the Indiana Jones ride at the right moment. And that’s a show, not a parade. I don’t think I’ve seen a park parade that wasn’t the Main Street Electrical Parade since the ’80s some time, when I was a child. My family’s stance was much more that we’d rather take that time to go on a ride. Though of course we were able to go to Disneyland once a year anyway.
The daytime parades tend towards the garish, in my experience. These are the parades that are intended to appeal to the younger members of the audience. I’ll admit that my four-year-old would probably love the Totally Minnie parade from 1986-1987. She’s a big Minnie Mouse fan, and she is four, and seeing a whole parade celebrating Minnie would probably be exactly her jam. Still, mostly the point of these seems to be “I am familiar with this character,” which makes it genuinely shocking to me that only one of them ever featured Pete.
I suppose the parades also serve to suggest that you need another trip to a Disney park to see something new and different that wasn’t there the last time you went, but they’re cheaper and take up less room than a new ride. After all, you may have seen Mickey’s All-American Birthday Parade, but have you seen the Mickey Mania parade? Light Magic was supposed to be a fiber optic update to the Main Street Electrical Parade, but it wasn’t . . . good? So it didn’t have the success Disney was hoping for.
The reason I think the Main Street Electrical Parade worked was that it does what Disney does in a way no one else quite manages—it combines the new and the nostalgic in a way you’re not going to get anywhere else. Disney doesn’t always succeed at that, but when they succeed, they succeed in a way that no one else ever does. The Main Street Electrical Parade isn’t cashing in on a trend—miniature light bulbs of the kind they used were so new that it wasn’t possible for it to be a trend yet. Disney was creating something new, and they filled it with the familiar. That’s what Disney does.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the parades, if you enjoy the parades. I’m a perpetual fan of the Rose Parade. And if nothing else, any given parade is a time capsule of its era; after all, I was able to pinpoint to within two years when those pictures from Disneyland were taken by looking at the floats. And that’s of a parade that last happened exactly three months before I was born.