Main Street Electrical Parade Versus SpectroMagic: Which Do You Prefer?

The sentence was vague and fleeting, like the glow from a light that shines for a moment, and then vanishes. That it lacked an attribution as to source made it even more indefinite. It was exactly what it purported to be, a rumor, yet even the mere possibility sent my heart racing.

It was buried in the December 21, 2011 “WDW News and Rumors” rundown from a popular Disney community website and it read:

“There’s a possibility that SpectroMagic could return in October 2012.”

Craving something more definitive, I searched for corroboration. If I dug deep enough, I was sure to find a reference from someone within Disney’s corporate structure revealing secret yet concrete plans for the return of SpectroMagic to Walt Disney World.

Instead, I found more rumors and conjecture and a lively debate within the Disney community regarding whether SpectroMagic or the Main Street Electrical Parade is better.

When it premiered at Disneyland in 1972, the Main Street Electrical Parade was a visual, musical and technological marvel. It was the first nighttime parade at a Disney park and the first parade of any type to synchronize music to the movement of, and lighting effects on, each individual float.

In 1977, Walt Disney World received its own version of the parade which ran until 1991 when it was replaced by SpectroMagic. Hailed as an updated and more robust version of the Main Street Electrical Parade, SpectroMagic boasted a complex musical score and elaborate lighting and sound effects.

Main Street Electrical Parade returned to Walt Disney World in 1999 for the Millennium Celebration and in 2001 was again replaced by SpectroMagic. A third run of Main Street Electrical Parade in the Magic Kingdom began in 2010 for Disney’s Summer Nightastic Celebration. Originally intended to be a limited engagement, in July of 2010 Disney announced that Main Street Electrical Parade would remain in Florida indefinitely.

The Main Street Electrical Parade vs. SpectroMagic debate is, at its core, a debate about emotion. We tend to think of ourselves as spectators, but the truth is that parades, especially nighttime parades, have the power to move us. We argue about tangible parade elements like music, rhythm, pace and color, but they are merely ways of communicating how each parade makes us feel. And that, after all, is how everything related to Disney should be evaluated. If you are driven to tap your feet to the bouncy carnival-like music of Main Street Electrical Parade, you’ll defend it to the death. For me, however, the grandeur of SpectroMagic has never failed to sends chills down my spine.

Musically, the parades could not be more different. The quick-tempo music in Main Street Electrical Parade is created by a calliope playing a continuously repeating, minute-long segment. It is fast-paced and upbeat. Even the name of the music, Baroque Hoedown implies a certain casual breeziness. It is fun, whimsical and celebratory, to be sure, but it does little to stir emotion.

SpectroMagic, on the other hand, is majestic and structured, almost regal in style. The music, On This Magic Night, unlike other Disney parade music, contains a brief lyric which gives the parade context. We are told that this, of all nights, is a “magic night” and that the “stars” will cast a “spell of light” around us. It will be a “spell that won’t be broken” and this night will “forever live in our dreams.” It is a waltz performed by dancing lights through the darkness of Main Street.

There are those who reason that Main Street Electrical Parade is better (or, at least, should always reside at the Magic Kingdom) simply because it is Disney’s original nighttime parade.  Too often, history and tradition are tossed aside in favor of the new, just because it is new. But favoring something simply because it is traditional or original is equally wrong. Walt Disney envisioned Walt Disney World as a place in constant flux, a place that would never be completed. Favoring Main Street Electrical Parade because it was the original nighttime parade is decidedly un-Disney.

I hope the rumor is true and SpectroMagic is returning to Walt Disney World. It should become the standard nighttime parade at the Magic Kingdom. That being said, Main Street Electrical Parade should never go away entirely. It has earned the right to be part of the Magic Kingdom in the future. Cost and logistical considerations aside, Main Street Electrical Parade should be brought back periodically so that each new generation can experience both nighttime spectacles.

John is an attorney, writer and life-long Disney fan who married a Disney fan and raised two daughters who have become even bigger Disney fans. Despite incessant teasing from his colleagues, John’s passion for Disney remains unwavering. A shareholder at Colucci & Gallaher, P.C. in Buffalo, New York, John is a frequent contributor to The Disney Driven Life and Good Enough Mother.

7 responses to “Main Street Electrical Parade Versus SpectroMagic: Which Do You Prefer?

  • Thanks for reading and commenting, Kathy. More importantly, thanks for agreeing with me!

  • Thanks for the great article John, and for the news about SpectroMagic’s possible return!

    I’m planning a trip (hopefully) to Disney World in October or November of 2012! To learn that SpectroMagic may be back at that time is exciting! Even more to look forward to!


  • Spectromagic has a very special place in my family’s heart and is our all time favorite Disney parade. We really hope they bring it back soon. On occasion I go to at 9:45 pm EST and tune in to to Mouseworld radio to hear the Spectromagic sound track played in it’s entirety.

  • Barb, Jimmy and Tom: Thanks for reading and commenting. I cant’t tell you how much my family is pulling for Spectro’s return. I frequently listen to the soundtrack from Spectro and it always makes me smile.

  • I can’t watch MSEP anymore knowing what happened to SMP or listen to the sound track without balling into tears! I have had numerous dream while vacation at WDW where we go to MK and for one night only (cownecidentally the nightime we go) they bring back SMP and I cry my eyes out happy to see it in person one last time. Even thought,I know the floats are gone. I used to like MSEP and the music but now I just can’t watch it! You see I only saw MSEP 3-4 times growing up when we went to WDW so it wasn’t close to me really because it went on tour and SMP came In and was there till 2010 when MSEP was back at first I was like okay this is really cool! But when I soon learned in late 2014 that SMP would not be returning due to neglect of the floats and due to that had to be destroyed I was so upset. I have a button that I wear when I go to MK and the cast members alway tell me how they adored it and how they enjoyed being in it and said I seemed like I was too young to know what it was! And I tell them how I grew up watching it and how it was my #1 parade how my little kid crush on peter pan came to be (he came up to me during that parade and told me to tap his light and when I did it changed his costume and the rest of floats and how it made my trip. now i know it was part of it of the parade for that to happen but that time I thought I was magical XD) but yeah that Parade means so much too me and for Disney to just shove it under the rug like crappie makes me very angry, Sur they made those pins but I want something more! You know?

Leave a Reply