Looking back at Disney parades themed to movies – DePaoli on DeParks
I am among the Disney fans who love a good parade. The cavalcades have been a nice touch during this strange time, but I can’t wait for full-blown parades to return.
At Walt Disney World, that would mean the return of “Festival of Fantasy,” and at Disneyland, it would be the return of “Magic Happens,” which ran for barely two weeks before the park was shut down due to the pandemic. I truly love both of these, but for quite some time now, Disney has been producing parades featuring an amalgamation of many Disney properties. It makes sense as to why they would do this; by featuring lots of different characters, there’s something for everyone. But if you’re young enough, you may not even be aware that there was once a time when Disney parades would be themed around a single property — and it was glorious.
This trend hit its stride in the ’90s, when Walt Disney Animation Studios was producing some of the greatest masterpieces since Walt’s time. Perhaps the major successes of “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast” gave the company an air of confidence, allowing them to produce “Aladdin’s Royal Caravan.” This parade opened just weeks after the animated feature was released in 1992 and would expand to multiple parks, with the original opening at Disney-MGM Studios. Luckily for Disney, they had a hit on their hands.
If you think about it, it really is a big leap of faith to invest a lot of money into a full-length parade based around one property, considering the design, construction and rehearsals need to take place long before they know whether or not the movie will be popular. But the ’90s were a time of major growth in the parks and the company had a leader who was willing to take big chances. It paid off, as I believe we got some of the most memorable parades (and so much more) rolling through the streets of the Disney Parks.
One of the cool things about “Aladdin’s Royal Caravan” is that there was an entire parade sequence in the movie. Using the tune “Prince Ali” and recreating the parade from the film felt like perfect synergy. Of course, that was the purpose of these parades: to promote Disney’s latest animated features so that folks would run to the theaters to see them and eventually pick up a VHS copy.
The success of “Aladdin’s Royal Caravan” led to the creation of “The Lion King Celebration,” which debuted in Disneyland several weeks before the movie hit theaters. Although the floats and performers danced their way through the streets, there were several show stops that allowed for a more story-driven experience. To this day, “The Lion King Celebration” is still one of my favorite parades that I’ve witnessed. A lot of the animals were created with technology they called “puppet-tronics,” a mix of puppetry and animatronics. If you never had the chance to see it in person, you can still witness some of the floats from the parade in “Festival of The Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
This trend did continue with parades like the “Hercules Victory Parade” and the “Mulan Parade,” but the hits weren’t being cranked out like they once were from Walt Disney Animation Studios. The Walt Disney Company seems to have lost their nerve with the production of parades, opting for a sprinkling of many properties throughout instead of banking on the success of just one movie. It makes sense, but I would love to see the return of the all-in parade. I think if this trend were to return, it would most likely be done with a sequel. For instance, with a mega-hit like “Frozen,” they might not have taken the gamble on the first movie, but with “Frozen 2,” they probably could have produced a full-blown Frozen parade to the delight of many.
Overall, Disney does a great job producing their parades, but I would love to see some more chances being taken versus the “a bit of everything” mentality. What do you think? Do you enjoy having many different properties being represented in a single parade or would you like to see more focused parades? Do you have a favorite single-property parade of yesteryear? Is there a more current Disney movie that you would love to see get its own parade? Leave a comment and let me know.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles, California. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” a Disney fan podcast. He is offering the free gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.
Thanks for this article. We saw the Mulan parade & I’d completely forgotten about it till I read this! I think the single theme parade is good but only if you’ve seen the film. If you haven’t then it’s not so interesting. Mind you, on my first trip to the Magic Kingdom in 1995 I must admit to being a bit disappointed in the Mickey Mania parade which was all a bit samey. I was expected floats for different films like I’d seen on my first Disney holiday in Paris 3 years earlier which had blown me away.
The Aladdin parade was one of Disney’s best, I agree. But the Hercules, Hunchback and Mulan parades were short lived, because 2 of the 3 of them weren’t blockbuster hits. However, the Toy Story parade was great and I agree, they should have kept the Toy Story parade going, all while introducing the new characters from the trilogy. Today, their Pixar Pals parade should absolutely return, as it included a variety of characters, but was also specific to one part of Disney. That’s what made the parade unique and enjoyable.
I agree, a Frozen parade would be popular, but outside of Frozen, I don’t see too many new Disney movies having the wow factor to warrant a stand alone parade.