When Will Disney World Get a Night Parade?

It has been several years since a night parade performed at Walt Disney World. In this post, we’ll address the rumors of a new night parade at Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios, our thoughts on the loss of SpectroMagic (etc.), and more. (Updated November 18, 2021.)

I’ll be the first to admit, more than any change at Walt Disney World in recent memory, I miss the night parade. In particular, I miss SpectroMagic, which is the parade at Magic Kingdom that I remember when I was growing up, and which was the parade that was running the first several years Sarah and I visited Walt Disney World together.

We watched SpectroMagic every single night we were at Magic Kingdom, and there was just something special about the anticipation that built when Jiminy Cricket’s voice started coming over the loudspeakers. Along with the fireworks, the night parade sets the nighttime mood in Magic Kingdom. While Main Street Electrical Parade did not have the same emotional resonance for us, we were also sad to see that go. In a way, when that parade left, we should have seen this coming.

If Main Street Electrical Parade is the only nighttime parade you’ve known and you weren’t particularly impressed by that, keep in mind that it was over 40 years old when it stopped running. While some people loved its quaintness and charm, we prefer the newer Paint the Night and Dreamlights.

The latter is our favorite nighttime parade anywhere, and we always make a point of watching Dreamlights. For years, I’ve held out hope that Walt Disney World would create SpectroMagic 2.0, weaving together that score with floats having the wow-factor of Dreamlights.

This brings us to the rumors about a night parade coming to Walt Disney World. When this was originally published a few years ago, it said “there are zero reliable rumors to our knowledge” regarding a new nighttime parade coming for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.

In a way, that’s still accurate. There’s no new night parade on the horizon–we can stop wishing for a spiritual successor to SpectroMagic.

As recently as late last month when news broke that Main Street Electrical Parade was returning to Disneyland, we wrote: “Walt Disney World has been given the option of borrowing Paint the Night multiple times, and passed on it due to those aforementioned maintenance and operating expenses. After so many years of not having a night parade in Magic Kingdom, we think the only way Walt Disney World would rethink that decision is if attendance falls off a cliff in early 2022…So, there’s no reason to hold out hope that Paint the Night coming to Magic Kingdom will be the next announcement.”

“…I really hope this is a ‘take that ages poorly’ and you all get to dunk on just how wrong I was!”

Only a few weeks later, that is no longer accurate–you’re all probably about to get to do some dunking.

We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but the rumors swirling right now are very credible. There’s still a decent amount of uncertainty, but that pertains more to the specifics rather than whether it’ll happen. Basically, questions of “where?” and “how?” rather than “if?” at this point. There are compelling reasons for a night parade to come to two different Walt Disney World parks–and for it not to come to each of those, as well.

Before you get too excited, please be advised that this is purely rumor at this point. Until a new nighttime parade is announced by Disney, nothing is certain. I learned long ago not to count my chickens before they hatched, as many rumors never come to fruition.

Even ones that are so close to announcement and coming to fruition. I’m not getting excited just yet, even with the odds being in our favor. We have been burned by night parade rumors in the past, but this time just feels different.

For those who have never experienced Paint the Night at Disneyland Resort or Hong Kong Disneyland, think of it as Main Street Electrical Parade for the new generation. The core concept of the light parade is the same, but the execution has been technically modernized, as has the soundtrack and the Disney characters represented.

In its full form, Paint the Night parade has eight units: Tinker Bell Opening Unit, Monsters Inc. Unit, Cars Unit, The Little Mermaid Unit, Belle Candlelight Unit, Toy Story Unit, Incredibles Unit, Mickey & Friends Finale Unit. It features Owl City’s “When Can I See You Again?” as its theme song.

Previously, the Disneyland Resort version of the parade featured a “Frozen Fractals” float and performers. This float no longer exists, and was replaced by the Incredibles float for Pixar Fest a few of years ago at Disney California Adventure.

If Paint the Night were to come to Florida, it’s unclear which of these floats would make the move. There are a variety of factors at play–from float and costume maintenance to the physical toll some elements of Paint the Night takes on performers to turn radiuses in two of the Walt Disney World’s parks to available space in backstage storage facilities. (Speculation from me and not part of the rumor, but I would not expect to see Mack make the drive from California.) Of course, budget cuts are always a possibility, too.

Parades are labor-intensive, particularly as compared to something like projection shows. There are no doubt nightly costs incurred with running those, but they’re nowhere near what a night parade would cost.

Given that Paint the Night sat backstage at Disneyland for so many years instead of temporarily moving to Magic Kingdom suggests to me park management was already eyeing decreased operational costs.

Even without a night parade, we can say with a high degree of confidence that at least one parade will be returning to Walt Disney World in early 2022.

Currently, Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade is running during Disney Very Merriest After Hours. Once that event concludes, it’s possible the Christmas parade will transition to daily ops for (what’s left of) the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s.

Following that, it’s likely at least some of those same performers who were recalled for Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade will shift over to Festival of Fantasy Parade in early 2022. (Probably February or March–January would be too quick of turnaround time.)

That’s not a rumor–just what we’re surmising from the circumstances and operational logistics. For what it’s worth, the return of a night parade would pose no operational impediment to Festival of Fantasy also coming back. This is not part of the rumor, simply what’s potentially feasible.

Ultimately, Walt Disney World fans could be on the precipice of receiving some very good–and frankly overdue–news. It’s my strong belief that Walt Disney World fans “deserve” a night parade, and I’ve made it clear for a while that it’s a colossal shame that today’s generation of young guests doesn’t get to conclude their day with that awe-inspiring spectacle.

Beyond that, bringing a night parade to Florida would provide a desperately needed goodwill win for Walt Disney World. After all of the price increases, nickel & diming, debut of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, cuts to things like Disney’s Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours, on and on–fans could really use some positive news and a reason to feel less cynical. Hopefully we get that in the very near future. We’ll keep you posted!

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Your Thoughts

Has your Walt Disney World experience been negatively impacted by the lack of a night parade? Would you like to see Paint the Night come to Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Which is your ‘preferred park’ for a night parade? Any other questions or comment? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

40 Responses to “When Will Disney World Get a Night Parade?”
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