Main Street Electrical Parade will be returning for its 938th farewell run, Disney has teased on TikTok. The night parade is likely to make its Disneyland homecoming in early 2022, running for the parade’s 50th Anniversary! (The first number was a joke, the second isn’t–MSEP is really turning 50 next year.)
This comes after Main Street Electrical Parade made its last farewell a little over two years ago, and its previous farewell run a couple years before that. (We’ll see you again in 2024 for our regularly scheduled “return of MSEP” post.) Main Street Electrical Parade has come back from retirement more times than Steven Soderbergh.
Main Street Electrical Parade’s ‘triumphant returns’ are always popular events for the parade that has become almost as much of a Southern California institution as the park it calls home. In this post, we’ll offer some speculation as to why Main Street Electrical Parade is returning, what this could mean for crowds, why this parade is returning instead of Paint the Night, and whether that other night parade might be headed for Walt Disney World…
What I won’t do is editorialize extensively as to my feelings about Main Street Electrical Parade (which I’ve shared at length several times, most recently here). Suffice to say, it’s not my favorite night parade and I think it should’ve been permanently retired decades ago.
With that said, there is a certain appeal to seeing its quaint floats roll down the similarly charming Disneyland parade route. Main Street Electrical Parade really does “feel right” rolling down that eponymous avenue; it’s much better there than in Magic Kingdom. (It should be noted that Disney hasn’t announced whether Main Street Electrical Parade is returning to Disneyland or DCA. Although it wouldn’t make diehard fans as happy, a strong argument could be made for moving it to Disney California Adventure given World of Color’s downtime.)
Beyond that, I’m so starved for a nighttime parade that I’ll happily take anything at this point, making me quite excited for this Main Street Electrical Parade news!
Let’s start with the impact on crowds at Disneyland.
Right now, Disneyland is having all sorts of issues with attendance and Magic Key reservation availability. There’s literally nothing available on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays–the days most locals have off work–through early January 2022. Weekday availability also isn’t great, with almost nothing left in October before options open up in early November. Then there’s nothing for Thanksgiving week, followed by mostly just Disney California Adventure as the starting park throughout December.
One solution we’ve posited to this problem is improving operational capacity by bringing back shows, parades, and other entertainment. Opening more dining locations and extending hours would likewise help the parks to better absorb crowds and thus accommodate more reservations.
However, the “danger” with bringing back more entertainment–at least in the short term–is that it induces more demand than it increases capacity and helps absorb crowds, thus leading to even more congestion and reservation woes.
In this regard, we could see history repeat itself. In the January after the Diamond Celebration ended, Disney was worried about a lull in attendance, so the company brought back Main Street Electrical Parade. Then came the nostalgia-drenched parade ad plus billboards plastered all over–it was quite the marketing blitz in the Los Angeles and Orange County markets.
To no one’s surprise, Main Street Electrical Parade debuted to monster crowds, and those remained steady pretty much until the summer months when the Annual Passholder blockout began. Disneyland locals love anything new, returning, limited time, and nostalgic–this made for a perfect storm. This was exacerbated by cheaper tickets for Southern California residents, coupled with a surplus of attraction refurbishments that reduced park capacity.
That was more the totality of the circumstances than it was Main Street Electrical Parade’s homecoming alone, and Disneyland definitely learned some lessons in the process. When MSEP returned again following the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, it wasn’t as big of an event.
Our expectation is that this will probably fall somewhere in between. Disneyland fans are starved for entertainment and it has been a tough couple of years; the comforting nostalgia of Main Street Electrical Parade will probably resonate with a lot of people. As such, we’d expect a spike in crowds that keeps the ‘sold out’ Magic Key reservation availability train rolling when pent-up demand might otherwise start fizzling out as locals have started to get enough of their Disneyland “fix.”
As for why Main Street Electrical Parade is returning instead of the newer Paint the Night, there are a few potential reasons. A big one is that there’s still a tremendous amount of nostalgia for Main Street Electrical Parade among Southern California residents.
That’s almost certainly the target audience with this announcement. While the parade’s return doesn’t yet have a date, our guess is that it’ll be back in the off-season when it’s disproportionately locals visiting the park. On top of that, Disneyland has done a fair amount to alienate its loyal SoCal fanbase–just look at the Magic Key reservation calendar–and this is one way to recover some fan goodwill from those unforced errors.
Additionally, Paint the Night is a costly and challenging parade to run. It’s not discussed much, but one of the reasons the newer Paint the Night has been eschewed in favor of the older MSEP is because of float and costume maintenance. Plus, the physical toll Paint the Night takes on performers.
Main Street Electrical Parade has some of these same issues, but not nearly to the same degree. Despite it being decades older, Main Street Electrical Parade is easier to operate, maintain, and staff.
Speaking of which, there have been persistent rumors that Paint the Night will be brought to Florida from California. This parade debuted during the Diamond Celebration, but hasn’t seen much use since. Obviously, these rumors have never come to fruition.
It’s our understanding that 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.
At this point, there’s no reason to expect a sudden and sharp drop in Walt Disney World crowds. So, there’s no reason to hold out hope that Paint the Night coming to Magic Kingdom will be the next announcement.
There is nothing that I would love to be wrong about more than this. It’s my strong belief that Walt Disney World fans “deserve” a night parade. Similar to Disneyland bringing back MSEP, it would provide a desperately needed goodwill win for Florida. The difference is that I just don’t think WDW management cares. (But I really hope you this is a “take that ages poorly” and you all get to dunk on just how wrong I was!)
Ultimately, bringing back Main Street Electrical Parade is a great move by Disneyland management that, at the very least, will provide a needed goodwill win. It should help appease the growing chorus of disenchanted locals who feel burned by the lack of Magic Key reservations, parking lot trams, Fantasmic, Magic Happens, World of Color, or [insert long list of other grievances].
It remains to be seen what other impacts the return of Main Street Electrical Parade will have at Disneyland. Will it help or hurt with attendance/capacity? Will it induce more crowds or help absorb them? Will it be the first of many entertainment announcements in the coming weeks/months, or is this it for a while? Maybe we should wait for resolutions to some of those other key questions before expressing excitement. Nah, I’m really happy for the return of Main Street Electrical Parade and will gladly savor this not-so-small victory even knowing it could have unintended consequences. Night parades are fun and entrancing, and I’m willing to overlook a lot given my enjoyment of the spectacular festival pageant of nighttime magic and imagination in thousands of sparkling lights and electro-syntho-magnetic musical sounds!
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Are you excited for the return of Main Street Electrical Parade or is yet another farewell run too much? Are you a MSEP fan, or do you wish Paint the Night were returning instead? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment on crowds? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!