ANAHEIM – The awe on children’s faces was apparent as they lined Main Street, Disneyland, to watch the first day of the Disneyland Christmas parade, which runs everyday until early January.
That’s when Denny Newell, the park’s senior show director, will start planning for next year.
With 17 custom-crafted floats and 120 performers and musicians, the parade is a massive undertaking. Newell starts taking auditions in September and parade cast members practice from 8 p.m. until midnight leading up to the parade’s kickoff around Thanksgiving.
For the parade, float drivers ensconce themselves in the hidden cabs of the steel-frame-and-fiberglass floats, which include some shaped like giant toy blocks with “Toy Story’s” Woody on top, ornate gazebos with dancers inside, or life-sized music boxes complete with a live ballerina.
The Toy Factory float is one that changes every year.
This year, it has elves marching beside it, pumping raw materials into one end.
A series of conveyor belts, pumps and hydraulics create the illusion of finished toys dumping into Santa’s bag as the float tools down the street. It features toy blocks as well.
“Last year, it didn’t really feel like a factory,” Newell said. “Through Disney Imagineering and some North Pole pixie dust, the new blocks match up with the ‘Toy Story’ float.”
As far as Santa’s own float, the right jolly old elf’s sleigh hovers above ornate fiberglass pine trees as he hollers good wishes to the children below.
It takes six men to wheel the bright-yellow, 12-foot steel staircase over to Santa’s float back stage so he can climb up to his perch in the sleigh.
Dancing and frolicking among the floats are roller-skating snowflakes, elves and actors portraying princesses from Disney movies – all rouged to a cartoonish glow.
Newell spends his days as the general to an army of toy soldiers with trumpets as Prince Caspian clops by on a Clydesdale and Buzz Lightyear does stretches like an athlete ready to sprint.