Gone, But Not Forgotten: SpectroMagic

This post may contain affiliate links; please read the disclosure for more information.

3188982163_3f0069eeff_b

I was going to write about something else for the first of what will be a recurring column here on WDWNT The Magazine, our Gone but not Forgotten series, but when the official word finally came last week that the beloved SpectroMagic parade would indeed be “retired” permanently (read: destroyed), I knew I would need to write about it first.

The Attraction

Name: SpectroMagic

Park: Magic Kingdom

Type: Nighttime Parade

Opening Date: October 1st, 1991 (First Run), April 2nd, 2001 (Second Run)

Closing Date: May 21, 1999 (First Run), June 5th, 2010 (Second Run)

IMG_4754-L

What was it?

SpectroMagic was introduced as part of the Walt Disney World Resort’s 20th anniversary celebrations in 1991. It replaced the Main Street Electrical Parade, which was being sent to Disneyland Paris. This 20 minute nighttime parade featured scenes from movies such as The Little Mermaid (still a new Disney movie at the time this parade debuted), Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, as well as a vast collection of other characters. It was also known for the “SpectroMen,” clown-like characters who rode what appeared to be giant disco balls.

Why was it great?

My absolute favorite part of this parade was the music. Easily one of the best scores ever to be played in a Disney park. The main theme was written by John Debney. It was notable for being written in waltz time, unusual for parade music.

I don’t think there is a single piece of Disney parks audio that will more quickly transport me there than the fanfare from this parade. Hearing even a few notes of it puts me right there on Main Street. I could (and do) listen to the entire score when out on a run, or in the subway heading to work. It defines Disney audio for me. In fact, every episode of the WDWNT Podcast ends with David Benoit’s jazz piano rendition. If, somehow, you have never heard the SpectroMagic score, go do it right now. The rest of the article will be here when you get back.

The parade made very good use of fiber optics, which gave it a sense of movement and subtle beauty that was a technological advancement in its early years. One of the most memorable moments was at the end, when the floats would alternate between white and color lights in sync with the music. Another very memorable float was the Chernabog float in the Fantasia section. This mechanical float could fold and unfold its wings to alternate between the mountain top and the demonic character as seen in the film.

More than the fireworks or anything else, this parade defines nighttime in the Magic Kingdom for me. Often I will skip the shows and entertainment that I have seen dozens of times, but I would almost always stop and watch Spectro as it passed. It was an experience that was unique to Walt Disney World as none of the other Disney parks had this parade.

Why is it gone?

To be completely honest, I am not sure I really understand what happened here. The parade was put on hiatus for the Summer Nightastic celebration in 2010. Since the same had been done a decade earlier, I, along with most other Disney fans, assumed that it would be back before the end of the year, or at least within a year or so. And that was the promise. Main Street Electrical Parade was supposed to be temporary. But as time went on, it became more and more permanent.

Rumors began to spread (don’t they always) that the parade was never returning, and that most of the floats had, in fact, been destroyed. Disney kept quiet until July 2013 when they finally confirmed that SpectroMagic indeed was “retired” and would not be returning to the park.

By all accounts, the parade was very popular. It is probably just the people I hang out with, but it seemed to be more popular than the Main Street Electrical Parade, although you could argue that point for the rest of the life of the universe, of course. And it isn’t like it was retired for something new. The parade that replaced it is from the 1970s. The most common story I have seen is that the floats were poorly stored and were damaged by the weather. Okay, but they managed to store these floats for almost two years a decade ago. Disney has been in Florida for over 40 years; you think they would have learned how to handle storage in that climate by now.

I always hate these kinds of “yeah, that’s not coming back” closures because they don’t give you that last chance to say goodbye. I had no idea that when I watched the parade in May 2010 that it would be for the last time. It’s not like I can’t watch the parade in any one of a million different videos online (or in my own personal collection for that matter), but it would have been nice to have been given a chance to see it in person knowing it would not be back.

This is a removal that I really am not thrilled with. I think that SpectroMagic was superior to Main Street Electrical Parade (even though I do enjoy that parade very much). Maybe it is a little nostalgia, although Electrical was actually the first parade at the Magic Kingdom I ever saw, years before Spectro even existed. I think I would feel better about this if we had at least gotten something new, something amazing. A parade that uses the 20+ years of technology we have had since SpectroMagic’s premiere. Maybe that is still in the cards. But for now, I guess I will have to make due with listening to my SpectroMagic ringtone as I walk down Main Street at night. So I can think of no better way to end this article than quoting the parade itself:

Though we say goodbye

We cast a spell that won’t be broken

Let this night forever

Live in our dreams!

Please enjoy our video of the final performance of SpectroMagic:

I don’t know about you, but there are times when planning a Disney vacation can be overwhelming! There are so many options, where to stay, when to go, is this the best price. So, I want to introduce you all to Cindy Minor and the team at Small World Big Fun. They will help you plan your Disney vacation for FREE. Contact them today!

About the author

admin

30 Comments

Click here to post a comment
  • You say more popular than the Main Street Electrical Parade, are you CRAZY, We here at Disneyland love OUR Electrical Parade. Every night you could see people lining up hours before the parade even struck it's first cord. Sorry your losing your parade, but we are glad to be seeing the Electrical Parade come home!!!

    • In my experience WDW people will tell you they love Spectromagic. Californian Disneyland defenders will tell you MSEP is the original and therefore the best, because the original is the best (even though WDW exists because of what Disneyland became)

      The main street electrical parade is fun and bouncy. The Spectromagic parade was beautiful, magical and by far more sophisticated, the music and theme was by far more heart warming and endearing, and the variety of floats was far greater, and altogether has been one of my most magical memories since I was 5. I am now 27 and I am greatly saddened that WDW is left with a night time parade that is so dissapointing in comparison.

      If you haven't already you should also check out Disney World. After going to Disneyland last year for the first time, I love seeing how protective Californians get over the two parks there, the main excuse that its the original and has the history. After witnessing both, for several reasons I can confirm that Disneyland has a good handful of reasons for visiting, WDW has hundreds.

  • There were eye witness reports of the floats in trailer style dumpsters on June 25th. the news was released about a week later. Many people have said that the floats were not taken care of and were rotting.

  • Like you, the first night time parade I saw was the Main Street Electrical Parade, yet it is SpectroMagic that defines "nighttime spectacular" for me. The majesty of the score is what put this offering head and shoulders above both the MSEP (the original and newer-more antiseptic version) and Fantillusion (which attempts to be as grand as Spectro-yet fails). My first viewing of Spectro in 1992, blew me away. The cascading light effects of the finale units, the fog effects from under Mickey's float, and Chernabog…..created something truly special. The added bonus of Jiminy Cricket as "host" of the parade was icing on the cake. There is now a pit in my stomach every time I think of SpectroMagic, as I know I will never see it again. Both of my daughters (born in '90 and '92) are truly disappointed that they will never get a "final" look at Spectro to say goodbye. The demise of SpectroMagic is truly like an unexpected death in the family. A big piece of the "Magic" in Magic Kingdom is gone forever, and I don't expect any new entertainment offering will be able to fill that void. R.I.P. SpectroMagic. You will always be in my heart…..forever.

  • Everything you have written is SO true. What a delight to see and hear SpectoMagic. It was special to me as it was my first nighttime parade when we visited in 1997. But beyond the sentimentality of that it was just a darn great parade. RIP SpectroMagic!

  • Perhaps to some it is sacrilegious but I truly dislike MSEP. I find the music irritating and repetitive and the floats boring and largely irrelevant (although it can be fun to hear parents not in the know try to explain to their kids who the big green dragon with a kid on it is….).

    I will always miss Spectro, and its music is copied to the hard drive in my car so its never far way. The only good thing about MSEP staying is now I can hop in some shorter lines while its on because I have no need to see it…

  • I loved the Spectromagic parade, although like many he first I saw was the Main Sreet Electrical Parade. There was something so majestic and awe inspiring about the score that MSEP does not have. I am a big music person and the score is what transported me. This is truely a loss.

  • Great article Mike, I will always remember my 1st trip to WDW for Christmas in 1993, I was 13, I remember falling in love with Spectromagic right from the get go & more importantly like you mentioned the score, if I remember anything from my 1st trip it was this parade and it was always was a must on trips when it was performing, its really sad and such a shame that Disney has let this happen to such a wonderful & fantastic parade and even now at 33 the music is still so powerful to me. Was so looking forward to seeing it once again in person.

  • I was backstage a last year because my marching band was going through the parade route during our trip down in WDW. I was a bit dissapointed to not see any signs of Spectro anywhere, however, I did, however, see the train from MSEP out in the open not under any form of shelter. It is truly a shame to see Specto go, since it was the parade that I grew up knowing. It fits the Magic Kingdom much better than MSEP does; the only thing I like from it is the Baroque Hoedown, and after a few renditions to what it is now, it does not do the music justice of what it used to be. The parade also has irrelevant floats, like the 'honor america' float. I really hope that Disney introduces a new and exciting nighttime parade.

  • I am REALY sad to see it go. It was my boys favorite and mine as well. I hope they bring something just was wonderful to take its place soon!

  • I think you nailed it, the music was what made this parade a favorite. Visually, it was OK, but the music seemed to capture the feeling of being in Magic Kingdom. Its a hard to describe feeling, but a strong one. If they keep the score, and update it with a newer, more modern parade, I think they'd have a huge hit on their hands.

  • I got to see both electrical parades when I was younger I really enjoy the main street electrical parade and I really enjoyed watching Spectromagic the music in this parade was really good I will miss this parade and I will never forget the magic and the music and the lights on this parade and the chip and dale piano seen that was my favorite part of this parade I will always remember this parade every time I went to the Disney world resort in the magic kingdom I watched this parade. I went back to the Disney world resort with my family almost a month ago and I watched the main street electrical parade it was a good parade but it was not what I remember seen as a kid and I was hopping that spectromagic was going to come back to the magic kingdom again sometime soon. I have the parade CD and the 2001 Disney's electrical parade CD I am glad that I got the spectromagic parade CD in 2006 when I went to the Disney world resort that year I also did not know that 2008 would be the last time that I got to see this parade with my family. I relly enjoyed this parade I think that it give the magic kingdom extra magic in the nighttime. I hope that Disney makes a new nighttime parade or keeps the main street electrical parade and brings back the old soundtrack that I remember as a kid in the 80s and the 90s I am almost 30 years old and I have been to the Disney world resort over 20 times with my family. I am sad that this parade will not be coming back again to see because my sister has a baby and I was hopping to take her to the Disney world resort when see gets older and have her see this nighttime classic electrical parade.

  • I am NOT OK with this. I've been to WDW three times since 2010 and we kept saying, "I can't wait until the other parade returns. This is a mistake and I would start a petition if I thought WDW cared about my opinion or anyone else's opinion. Not a good day. I bet the person who made this decision also made the decision to produce John Carter and The Lone Ranger.

  • Having performed in both Spectro & ELP and working at Tokyo Disney while Fantillusion was happening, Id place Spectro at the top, then Fantillusion and then finally ELP. Spectro's music was & still is magical. It still gives me chills when I hear it :) Fantillusion had the scope & size and ELP was the original, but both pale in comparison to Spectro, in my opinion. As with opinions, everyone has one. Im just happy that all 3 parades made/make people happy and people feel attached to the parades and their Disney memories :)

    • Disneyland Paris did the same with Fantillusion (Considered as the other Spectromagic era parade) they put it on hiatus in 2012, it never came back and they finally gave a very ‘Disney-like’ excuse if you know what I mean. Maybe the light parades from that era just weren’t meant to have a great big celebration or an “It is no more” announcement.

  • I am heartbroken that Spectro is gone. Is is one of the most Magical moments for me while in the World. My heart always started to beat faster just hearing the music! Disney PLEASE bring back Spectro!!!

  • NOTHING like that opening fanfare! I first took my four children to Disney in August 2004 and we never missed an opportunity to see Spectro. MSEP just isn't the same : ( I had hoped for the past few years that they would bring back the 'Magic'. To have it confirmed that I'll never see it again makes me incredibly sad.

  • This is a huge mistake. Spectro Magic was our family's favorite. It was the Disney magic. We always saw Spectro Magic as many times as we could. Disney should have put it to a vote. I will bet that the Main Street Electrical Parade would have lost. Disney has made other mistakes like changing the original Imagination with Figment, and getting rid of Horizons. This is depressing.

  • I agree with both sides. In Fl, Spectro was more popular because it was Fl's parade, as MSEP is more popular in CA because it was CA's parade. We are in FL never felt MSEP was ours and only fel to be a borrow from Ca where it's heart was and belonged. But in Fl, Spectro was more popular.

  • You were obviously never in the parade, that music will haunt my dreams forever. It was a beautiful parade to watch, although, Electric Light Parade is more nostalgic to me. I agree they need something with newer technology. I'm sure with newer tech they could make something beautiful and easier on the performers.

  • I disagree. Even after working at WDW for seven years I like Disneyland better. WDW has more parks and I love them but Disneyland is sooooo much better than WDWs Magic Kingdom. The only exception is the castle.

  • Very Very Sadden To Learn Of The Death Of The Beloved Spectromagic. Yes It Was truly a Technology Advancement of that of the electrical parade. I think They should of incorporated some of the float elements into the electrical parade which would of made the electrical parade alot longer. They could of also sent the entire parade over to Disneyland since they are now with out any nighttime parade. Or better yet take alot of the parade floats and donate them to the Smithsonian museum for people to look at close up.

  • It Ought To Be Put up to the public vote considering the public is the meat of their business instead of just demolishing it without any public input! I Totally relate to you also regarding the electrical parade. They Should of left the parade alone. I do like the updates with the new led lighting effects but the whole sound track they runined.

  • this ticks me off SO MUCH!!! I love spectro so much more then electrical! and I guess that is because i grew up with spectro not electrical! this makes me so mad that Disney just noncelontly and “accidentally” placed the floats in a bad storage unit i think that is a bunch of bull they probably did it on purpose and the “Accidental” bad storage crap is just an excuse. instead of just giving it a crappy send off why not perverse the floats and let it run one last time then Destroy them or recycled them for new floats! or re imagine the spectomagic parade give it an upgrade or something!!! I understand that is cost allot but electrical cost just as much because they both require tons of light fixtures! but still this is not acceptable behavior from Disney i’m I’m getting more and more angry with the decision making with the Disney parks I mean Avatar world in animal kingdom? REALLY? and now this!!! as my mother always says when bad Disney choices are made “Walt Disney is rolling in his grave”

  • SpectroMagic was simply amazing to watch…was so sad when it didn’t return. The music instantly takes you back onto Main Street USA!

  • I was a performer in this parade from 1993-1998, mainly one of the Trumpeteers on the first float out of the gate, although I did play several characters through the years and was a float driver during my last two years there. This parade was so amazing to do. It was the best part of my job there being a parade and castle show performer. I have so many wonderful stories about this parade that it makes me sad that that moment in time is gone. I remember one time during the parade one of the wires in my Trumpeteer costume broke and was burning me on my back but couldn’t access it and finally one of the parade coordinators saw me and jumped on the float to remove the batteries out of my costume! What a mess that was. Oh if I could relive that time in my life I would do it in a second. I still remember the routines. If anyone would like to interview me about this parade and other fun stuff being a character at Disney just let me know. I love to talk about it all because it was so special.

Fantasy Strollers
Lost Bros
TeePublic

Latest Videos