Gone, But Not Forgotten: SpectroMagic

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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)

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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:

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winkie
Guest
winkie

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!!!

edam2
Guest
edam2

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… Read more »

Dan
Guest
Dan

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.

steve2wdw
Guest
steve2wdw

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… Read more »

David
Guest
David

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!

Michael Brown
Guest
Michael Brown

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… Read more »

Jen
Guest
Jen

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.

Rdedeian
Guest
Rdedeian

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… Read more »

Alex
Guest
Alex

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… Read more »

Rob
Guest
Rob

Could not have said it better… Disney is loaded…remake all he floats!!!!

jensenja09
Guest
jensenja09

You can have it back

Amanda
Guest
Amanda

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!

jensenja09
Guest
jensenja09

I could not have said that any better myself, my friend.

Mike
Guest
Mike

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.

Chris
Guest
Chris

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… Read more »

Bill Marion
Guest
Bill Marion

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.

Shannon
Guest
Shannon

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 :)

Daniel Hartley
Guest
Daniel Hartley

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.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

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!!!

Donna
Guest
Donna

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.

Jason Taylor
Guest
Jason Taylor

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.

Bobby
Guest
Bobby

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.