Before endeavoring to rank the music of Walt Disney World‘s iconic parades, it must be noted that many emotions are associated with these incredible spectacles: parents remembering the look on children’s faces, family celebrations, character interactions. These moments are inextricably tied to the music that accompanied them. As such, this is a topic that is sure to conjure strong feelings as to which compositions are deserving of making the list. Please know that your humble author has done her best to remain impartial and has made an effort to examine each piece objectively; however, this is a personal list and does not reflect the opinions of Lou Mongello or WDW Radio as a whole.
What makes parade music successful? Its beauty as a piece of music? Its ability to conjure feelings in the spectators? How well it coincides with the elaborate floats? Whether or not it is memorable and infests your memory like only a musical earworm can? Whether or not it creates a party atmosphere? Undoubtedly, all Walt Disney World parade music is successful on one or more of these counts; however, the best parade scores achieve the goal of combining them all.
10. Mickey Mania Parade
A prisoner of its time, the music of Mickey Mania is the definition of the 90s! Incorporating portions of the classic Mickey Mouse Club March, it celebrated the main mouse in a way that brought a smile to spectators’ faces and begged them to jam right along. With such a resurgence of 90s pop culture, it would not be surprising if this hilarious DJ scratching rap anthem made a comeback. While portions of this parade were a bit bonkers (be sure to check out the Weeble-esque versions of Mickey Mouse), there is no doubt that the music perfectly matched the performers and floats all while creating a party club atmosphere.
9. Tapestry of Nations Parade
This music is beautiful. Its grandeur and epically sweeping pieces convey the feelings of unity, hope for the future, and the beauty found in diverse cultures. Composed by Gavin Greenaway, the score was divided into five sections: The Sage of Time Prologue, Millennium Heartbeat, The Great Millennium Walk, Reach for the Stars, and The Human Spirit. Despite the chanting portions not being in English, they remain in the listener’s memory and call them to sway and chant along. The styles of music range from Celtic to African and more and each perfectly pairs with the artistic, abstract, and ethnic feel of the floats, puppets and performers.
8. Main Street Electrical Parade
Composed by Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley for their electronic/synthpop album Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight on the Moog, Baroque Hoedown was discovered by the Main Street Electrical Parade‘s show creators and optioned for use in the parade. This piece was created through the use of a Moog synthesizer which gave it the characteristic electronic harpsichord sound. In order to coincide with the parade’s floats, Baroque Hoedown was melded together with classic Disney songs such as When You Wish Upon a Star, So This Is Love, I’ve Got No Strings and several others. While many WDW fans consider this to be one of the most beloved songs in park history, it is this low on the list for two reasons. First, this parade and its music were developed for Disneyland and thus not unique to Walt Disney World. Second, it might be shocking, but there are many park-goers who find it to be a little grating. However, love it or hate it, the music of the Main Street Electrical Parade is undoubtedly iconic.
7. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade
The music of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade deserves the award for “Greatest Parade Earworm.” The lyric “Once upon a Christmastime at Christmas” rings in Guests’ memories long after Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party has ended. There is good reason for this; the parade’s main theme is featured throughout the entirety of the parade. Even when classic Christmas carols such as Jingle Bells, Let It Snow, Silver Bells and others are played, they are orchestrated into the parade’s anthem. In spite of the fact that some may find its soundtrack as repetitive as “it’s a small world”, there is no denying that it immediately conjures thoughts of Santa’s workroom filled with elves busily singing to joyously pass the time while building toys. The combination of classic holiday tunes and this original song perfectly usher in the Christmas season and build excitement for the arrival of Santa Claus himself.
6. Surprise Celebration Parade
The music of Surprise Celebration was a true party in the streets! With rhythms like that of Calypso, Afro-Caribbean, Samba, Jazz and more, spectators felt like they had joined the festivities of Carnival or Mardi Gras. It could be argued that the music is what drove this entire parade. Focused more on the celebration and enjoyment of music than any Disney film, dancers, stilt walkers, and characters like Baloo, King Louie, and the Three Caballeros invited Guests to dance right along. Perhaps the craziest part of the parade comes when the Bear Band of Country Bear Jamboree fame appears dressed in island flare, and their classic twang is somehow combined with steel drums.
5. Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade
Not only did the original song written for this parade, The Rhythm of One, have you waking up in the middle of the night singing ” Join the adventure! The party’s begun! We’re jammin’ in the jungle to the rhythm of one!” but its well known songs like Mas Que Nada, Iko Iko, and Pata Pata rang in your ears right along with it! Listeners felt as if they had stumbled onto a street party somewhere in Africa, the Caribbean or Latin America, and that is exactly what was intended. The free-feeling music was the perfect match for the colorful, celebratory animal floats and safari jeeps
4. Mickey’s Boo to You Parade
Whether it is a xylophone or a marimba, both are incredibly effective in producing the perfect musical representation of skeleton bones. Boo to You is a melodic combination of small details such as this. The ringing trill of the xylophone; wailing notes of what could very well be the voice of Madame Carlotta or Madame Rinata on the Haunted Mansion lawn; tiny mischievous voices proclaiming “it’s really not so scary.” All of these create an organized cacophony that perfectly represents the purpose of the Boo To You Parade, to offer scares both eerie and lighthearted. This main theme also intertwines with classic songs like A Pirate’s Life and Grim Grinning Ghosts, and it is modified to musically match sections of the parade such as a hoedown with Clarabelle, an ode to candy with Vanellope von Schweetz, a group of synchronized gravediggers and Disney villains singing “It’s Good to Be Bad.”
3. Festival of Fantasy Parade
Festival of Fantasy Parade and its soundtrack, composed by Mark Hammond, were meant to be a celebration of Magic Kingdom‘s most recent addition, New Fantasyland. To understand how befitting the music of this parade is, one need look no further than the design of land it honors. Anchored by Cinderella Castle, Fantasyland has always had the feel of a medieval fair taking place within the walls of the kingdom, and with the land’s expansion, Guests quite literally travel outside those boundaries into new kingdoms. The parade and its music follows this same progression. It begins as fanfare trumpets and stringed instruments accompany a chorus of royal court members singing the parade’s anthem. The court dancers precede the initial princess unit, then each subsequent float takes spectators on a journey to new kingdoms, be they Corona, Atlantica, the Celtic Highlands, Neverland or others. Along the way, the main theme of Festival of Fantasy is altered to fit the musical style of each unit while incorporating over twenty-five well know pieces from the Disney songbook. The parade finale features a number of classic characters, including Mickey Mouse and his friends traveling on a brightly colored, circus carnival looking airship. As the parade closes, the musical theme is combined with the Mickey Mouse March, Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah and other classic Disney songs. The choice of float, music style and song selection continues the journey through New Fantasyland, as this portion of the parade feels as if it would fit right in at Storybook Circus. Not only is the music of Festival of Fantasy a joyous amalgamation of Disney’s animated films and characters, it is a celebration of Walt Disney World‘s most magical land.
2. Remember the Magic Parade
It is hard not to remember Remember the Magic. The main theme from this parade was featured not only on television specials throughout the 25th Anniversary Celebration, but it was also the parting jingle on Walt Disney World commercials during that time. And for good reason. It put to music all that Walt Disney World strives to represent: families making memories and moments so incredible they could only happen through the power of magic. This was the same aim of Remember the Magic as it incorporated parade stops on a whole new level. Families were able to join the parade, play games with characters and make new memories. Each stop began with the opening lyric of “when you wish upon a star ” and as each float moved on, the anniversary anthem played intertwined with the chorus of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. Even today, over twenty years after the song’s debut, you cannot help but sway to gospel rhythm. This song became so synonymous with Walt Disney World that it is possible Guests who never witnessed the actual parade would still recognize its music.
1. SpectroMagic Parade
Any Walt Disney World Guest who had the opportunity to witness the spectacle of SpectroMagic will recognize its score from its first triumphant notes. The regal fanfare trumpet blasts still produce chills even though the parade has not stepped off from Main Street, U.S.A. for years. Debuting on October 1, 1991 (Walt Disney World‘s 20th Anniversary), this piece of music not only set the perfect tone for the parade, it was a regal and fitting end for a visit to Magic Kingdom Park. With lyrics like, “We shall remember this moment together. Let this night forever live in our dreams!” families joined together in celebrating the magical memories that could only be made in a place like Walt Disney World. The music by John Debney and Steve Skorija with lyrics by Bruce Donnelly, Don Frantz and Steve Skorija perfectly underscored the story of this parade. Mickey Mouse, through the power of magic, was able to create the fantastical light display that Guests were about to witness. In the second unit of the parade, music was truly the star as Genie/Roger Rabbit, Goofy, a magical harp and an enchanted stand-up bass led an orchestra of instruments in playing the theme. While other songs such as When You Wish Upon a Star and Under the Sea were incorporated into this soundtrack, it was the main score that was allowed to shine throughout. While the melody and lyrics were heard multiple times throughout the parade, the chorus of children singing during the parade’s finale punctuated the already enchanting moment as the floats’ colored lights magically transformed to a glowing white. Because this parade ran late into the night (with second showings ending after midnight during the busy summer season), children often fell asleep to the music of SpectroMagic. If the joyously jaunty tunes of turn-of-the-century Main Street, U.S.A. are what welcomed Guests “Good Morning,” then the dreamlike fanfare of SpectroMagic kissed them “Goodnight.”
(Remember the Magic photo from the author’s personal collection. All other photos copyright Disney.)
To learn more about Kendall and read her recent posts for WDW Radio, visit her author page by clicking the link at the top of this post.