More than 60 Years of animated classics come to life before your eyes in a magnificent timeline of Disney heroes and heroines. Featuring a mix of classic and brand new floats and introducing the song "Dancin' (A Catchy Rhythm)" to the world, the parade became a Disney phenomenon - the real archetype of an all-round classic, quintessential, Disneyland parade.
The Wonderful World Of Disney Parade has a long and interesting history, since it was created in 1998 from a combination of existing and brand new floats and has been around for over eight years, with many minor (and some major) changes along the way. The parade began with 13 floats in early 1998 as one of the main attractions of The Year of Disney Classics. The parade aimed to show a 3D timeline of Disney's greatest films, and by featuring classics ranging from Mickey Mouse's Steamboat Willie to Hercules via Cinderella and Aladdin, it did just that. The parade became hugely popular thanks to the wide range of characters, and the brand new theme song worked a treat aswell. Dancin' (A Catchy Rhythm) was produced by Jay Smith and Vasile Sirli exclusively for the parade, and with its immediate success and insanely catchy nature it became one of the first CD singles the be released by the resort that very same year.
The same parade line-up of 13 floats and the old-timer character car pre-parade ran for two years until 31st December 1999, when a new parade began to celebrate the Millennium. Disney's ImagiNations Parade blended Disney characters with themes from every continent in gigantic, breathtaking floats. Unfortunately, whilst the colourful and creative designs and the towering floats of the parade were spectacular to look at, the parade was simply not very practical in the unpredictable Parisian weather and audiences missed the large amount of characters seen in The Wonderful World Of Disney Parade. And so, after some tough decision-making it was decided to scrap this parade (which had originally been scheduled to run for the whole of 2001) and return the more popular Wonderful World Of Disney to the parade route. However, the return of the parade brought some major changes - almost all for the worse. Gone were the interactive parade stops which featured some excellent soundtrack mixes for each float, along with six of the floats themselves! Peter Pan, The Lion King, The Jungle Book, Pinocchio and Hercules were simply removed whilst the giant Princesses Staircase float was replaced by two separate floats for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, both of which were recognised by fans as two floats from the park's old Disney Classics Parade (1992 - 1998).
In late March 2002, a more positive change was made to the parade. For the 10th Anniversary of Disneyland Park, a special Giant Birthday Cake float was added at the start of the parade. On this float, dancers in chef costumes handed out sweets to the crowds and joined the rest of the characters in a new parade stop which featured the exclusive 10 Years Of Magic song written for the celebrations. In September 2002, the parade lost the Giant Birthday Cake float but retained the 10 Years Of Magic parade stop. By early 2003 both had been removed.
May 2003 brought the parade to an end after four and a half years of magic, to be replaced by The Princess Parade as part of the Princess Weeks event. Fans of the old parade had little reason to be upset, however, since this "new" parade simply featured the previous parade's line-up with the addition of a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs float and minus the Steamboat Willie, Mary Poppins and Dumbo floats. The Princess Parade even used Dancin' (A Catchy Rhythm) as its theme song! Over the Summer, The Princess Parade regained the Steamboat Willie and Dumbo floats. Eventually, at the start of the 2005 season, the name reverted back to The Wonderful World Of Disney Parade and the Mary Poppins float was also reinserted, creating a lengthy parade of 9 major units.
From the 2006 Summer Magic season onwards, however, the parade was now being performed under the Disney Princess Parade title, drawing on the large number of princess units in the parade to create a single parade theme. The Dumbo unit was no longer used for this re-named parade, however a far greater number of characters joined the celebration each day. On 20th August 2006, the order in which the floats are presented was altered, moving Cinderella to the front and the "un-princess" float, Steamboat Willie, to the back as an extra "encore". The parade officially ended its epic run in late March 2007, to make way for a brand new parade in honour of the resort's 15th Anniversary Celebration: Disney's Once Upon a Dream Parade.
Pre-Parade (Opening to December 1999): Also known as Toon Time Van, a brightly-coloured red, blue and yellow van opened the parade in its early years, travelling along the parade route a few minutes before show time featuring Donald, Goofy, Chip and Dale and Pluto, who helped to announce that the parade was about to begin. The van later reappeared at Walt Disney Studios Park in 2003, with new black and silver colours and a movie-themed overlay, serving as the introduction to Disney Cinema Parade and carrying the latest Disney film stars.
Opening Unit (Opening to May 11, 2003; August 2003 till End): Based on the 1928 animated short Steamboat Willie. The key icon of the whole parade, and perhaps the only time a Walt Disney short cartoon has been honoured with its own float in a modern Disney parade, Steamboat Willie has become a legendary and unmistakable piece of Disneyland Resort Paris history. Riding high up on the ship, Mickey and Minnie wore special black and white costumes inspired by their old-fashioned character designs of 1928, whilst after the loss of the Toon Time Van (above), the ship was often joined by the rest of the Disney VIPs either on the ground or on-deck. The huge ship rocked back and forth as it travelling along the parade route, and the float is perhaps also unique since the designers were required to transfer the original, black and white animated Steamboat Willie to a full-colour design. Since the original theme of the parade was that guests were being invited to step into a timeline of Disney Classics and take part in the scenes, a 1920s/30s cameraman and film crew preceded Steamboat Willie and filmed the action. This disappeared from the parade for its early 2000s return, likely due to the impending inauguration of Walt Disney Studios Park. The band of sailor dancers were also cut from around 2003, though this influence could be seen right to the parade's finale with the unusual exposed float driver, sitting in a life ring in the waves at the front of the ship.
Princesses Staircase Unit (Opening to Late 1999): One of the most fabled and commonly discussed parade floats of all time, the Princesses Staircase was a simply huge creation, measuring over twenty metres end-to-end and spread over three articulated sections. The three classic Disney princesses were featured on the same float - Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora, with ornate gold decorations covering the staircases and elaborate portraits adorning the sides. Golden, flowering arches and glistening candelabras and chandeliers added to the decorations. The dancers later seen in front of Cinderella's float actually danced on-board the staircase, with the three princesses together at the very end. The float was created especially for The Wonderful World Of Disney Parade, though unfortunately its life was shorter than expected. According to common belief and/or rumour, the size of the float caused an accident with a dancer backstage, causing it to be cut immediately from the parade in late 1999 and replaced with the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty floats from the old Disney Classics Parade.
Pinocchio Unit (Opening to December 1999): Based on the 1940 animated film. A float retained from Disney Classics Parade, this featured Pinocchio dancing on strings with Geppetto standing over him. A collection of other marionettes and toys were featured around the edges of this very classical "wooden" float, which featured its own puppet theatre at the front and several mechanical toy props.
Dumbo Unit (Opening to May 11, 2003; January 2004 to July 13, 2006): Based on the 1941 animated film. Dumbo's Casey Junior is perhaps the second key icon to be remembered from the parade after Steamboat Willie. Also designed exclusively for The Wonderful World Of Disney Parade in 1998, the float consists of five separate, articulated sections forming Casey Jr's train, with Dumbo perched on the roof of the driver's cab. Since no actual characters from the film could be featured, a large group of clowns in bright yellow raincoats travelled with the float. This lack of any real characters accompanying the float was likely its downfall though, and the float later served to simply close the parade. The float was lost with the May 2003 relaunch of the parade as "The Princess Parade", only to reappear again in January 2004 to provide a much-needed eighth float. It was finally retired in mid-July 2006, when the parade was once again rebranded as Disney Princess Parade. In early 2007, the reason for this became clear - Casey Jr lives on! The float has been remodeled and repainted to form the train in many mini parades, which Started with the 15th anniversary Disney Characters Express in 2007.
Peter Pan Unit (Opening to December 1999): Based on the 1953 animated film. Despite a pirate ship float already existing since Disney Classics Parade. The new unit was more articulate and interactive, however, with Captain Hook standing on a small row boat being crunched up by Tick-Tock the Crocodile foe and Peter Pan instead running (or "flying") around it. Accompanying this were a fleet of small, miniaturised pirate ships, replacing dancers for this float. Inspired by similar miniature floats from Magic Kingdom Peter Pan unit, each was driven by its own pirate and chased after Pan for the duration of the parade. Peter Pan was therefore constantly on the move between this fleet of pirate ships, interacting with the audience as he "flew" away.
Mary Poppins Unit (Opening to May 11, 2003; January 2005 till End): Based on the 1964 animated- and live-action musical film. It was a new creation for the parade, carrying Mary Poppins amongst its smoking chimneys and twirling weathervanes, with the driver disguised as Admiral Boom. A merry band of male and female chimneysweeps preceded the float.
The Jungle Book Unit (Opening to December 1999): Based on the 1967 animated film. A remnant from Disney Classics Parade, Themed to the crumbling temple ruins of King Louie. Mowgli, Baloo and King Louie took turns on the throne, whilst several other generic monkeys hung around on the float and scampered ahead to interact with guests. Kaa was featured in statue form at the front of the float, whilst all of the characters wore special necklaces of bananas and leaves. During show stops, children were invited to wear similar necklaces and dance with the characters.
The Little Mermaid Unit: Based on the 1989 animated film. One of only three floats which lived through the entire run of the parade, the colourful "under the sea" unit featured evil Ursula being tied down by a large collection of undersea life, whilst a statue King Triton sat on his throne next to Ariel in a clamshell. Glut the Shark and other creatures moved side-to-side, and bubbles often spurted out of crevices in the float. It was originally preceded by not only its iconic seashell dancers but also a couple of large clamshell props, similar to the fleet of Peter Pan pirate ships. At its inauguration with Disney Classics Parade, the float featured a different design to its years. Instead of a large clamshell, a small rowing boat floated high up in the air to depict the "Kiss the Girl" scene of the film, with the undersea life therefore hiding below an invisible water line. The boat moved side-to-side as the clamshell later did, and featured Ariel in human form with Prince Eric by her side. The modifications allowed Ariel to be seen in her more popular mermaid form.
Beauty and the Beast Unit: Based on the 1991 animated film. Another piece retained from Disney Classics Parade, the "Be Our Guest" musical number was the theme. Belle stood high on a giant cake, with forks and teapots dancing around her. Beast was featured in a massively increased size, holding his rose in one hand and reaching out to Belle with the other. Mrs. Potts, Chip Potts, Fifi, Lumière and Cogsworth were all featured below the Beast on a beautiful base decorated with stained glass-effect designs. The float was usually preceded with dancers dressed as chefs in candy-coloured white, gold and pink costumes. During the early years, these also pushed along stoves and other large props. At the show stops, children were dressed in matching aprons and chefs hats.
Aladdin Unit: Based on the 1992 animated film. This float was produced in 1993 as the basis of the 1993/94 La Parade d'Aladdin, with extra Arabian dancers and props surrounding it. It then joined Disney Classics Parade before becoming a part at its launch. The scene depicted Prince Ali and Jasmine flying on Magic Carpet above the rooftops of Agrabah, with a slithering serpent sliding over the moon behind them, Jafar and Iago featured at the front of the float in a similar style to Ursula for The Little Mermaid. The serpent breathed fire at select moments, and the magic carpet turned from side to side and moved up and down. Some of the domes of Agrabah's skyline even rotated!
The Lion King Unit (Opening to December 1999): Based on the 1994 animated film. Created for The Lion King Festival in 1994, the float featured no live characters from the film and instead was simply a large decorative sculpt of animals, roughly based on a cross between the "Circle of Life" and "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" scenes. Amongst the animals was Timon holding a bug (right at the front), Pumbaa (at the centre) and Rafiki holding a baby Simba at the top of the pile. The float was brought to life with dancers dressed as animals such as giraffes, zebra and gazelle. During the 1994 festival, it was joined by extra floats and props such as a fully-grown Simba atop Pride Rock.
Hercules Unit (Opening to December 1999): Based on the 1997 animated film. As with the Aladdin and The Lion King floats, the unit was also originally created for a mini-parade celebrating the release of the film. It's construction just one year before the launch of the new parade and very self-contained design perhaps shows signs that it was produced with the new parade in mind, being the most recent of the Disney Classics to be featured in the timeline. In the Hercules Happening, it was joined by a Greek temple and staircase float, gospel singers, dancers and more.
Cinderella Unit (1999 Till End): Based on the 1950 animated film. Cinderella's pumpkin coach provides the basis for a classic parade float, with pink, purple and gold-dressed ballrooms dancers preceding its assortment of trusty steeds. Fairy Godmother usually stood on the clouds at the rear of the carriage, which was created in 1992 for Disney Classics Parade. The float, particularly its pumpkin carriage, is arguably one of the most detailed and intricate floats seen in Paris or perhaps any resort. Amongst its ornate sculpting (particularly its beautiful large green wheels) and leafy finish it features gold leaf colouring and a sumptuous red fabric interior, truly creating a real-life version of the Fairy Godmother's famous creation. The float has been confirmed to be one of the few kept in working condition after the parade's finale.
Sleeping Beauty Unit (1999 till End): Based on the 1959 animated film. The final float to be taken from Disney Classics Parade line-up, Aurora was seen with Prince Phillip on the edge of a rocky outcrop, with a moving (and steaming) Dragon Maleficent behind them. The float was drafted back into service at the same time as Cinderella above, to provide new homes for these two princesses after their Princesses Staircase float was pulled from service.
10th Birthday Cake (March, 14 to September 29, 2002): Especially for the 10th Anniversary of the park, The Wonderful World Of Disney Parade enjoyed a special "10th Anniversary Edition", with an added show stop using the song "10 Years of Magic" and a brand new float leading the parade. This giant birthday cake, featuring ten candles and Mickey Mouse symbols showing the number, featured a gang of chef dancers who handed out sweets to children. Several honoured children also got the chance to ride on the float itself, similar to the final scene of the 10th Anniversary show "Minnie's Birthday Surprise". The 10th Anniversary was a very muted affair, with attention being given instead to the newly-opened Walt Disney Studios Park. The scroll showing the number "10" on the Castle lasted little more than a month.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Unit (May 12, 2003 till End): Based on the 1937 animated film. Originally used as a float to carry Christmas Carollers on rotating turntables during the park's seasonal celebrations, this float was remodeled in 2003 to finally allow Snow White to rejoin the parade. A wishing well was added as the centerpiece, with flowers, woodland creatures and an apple covering the unique wood-effect finish of the float, which always stood out from the rest of the line-up. Not least because it served several purposes - during Halloween, it first became a home for the Pumpkinmen and their orange painting, before hosting Stitch and the Disney VIPs in a similar orange overlay. For Christmas, it featured glittering Christmas Trees and all of the Disney VIPs in festive red and green costumes. It has been confirmed that this float is being kept in a working condition after the parade's finale, since it can be interchanged for special events so easily.
It was the longest parade at Disneyland Paris ever made.