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Jim Hill
Page 1 of 2

by Jim Hill (archives)
June 28, 2001
Sure it's a little weird that this Disneyland favorite is returning to Anaheim next week with a different name (Disney's Electrical Parade) in addition to having a different route (down DCA's "performance corridor�). But Jim Hill recalls a time when this night-time spectacular had an even stranger name (The Hercules Electrical Parade) and had an even more bizarre parade route (Up 5th Avenue).

MSEP in NYC
Sure it’s a little weird that this Disneyland favorite is returning to Anaheim next week with a different name (Disney’s Electrical Parade) in addition to having a different route (down DCA’s “performance corridor”). But Jim Hill recalls a time when this night-time spectacular had an even stranger name (The Hercules Electrical Parade) and had an even more bizarre parade route (Up 5th Avenue).

Okay, okay, I know. A lot of hardcore Disney dweebs are hyper-ventilating right now. You’re just horrified at the news that the Mouse has dared to rename the Main Street Electrical Parade. Worse than that, this fan favorite begins rolling through the wrong Anaheim theme park starting on July 3rd.

How do I feel? To be honest, folks, I’m kind of having trouble working up a full-blown case of righteous indignation over this relatively minor matter. Yeah, the Walt Disney Company lied to us about the parade “glowing away forever.” But is that really a decent enough reason to do the Internet equivalent of gnashing my teeth and pulling my hair.

But then again, maybe the reason that I can’t bring myself to really get upset about the MSEP being renamed and/or the night-time street pageant’s new parade route is that I’ve already seen this parade with a bizarre new name as it followed an even more bizarre route.

Yep, I was one of the 3 million Disney die-hards who made the trip into Manhattan ‘way back on Saturday, June 14, 1997. That’s when I got to see this slightly rethemed Disneyland favorite under a very different name (The Hercules Electrical Parade) as it rolled down 42nd Street, then hung a left onto 5th Avenue.

And what exactly was the MSEP doing in NYC? This special one-night-only trek through the streets of the Big Apple was supposed to be the highlight of an elaborate city-wide promotion of Disney’s latest feature length animated film, “Hercules.”

This “Hercules World Premiere Weekend in New York” was supposed to have been the most elaborate, expensive press event the Walt Disney Company had ever cooked up. (And it was. At least until Disney blew through $5 million late last month to fly hundreds of celebrities and journalists into Hawaii to attend the world premiere of “Pearl Harbor.”) Disney’s marketing staff was determined to top the company’s previous Big Apple happening (Remember when the Mouse took over Central Park back in June 1995, just so it could debut “Pocahontas” to a record number of movie-goers out on the Park’s Great Lawn?) with a three day long celebration of the company’s 35th feature length animation film.

First up was “The Hercules Forum of Fun at Chelsea Pier.” This waterfront entertainment extravaganza featured interactive games for the kiddies, animation demonstrations by Disney artists, as well as a contest where folks enter to win a customized Chevy Minivan. (Does this limited assortment of attractions seem somewhat familiar? Particularly to those folks who like to shop at your local Mall? It should. The Chelsea Pier portion of NYC’s “Hercules” celebration was actually a slightly expanded version of the “Hercules” Mall show.)

Then - late Saturday afternoon - New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani and Disney chairman Michael Eisner held a ceremony honoring world-class athletes at the newly renovated New Amsterdam Theatre. Right after that, Moog music began echoing through the canyons of Manhattan, as the Main Street Electrical Parade … Oops. Excuse me. The “Hercules Electrical Parade” made its NYC debut by rolling up 42nd Street on its way to Fifth Avenue.

The Walt Disney Company had spared no expense when it came to bringing the MSEP to NYC. The corporation paid out an estimated $250,000 to cover city services for that night. This fee included the cost of repaving a particularly bad piece of pavement along the two mile long parade route, as well as the salaries for 2000 New York ‘s finest (AKA the police) who were out in force that evening to keep the peace and/or crowd control.

Of course, to make sure that the city was dark enough so the parade would play properly, Disney had to make tons of arrangements weeks in advance. Some of these were simple (eg: Mickey had to pick up the tab for two city electricians, whose sole purpose that evening was to turn off city street lamps just ahead of the lead float along the parade route). Others were immensely complicated (eg: Disney representatives had to contact the owners of all the businesses along the parade route and ask these folks if they could kill their lights around 9 p.m. Saturday evening).

Nearly all the shops along 42nd Street & Fifth Avenue immediately complied with Disney’s request. With one notable exception. The management of Warner Brothers’ retail arm absolutely refused to have anything to do with an event that would help promote the Mouse’s latest motion picture. Which was why the lights of the Warner Bros Flagship Store were blazing bright as the Hercules Electrical Parade rolled up Fifth Avenue.

Other than those poor sports over at Warners, Manhattanites seemed thrilled with the idea that Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade was coming to town. To help try and build the public’s interest in this one-time-only event, massive yellow Hercules movie logos were spray-painted onto the road at major intersections along the proposed parade route.

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