“When can we do this again?”
Like any pervasive earworm, that chorus from Disneyland's Paint the Night parade has burrowed its way into my brain over the past 15 months it has been playing at the park. Yeah, like many Disneyland fans, I bought into the parade’s not-so-subliminal message and kept coming back to see it again and again – helping that theme song slip into heavy rotation in my mental soundtrack.
As you might have heard, Disneyland has announced that it will close the Paint the Night on Sept. 5. Though shortly after making that announcement, the park backed off and said that the parade will continue to run on selected evenings in the fall. Regardless, I have to wonder, "When can we do this again?”
The really interesting thing about Paint the Night is Disney’s attempt to create an instant sense of nostalgia for a parade while it still was in front of you. Nostalgia’s long been a key ingredient in “Disney Magic” – after all, only Disney can sell you the experience of coming back and doing Disney all over again.
The parade played to Disneyland’s love for nostalgia by frequently quoting the “Baroque Hoedown” theme from the park’s long-running Main Street Electrical Parade. Those familiar notes drove home the message that, even though this parade was something fancy, glitzy and new, it wanted to draw upon longtime fans’ love for the park's original nighttime parade.
And once Paint the Night had gotten you with that nostalgia for the Main Street Electrical Parade, it worked to transfer love to itself, mashing “Baroque Hoedown” with its own theme, then drilling into your head that question ... “When can we do this again?”
But here’s the problem with nostalgia – its power comes from accessing our emotions around the memory of a thing rather than the thing itself. Disneyland also has announced that it will be bringing the Main Street Electrical Parade back from Walt Disney World to run for a “limited time” at the Disneyland Resort after the first of the year. Can actually seeing that parade again – which first “glowed away forever” from Disneyland in 1996 then returned to Disney California Adventure between 2001 and 2010 – live up to fans’ warm memories of it?
I don’t know. After reading all the Harry Potter books to my children, I was eager to find another, similar, children’s book series to read to them. When I was their age, I had adored “A Wrinkle in Time"” by Madeleine L’Engle, so I stopped by a local bookstore one day to buy a copy. In the aisle, I opened the book to start re-reading it ... and I couldn’t get past the first couple pages.
The book I had loved as child seemed just ... so inferior in language and structure to the Harry Potter books I’d been reading to my kids that I couldn’t bear to introduce it to them. Heck, the book even begins with that widely mocked phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Was I wrong to love “A Wrinkle in Time” as a child? No! It was a fun tale, and it captured my imagination. It made me want to read, and that’s the highest compliment anyone can pay an author.
So let’s ask the question: Will Disneyland fans still feel good about the Main Street Electrical Parade next year after all these months with Paint the Night? That 1970s technology is going to look pretty retro compared with Paint the Night’s modern LED displays.
Disneyland’s poured a lot of money over the years into updating its classics. Pirates of the Caribbean got Captain Jack and Davy Jones. The Haunted Mansion got its holiday makeover and a high-tech Hatbox Ghost. Nostalgia helps keep something forever fresh, in our minds. But nostalgia evaporates if we see the thing we love growing stale in real life, before us.
Can Disney make its Main Street Electrical Parade feel fresh again? I’d argue that it has – by creating Paint the Night. I’m afraid that bringing the old parade back will leave me feeling like I did in that bookstore, rereading “A Wrinkle in Time”... and feeling my nostalgia for it disappear.
Some memories are best left as memories.
Source: OC Register
Banner Photo Credit: Disney