Magic Happens is Disneyland’s new daytime parade that shows twice a day, currently at 3:30 and 6:30 PM. The parade features original floats, music and costuming. Our review will cover the parade, starting with general thoughts before going into a more in-depth (read: spoilers) review.
Parades in the American Disney Parks have taken a backseat to other entertainment over the last decade. Disney World debuted Festival of Fantasy, Magic Kingdom’s daytime parade, in 2014. Paint the Night, formerly Disneyland’s nighttime parade, debuted in 2016 and left shortly after. Both castle parks are currently without nighttime parades and Disneyland went without a daytime parade for a few months before Magic Happens.
For whatever reason, they just don’t seem to be a priority currently. While I’m not the biggest parade fan, I do think they are an essential part of a theme park, especially a castle park, experience. Disneyland adding Magic Happens to their entertainment docket was a pleasant surprise, especially after investing so heavily in Galaxy’s Edge. Mickey’s Soundsational Parade had grown tired and I was eager to see if Magic Happens could make a marked improvement on Disneyland’s former daytime parade.
The answer is a clear yes. While Magic Happens misses out on some of the jaw-dropping moments seen in other parks, the costuming is edgy (in a family-friendly way), the soundtrack is energetic and follows the costume’s lead, the IP representation is modern and unique, and the whole parade is full of character.
A parade’s costuming and soundtrack outshining the floats is generally a bad thing when it comes to Disney. That’s because the costuming and soundtrack don’t usually take many risks and other Disney parades lean heavily into show stopping floats. Magic Happens stops that trend. The floats are plenty impressive, albeit slightly unassuming. But instead of being float-centric, Magic Happens feels well balanced nearly all of the way through thanks to the parade not being afraid to take a few risks.
It makes sense for Disney to generally play it safe when it comes to costuming. After all, the parks are geared toward family friendly entertainment. But Magic Happens takes a page from its fashion forward neighbor up north and at times feels like models strutting down the runway instead of down Main Street. This is a pleasant surprise and gives the entire presentation more character than nearly any other parade I’ve seen.
The Fab Five along with the first few dancers sport shiny, silky blues and purples. Seeing the classic Disney characters in a different color scheme at first is surprising but not in a bad way. It works, especially in connection with the rest of the parade. Nearly all the way through, Magic Happens has a diverse group of dancing and costuming. The last few minutes of the parade falls closer to a stereotypical Disney daytime parade rather than the avant garde costuming, but that’s forgiven in my eyes thanks to the first 75% of the parade.
Not to be outdone, the parade’s soundtrack feels modern and fresh. I’ll be honest, I’m fairly picky when it comes to music and many parade soundtracks border on annoying in my eyes (ears?). Magic Happens manages to toe the line just right, balancing modern Disney songs with a bouncy beat. The parade’s original songs, composed by Todrick Hall (Editor’s Note: We saw him!!!!!), are catchy and fun while fitting in with that runway theme.
As you can tell, I think the floats take a backseat to the parade’s overall feeling. Still, Coco, Moana, and Frozen 2 each getting a float in Magic Happens represents how modern the parade is. Of course, there are some classic characters along with a few pleasant surprises along the way, but the floats augment the parade’s stylistic and modern aesthetic instead of hindering it.
Magic Happens takes risks and is thankfully one of Disney’s most innovative parades, led by the costuming and soundtrack. While I don’t think it’s the most wow-inducing parade, it is extremely cohesive and full of character making it a now vital piece to Disneyland.
For those that haven’t seen the parade, this section of the post will be a little more photo-centric and talking about individual elements and floats. If you want Magic Happens to be a surprise (which I recommend) then stop reading here!
The first performers we see in the parade is a dance troupe known as Magic’s Entourage. As you can see, they are dressed brightly and their outfits could have come straight from an interesting episode of Project Runway. The bright blue mohawks wigs with pops of gold are a personal favorite.
Mickey comes next, sporting an updated take on the Sorcerer look. This is the first float in the parade and it isn’t over the top but it does look really good. Mickey leading the parade is a nice choice and this whole first section really sets a good tone.
After a brief appearance by a few characters came the Moana section of the parade. The costuming of the dancers in front is a treat and the float that follows is one of the grandest in Magic Happens. Honestly, I could do without the screen on the float but otherwise the sculpting is beautiful and Moana posing on her boat makes for some fun interactions and photos for guests. Speaking of fun interactions…
These Polynesian dancers that came after Moana surfed by added energy and are so, for lack of a better word, fun. The sequencing here is a nice touch with these dancers sandwiched between Moana and Maui. While it’s early in the parade, I do think Magic Happens peaks somewhere between Moana and the following float. That’s not a knock on the rest of it, just that section is phenomenal.
Here’s Maui hanging out! If anyone has any guesses on how the performer gets up there and if he puts on the suit before or after he’s up there, we’re all ears. It’s been a topic of discussion for the last week. The little details in this float, and every other one, are really well done and crisp.
These blue-haired dancers preceded the Coco float with more bright colors and skirts that transformed into capes. The colors remained bright and gorgeous throughout.
The Coco float is a personal favorite with Miguel standing in the front, surrounded by lamps. I also thought this is where the soundtrack sounded it’s best, adding a little zip to Coco’s Proud Corazon. The back of the float is that iconic orange from the movie, filled with flowers and Miguel’s ancestors looking over him. It’s gorgeous while still being subtle and the highlight of the parade to me.
Not to be outdone, the Frozen 2 float is equally stunning. That orange and blue color palette continues with the ice horse (seems like it deserves a better name) and the Autumn colors in the trees overhead. At the back of the float, Elsa stands in an ice tower as snow reigns down. It’s ambitious and stunning all the way through.
The dancers that accompany the Frozen float continue the ambitious costuming and they aren’t afraid to strike a pose. Between striking poses, they would do some ballroom dancing. Outside of halfway watching a few seasons of So You Think You Can Dance I know next to nothing about choreography so I won’t try to speak to it here. That said, it again seemed more ambitious and trendy than a typical Disney parade.
After the Frozen section come a group of floats and some characters. If there were nits to pick in Magic Happens it would be during this part. The cohesiveness takes a hit and, while the soundtrack keeps bopping, everything else feels a step below what we’ve previously witnessed. It’s not bad by any means, just more generic. Save for one man and one float.
That’s right. Merlin and Sword and the Stone get their own smaller float. Merlin goes for it so hard that this was the best picture I could get of him. Usually he’s dancing so quickly that I’m worried he’ll give me a heart attack, much less him. His energy is one of the best parts of the entire parade.
The Cinderella float is also nice, albeit a little more boring. I like that orange, gold and blue trends continue even through this latter half of the parade. This float is especially pretty in the later showing.
I’m going slightly out of order here but the Princess and the Frog float is in the same vein as Cinderella. It’s beautiful but doesn’t quite live up to the earlier floats. I like the tree overhead quite a bit but this is the one part of the parade where I’m not sure it goes with the rest of Magic Happens.
There’s one last batch of characters that includes Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Tinkerbell, and Fairy Godmother (among others) before the final float.
This Sleeping Beauty float feels like a vintage Disney parade. It’s extravagant and one final statement piece before the parade ends. Frankly, I wish it was slightly more ambitious but some of that is me simply not caring about the movie Sleeping Beauty. Ending the parade with that IP makes some sense thanks to the castle, but it’s far from my favorite aspect of Magic Happens.
Overall, Magic Happens is fantastic for the first 75% of the parade before taking a small dip in the last quarter. Even with that small dip, the parade is a smashing success and worth your time at Disneyland. I’m very happy to see Disney taking a creative and modern approach to their new daytime parade.
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