Festival of Fantasy ParadeAs was all the buzz this week, a brand new daytime parade debuted over at the Magic Kingdom. Kicking off on Sunday, March 9, the Festival of Fantasy Parade has been well-received with praise and adoration. I lined up Sunday to see for myself and share some photos and video (see Instagram and Facebook) and was also invited as a guest of Walt Disney World on Monday March 10, to see the parade again and speak to some of its creators. What has struck me overall with Festival of Fantasy is the absolute spectacle that this parade is. I don’t think it’s news to anyone that the daytime parades at Magic Kingdom have been severely lacking in the last, oh, 10+ years. We’ve had several incarnations of basically the same style of float and general parade feel for ages now. And visitors or locals to California’s Disneyland will no doubt evangelize about their Mickey’s Soundsational Parade and with good reason. Soundsational is a fun, unique look at the songs and characters we all love and have come to expect at Disney parks. A lot of comparisons have been made with Soundsational and Festival of Fantasy and I’ll go into a bit of that below. So read on for my thoughts on Festival of Fantasy and enjoy some of my favorite photos from the parade.

First, I must say that Festival of Fantasy is visually stunning. From the unique and sometimes outrageous costumes to the gigantic, kinetic, sensory-overloading floats, this is an impressive parade. After my first viewing, I quickly realized that it is a parade which needs to be viewed multiple times to take everything in or notice each detail. And that makes it a perfect fit for Walt Disney World, a resort catering to tens of millions of visitors each year, many of whom will visit the park just once, or perhaps every few years or so. While Walt Disney World does have a large and dedicated group of locals, it does not begin to compare to that of Disneyland, whose majority of visitors are locals – making the frequent changing  of parades and entertainment a wise decision for the most part. Here, in Walt Disney World, if you are planning your yearly vacation, you will probably look forward to seeing this parade again and count on it being there. My point is, Festival of Fantasy is a great repeat-viewing parade, because you will likely see something new each time.

There have been some comments online about this parade being disjointed and just a random mix of themes and floats. And while I agree that, compared to Soundsational, which features a cohesive color-scheme and design element throughout, I don’t think Festival of Fantasy lacking that cohesion is a bad thing. Certainly the design and feel of Soundsational matches, until the very last float, which looks like a completely different style of float and artistry. Festival of Fantasy just happens to do this with each float, I think. This is a parade dedicated to Fantasyland, both its spirit and its presence within the park. Of course there is no “Sleeping Beauty” attraction other than a princess meet and greet, yet an entire float features one of Disney’s most famous animated villains. Snow White, while not having her own attraction any more, will have the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opening up soon, yet all we see of them in the parade are Snow and the Dwarfs themselves. It is not so much a literal definition of “everything in Fantasyland” but more of the essence of what we love about these parts of Disney in film. In a sense, we get eight mini parades rather than one long one.

{Enjoy the gallery of photos below – click to see full-size – more text after the pictures!}

A constant throughout Festival of Fantasy are the innovative and eye-catching costumes. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves on this one, but I am in love with all of these designs and love how each set of dancers preceding a themed float seems to represent the elements from each movie, from coral and seahorses, to thorns and ravens, to Pleasure Island treats and circus tents. The costumes and choreography are a show unto themselves. The Lost Boys receive a fun make-over in the style of Broadway’s Newsies with some fun dance moves. Randy Wojcik, Senior Show Director, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Creative Entertainment, likes to call each float a “mini Broadway show rolling down the street.”

I spoke to Randy about the costumes, wondering if they would survive wear and use, 365 days a year and he let me know how extensive the design and testing process was, getting approval for ergonomic wear and support. He’s rightly very proud of both the costumes and floats, especially the jaw-dropping Maleficent, represented as a steampunk contraption of a fire-breathing dragon. When I asked which came first, wanting Maleficent in the parade, or wanting a steampunk element in the parade, he said they always knew they wanted Maleficent, and the steampunk just came about through various pitch ideas and boardroom sessions.

Festival of Fantasy Maleficent


Maleficent is definitely the show-stopper of the parade, but really, so many of the floats can stand up on their own merit. Maleficent, however, is part of a larger scene where Prince Phillip is battling the “thorns” (represented by stilt-walkers) conjured by Maleficent, as stylized ravens circle around. The battle then turns to Maleficent, who rears her head and breathes fire, a sight unparalleled outside of a nighttime spectacular in the parks. If you are looking to catch a photo of the fire, watch for Maleficent to lean her head all the way up, as that’s the only way she breathes fire. It seems to happen twice in Frontierland and twice around the hub turn by the Castle. I’ve yet to catch a perfect fire photo, but I plan to return and get one soon (research!). Be sure to enjoy all of Maleficent though; take note of her moving wings, her eyes and teeth, the thorn-spiked spinning wheel in the center of the dragon, all of it is amazing. It’s quite a detailed and impressive piece at 53 feet in length and 26 feet tall, designed in partnership with Tony Award-winner Michael Curry.

Next up is a float which, despite it being borrowed from Tokyo Disneyland’s Jubilation parade (along with the opening Princess float), is one of my favorites design-wise. It’s such a fun, brightly-colored and unique take on Monstro and the Pinocchio film itself, along with various other early films like Fantasia and Dumbo.  The parade ends with Mickey and Minnie, which I think is a great finale.  Since Mickey and Minnie aren’t really represented in Fantasyland (aside from Mickey in Philharmagic), they are a good reminder of the rest of the Magic Kingdom and Disney in general. I love Mickey and Minnie in this float and to me, their costumes are very reminiscent of the characters we see in Tokyo at their parades. All of the classic characters have wonderful, fun costumes in this parade, making for some great photos.

As far as the music goes, there is a catchy and familiar-sounding “Festival of Fantasy” theme, composed by Mark Hammond, known for his work on World of Color, Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, Flights of Fantasy Parade at Hong Kong Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneyland’s Jubilation Parade and Happiness is Here Parade. I am hopeful that soundtrack will be released, and other merchandise too. All in all, I think Festival of Fantasy is a wonderful, vibrant, captivating parade, which actually makes me want to line up to watch it at 3:00! I’d love to hear your thoughts below if you’ve seen the parade – what is your favorite part?