Disney World's new Festival of Fantasy Parade is a spectacle for the senses
Like just about everyone else who has seen the Magic Kingdom's new daytime parade, Festival of Fantasy, my son and I loved it. Festival of Fantasy Parade showcases many parade firsts -- from special effects and a new soundtrack to the soaring heights of floats and new characters. Because there is so much to see, I really recommend making time to view the parade more than once, if at all possible.
We caught the parade during its first week on display, and I have only seen it once so far, so these are my first impressions. First, we were pleasantly surprised to be able to find a curbside seat about 45 minutes before the parade started (at 3 p.m. daily), despite it being a busy day in the theme park with sunny Florida weather. I had heard of folks waiting for hours on its launch date, so I wasn't sure what to expect with a brand-new parade.
The parade steps off in Frontierland, and the show really is strong from start to finish. Richly dressed ballroom dancers lead the first float with Beauty and the Beast at the front. This Princess Garden float is lush with flowers, reminding me of some of the entries in the annual Rose Parade. The Princess Garden is one of the two floats recycled from a Toyko Disneyland parade, which Walt Disney World Ambassador Ty Arnold talked with me about here.
Cinderella and Prince Charming are located in the center of the Princess Garden, and Tiana and Naveen are opposite Elsa and Anna from "Frozen" in the rear. These two sections of the float spin slowly on separate turntables so guests on each side of the parade route can catch a glimpse of the princes and princesses. Unfortunately, on the day we visited, the platforms were not working so we did not see Cinderella, Prince Charming, Anna or Elsa from the right side of Main Street, U.S.A. Still, the last-minute addition of the "Frozen" section, which includes a stationary Olaf, is a welcome one.
We also were happy to see the new "Tangled" float, which carries Rapunzel and her long tresses. Flynn Rider and a group of thugs swing from moving pendulums. It's fascinating to watch this kind of movement on a parade float, and we couldn't help but wonder how they don't lose their balance.
Next up, The Little Mermaid finally has her own under-the-sea float. The bright colors and conga-dancing fish definitely remind me of The Voyage of The Little Mermaid in New Fantasyland. The float is introduced by whimsical Lion Fish, Coral Fish and Seashell characters and followed by Seahorse performers. These costumes are over-the-top fabulous in design, and they inspired many "oohs" and "aahs" during our viewing.
The Lost Boys, with high-energy choreography inspired by "Newsies," lead the Peter Pan float into view. This float has the Jolly Roger ship perched three stories high on a rainbow over Skull Rock. Inside Peter Pan and Wendy wave to crowds, while Captain Hook dangles from the ship's anchor and Tinker Bell excitedly greets parade watchers from the back of the float. Mr. Smee and the always-hungry crocodile Tick-Tock trail behind. There is a lot to see on this float, including smoke effects, but it's difficult to make contact with Peter Pan and Wendy when they're so high up. The Lost Boys do a good job of connecting with the crowds, though.
Then, another newly minted princess -- Merida from "Brave" -- appears on her own float. She is preceded by Celtic couples dancing to traditional Scottish songs. The float is shaped like an enormous bagpipe, and it's topped by Merida's crown with Merida standing inside. On the back, look for the princess' brothers who appear in their bear forms.
The "Sleeping Beauty" story is represented in the Festival of Fantasy Parade by a battle between Prince Phillip and a Steampunk-inspired dragon Maleficient that has everyone talking because of its ability to bend and flex while also breathing fire. This float was designed in a partnership with Tony Award-winner Michael Curry. It really was amazing to see in person, and the costumes of the accompanying thorn-inspired stilt performers and raven dancers are just as imaginative. Guests also see the three good fairies -- Flora, Fauna and Merryweather -- glide along.
Finally, a 90-foot float, the second from Japan, helps end the parade with a splash of colors and characters. Look for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, Daisy Duck, Chip and Dale, and many others, including the Fab Five. They are followed by my son's favorites, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, in a hot air balloon. This is a change from the previous daytime parade, which had the pair leading off the celebration.
Although I am not given to humming Disney tunes, I have found myself singing the catchy theme song for Festival of Fantasy Parade since seeing it over the weekend. The original theme song by composer Mark Hammond is carried throughout the parade, but as each float appears, music from that story is woven into the soundtrack. It is both fresh and familiar at the same time. The big question of when the soundtrack will be available for purchase has yet to be answered. So, in the meantime, please feel free to do what I do -- watch our video below on repeat.