Festival of Fantasy

Festival of Fantasy Parade (At Disney Again)Happy Monday … and Happy Parade Day! Errr … sort of.

Yesterday, Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade stepped off for the first time, and Dan was there to capture it all. Thousands of photos and a freshman attempt at videography later, and even though I was a thousand miles away, I feel as if I were there. And so will you!

The parade, which Disney says is “a tribute to New Fantasyland,” is a brightly colored plasticine pop of pure delight that whirls and swirls energetically along with a medley of our favorite Disney songs. Below, you’ll find many photos of the parade along with descriptions, explanations and comments from my own viewing of the photos and video as well as Dan’s opinions on the parade.

Below that? A full video of the parade, so you can experience it in all of its kinetic glory. Then, on At Disney Again, you’ll find more than 100 photos—everything from close-ups of the floats and performers to wide shots that offer perspective on the size and scope of this ambitious parade.

The moving show starts with members of “The Swan Court,” and I can’t decide if they look more like swans, with gravity-defying feather cuffs around the neck, or show ponies, with high, feathered hats. Regardless, they’re beautiful, and really set the tone for the whole parade: modern, colorful and fun with nods to the heavy, traditional costumes of the past.

Following these beautiful dancers is the new Princess float. The dreadful crystal castle of the past several years is gone (hopefully forever), and this replacement is amazing. With Belle and Beast riding on front, the float features two more platforms for Princess-y pairs—and each of them rotates, giving the audience on both sides of the street a chance to see the whole, beautiful float in its entirety. Cinderella and the Frozen sisters (along with Olaf) are our Princesses du jour for the time being, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t easy to switch these sets out.

Dan and I both love this float. Not only is it lovely, but it’s our first glimpse of the kinetic energy of this parade—everything moves. Everything. Sure, all parades are forward moving. But all of these floats are left and right, up and down, side to side moving. They very much exist in the three dimensional space, and they take full advantage of that fact.

Everywhere you look, something is twisting, turning or pumping, giving you a new perspective. As we were looking through the photos, Dan kept noticing little details he didn’t see while he was on the sidelines, and I experienced something new every time I watched the video. This is a parade that will stand up to repeat viewings for sure.

Next up is Rapunzel and The Snuggly Duckling. Leading the charge are some colorful barmaids and Ulf, the ruffian-turned-mime from the pub.  This float is sort of amazing but also sort of a big mess. Rapunzel’s hair is woven throughout the galleon ship … which is also the bar itself. It’s very odd—shaped like a ship, with ship details, but the sign on the door says Snuggly Duckling and there are casks everywhere.

Riding atop huge swinging axes and other weaponry, Flynn, Maximus and the Pub Thugs, are constantly in motion, mostly unable to interact with the guests. Though this part of the float is incredibly cool to see (the performers move the platforms with their own body weight), it also seems oddly out-of-place. And there’s so much going on—from her hair to some lanterns to the ship and bar details and myriad other Tangled Easter eggs—it’s just very confusing for the eye.

Next up: Ariel’s Undersea Music Box! I love the brightly colored sea creatures–they look simultaneously bold and feather light, with rippling iridescence shinning as the performers greet guests on either side of the parade route. In addition to the seashell woman, the undersea flora woman and the seahorses we see here, there was also a really beautiful coral reef woman, who never made it over to Dan’s side of the street.

That’s actually one thing I don’t like about the parade: in some places (like The Swan Court and the dancers in front of Merida’s float, which we’ll get to), there are moooooore than enough dancers preceding the float. But here, there are just three. And their costumes are to. Die. For. There should be two of each costume so everyone gets a chance to see them more closely. Because they are fabulous!

And so is the music box, which looks like it comes right out of the Mermaid attraction in New Fantasyland. It’s perfect—everything spins, just as you’d expect. And if Disney doesn’t make two music-box-sized versions of this thing (a high-end version and a lower-end version for kids), then they’re clearly just not interested in printing their own money.

That’s another thing about this parade that I, personally, really love: it’s so godamn marketable! A couple of the costumes are so stinking incredible that Disney’s practically going to have to create salable versions of them, along with miniaturized versions of some of the floats, as well.

But I digress. Back to the show!

The Peter Pan unit is one of my favorites from the whole parade. I’ll admit: I didn’t like the sketches I saw ahead of the parade. But seeing it for real … it’s really kind of amazing that they were able to make this float happen. It’s so interesting and beautiful and really unlike anything we’ve seen before.

But before we meet Peter, Wendy and the gang, we interact with The Lost Boys. Their Newsies-inspired costumes are very tough and rugged but have a soft boyishness to them that’s appropriately vulnerable. The choreography and design are perfectly balanced in a way that’s truly greater than the sum of its (already exceptional) parts.

The rest of the float, as I’ve said, is beautiful. I especially love the Tinkerbell area–it nods to her float in the Main Street Electrical Parade with a bright, lively scene that moves and spins and would seem right at home in Alice’s Wonderland. And, of course, Tick Tock the Crocodile brings up the rear of this section, comically threatening … I really just want to pinch his cheeks!

The Brave set is my least favorite of the show. And I still sort of squealed with delight when I saw it.

I mean, it is really cute. Merida is just darling, and her three little bear brothers? Totally adorable. But I guess I just don’t ‘get’ it. Why is it a giant bagpipe? It’s huge and clunky. And though the bear medallion spins, I feel like it doesn’t have the same vibrancy and life as the other floats.

Also? Too many dancers. And their costumes are just terrible. Get those women out of that ill-fitting crushed velvet and into some cute, funky plaids. And the hairnets. Oh, boy, the hairnets! It just feels so … old.

Of course, what is a story without an enemy?

And amid all of the cotton-candy spun, carnival-inspired, pop art-styled patchwork of ruffles and lace, there are nods to the Victorian-flourished iron and inner clock-workings of steam punk that make this whole parade even more spectacular.

The darkness is woven throughout in small ways (like Ariel’s music box and the wind-up-toy-ish nature of Tick Tock), but we really see it for the first time in a series of men with pointy metal masks (Disney’s calling them The Ravens).

Their costumes are a mix of riveted leather, filigreed metal and dark, layered fabric wings. Along with them is a selection of very dark stilt-walking tree-men inspired by the upcoming Maleficent film. Not gonna lie: they’re kind of scary. But in the best way—they stalk Flora, Fauna and Merryweather (not pictured) and spar with Phillip along the route.

But the pièce de résistance is the  53-foot long Maleficent Dragon. She. Is. Spectacular.

She breathes fire, for goodness sake! And she’s so breathtakingly beautiful. I mean, I just literally can’t even handle the details of this float. She is a work of art and a work of war. And while some people might think it’s “too scary,” I don’t think kids are going to be scared of her at all. I think they’re going to be fascinated.

As Dan said to me earlier, the parade is, overall, balanced well between whimsy and villains. Yes, Maleficent and her minions are a little frightening, but she is defeated by Prince Phillip. And immediately followed by whimsy.

It doesn’t get more whimsical than a wind-up Monstro! The water from his blowhole pumps up and down, bouncing poor Cleo along the parade route. She’s accompanied along the way by Pinocchio and Dumbo. It’s a spinning, tilting mash-up of Pleasure Island fun and Fantasia styling that nods at the world’s best circus: Storybook Circus!

The float is led off by the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White, Jiminy Cricket, The White Rabbit, Alice and the Mad Hatter. I’m glad to see all of these characters making an appearance, but it does feel like a pretty random melange. They’re accompanied by several dancers who’ve become  bubbling, brightly-colored living pieces of the ocean.

Bringing up the rear are the Fab Five, Daisy, Chip and Dale … and the coolest costumes I’ve ever seen. They look like circus tents, but the way they bounce and shake along with the movements of the dancers is truly something spectacular. It’s such a fun, energetic way to end the show.

The whole parade, really, is wonderful. The touches are just perfect! From Mickey, looking very Wizard of Oz in a top hat, and Minnie aboard a hot air balloon to the way that most of the costumes have been made light and ethereal with feather-like touches … it’s perfect in a way that I really can’t compare to anything else Disney has ever done. Gone are the old, heavy taffeta, velvet and tasseled costumes (mostly). These feel completely modern but still completely Fantasyland-esque.

Festival of Fantasy Parade (At Disney Again)

Want more? You’re in luck! Dan’s got more than 100 shots–with awesome movement and great details–on his blog, and you can watch the full parade below! Hint: scroll to 3 minutes, 30 seconds to get right to the parade. There are a lot of announcements beforehand:

Which float is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below! And if anyone knows how to recreate those amazing Storybook Circus skirts from the finale, please let me know. 

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