Pixar Play Parade is a Pixar-based parade at Disney California Adventure that debuted on March 14, 2008, replacing Block Party Bash. The parade features floats based on several Disney-Pixar films, including Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles and Toy Story. The floats have small water jets that shoot water into the spectators. This effect was first introduced in 1993 for "Aladdin's Royal Caravan" at Disneyland, but this is the first parade at California Adventure to feature it. The music used came from that of Hong Kong Disneyland's Mickey's WaterWorks Parade, having the same tunes, but some changes in lyrics. The parade closed at California Adventure in August 2017 and went on a several-month hiatus. It returned in 2018, swapping parks with the nighttime parade Paint the Night, as part of the Pixar Fest event held at the resort that summer. When it returned, three new floats were added: the Luxo Jr. lamp (now leading the parade), Bing Bong’s rocket from Inside Out, and a float based on Up.
The parade has been put on hiatus three times during its run. The first two times, it was temporarily replaced with "Pixar Pals," an interactive show that featured characters only from Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles. The first time was on January 4, 2011 due to the amount of construction going on at the park. It was originally set to return in November, but construction was still going on, so Pixar Pals continued until May 2012. Pixar Play Parade returned on June 15 to coincide with the grand opening of Disney California Adventure. The second time was during the 2016 Food & Wine Festival. However, this time, Pixar pals only featured The Incredibles, no Monsters, Inc.. When the festival ended, Pixar Play Parade returned. In August 2017, the parade closed at California Adventure after plans were announced for it to switch parks with the nighttime parade “Paint the Night” at Disneyland as part of the Pixar Fest event running through the summer. The parade returned on April 13 at Disneyland with three new floats.
A week after the parade debuted, an accident took place on the A Bug's Life float. One of the platforms on a swing in the back portion of the float broke off during a performance. Fortunately, the performer was able to get off the swing before it broke. For three months, only the front portion of the float remained in the parade. Disney put a suspension on all acrobatic acts in the parade, but it was lifted after less than a month later. The back portion of the float returned to the parade in July.
The parade is composed of several units, each one based off of a specific Pixar film. Each one is set to a cover version of a particular song. During transitions from one unit to another, "Countdown to Fun! and The Party's On" plays.
- Luxo, Jr. Unit (2018): this float was introduced as part of the Pixar Fest event in 2018 as the new lead float. The float features a platform on which the titular lamp sits. The text “PIXAR FEST” rotates around the float. In front of the float, a group of dancers passes around a giant inflatable replica of the Pixar Ball. This unit is set to “You’ve Got a Friend In Me” and the main theme from The Incredibles.
- Monsters University Unit: A group of Monsters University cheerleaders, as well as Scott "Squishy" Squibbles, Art and Terri and Terry Perry, lead the unit with Roz, twirling a baton, and James P. Sullivan, who is driving an oddly shaped drum, in his Monsters University jacket. Originally, this unit featured Needleman, George, and Boo, who were removed and replaced with Squishy and Terri & Terry in 2013 to promote the prequel. A small animated figure of Mike Wazowski in a Monsters University cap sits on the back of the drum float, inviting the parade viewers to chant the Monsters University fight song. Then a few CDA members follow. The unit was originally set to a cover version of "Bang the Drum All Day" originally by Todd Rundgren, but it was replaced by the Monsters University fight song.
- The Incredibles Unit: The Incredibles float features a large replica of Syndrome's Omnidroid 10 with two arms moving around the float and two performers occasionally spouting water. Jack-Jack Parr rides on one of the arms of the droid, occasionally shooting flames from his head. Violet Parr is seen on the other arm of the Omnidroid in a force field. Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl and Frozone ride in front of the float on individual hovercrafts, along with dancers on spring-loaded stilts. The unit is set to a cover version of "Don't Stop Me Now," originally performed by Queen.
- Inside Out Unit (2018): The float consists of a large pile of glowing memories. On top of the pile of memories is Bing Bong’s rocket, with Joy and Sadness riding inside. On the back of the float, sitting among the memories is Bing Bong. This unit is set to the main theme from the film.
- Ratatouille Unit (2008-2010): Chefs on stilts lead in the large food-themed float while Remy stands on the front of the float in front of Chef Gusteau's cookbook while other rats hang from spaghetti on other sections of the float and Emile waves and dances to guests in a ladle. This unit usually did not run regularly. It was set to a cover version of "Yummy Yummy Yummy" originally by Ohio Express. In 2010, it was removed due to the installation of the Red Car Trolly Electric cables, which the unit was too tall to fit under.
- Finding Nemo Unit: Puppets of Marlin, Nemo, Dory and Squirt lead this section of the parade with the float behind them. The float features oversized pieces of coral and a large Crush puppet with water-squirting baby turtles. Female performers with large jellyfish puppets follow the float. The unit is set to a cover of the pop standard, "Sea Cruise."
- A Bug's Life Unit: This is the longest float in the parade. It features Flik and Atta on a two-person swing with Dot looking on, along with two larger swings in the back portion of the float capable of swinging almost 360-degrees around the top of the float. Heimlich leads the float, pushing a water-squirting flower with him, occasionally splitting into multiple portions as he walks. Slim takes up the rear portion of the float dancing and playing with a smaller female bug and waving to guests. The unit is set to "Bugs Just Want to Have Fun," in melody of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" originally by Cyndi Lauper.
- Up unit (2018): This float is based on the natural forested areas around Paradise Falls. Several of Kevin’s offspring sit on a ledge at the front of the float, while Carl Fredricksen stands on top of the float. Attached to the float is a rope holding Carl’s house, suspended in the air by balloons (scaled down to give an illusion of distance). At the back of the float, Dug greets the guests. Kevin runs alongside the float, ridden by Russell.
- Toy Story Units: This unit has five separate portions. The first portion consists of a walking tinkertoy figure and the Green Army Men led by their commander, possibly Sarge. The tinkertoy figure squirts water through its fingers. The second portion features Aliens armed with squirt guns. The third portion is a float that features a large clear globe with plastic balls bouncing around inside and Buzz Lightyear atop the float in a rocket. The fourth portion has Mr. Potato Head in the construction truck from Toy Story 3. The fifth and final section, seemingly pulled by Hamm, features Rex standing atop a large Pixar Ball, holding a long bar in his mouth which acts as a beam for gymnasts to swing around on, along with Woody and Jessie on a motorized teeter-totter squirting water from spring-action shooters. Slinky Dog's front portion stands on the back of the float while his back portion walks along the route following the float, creating the illusion that he is pushing the float. The unit is set to a cover version of "You've Got a Friend in Me," originally by Randy Newman.
- Cars Unit: There is no float, but bringing up the rear of the parade are Lightning McQueen in his World Grand Prix paint job and Mater. On July 9, 2014, the unit became set to a cover version of "Life is a Highway," originally by Tom Cochrane.