The Merriest Party on Earth, Ten Years Laterby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
It's been 10 years since I first wrote a feature story about Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (though it has been around much longer than that). Rather than doing another straight story about the party (having written about it for many years in a Walt Disney World Resort Update), I thought I'd take a look at some of the changes that have taken place over the years.
Much of the core entertainment and activities have remained the same, though there have been some minor and major changes.
One of the noticeable changes is that, rather than a hard close of the park at 6:00 p.m. with guests being guided out before the 7:00 p.m. start of the party, the park now closes at 7:00 p.m. to allow day guests to watch the lighting of the castle before departing for the day. Guests are then prevented from entering attraction queues without a party wristband after the start of the party, and those without wristbands are steered out of the park by cast members. This year, the lighting of the 200,000 LED lights on the castle (previously done by the Fairy Godmother in "Cinderella's Holiday Wish") is now done by Queen Elsa in "A Frozen Holiday Wish," which lights the castle at 6:15 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
While the Country Bears Christmas Special is no longer presented, the
Jungle Jingle Cruise provides a new holiday attraction overlay. Again, most attractions remained open. The Swiss Family Treehouse and Jungle Jingle Cruise now remain open, and New Fantasyland and Storybook Circus have been added in the last 10 years. Pete's Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus is the only addition to the "closed" list.
Free cookies and cocoa are still available, but the number of service locations has expanded from three to seven. Current distribution locations are:
- Adventureland – Sunshine Tree Terrace and Tortuga Tavern
- Liberty Square – Columbia Harbour House
- Fantasyland – Pinocchio Village Haus
- Tomorrowland – Tomorrowland Terrace and Costmic Ray's Starlight Cafe
- Main Street, U.S.A. – Crystal Palace
Hours vary, with all except Cosmic Ray's (8:00) and Crystal Palace (9:00) opening at 7:00 with the start of the party. Four close at party's end at midnight, with Pinocchio Village Haus (10:30), Tortuga Tavern (11:00), and Crystal Palace (11:00) closing early. In addition to the cookies and cocoa, apple slices and apple juice are available for a healthier treat.
As in previous years, the Town Square Christmas tree will not be erected until after the filming of the parade for television broadcast, which takes place during the first weekend of December. (Note that this year's broadcast is called "The Disney Frozen Christmas Celebration," which allows them to de-emphasize the parade and put more emphasis on concert performances, promotional videos, and staged bits in the parks.) In the meantime, character photo opportunities are available throughout the area.
The single dance party has been replaced by two different themed dance parties. The Holiday Hootenanny takes place at the Diamond Horseshoe featuring the Country Bears, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, and Clara Cluck. Over in Tomorrowland at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, the Sonny Eclipse performance area is turned into Club Tinsel, with Phineas and Ferb hosting the party.
Eighteen character meet-and-greet locations, compared with just nine a decade ago, offer a variety of characters, including rare opportunities such as Disney princess joining their princesses and the coveted all-Seven-Dwarfs photo opportunity. New this year are Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws at the Storybook Circus Fastpass tent and Santa Goofy near the Barnstormer. Photos are no longer free as they were in 2004, but rather are added to guests' PhotoPass accounts. Of course, as always, the photographers will also take your character photo with your own camera as well.
"Holiday Wishes," which debuted in 2005, features a holiday-themed fireworks show with special shells and a series of 180-degree bursts toward the end. Prior to the 9:30 p.m. start of the fireworks, the Celebrate the Magic castle projection show starts at 9:15 p.m. and features a holiday insert that projects the image of the 25th anniversary "castle cake" onto the structure, as well as turning the castle into a gingerbread house.
While the "Celebrate the Season" stage show on the Cinderella Castle Stage continues its run with minor changes to the show (with performances at 7:30, 10:05, and 11:20 p.m.), "Mickey's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" is no more, having ended its run with the demolition of Tomorrowland's Galaxy Palace Theater. Guests will no longer have the chance to see Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in bed together. A relatively new addition to the stage show line-up is "A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas," at the Rockettower Plaza Stage (which was the eventual replacement for the Galaxy Palace Theater as a show site on that side of the park). Featuring Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski, and Stitch, the show features some new takes on some old holiday classic songs at 7:45, 8:45, 9:55, 10:50, and 11:45 p.m.
"Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime" parade (no longer "Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parade") still runs twice nightly (at 8:15 and 10:30 p.m.), with some new characters this year. In addition to the mandatory "insert Frozen everywhere" units—featuring Kristoff, Anna and Elsa, and Olaf—Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck It Ralph also appear in the parade.
Special limited-edition merchandise is also available at five locations. This year, merchandise includes event T-shirts, a series of trading pins, ornaments, and a limited-edition graphic MagicBand. The Frontier Trading Post stocks only pins, Big Top Souvenirs only has the MagicBand, Mickey's Star Traders has T-shirts and pins, Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe has T-shirts, pins, and ornaments, and the Emporium has all event merchandise.
This year's event pin set features five differently colored ornaments, each of which swings to reveal a holiday image. Each color hides a difference scene. The Olaf pin is a Passholder exclusive. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
As always, following the final Party on December 19, all entertainment will become part of the standard holiday offerings to day guests in the parks. The offerings, including Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime parade, will run through December 31. Special New Years Eve fireworks being presented on December 30 and 31.
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party runs for 19 nights in 2014: November 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21, and 30, December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 19. As of this writing, November 20 is the only remaining date that is sold out. Prices vary by date, with ages 3-9 costing $62, 66, or $69 (plus tax) and ages 10+ running $67, $71, or $74 (plus tax). Passholder and Disney Vacation Club Member discounts of $5 off per ticket are available for December 2, 4, and 9. To purchase tickets, go to the Walt Disney World website.