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.
A projection on the ground inside the entryway welcomes guests to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
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.
This year's Castle Dreamlights are lit by Queen Elsa, rather than the Fairy Godmother. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
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.
Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, and Uncle Scrooge McDuck greet guests together by the entry arch to Storybook Circus. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
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.
Locations serving free refreshments are easily located by their light-up giant candy canes. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
The Tomorrowland Terrace had all service stations open, helping to keep waits for cookies and cocoa short. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
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.
Many people dislike the "Chicken Dance," but how can you hate it when Clara Cluck is dancing it? Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Phineas and Ferb lead the dance party in Tomorrowland. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
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.
Princes greet guests along with their princesses during the party. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
In one of the rarest photo opportunities, you can pose with all Seven Dwarfs at once. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
This year, guests can meet Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws for the first time. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Guests can also meet Santa Goofy, near the Barnstormer. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
"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.
Cinderella Castle becomes a giant gingerbread confection during the holiday edition of Celebrate the Magic. Photo by Mark Goldhaber
The Holiday Wishes show merges fireworks and the Castle Dreamlights. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
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 Mouse becomes a nutcracker during the "Celebrate the Season" castle show. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
What show on the castle stage is complete without a pyrotechnic finale? Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Buzz Lightyear, Stitch, and Mike Wazowski make an odd combination during "A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas." Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
"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.
"Frozen" stars Princess Anna and Queen Elsa make their first appearance in the Christmas parade. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Even though it's not summer, Olaf is a... happy snowman to be in the parade. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz make their first Christmas parade appearance. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
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 women's shirt features this year's party ornament as its design. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
The ornament is a smaller part of the design of this men's shirt. This design is also available as a red sweatshirt. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
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.
Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse sit atop this year's ornament's bulb, which doubles as a sack of gifts, resting atop a sleigh. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
For the first time, the Christmas Party features a special MagicBand, yours for only $29.95. 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.
As it does every year, soap-bubble "snow" falls on Main Street during the party, to the delight of guests. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
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.
I was there for the first one this year on 11/7, but I focused mostly on entertainment near the Hub and Castle, so I appreciate seeing the events that occurred in other parts of the park.
I didn't think to ask about Pass holder exclusives when I looked over the pins, but I'm probably happier I ended up with the Mickey/Minnie one vs. Olaf anyway. (I did see the huge one not mentioned in your article, but while very nice, at $60 it was a bit more than I was interested in spending on a pin).
One neat thing about the special Magic Band, it causes a sort of candy cane color effect when you use the band at the MK front gate or FP+ readers (doesn't do this at other parks). It goes from the initial green into red and maybe white mixed in. Doesn't have to be during one of the MVMCP events, I found out when using my band for general park touring on Monday 11/10 (when I did not attend MVMCP).
I would assume once the Holiday season is over, they will de-program that effect and they will just behave like normal bands. That alone of course is not necessarily a reason to buy one, but I thought it was a cute touch.
It just seems odd to me that the word VERY is so strongly emphasized in the logo for the Party. I would think it would be Merry or God forbid Christmas but they probably don't want to "offend" anyone. Actually I'm surprised it's still called a Christmas Party/Parade and not the generic "holiday". Although when we were there 2 weeks ago all the CMs we heard referred to the Christmas Trees around the parks as the Holiday Tree.
Two errors in this article. There are no party wristbands this year. They are supposed to scan your MB to make sure you have the right to be at the party but I have seen reports from people who "claim" others are staying because not all locations scan bands. Also the filming of the parade at WDW has been confirmed as Dec. 8th and 9th. A Monday and a Tuesday this year.
If you want to see Jack, be prepared to waste a fair amount of party time standing in line as his waits hover around 2-3 hours with the line closing early due to the amount of people waiting to see him. Crowd control for this could be managed better if he was there for regular guests during the day as well. :0)
They actually did install bands on wrists during the earlier events, unless they stopped. I had a band on 11/7 and I think I observed people with bands on 11/10.
As to the enforcement, there may be something to that. Depending on what you were trying to see/do, you might never have to show the band. I did see CMs looking at standard entry/exit points to the lands though at the start of the event. So if you wander at all, I suspect you would be asked to leave pretty soon after the event started, certainly at anything with a line (rides, dessert goodies, etc).