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Winter Trip Report Part 1 - Holiday Entertainment Review

This is my first post in the Trip Reports section of WDW Magic. It won't really be a conventional "Trip Report" discussing what I did each day, where I ate or slept, other personal details, or the totaltity of my most recent experiences. Rather, it will specifically discuss the various Christmas entertainment/overlays I experienced, and due to length will be followed up with a second part featuring my thoughts on "new to me" additions and changes to the WDW parks. Nonetheless, after writing this, this "Trip Report" forum seemed the most appropriate place in the forums in which to post this. (If the mods feel it fits better in General Discussion, please feel free to move it there).

For a little background, I have been living "seasonally" in the Orlando area for the past five winter/spring seasons and have just begun my sixth winter/spring in the area. I usually lurk more than post during my "season" in Florida, mainly just to keep up with Park News and Hours and such, but this year I wanted to share some thoughts after my first big wave of Park Visits for 2011. Both Parts of this report are written from the point of view of a frequent, "regular" visitor.

PART 1 - THE CHRISTMAS ENTERTAINMENT/OVERLAYS

MAGIC KINGDOM

As per usual, MK was my favorite park to experience during the Holiday season.

The Once Upon A Christmastime parade was spectacular and festive, and really put me in the Christmas spirit. I was able to see this wonderful parade 8 times in just two visits to the park (4 times daily) by watching both the noon and 3:30 parade "step off" in Frontierland and then short-cutting through Adventureland/Emporium and catching a second viewing of each in Town Square - a convenient "trick" that I also love using for MSEP! (which runs in the opposite direction, but the same "short cut" works)

The parade was just as spectacular and awesome as I remember it, although I did miss the Winnie the Pooh float (with a rare appearance by Kanga and Roo) which was not a part of any of my viewings this year.

I love the catchy musical "underliner" and the various Holiday songs blended into the parade's various themed sections. Ironically, when they first changed the parade and music a few years ago, it took some getting used to the changes, but now I would REALLY miss THIS version if it ever went away!

The Celebrate the Season Castle Show remains my favorite Castle show in the history of WDW! Again, this was very festive and put me in the Holiday spirit! Plenty of great songs, a warm vibe, the "Fab 5", Frosty, the Raindeer, the Christmas Bears, and lots of laughs (including a very barkative Pluto!) made this a show I returned to again and again during my two days at the park!

I enjoyed Totally Tomorrowland Christmas more this year than last year. Last year it had the misfortune of being compared with "Twas the Night Before Christmas" from the now-defunct Tomorrowland Theatre, as 2009 was the first year without that classic which I preferred. This year, I wasn't as acutely aware of this show being the replacement of one I preferred, so I got more into it on its own terms, especially Mike's comical version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Raindeer (Yipee!)

Holiday Wishes is another iconic Classic. With Christmas being my favorite holiday, I love this overlay of Wishes, and the combination of music and visuals gave me the same level of goosebumps and awe that I get from regular Wishes! Naturally, I saw this on both evenings I was at the MK on which it was presented.

Fantasy In the Sky/New Year's Eve Fireworks just completely BLEW ME AWAY as it has done every year that I've seen it for the past 5 years. The numbers in the sky, Mickey and ther gang counting down backwards from 10, and then the big midnight finale all overwhelmed me with goosebumps, awe, and emotion as per usual. I enjoy the early parts of the show as well, and the "Second Star To the Right" intro from Peter Pan. This year was a bittersweet viewing for me, as it likely marks the last time I'll be able to fly on Dumbo during the show with Dumbo located perfectly in the middle of the action. By next NYE, Dumbo is likely to already be in his new home in land currently occupied by Toontown, which won't be nearly as good or "symetrical" of a viewing location of the fireworks.

Equally bittersweet was my final Christmas season in Mickey's Toontown Fair. I'm a big fan of this section of the park, and really enjoyed Mickey and Minnie's Christmas lights, the other various Christmas decorations, and the festive and cute Mickey's Toontown Fair music loop of Christmas songs used as background music.

Cinderella Castle Lights/Lighting show - Absolutely stunning and spectacular, particularly when they first light up on your first evening there. What more can be said?

Mickey's Christmas Carol Emporium Windows - props go to the MK for bringing back the Christmas window overlay scenes, perfectly telling the story of Mickey's Christmas Carol, for a second straight year!

Main Street Music Loop/Decorations I really enjoy the combination of the perfection that is this music loop with the tree, tree lights, Main Street lights, and Castle Lights. I was certainly in no hurry to leave the park at closing, knowing one is allowed to linger in the Hub and Main Street for a good long while after the park is "officially" closed enjoying the music, tree, and lights - and even slightly longer in Town Square! The relatively obscure, sublime, music-box rendition of "Ihr Kinderlein Kommet" ("Oh Come Little Children" remains a favorite track on this loop, and can be found beginning at 2:15 here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEXlc3IeSCE

As much as I love the Christmas experience at the MK, the Country Bear Jamboree Christmas show is DEEPLY missed, and I would also love to get the It's A Small World Holiday overlay like Disneyland has. Both of these attractions are in my MK Top 3 and a Christmas version of either would blow me away!

EPCOT

With the Lights Of Winter and the Tree Lighting show now both gone again, Epcot's "Holidays Around the World" event is now lacking in comparison to it's former self. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed what was offered this year to the fullest extent possible, just not as much as on my earlier experiences with the event when more was offered.

With these aformentioned icons of Christmas at Epcot missing, this puts a lot of pressure on the remaining offerings to carry the event.

The World Showcase Storytellers were all very enjoyable and talented, and do a great job of showcasing the diversity of various holiday customs and traditions of the 11 World Showcase nations. With just one day in attendance during the event (it ended on December 30th), I managed to catch them all in one day, which took a lot of time and backtracking (I only missed the Canadian Papa Noel, who got "caught in a blizzard" on my day at the park and had to cancel - hopefully he's OK now! ;)

I enjoyed the charming Gingerbread House at American Adventure and the delicious cookies sold inside it!

Candlelight Processional was as enjoyable as usual. Marlee Matlin was the host on the evening I saw it and did an excellent job, as did the orchestra and of course the choir.

This leaves the Holiday Version of Illuminations as essentially the only remaining element of the Epcot Holiday event (other than the Christmas music loops, tree and some cute character Christmas-themed topiaries near the tree). The "Let There Be Peace On Earth" finale tag was as moving and inspiring as ever, but there seemed to be fewer shells in the finale than last year - which itself had nocticably fewer than the years before.

If all of this sounds negative I don't mean it to be - just fair, balanced, and realistic. I know "change" is inevitable in the parks, but to truly "change" in the Disney spirit, things need to replace that which has been lost. And what Epcot truly needs, being a nightime park with a nightime Christmas event - is a signiture light display! So a return of Lights Of Winter, or a replacement of them with something equally or even more impressive, would really carry the day here.

I also really miss the nightly tree-lighting show which was fun and festive and featured the "Fab 5" Characters!

DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Other than the decorations, tree, and nice Christmas music loops, the one big Holiday draw here is The Osborne Festival Of Dancing Lights. I spent about 90 minutes among the lights on my one visit to the park in which they were presented (30 minutes at lighting and the last hour they were lit), and enjoyed them as much as on previous years. The moment when the switch is pulled and you see the lights for the first time is truly spectacular and awe-inspiring, as is the dancing sequences.

The display does a nice job of balancing the secular aspects of Christmas with the sacred, both in the display itself and the musical selections. Favorite sections for me include the angels and manger scenes, as well as the more comical moments such as Santa pulling a sleigh full of tired raindeer! (found on "San Francisco street")

I did not hear my favorite track from past viewings of the lights - the sublime "Christmas Canon" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra* - but perhaps it was played while I was away from the lights doing attractions. I did enjoy the musical selections I did hear though. Due to never having seen the show, I was unfamiliar with the Phineas and Ferb audio new to the display this year.

* "Christmas Canon" audio (NOT the video) as heard at the Osborne Lights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzqQdc8wljY

The soap suds (er, fake "snow") seemed more aggressive to me this year than on past years, or maybe I just caught the display this year on a windier-than-usual night. It seemed to be blowing everywhere, and didn't seem to let up much, even during some of the "dancing" sequences. It would have been nice to have more "calm" time to just enjoy the lights on their own merit without the "snow" blowing nonstop, but that's just my tastes.

It has come to my attention that Mickey's Christmas Carol was screened at the Premiere Theatre this year, and I missed it by one or two days. Although I have the DVD of this classic Disney Animated short, I would have loved seeing it on the big screen, so I have to give the park props for offering this and hope it becomes a new holiday tradition.

I also think the park would be a perfect fit for a holiday-themed musical stage show - perhaps a triumphant return of the popular "Mickey's Twas the Night Before Christmas", formerly from the MKs now-defunct Tomorrowland Theatre.

DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM

Props go the Animal Kingdom for running Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade all the way until the 12th day of Christmas - December 5. All of the other parks ended the Holiday festivities earlier, but AK ran their parade all the way until the traditional final day of the Christmas season! So kudos to AK for letting the parade keep it's "jingle" a few extra days before replacing it's "jingle" back with it's "jammin"! ;)

As for the parade itself, I love it! Being a big fan of the original Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade, and a big fan of Christmas, the overlay works perfect for my taste! It retains the lively festive spirit and celebration of animals of the original, while adding a nice dose of festive Christmas spirit, decorations, and songs as well!

The float decorations (such as the Christmas stockings for the characters, Santa hats on some of the animals, etc) are really charming and I LOVE the festive, Christmasy soundtrack!

I was able to catch this parade 4 times on my 2 visits to the park on which it ran, as this parade is very easy to catch twice per presentation, as it ends at the same gate from which it begins!

I also really enjoyed the Animal KIngdom Christmas Tree. This one rivals the MKs for fave tree at the four parks. Being an animal fan, I love how the tree is a tribute to animals, both in a more realistic way with the ornaments as well as the "anthropomorphic" Disney animal characters represented at the bottom (such as Jiminy Cricket, Pooh characters, Lion King characters, etc)

Also a welcome return from past years was the Christmas decorations in Camp Minnie-Mickey (with trees themed to various characters) and Dinoland USA, as well as the Christmas music loops in both sections.

SEA WORLD

Although not a Disney park, I just have to give props to Sea World for how much their Christmas event has grown and improved through the years. I missed it last year, but the comparison of what was there this year with two or three years ago was stunning!

New this year was the Sea Of Trees, several illuminated Christmas trees who's lights beautifully reflect in the large lagoon in which they are located. They then change colors, dance, and blink in an excellent show timed to Christmas music.

An excellent Christmas themed nightly Fireworks show immediately follows the night's final performance of the equally excellent Ice Skating show, both viewed from the "seasonal" stadium perfectly overlooking the aforementioned Sea Of Trees.

In addition to this, I LOVE the Polar Express overlay of the Wild Arctic simulator, being a big fan of that movie! And the park also does nice Christmas overlays of both their Shamu show and Sea Lion Show.

Lastly, the park has Christmas lights not just at the park entrance, but several places throught the park!

So, kudos to Sea World for growing and improving their Christmas event rather than settling for the status quo or even reducing a la Epcot! In addition to being a WDW Annual Passholder, I also have a Platinum Pass for Busch Gardens/Sea World, so I really appreciate these improvements!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my winter report in the next day or two, featuring my thoughts on various "new to me" additions and changes to the WDW parks (such as the new Pooh queue, Via Napoli counter service pizza-by-the-slice experiment, Duffy Bear, Walt Disney: One Man's Dream version 2.0, etc.) Now found here: http://forums.wdwmagic.com/showthread.php?t=683430
 

WDW Monorail

Well-Known Member
Just a note.
The Christmas tag at the end of Reflections of Earth was the same in both 2009 and 2010. 2009 differed from 2008 in that two less 10 shell chains were used.
 

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