Lights twinkle year round at Mickey’s Florida home, but during the holiday season Walt Disney World positively sparkles. Some of the largest crowds of the year descend on the resort to enjoy its decked halls, Christmas-themed shows, and other holiday hoopla along with the parks’ celebrated rides and attractions.
With new Toy Story and Star Wars lands in development at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the long-running Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights lost its home for the holidays this year. But lights are still blazing at the movie-themed park with the new Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! nighttime show. Included with admission and scheduled to run nightly through December 31 in front of the Chinese Theater, the presentation includes eye-popping projections, lasers, fire blasts, and pyrotechnics. It uses the theater’s facade and adjacent buildings as enormous screens.
Characters from Disney’s Prep & Landing animated TV special anchor Jingle BAM. In order to save Christmas, they are on a mission to locate Santa Claus, who has mysteriously disappeared. Woven into the show are winter scenes from classic cartoons starring Donald Duck, Chip and Dale, Bambi, and others in the Disney canon. Tim Burton’s quirky The Nightmare Before Christmas gets a shoutout as well.
When the Mouse House first began incorporating digital mapping projections in its kiss-goodnight shows, the imagery was largely impressionistic. With projection technology and artistry improving and evolving, Jingle BAM! offers crisp, bright, and extended narrative scenes, creating a linear story arc that is easy to follow and engaging.
“We wanted to reinvent how we use lasers and projections,” says Tom Vazzana, show director at Walt Disney World. He adds that his mantra for the holiday show was, “Let’s go sharper and more story-driven.”
One of the show’s highlights was a happy accident. During rehearsals, Vazzana’s team was running the overhead snow machines while a technician was playing with the lasers. “We split the laser so it was green on the sides and red in the middle like a ribbon and it caught the snow,” he explains. “I said, ‘This is gorgeous!’ How do we capitalize on it?” Laser-enhanced snow now falls on mesmerized Jingle BAM! crowds.
It’s not really a spoiler to say that Santa is rescued, and Christmas is saved. The finale, choreographed to a rousing rendition of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” that was recorded by a 60-piece orchestra, is a riot of fireworks, lasers, and projections.
Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom also serves as a canvas for festive holiday projections as part of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The separately ticketed event is being held on select nights through December 22 with adult tickets ranging from $91 to $99 depending on the date.
New this year during the party is Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, a show that includes characters such as Daisy Duck, who sings about cell phones and text messages (really!), and Clarabelle Cow. The under-the-radar (or is that udder-the-radar?) toon turns out to be quite the soulful diva. As the musical numbers unfold on a stage in front of the castle, projections supplement the action and animate the iconic building. The show will be staged for regular park guests from December 23 to 31.
Projections onto the castle are also featured in A Frozen Holiday Wish. The returning Christmas Party show features the ubiquitous “Let It Go” crew. Festive projections complement the pyrotechnics as well for the Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season fireworks show. And toy soldiers, reindeer, and other holiday ambassadors march through the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. Both Christmas Party and daytime guests at the Magic Kingdom can groan at the silly puns shared by the skippers aboard the renamed-for-the-season Jingle Cruise. The holiday-themed version of the beloved attraction runs through the end of the year.
Each evening from November 25 to December 30, Epcot will present Candlelight Processional. Celebrity guests, including Whoopi Goldberg and Meredith Vierra, will narrate the Christmas story. A choir and 50-member orchestra will join them.
Also, the countries represented in Epcot’s World Showcase, including Mexico and the U.K., will demonstrate their traditions in Holidays Around the World. New this year, the park will offer holiday treats from around the world in booths set up along the promenade. In the Future World area of the park, a gospel choir will perform holiday favorites. And the nightly IllumiNations will include some Christmas cheer amid the fireworks. All of Epcot’s holiday presentations are included in general admission.