After a delicious breakfast at Boma: Flavors of Africa (you’ll have to check out our pics on Facebook for that one) and our Walt Disney World Resort holiday decorations tour, we headed to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is one of Disney World’s two annual hard-ticketed events, where you pay separately (read: more) for admission since it’s not included in the regular park ticket price. The party officially starts at 7:00PM, though party-goers can start entering the park at 4:00PM. Seven hours in the Magic Kingdom with WAAAY reduced lines and special events, all for about 60% of what a regular park ticket costs? And being able to visit the park while it’s not oppressively hot? SOLD!
The Dapper Dans! We had completely missed them on our last visit (and they were nowhere to be found in Tokyo Disneyland. Weird…), but it was really neat to see them, especially decked out in their candy cane-striped outfits.
Cinderella Castle, in the middle of an 80-degree Florida day. In just a few short hours it would look a heck of a lot different.
Of course, the first thing we had to do “officially” was get Lance a Dole Whip. I think this is really the only reason why Lance was considering a Disney Vacation Club membership.
For the rest of the afternoon, before the party began, I wanted to hit up attractions that we’d either missed on our last visit, or would close at 7:00PM with the official park closing. First up, the Enchanted Tiki Room!
Since our last trip to Disney World, I’ve done a lot of additional reading about the development of the parks, including Project Future and Walt and the Promise of Progress City (I preferred the latter). The Enchanted Tiki Room, like the Hall of Presidents, the Country Bear Jamboree, and the Carousel of Progress, are older, “old-fashioned” attractions that may not have the pizzazz of a thrill ride like Splash Mountain, but are routed in such Disney past that those in the know can appreciate them not only for their charm, but for their rich histories.
Even Lance, who didn’t know much of anything about the Tiki Room before we walked in (“Is this a ride?”), giggled through quite a bit of it.
Since the Swiss Family Treehouse was right there, we toured through it. I used to love this when I was a kid, but it seems a little sad now. Am I just making it up or did there used to be more waterwheels? And didn’t the ropes with the water buckets actually move?
Space Mountain in the distance from the treehouse. Cognitive dissonance ACKK!!
After Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (coming soon to your local ABC station!), we went to see the Country Bear Jamboree. I’m going to admit something here: I don’t think, up until this visit, I’d ever seen the Country Bears! Shameful, I know. The good news is: I found them to be completely adorable! I’m a sucker for animatronics that move even when the spotlight’s not on them, and found myself frequently looking over at the mounted heads of Max, Buff, and Melvin as they watched the jamboree. They’d nod their heads approvingly and blink and had all sorts of other little, “unnecessary” things to give life to them…which is ironic, given that they’re a bunch of mounted heads on a wall.
Above: Rapunzel’s Tower is coming along nicely! Anybody know what’s going on with the other buildings going up around it? Is that going to be the meet-n’-greet building and requisite gift shop?
After the Swiss Family Treehouse, we headed to the New Fantasyland addition for its “grand opening weekend” (though everybody and their distant relatives have been able to get in since October):
Apologies to the Internet for not remembering who said it (I think it was A.J. from Disney Food Blog), but I had to try LeFou’s Brew at the new Gaston’s Tavern since somebody raved that it was better than the Butterbeer from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter across town at Universal Studios.
I loved this little area of New Fantasyland, dubbed “Belle’s Village,” though it seemed a little small. I would’ve loved to see a bakery and a bookstore here as well, though I guess that seems too obvious.
Also, as an aside, Disney has been introducing clown and Renaissance Faire-like street performers to New Fantasyland to increase the “immersive experience” for guests (read: a way to provide cheap entertainment). While I think the clowns are a little creepy in concept, they could work well if done right, especially if they’re modeled after the ones in Dumbo. Still, would it be too much to ask to have a street performer flash mob here in Belle’s Village, performing “Bonjour”? Is that too much to ask??
Above: Me enjoying LeFou’s Brew, a strangely good frozen-apple-with-a-hint-of-marshmallow-and-passionfruit drink, after eating five dozen eggs so I’m roughly the size of a barge.
Above: Prince Eric’s Castle, home to Under the Sea: Journey of the Amazing Animatronics. When I first started seeing photos of these new castles, I was a little peeved that they were so small in comparison to Cinderella Castle, but in person this one seems like a good size, big without overpowering the leading lady. (The Beast’s Castle, though, is kinda pitifully small ::says guy who tried and failed to get Be Out Guest restaurant reservations and is bitter about it::)
While I was impressed by the look of the new additions, the area kind of pails in comparison to Mermaid Lagoon from Tokyo DisneySea. While the feel of DisneySea’s Little Mermaid area is a little play-area juvenile, the look of it is so well done that you could spend hours just walking around in getting lost in Ariel’s treasure cavern or Ursula’s cave. Plus, there are at least half a dozen Little Mermaid-inspired rides, not to mention a show, in Tokyo as opposed to the one ride and one meet-’n'-greet they have at Disney World. That, and Triton’s Atlantis looked way cooler than Eric’s castle, though I guess I shouldn’t complain about the parks not totally ripping off of one another–variety is the spice of life!
Anyway, as night fell, the party began!
Above: Lance on his favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom, the Tommorowland People Mover.
The thing to know about these separately ticketed parties is that characters not normally available to meet show up, like Tarzan and Abu and the headliners, the Seven Dwarfs. While I was not about to wait an hour in line to see the Dwarfs, I was willing to wait however long it took to see the rumored-to-appear Scrooge McDuck, hero of Ducktales, one of the most influential shows of my childhood. After 7:00PM passed and Scrooge was nowhere to be found around Fantasyland (his supposed hangout), I eventually gave up, since none of the cast members I talked to had any idea where he might be. Also, an ominous tweet from the @DisneyHipsters confirmed my suspicion that Scrooge was not showing up to the party that night)
Multiple sad faces! Where’s the Disney Magic now, huh??
Since we happened to be in Fantasyland just as other characters were starting to appear, I did wait five minutes so I could take these really awkward photos with the Royal Family (The Prince, Cinderella, and Cinderella’s delightfully-wacky-and-nothing-like-their-movie-counterparts Anastasia and Drizella).
While this photo broke Lance’s “no human characters” rule (you can see that he’s not in the photo, after all), I think he did get a kick out of the stepsister’s really wonderful banter. We had to give these guys credit for owning these characters!
Unfortunately, though, this was not the princess I really wanted to take a photo with. I could take or leave most princesses, but for some reason, I REALLY want to meet Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. I love that workin’ girl! Cinderella had to do this time, though, since we didn’t have much time and wanted to accomplish a mix of character meet-’n'-greets and attractions.
Next time, Tiana. NEXT TIMMMMMMEEE…!
After that, it was back to New Fantasyland just to check if Scrooge was back there. When we saw that the wait for the new Under the Sea: The Journey of the Little Mermaid ride was only 20 minutes, we hopped in line and were to the loading area in about 10, even avoiding a party of ogling bears in the process!
Above: some solid queue theming at Under the Sea!
I’d seen videos of the animatronics from Under the Sea’s California version, but seeing them in real life was a treat–definitely some of the best animatronic work on property, especially Ursula. While the ride itself is a little ho-hum, I could go through several times just watching how these figures move…in a totally not creepy way, I swear.
On our way back to the rest of the Magic Kingdom, we saw that the new Enchanted Tales with Belle only had a 20 minute wait…which was actually more like a 35-40 minute wait, unfortunately. I was pretty skeptical about this attraction after the Disney Hipsters lambasted it in one of their recent podcasts…
Above: checking my teeth in the mirror at Maurice’s cottage. Lance did not approve of this gag photo.
Even though I knew the attraction was supposed to be kind of dumb, I had HAD HAAAD to see the Lumiere animatronic in the library portion. I still can’t figure out how it works. It is definitely the most astounding, convincing animatronic I’ve ever seen. (Sadly, though, it was painfully obvious that it wasn’t Jerry Orbach’s voice coming out of Lumiere. SAD.)
Basically, the gist of this experience is that travel through a magic mirror in Maurice’s cottage which takes you to Beast’s castle, where you help re-enact the story of how Belle and the Beast fell in love. Various guests are assigned roles to help Belle and Lumiere work through the story.
Lance was really unconvinced about this attraction at first; between the long wait and his growing hunger, he sported his signature Disgruntled Lance Face through the first-half. Then, as Belle worked her way through the room, interacting with the kids and the crazy moms who won’t get out of the real photographer’s way, his mood began to turn a corner.
Though it may also have been because, as Lumiere and Belle were singing “Be Our Guest,” Belle circled the room, came up behind Lance, caressed his arms, and sultrily whisperied the lyric, “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious…” to him. I think she might’ve also nibbled on his earlobe a little bit. Was this some sort of “Meet me behind Maurice’s cottage in 10″ signal??
Above: Pirate carolers in Adventureland.
As we rounded the pathway from Adventureland back to the hub, we finally saw Cinderella Castle decked out in icicles! A really beautiful sight!
We quickly headed toward Town Square Theatre at the front of the park to get a photo with Mickey and Minnie in their holiday garb.
A well-traveled “trunk” in the queue to meet Mickey and Minnie had a Hotel MiraCosta sticker on it! (Hotel MiraCosta being the hotel which sits above the entrance to Tokyo DisneySea.) What a great touch!
After a few minutes waiting for some obnoxious family to get done taking photos of their kids in every position and possible combination, we got our photo taken! I don’t know what it is about 18-year-olds dressed up as Mickey Mouse, but they make me SO HAPPY.
We wrapped up our photo just as the Holiday Wishes firework show was starting. I booked it outside as I heard the booming of the fireworks; alas, our position on Main Street was not ideal as we missed a lot of the peripheral show, but it was still a great show. I particularly enjoyed when the fireworks were synced to the Nutcracker Suite.
After the fireworks, and before the Celebrate the Season stage show started in front of the castle, we hopped over to Tomorrowland to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, which was closed for refurbishment the last time we visited.
I didn’t remember the ride looking this cheap, but it’s essentially all 2-D cutouts under blacklight, with a cheap-o “laser cannon” that doesn’t even work. Why not upgrade these to have the screens used on Toy Story Mania!, at the very least?
Above: me trying really hard to beat Lance, whose laser cannon glitched and was granted some 200,000 points right at the offset. Lance, knowing he’s going to soundly defeat me, cries at how lame this ride is.
Knowing we were both getting tired and that we had to catch a plane in, oh, six hours or so, I conceded that the last event we would do at the party would be Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade. We grabbed a spot on Main Street U.S.A. just as the snow started to fall! Beautiful!
This woman certainly didn’t care for the snow, though:
Seriously, guys, I’ve been waiting to see this parade, like my entire life. (My parents would certainly attest to this.) Which kid watches this parade on Christmas morning and doesn’t wish to see it in person? Granted, it didn’t have Lady Antebellum and a bunch of puppies like the televised version will this year, but it was super fun nonetheless.
Sadly, though, most of my photos of the parade came out blurry, a result of low lighting, fast action, and a camera I’m convinced now needs to be replaced. Anyway, you’ve been warned…!
Ahh, there you are, ya jerk!
Ack! The lifesize toy soldiers! I love these guys!
And then the big man himself: Santa Claus!
…And that was it for the parade, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. We could’ve hung around for another 45 minutes or so before the park closed, but we were tired, our feet were sore, and we had to be up at 4:00AM the next day to catch our flight. I snapped a few more pics on our way out…
My favorite photo of the night:
Was Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party all I hoped for and more? It was a unique Magic Kingdom experience, that’s for sure, and I’m glad we did it. We were able to experience new and previously unvisited attractions, see the castle done up in lights, and walk along Main Street as snow was falling. We got to eat lots of free cookies and hot cocoa, another perk of the Party (though I quickly switched to the alternative, apple juice and apple slices). We didn’t get to see everything (the Osborne Lights at Hollywood Studios) or meet everybody (including the seemingly elusive Disney Hipsters, who’d we had tried to connect with during the trip. Damn you, dead cell phone battery!!), but I guess that’s just more stuff to add to the list of things for next time.
I think between breakfast at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, our resort tour and the Christmas party, we had a pretty good day at Disney.