Thursday, December 20, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 32B - Walt Disney World Holiday Offerings

"From all of us to all of you a very merry Christmas!
And at this joyful time of year we want you to be with us.
So get around a lovely tree where all the lights are shining.
We'll be as happy as can be while all the bells are shining."

As a bonus entry into this If I Were Disney CEO series, a festive holiday treat focusing on holiday offerings for the stateside Disney parks.  I'm of the opinion that few can celebrate the season like Disney and would love to ramp up and diversify the offerings that the parks have.  I'm focusing on the stateside parks, because while the international parks do celebrate, the offerings are nowhere close to the extent that the stateside parks undertake.  Were I to elaborate on the international parks, I would want to focus on the celebrations and customs within the particular country.

With that in mind, my goals for this exercise are to give each stateside park a unique feeling for the Christmas season, focusing on a particular component of the holidays and playing into the parks strengths.  One thing I will discuss specifically for each park to highlight the unique attributes is the tree lighting ceremony.  Each park should have one, and they should each be unique and reflect that specific park.

Today, the Walt Disney World Resort.

The Magic Kingdom:
When discussing the differences in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland always comes down on the nostalgic side and the Magic Kingdom carries a bit more grandeur.  Disneyland has even been described as quaint, where as the Magic Kingdom is a bit more majestic.  Part of this comes down to the size of the castle and the image it portrays.  I think this can be used to describe the difference in the holiday offerings between the parks as well.  The Magic Kingdom's holiday offerings should focus more on the magic of the season.  Here's my holiday wishlist for the Magic Kingdom:
  • A condensed Nutcracker Ballet for the Main Street Theater - The Main Street Theater needs to be used to contain a large scale Christmas production and what better and more theme appropriate than a performance of the Nutcracker ballet.  A condensed ballet would be a wonderful seasonal addition.
  • Jingle Cruise - a holiday overlay of the Jungle Cruise offered since 2013.  A holiday shipment exploded over the jungle with lots of fruitcake jokes.  Allow spiked eggnog and this might be a perfect ride.
  • Decorations and appropriate music in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse - one easy addition would be to add Christmas decor to the Treehouse, to mirror the scene in the Swiss Family Robinson Movie.  Appropriate music as played on the Treehouse organ could make this a quick, holiday addition.
  • Country Bear Christmas Special - As was mentioned for Disney California Adventure, this is a holiday overlay that needs to be brought back.  This version was previously offered in the Magic Kingdom and is a must to be reinstalled.
  • Christmas Show in the Diamond Horseshoe - As mentioned for Disneyland, there should always be a show in the Diamond Horseshoe, and there should absolutely be a Christmas show at this season.
  • Holiday Costumes for Belle and Beast in Enchanted Tales with Belle and Be Our Guest - Belle and Beast are one of the few princess and prince combinations that have appropriate holiday attire thanks to the Belle's Enchanted Christmas straight-to-dvd special.  These new costumes would make a nice festive touch.  A new storyline for Enchanted Tales with Belle would also be an easy holiday overlay.
  • Broader scope for decorations in Fantasyland - the New Fantasyland area started getting Christmas decorations in 2013.  This should be expanded into Fantasyland proper, even if just for garland around the ride signage.  
  • Tomorrowland decorations - Tomorrowland does have the Totally Tomorrowland Christmas and Club Tinsel shows, but there needs to be decorations in the land.  Here, it would be fun to see what a cyberpunk Christmas would look like.
  • Frozen Holiday Wish - This has been a cute addition, where Elsa covers the castle in ice and causes it to snow.  Their costumes could be changed out for their holiday versions from Olaf's Frozen Adventure, but otherwise this is a solid offering.
  • Once Upon A Christmastime Parade - a classic.  
  • Holiday Wishes - perfect for the park.  This fireworks spectacular utilizes Jiminy Cricket, who I believe should be the voice of the park.  Excellent musical arrangements.  I would just get it out from the upcharge party earlier.
  • Tree Lighting Ceremony - The Magic Kingdom's tree lighting ceremony should be accompanied by music from a town band, like the Magic Kingdom Marching band.  To me, the song I most associate with the Magic Kingdom and Christmas is We Need A Little Christmas.  That is what I envision for this ceremony.
EPCOT is the park that celebrates Christmas around the world.  The cultures, the music, the variations on Santa Claus.  EPCOT should center on the majesty of the season.  With that in mind, here is my holiday wishlist for EPCOT:
  • A restored Lights of Winter - The one portion of the holiday offerings that helps bridge the Future World and World Showcase sections.  With the Osborne Festival of Dancing Lights no longer offered at Hollywood Studios, the resort needs a Christmas light focused offering.  I would update them to LEDs, as those could be used to synchronize with other holiday offerings.
  • its a small world holiday - With the attraction rebuilt here, the holiday offering would be a natural fit.  The Lights of Winter could lead up to the facade and tie into the projection and clock shows.  This would be the seminal attraction to tie all of the holiday offerings together.
  • Festival of the Holidays - as in DCA, Disney has expanded their holiday offerings to include food booths to celebrate the holiday foods of different cultures around the world.  One area EPCOT needs to beef up would be the seasonal entertainment acts that are part of this Festival.  DCA has several incredible holiday acts.   EPCOT should have the same.
  • Feliz Navidad overlay in Grand Fiesta Tour - This would seem to be an easy overlay, given the projections.  The Three Caballeros celebrating Feliz Navidad.
  • Anna and Elsa in their holiday costumes - As in the Magic Kingdom, the meet and greets for Anna and Elsa should have them in their Olaf's Frozen Adventure holiday costumes.
  • Holiday Storytellers - One great offering at EPCOT is the various storytellers in each country telling of their version of Santa Claus or their Christmas traditions.  I wish these were highlighted more.
  • Voices of Liberty Caroling - the Voices of Liberty are one of my favorite parts of EPCOT and their Christmas Carols are amazing.  These singers are some of the best I've heard and the arrangements are impeccable.
  • Candlelight Processional - A wonderful variation of the Candlelight Processional from Disneyland.  This is a classic presentation of the classic Christmas story, no changes needed.
  • Holiday Illuminations - Currently Illuminations has a holiday Peace on Earth tag.  I would create a full Holiday Illuminations, designed to highlight Christmas and Holiday celebrations around the world.  For personal preference, I would highlight Heather Headley as the prominent singer of the show.  She has been in both the World of Color Seasons of Light and Winter Dreams variations.
  • Tree Lighting Ceremony - EPCOT currently has a wonderfully majestic tree lighting ceremony I would continue.  A musical theme by a symphony orchestra.  It is composed of no specific identifiable Christmas melody, but is instantly recognizable as a holiday tune.
Disney Hollywood Studios:
The mission of Disney Hollywood Studios is to have guests experience their favorite movies - to put them into the worlds of their favorite films.  Christmas should be no exception and the goal should be to put them into their favorite Christmas films.  Thankfully, this could be achieved fairly easily, especially with the 20th Century Fox acquisition and the iconic Christmas film it made.
  • Christmas Tree decor on the lights on Hollywood Boulevard - Taking an inspiration from Hollywood history, I would love to see these classic Christmas tree additions recreated down Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood Studios.
  • Mickey's Holiday Railway - I would start working now on animation for a Christmas version of the Mickey's Runaway Railway attraction being added to the Chinese Theater.  With the screen based attraction, the animation would be most of what is necessary for a quick conversion.
  • Echo Lake Christmas tree and 1950s decorations - this has been the best addition to Disney Hollywood Studios.  I would keep these attractions going, looking to plus them with the fountains in Echo Lake.
  • Seasonal Shows in Superstar Television and ILM Special Effects - Superstar Television in particular would be a great place to recreate a Christmas Special.
  • Jingle Bell Rock 'n Roller Coaster - This seems like a no-brainer.  A storyline centering on needing to get the gifts to Santa as quickly as possible with Run, Run Rudolph and  Jingle Bell Rock as example songs.
  • Life Day acknowledgement in Galaxy's Edge - Like Disneyland, this should not be overt, but should be there.  An opportunity to celebrate the holidays in the Star Wars Universe.
  • Christmas Toy Story Playland - Alien holiday tunes on Alien Swirling Saucers, jingle bells on Slinky Dog Dash.  Giant Christmas decorations, including the Angel Kitty.  Experience Christmas as a toy.
  • Holiday Midway Mania - Again, the screen based attraction could be easily swapped for a Christmas themed version.  The animation should already be in progress.
  • Christmas MuppetVision - I would replace the MuppetVision*3D Movie with a version that presents a tour through Muppet versions of Christmas classics.  It's A Wonderful Log, and the like.
  • Muppets Present...Great Moments in a Christmas Carol - I would use the facades on Grand Avenue to present Muppets telling the story of A Christmas Carol from the windows, with a walk-around Ghost of Christmas Present character from Muppet Christmas Carol available for meet and greets.  Again, this one seems like it should have been implemented ages ago.
  • Nightmare Before Christmas section - as my plans for DHS called for a Nightmare Before Christmas dark ride, this area would be perfect to play up during the holiday season.  Meet and Greets with 
  • Miracle on 34th Street - One big coup in the 20th Century Fox acquisition is the inclusion of A Miracle on 34th Street.  For Christmas, this gives Disney access to THE Santa Claus. It would be great to setup a recreation of the Santa chair from the movie in a "department" store in the park for the official Santa Claus photo and wishlist opportunity.  It would also open up the next option.
  • Get the Macy's Holiday Parade back from Universal - Years ago, Disney had partnered with Macy's to have the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloons on their Streets of America section during the Christmas season. 
    When that went away to eventually be replaced by the Osborne Family Lights, Universal picked up the license, creating their Universal's Holiday Parade Featuring Macy's.  With the acquisition of Miracle on 34th Street, I would be working to partner with Macy's to pick up the license as soon as it expires with Universal.  Then Disney could have the official parade and the official Santa Claus.  It would seem like a wonderfully symbiotic relationship.
  • Wonderful World of Christmas fireworks - Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam is a fun show, and I like the idea of the Prep & Landing team running Christmas in Disney Hollywood Studios, but I would love to see a firework show that is a true celebration of Christmas movies.  The acquisition of 20th Century Fox presents the opportunity to work in films like Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, Die Hard, and Jingle All The Way with existing Disney properties like Mickey's Christmas Carol, Muppet Christmas Carol, Babes in Toyland, and Nightmare Before Christmas, in addition to the shorts and specials.
  • Tree Lighting Ceremony - The tree lighting ceremony should be a celebration of Christmas in entertainment.  It's a studio chorus and orchestra playing White Christmas.  Tied to the golden age of Hollywood with searchlights on the tree.
Disney's Animal Kingdom:
Disney's Animal Kingdom has a typically subdued Christmas offering. It previously had a parade, but that is no longer an option.  I would like to keep the subdued spirit, but expand into an appropriate area - to celebrate and explore the connection of animals to the seasonal holidays.  Accordingly, here is my holiday wishlist for Disney's Animal Kingdom:
  • Diwali celebration in UP - The Diwali recognition in Up! A Great Bird Adventure Show has been a great addition.  I would like to see that expanded into Asia, with the colors and lights.
  • Oversized decorations in a bug's land - For my proposed bug's land addition, I would also bring the oversized decorations from Disney California Adventure.  This area was always cute in California over the holidays and should be the same here.
  • Manger scene between Africa and Asia with camels, sheep, donkey - With the connection of the traditional nativity story to the Middle East and Asia continent, it would be a perfect opportunity to have a manger scene with just the animals present.  To recognize the connection of the camel, the donkey, and sheep to the Christmas story.  A scene that could be viewed and potential opportunity for an animal encounter.
  • Santa's Stables at Conservation Station - Likewise, the other great animal connections to the season are reindeer and the yule goat.  The season presents a perfect opportunity to bring in these animals as seasonal attractions in an appropriate space.  Santa's Stables could also be designed to help keep the normally far northern animals cooler in Florida.
  • Winter celebration in Dinoland with Ice Age takeover - With 20th Century Fox, Disney has also acquired the Ice Age franchise and has been looking for ways to bring them into the park.  Winter would seem to be the perfect opportunity to take a space from a celebration of the reptilian/avian dinosaurs to the mammals of the Ice Age.  Could be done in an appropriately tacky and delightful Chester and Hester Style.
  • Holiday Tree of Life lighting ceremony - Disney Animal Kingdom presents a different challenge with the tree lighting ceremony.  The park's tree is located outside the park itself, in front of the main gate.  There is not really a good space to put the Christmas tree, but the park's central icon is a tree.  I would love to see a Holiday segment added to the Tree of Life tree lighting projection show that could serve that function for the park, with an appropriate world music score.
All together, these additions and plussings could make the holiday offerings of the Walt Disney World resort truly a place for a world-class celebration.

As always, thank you for reading.  After the new year, the series will continue with Disney's television offerings.

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