Park of the Week: Islands of Adventure

A visit to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

December 10, 2008, 6:21 PM · LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Years ago, when I worked in the Magic Kingdom, we looked forward to the annual employee cast member Christmas party, when Disney would reserve... Disney World (duh!) and treat its employees to a night in the Magic Kingdom, complete with a free picture with Santa Claus, a free snack and cheap employee prices on all the food.

Yet I never actually went to the thing. For me, the appeal was the overtime, the extra shift working the party where, unlike my normal shifts, I could eat "on stage" and know that I'd be treated extra well... since every other guest knew what a pain doing this job could be.

Easy money. Good times.

Of course, lots of people did go. Each cast member could bring his or her family or a guest, and demand for tickets among non-Disney employees grew immensely over the years. So much so that Disney figured that it could make a small fortune running a version of the party not for employees, but for paying guests.

And, thus, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was born.

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

These days, Disney doesn't do the cast-only parties anymore. All spare late November and early December evenings are given over to MVMCP instead. So, after you guys voted MVMCP your favorite special event at Walt Disney World, I decided to book a flight to Orlando and, for the first time, go.

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Perhaps one of you with better information than mine can tell me why Disney doesn't do this event in Anaheim. With the much larger local audience, I figure that Disney could clear a couple million a night doing this event at Disneyland. That's a better park for the holiday, anyway, with more extensive decorating plus holiday versions of It's a Small World and the Haunted Mansion. The Magic Kingdom doesn't even run the Christmas version of the Country Bear Jamboree anymore.

Still, the Magic Kingdom's holiday castle is hard to beat:

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

The MVMCP has changed over the years. The free photos with Santa cost money now, though Disney still offers free snacks. And that's where I headed first.

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Cast members served up all the hot chocolate and sugar cookies (with sprinkles!) you care to eat at several locations around the Magic Kingdom. I chose the Diamond Horseshoe for my first snack, since it's got the best holiday decor, as well as a no-wait meet n' greet with Woody and Bullseye.

And here are said snacks:

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

"Wow, those cookies are huge!" my Mom exclaimed when she saw me upload this picture. "Actually, Mom," I said, "that ain't exactly a Venti hot chocolate." (I'm guessing six ounces. Maybe eight.)

For the most part, aside from the cookies and hot chocolate (apple slices and apple juice also are available for the lactose intolerant), it's pretty much a normal December night at the Magic Kingdom. I hit a few favorite rides, then grabbed a space in Liberty Square to watch "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade."

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Mick and Min kick it off instead of wrap it up, since they're outranked by the special guest in this parade.

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Roller stakes sub for ice stakes on the streets of Liberty Square.

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

By the way, don't overlook the performers as you wait to point out the next float to your kids. A) The kids can see the large float 10 feet from the faces without your help, thank you very much, and B) These guys are doing some neat stuff - skating, dancing, acrobatics.

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Is Goofy really a genetic combination of a dog, Willy Wonka and Elton John? Hmmmm...

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

My favorite part of the holiday parade always has been the toy soldiers' band.

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Though the reindeer run a close second.

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

And, finally, here comes that special guest, Santa.

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

The other highlight of the party is the special holiday version of the "Wishes" fireworks show. Here are a few of my shots:

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Photo from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

And with that, I wrap up my trip to Orlando. Don't worry, TPI fans, I'll be back on the east coast soon enough. We've got some aggressive theme park touring planned for the new year.

And check back next week for another "Tuesday Park Visit" column from my Orlando trip. And later in the month, we'll keep the holiday spirit alive with our annual early sneak peek at the year's Tournament of Roses Parade floats, while they are still under construction.

Replies (15)

December 10, 2008 at 7:32 PM · Beautiful pictures, Robert, and a fun foray into Disney World over the past few days. I also appreciate the mini-history lesson on the origins of MVMCP.

One day I will visit WDW during a holiday season, but for now, all I have are the pictures and commentary of others such as yourself.

Excellent stuff...and worth every penny we pay you!! ;)

December 10, 2008 at 7:44 PM · I must mention that I got stuck for about 5-6 minutes on Buzz Lightyear... in the tunnel! (The one section in the ride where there are no targets. Grrrrr.)

FWIW and FYI, the film in the tunnel runs on a 15-second loop. I know that now.

December 10, 2008 at 8:23 PM · Robert, there actually is a target it in there. If you remember the clip, it is in the area the big ship 'hovers' for several seconds on the left side. When you are nearing the end you can look to your left and see a small square. It kinda looks like a panel on a wall for a light switch, but with no holes or anything.
December 10, 2008 at 8:58 PM · Hey Robert, thanks for all the photos, news and info. I was there at this time last year. Couldn't make it this year. Envious, but happy for you as well.

Just a few questions about your trip.

How were the crowd sizes?
Last year they were huge.

Longest wait?
December 07'-Test Track-Evening Extra Magic Hours-Single Rider Line-55 min!

Was Mr Yeti moving again?

Thanks again.

December 10, 2008 at 9:09 PM · Mike K... NOW you tell me! :-)

I'm so used to the Buzz guns on Anaheim now that I spent the first half of the ride cursing that I couldn't lift the darn things up.

As for waits, I saw 70 minutes posted @ Midway Mania @ 7 pm Monday. Ouch! Walked on to everything I went on during the trip, though. MVMCP was sold out.

December 11, 2008 at 4:37 AM · Hey, Alan, I don't think Robert made it to DAK this trip to check out the Yeti. However, a friend of mine went to DAK back in September/October, and on his dozen or so trips past the Yeti during his visit, there was no movement. B Mode was in full effect. Sadly, Dance Club Yeti is here to stay - at least until Expedition Everest has some extended refurb downtime.

Speaking of DAK, I saw a travel channel special about Christmas at WDW, and the redo of DAK's parade to a holiday theme looked pretty cool. I should have remembered to ask Robert to check it out when he was asking for suggestions a few days ago. Oh well, when you live your theme park life vicariously though others in the winter months like I do, something is always missed!

December 11, 2008 at 7:46 AM · Just one small thing I noticed.....and this may only be the camera angle.........but have the reindeer had their floppy tongues removed ???

When we went in 2002 they had long red tongues flopping around which made them look both loveable and kinda dumb at the same time.( How do I upload a photo to prove this ? )

If the tongues have been cut out is it to make them appear more intelligent and streetwise ?

Also. It's a bad move to pack the Country Bears bags and send them off without having performed their show. It was always a favourite of ours seeing all the "gang" dressed in their Xmas outfits. Shame.

December 11, 2008 at 9:34 AM · Rob, you're right! The floppy tongues are gone. *That's* what was different about them. I knew that they looked different, but I thought maybe it was just new suits. Hadn't realized it was the tongues.
December 11, 2008 at 10:24 AM · The lighting of Cinderella's Castle is just an amazing thing to see.
December 11, 2008 at 11:55 AM · Great pics. I was there at the party 11/11 and 11/14. Unfortunatly the trees weren't up yet. Still, crowded and alot of fun. Not so much snow coming down on Main Street.
The hot cocoa was good, especially when it was in the low 50s on 11/11. Not so much when it hot rainy and humid on 11/14. The cookies were missing something, what was that, oh yeah, FLAVOR. But I ate them anyway. The best part about the party on 11/14 was that we saw the Space Shuttle take off. We knew the when lift off was so we climed the Swiss Family Tree House and had a great unobstructed view facing east. Then all of a sudden we saw a giant fire ball ascend fittingly over Space Mountain. It didn't last long because of the low cloud cover. But what a sight. Right after that the sky opened up and poured. Most of the guests were unprepared and left so wait times were next to nil. It rained on & off. First parade cancelled, second parade was rained on half way through. Poor guys. Cleared up for the fireworks. It's a must do, but don't do it the first week. All the decorations aren't up yet.
December 11, 2008 at 7:41 PM · Very Nice Robert...
Love the Pic's...
December 11, 2008 at 8:10 PM · I went to the MVMCP last week (12/4) and I have mixed feelings about it. The parade, fireworks, seeing the castle light up was good to see.

The cookies and hot cocoa they served up was ...... bland. You would figure that they would serve more than just Sugar Cookies. No Chocolate Chip or Peanut Butter cookies to be found.

Was paying nearly 50 bucks worth the price? For someone who isn't a passholder and rarely goes there, yes its a bargain really. However since I am a passholder there, I think paying nearly 50 bucks wasn't worth it.

December 11, 2008 at 11:27 PM · I've only been to the Halloween Party at MK, so I could not help but feel a deja vu with the Goofy photo. I had to pull my Sept. trip pics out and yes, it is the exact same float and almost identical outfit. All they did was add some tinsel. Now I understood the candy for Halloween, but isn't it pushing it a little too much at Christmas too? They should have him baking cookies or something else like trying to hang lights on a tree .
December 12, 2008 at 6:23 AM · I think I was there the same night you were Robert. The crowds were enourmous, but at the same time I think it was one of the easiest years I've been to the MVMCP. My mother travels in an ECV, and the crowds at the party tend to make it impossible for her to enjoy the fireworks (or see them for that matter) and parade. This year, although the crowds were there, they seemed to be more willing to help her get to where she needed to be. I also noticed the missing tongues on the reindeer. In fact, the whole parade looked like it had been spruced up a bit. The toy soldiers had been looking pretty shabby lately, and they were all shiney and new looking. We also noted that the performers were particularly energetic and enthusiastic the night we watched the parade.

The fireworks are spectacular (and much better than the holiday show at DL) and the addition of the special castle lighting (and encorporating it into the show) was amazing.

The only thing we missed this year was Mickey's Night Before Christmas, as both shows we attempted to attend were full by the time we got there. If you haven't seen it, take some time out to try to get to it. I've seen it in the past, and it really is a charming show.

Lines were virtually non-existent for the rides my 5-year old nephew wanted to ride. In the future, I might not want to spin on the teacups that many times in a row!

Robert, I'll also say you missed out on a lot of fun at the employee party. I was hired in October and attended the last official party before they went to the ticket system they use now. My whole traditions class ended up there on the same night, ran into each other, and hijacked the Jungle Cruise together. It may not have been the "official" spiel, but it sure was funny!

December 12, 2008 at 9:25 PM · Damn - that's sort of Grinch-like to lose the employee party. That was a generous idea, but I guess there's money to be made.

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