Monday, August 10, 2009

Special Events at Walt Disney World

In the past two years my family and I have been fortunate enough to attend several unique and not so unique events at the Walt Disney World Resort. We received tickets to be at the filming of the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade Filming (actually filmed on consecutive weekends in November. We were not there for the actual parade but for the concerts that are shown from the base of the castle between the parades. After arriving at the park at 6:45 AM and being crammed into the audience area for over an hour (literally having to shield my children from the mosh pit that ensued. We finally decided to get out and simply walk that park. The picture the right was taken at 4:00 PM while the filming was still ongoing. These were the choral singers who were backing up I can't remember who. Either way, we would have been in that mosh pit for ten hours by this time with no break and no way out once the filming began. We could hear them starting and stopping songs over and over to get just the right angle on the performer and just the right response from the crowd. It was awful and absolutely one of the worst experiences I was not really a part of.

The year before we attended the Epcot rededication ceremony, which turned out to be quite disorganized for a Disney event. It was performed at the Innoventions Fountain, and although it should have been fun and exciting, it was none of those. We again left and went to do something else. Although we purchased many of the once in a lifetime bits of merchandise. We saw most of the items for sale over the next few months on other trips to Epcot.

This past year we did an amazing Christmas Trip. We decided to attend the park the weekend before Christmas. Although we new the crowds would be heavy, according to the website there was a brief window when most travelers would not be arriving and we would have moderate instead of insane crowds. We purchased Very Merry Christmas Tickets and planned to do MVMCP at the Magic Kingdom on Friday, Christmas Around the World and the Candlelight Precessional at Epcot on Saturday, and finally end it all with the Osborne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios on Sunday before we left.

What ensued was an amazing yet bittersweet weekend. We have decided that the special parties end up being expensive cookies and cocoa trips. Most of the unique events that are reserved for the parties are being shown to all guests on non party nights. For example, the lighting of the
icicle lights on Cinderella's Castle occurs every night, special party or not. We have been told that Christmas Wishes was conducted on non party nights, and we have found that many guests were not wearing wristbands while there suggesting that they were not ticketed for the event. They have oversold these events so much that you need to arrive at the special events very early and still there will be few decent seats. Moreover, there is less and less value for the events. The first time we attended in 2005, we received free portraits and other goodies, while the only included extra this past year was a sugar cookie and burn your mouth hot cocoa.

We faired much better at the other two events with the Candlelight Precessional being one of the most memorable events to date. So much so, that we are going back again this year. However, this time when we go, we will see John Hurley of Sienfeld and Dancing with the Stars fame since we believe he will be even more inspiring. We did book a dinner package to reserve our seats, but found that it did very little to ease the burden of waiting in line for the show. As always, the Osborne lights were amazing and truly are the one thing you can see without worry of the crowds. It was beautiful and exciting, but after walking them for about 30 minutes, that was probably enough. Too bad we sat on the Streets of America for an hour
waiting for sunset. It was the end of a busy weekend and we just didn't have the patience to stand through another line for one more attraction before seeing the show.

In that same year we hit a Pirates and Princess party. Although we did arrive with our entire party in pirate and princess dress, the party was again a let down. We collected our bag of cheap necklaces and candy (and we now understand there is no candy), went to the dance parties, waited in line to meet Captain Jack Sparrow (worth every minute though he was great) and did manage to see both the parade (excellent but not that different than the Halloween Parade) and the Pirate Wishes. The next month we were invited (translation someone else paid) to go to the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Wearing the same costumes from the previous party we trucked in to trick or treat (we hit them all), dance . . . .again . . . see the parade and wishes. Aside from the excellent decorations, we were again let down .

The parties seem to give less and less each time we go. So this year, we have purposefully decided that we will not attend another party for at least two years. We need to get some distance between us and the parties. Next we need to see that they are going to offer something more. We do plan on attending the parks during each season, and although we will not sneak into a party, we will stay late on the evening when there isn't a party just to see how close the evening without a party matches a party evening.

I will confess, the grave digger sequence in the Not So Scary Halloween Party is unbelievable especially if they are in front of you when the do their sparkling dance with their shovels. It was awesome, but not $50 worth of awesome.

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