Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 1-7, 2020 by Alan S. Dalinka

Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 1-7, 2020

Writer’s Note, News & Views (Combined)

Hopefully, you enjoyed a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and your Black Friday through Cyber Monday shopping hasn’t wiped out your budget for the season! Personally, I had a Lean Cuisine Turkey entree and purchased a few electronic toys, at least one of which should find some use in connection with my reporting here on MousePlanet.

On Friday, the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays got under way, and all of Walt Disney World Resort is now celebrating the season in the scaled-down ways the Resort’s phased reopening health and safety plans necessitated by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic permit. Over the weekend, posts on social media showed photos of crowds in the parks. Attendance remains capped at 35% of park maximums, and that continues to be regulated by the Disney Park Pass reservation system – remember, a date-specific reservation is required for each guest in addition to a valid ticket or annual pass. So far, my handful of visits to the parks, and most social media and mass media reports (such as this Orlando Sentinel article last week), seem to agree that the Resort’s health and safety protocols are still being widely followed by guests and we have not seen published reports of COVID-19 outbreaks tied to Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney Company’s Securities and Exchange Comission filings last week included notice that the company increased the reduction-in-force to the division that includes the Parks and Resorts from the previously announced 28,000 to 32,000. It is not clear which positions at Walt Disney World Resort have been eliminated. Disneyland Resort in California remains closed except for its Downtown Disney District, and, as Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix reported, last week, with the COVID-19 cases and positivity rates increasing, 40 California counties moved into the most restrictive tier of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan, including all of Southern California, prohibiting indoor dining, and imposing capacity limits of 25% at retail stores. Hong Kong Disneyland announced its temporary re-closure today as well. Florida has not imposed new restrictions as of publication.

Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays Continues Through Year-End

The Disney Parks Blog post noting last Friday’s start of this year’s scaled-down “Taste of” EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays says that the Festival runs through December 31. The original Disney Parks Blog post describing this Festival had listed its end date as December 30. Past Holidays Festivals at EPCOT concluded on December 30, with December 31 providing a New Year’s Eve mix of Holidays offerings with special one-night-only offerings. The extension of this year’s “Taste of” Festival through the last day of the year likely indicates that New Year’s Eve will be celebrations will be limited. We do not expect the attendance caps to change just to ring in 2021, that’s for sure! 

2020 Epcot Holidays

Festival of the Holidays runs through December 31, 2020. Logo courtesy Disney Parks.

The previously-announced highlights of the 2020 Festival include:

  • Holiday Kitchens located throughout World Showcase, including three inside World ShowPlace (enter between United Kingdom and Canada).
  • Characters “dressed in their holiday best” traveling through World Showcase (no published schedule):
    • “Frozen Holiday Promenade” with Anna and Elsa
    • “Mickey and Friends Holiday World Tour”
    • Santa Claus aboard a horse-drawn sleigh
  • Voices of Liberty at America Gardens Theatre
  • Mariachi Cobre celebrating Mexican holiday customs with Las Posadas
  • JAMMitors play percussion at the Mill Stage at Canada
  • JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season on stage in World ShowPlace

    (we are aware that at other times, pianist Carol Stein performs on another stage inside World ShowPlace as well)
  • Holiday Cookie Stroll, with a complimentary “completer” cookie for buying the requisite cookies from five locations

    (special jar available for purchase at Holiday Markets while supplies last)
  • “Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition” – a scavenger hunt to find the hidden Olafs throughout World Showcase

Updated with video and photos taken throughout December 1, 2020 (thanks to invited-media day at EPCOT).

Holiday Decor

In the center of the park where Future World leads to World Showcase Plaza is a holiday photo opportunity.

The main EPCOT Christmas Tree once again stands in World Showcase Plaza.

As usual, the main EPCOT Christmas Tree can be seen from all the way across World Showcase Lagoon.

It can also be spotted from inside the DVC Member Lounge, which is open to Members and their guests with reduced capacity and seating assigned by a cast member to ensure physical distancing. Snacks and beverages are also provided by a cast member (rather than self-service).

Detailed holiday decor appears throughout World Showcase, like here at Norway pavilion.

The tiny village in the model train display at Germany pavilion is celebrating the Festival too.

The Holiday Tea Pot display is again at U.K. pavilion.

The corporate sponsor, AdventHealth, is also the Disney operating partner that provides guests temperature checks and health screen when entering all of the parks and Disney Springs..

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

World Showplace pavilion

World Showplace, located between United Kingdom and Canada pavilions, includes several food and beverage “Holiday Kitchens,” a merchandise location, live entertainment, photo backdrops, plus lots of physically distanced tables (though limited seats).

The entrance to World Showplace includes holiday soldiers.

The Freeform network also has a photo opportunity outside World Showplace.

Inside World Showplace are a few photo opportunities, including this one inspired by “Frozen.”

The U.S. Capitol and other monuments gingerbread display usually constructed and installed at The American Adventure lobby is inside World Showplace.

Unlike its usual installation location, this location allows guests to walk all the way around the Washington D.C. monuments made by the bakery team.

Joyful! performs several times each day on the large stage in World Showplace. Starting December 26, performance sets will include Kwanza celebrations as well.

Musician Carol Stein performs several times daily (usually five days a week) at the Grand Piano all the way at the far end of World Showplace (alternating with Joyful).

Merchandise is available inside World Showplace. Chip and Dale have a prominent role.

They also adorn the special cookie jar that guests can purchase for storing the Cookie Stroll cookies collected (purchased) throughout the park.

A very small selection of Hanukkah merchandise is also available.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Character Cavalcades and Physically Distanced Appearances (No published schedule)

A “Frozen” cavalcade features Queen Elsa on foot around World Showcase Promenade.

Anna rides a horse-drawn carriage in the “Frozen” cavalcade.

Mickey & Friends Cavalcade includes Pluto and Goofy on foot..

Mickey and Minnie Mouse ride in an open air car.

Santa rides a horse-drawn carriage around World Showcase (only until December 24). Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

Joy from “Inside Out” makes physically distanced appearances on the lawn between Imagination and The Land with a bit of Christmas decor added to her shoulders.

At other times, Winnie the Pooh dons a Santa hat when making physically distanced appearances.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka (except as indicated).

Creative Director Tom Vazzana provides an overview of the socially distanced Holiday entertainment offered all around Walt Disney World Resort, which now includes the #EPCOTHolidays (recorded during the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays invited media event). Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

More EPCOT Holiday Entertainment

Mariachi Cobre and Voices of Liberty both have daily scheduled performances at America Gardens Theatre where the seating areas are marked for physically distanced audience viewing.

Mariachi Cobre performances include tributes to Mexican holiday celebrations at this time of year.

Voices of Liberty appear in the Dickens Carolers costumes and sing both Christmas and Hanukkah medleys.

Voices of Liberty are not appearing inside The American Adventure, but the lobby is decorated for the holidays.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

More Holiday Merchandise and Food

Several varieties of Holiday ornaments are available at merchandise locations around EPCOT.

A $15 holiday-themed tote bag is available for purchase with qualifying purchases.

Although not for sale, this “hidden” Olaf is part of this Holiday season’s scavenger hunt. At least one other “hidden” Olaf appears in the food and beverage video. Did you spot it?

Holiday Kitchens serve specialty food and beverage all around World Showcase. The video below, highlights some of the new options for 2020.

The Cookie Stroll is again a part of the Festival. The “Completer Cookie,” the one guests get for free when purchasing the other required cookies, is available at the kiosk in World Showcase Plaza on the Canada pavilion side.

The Mickey Mouse and Christmas Tree popcorn bucket is available at several locations around the park, including inside Odyssey.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Several new menu items are available during the 2020 Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays (recorded during the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays invited media event). Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

Living with the Land – Merry & Bright Nights (More Holiday Decor)

The greenhouses of Living with the Land have again been decorated for the holidays.

Many of the Mickey-themed plants have holiday-themed additions.

Do you think Gaston would approve of the antlers?

The biotechnology lab is decorated as well.

The lights in the tunnels connecting the greenhouses to the pavilion are but a fraction of the lights that are visible during nighttime rides on the boats.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

For even more #EPCOTHolidays, tune in to MousePlanet LIVE! Fun at Home Show #30 for more on Wednesday night, December 2, starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. Find it on our Facebook, YouTube and Twitter/Periscope channels.

This & That…

…Magic Kingdom has added brief bursts of pyrotechnics to the changing of the projections at Cinderella Castle for the holiday season. There is not a fireworks show nor a schedule, and, indeed, there was not a Disney Parks Blog post or tweet about the addition, but we do have an officially-released Disney Parks photo of one of the displays (and have seen a few more).

Bursts of pyrotechnics now accompany changing projections at Cinderella Castle. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

…On ABC-TV, Disney Parks shared an updated look at Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure which is now expected to open in 2021.

…Last week’s D23 presentation about the on-going transformation of EPCOT was followed by the release of concept art for the upcoming daytime fountain displays coming to World Showcase Lagoon. The fountains will be an integral part of the new nighttime spectacular Harmonious which continues to be developed for its premiere sometime in the future (originally announced for 2021, but no longer specified).

Fountains for the new nighttime show Harmonious will also provide a daytime display. Concept art courtesy Disney Parks.

…Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group announced its emergence from Creditor Protection last week by a press release. The recapitalization transaction was certainly a necessary step toward launching the company’s new show at Disney Springs that was to have debuted back in March (among the company’s many other productions world-wide), but no schedule has been announced.

…Though I chose to remain physically distanced from Disney Springs during the busy Thanksgiving week and the Black Friday to Cyber Monday shopping weekend, Santa Claus has begun making his holiday appearances there by watercraft, along with Mrs. Claus. Hopefully, I will personally be able to share some views from there soon, but in the meantime, here are two Disney-supplied views.

Santa and Mrs. Claus make appearances by watercraft on Lake Buena Vista’s Village Lake at Disney Springs. Photo Courtesy Disney Parks.

The large Disney Springs Christmas Tree again stands in Town Center. Additional trees are spread out throughout the neighborhoods, rather than collected together in a single trail as in past years. Photo Courtesy Disney Parks.

…Patina Restaurant Group, which operates Morimoto Asia Orlando, The Edison, Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, Enzo’s hideaway Tunnelbar, and Pizza Ponte at Disney Springs, is offering a $30 digital bonus card with the purchase of every $100 e-gift card purchased through December 31, 2020. Terms and Conditions, plus a full list of participating locations (which include Downtown Disney District locations but NOT EPCOT restaurants), is available on this page of its website, where you can also purchase the e-gift cards.

…Disney is highlighting its over 40 year relationship with Make-A-Wish in the My Disney Experience app this week with special videos and trivia through Friday, December 4. Sales of Wishes Come True Blue color collection merchandise continue to benefit the organization as well.

…Through December 11, Walt Disney World Golf is offering “bonus magic value” when purchasing gift cards. A $100 card gets an additional $10 in value; a $200 card gets an additional $30; and a $300 card gets an additional $60. Cards may be used toward rounds of golf, pro shop purchases, and golf instruction. For more information and to purchase, visit this page of the official Walt Disney World Golf Blog.

Give Kids the World Village’s Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular Runs Nightly Through January 3, 2021

Today, December 1, is #GivingTuesday: Please consider supporting Give Kids The World Village, where happiness inspires hope. During one transformative week, critically ill children and their families can enjoy precious time together and create magical memories away from hospitals, surgeries, and doctor’s visits…and your generosity can make it all possible. Donate today and your donation will be matched (up to $43,500) for double the impact!

In addition, the Give Kids the World Village Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular continues nightly through January 3, 2021. As we have noted in recent weeks, Walt Disney World Resort donated over 3 million lights to the non-profit resort that provides wish-granting, no-cost stays to critically ill children and their families. Because the resort had to close to wish families when the pandemic began, the organization decided to create this immersive, walk-through holiday light event to raise funds for its mission while brining the spirit of the season to visitors.

The Village is located near Walt Disney World Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, roughly a half an hour drive from Magic Kingdom (and less time from the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort area). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka

Walt Disney World Resort donated over 3 million lights to Give Kids the World Village. As now decorated, the Village now brings to mind the former Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but on an even larger scale (though without the programmed, synchronized “dancing”). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Local businesses, including several of the other Central Florida attractions, decorated 33 individual villas around the Resort. The display opened to the public on Friday, November 13. Date-specific, timed entry tickets are available on the Give Kids The World website at GKTW.org/lights. Most of the Village’s wheelchair-accessible attractions are also available at no cost, including The Enchanted Carousel, Marc’s Dino Putt, Kelly’s Sunny Swing, and Lori’s Magical Flight – all elaborately decorated for the holidays. Complimentary hot cocoa and ice cream are served throughout each evening. In addition, guests can visit the Village’s most iconic venue, the Castle of Miracles – featuring a mysterious forest, a wishing well that burps, a magic tree that makes pillows, and more. The Castle is highlighted by thousands of stars that fill the ceiling and the adjoining Star Tower, each placed in honor of a wish child who has visited the Village.

Proceeds from the event support Give Kids The World’s mission to provide wish vacations for critically ill children and their families. When wish-granting organizations receive a request from a critically ill child who wants to visit any of the world-class theme parks Central Florida has to offer, Give Kids The World fulfills the wish – providing each child and his/her family with a magical week-long stay at absolutely no cost. Each family receives transportation, accommodations in one of the Village’s 166 storybook villas, all meals and snacks, nightly entertainment, tickets to Orlando’s world-class theme parks and attractions, and priceless experiences at the Village. Since 1986, Give Kids The World has welcomed more than 176,000 families from 50 states and more than 76 countries.

Town Hall, the Village’s central building, is elaborately decorated with lights for the holidays.

Stilt-walking entertainers are also decorated in light.

Sea World participated in decorated one of the Resort’s Villas.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not included some oddities in its holiday decorations.

Crayola Crayons decorate and help decorate one of the villas.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort has some brick sculptures decorating a villa (including that wreath which we saw last year at a media-invited event at LEGOLAND).

Amberville, home to some of the Village’s attractions, is covered in holiday lights.

Keep an eye out for Stormtroopers bearing gifts.

Disney decorated two villas, including this one with a Beauty & The Beast theme.

File Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Give Kids the World Village Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular is underway. During the Media Preview night, we steamed live from Give Kids the World Village. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

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