What's new with this year's Disney Parks televised Christmas special
In just two weeks, the annual “Disney Parks Unforgettable Christmas Celebration” will air on ABC on Christmas morning. This is the 32nd year for the Christmas special, which has undergone several changes, both in the production and the final television show. I experienced some of what’s new myself when I attended the taping at Walt Disney World, and Disney also has revealed other details.
For the first time in recent memory, the special was filmed only at Walt Disney World in Orlando. In other years, performances also were filmed at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and the show offered segments from each coast, leading viewers to think they were seeing what was actually happening in Disney Parks on Christmas morning. That may make some of you chuckle, but until the early 1990s, the Disney Christmas special really was filmed live on Christmas Day.
The Christmas special also has undergone quite a few name changes, but for decades it was called the “Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade.” This year’s moniker, “Disney Parks Unforgettable Christmas Celebration,” encompasses all the Disney properties worldwide and introduces the new marketing campaign, “Unforgettable Happens Here.” The theme is carried out in the show in several ways, according to a Walt Disney World press release:
** Real-life stories of three families whose personal connection to Disney Parks will make their Christmas dreams come true.
** Magical memories from past Disney Christmas shows of yesteryear.
** Beloved Disney Park moments shared by actors and actresses from both classic and current Disney films.
But when the special was filming at Walt Disney World for four days in November, what guests wanted to experience were the musical performances. My 13-year-old son and I were among those who joined the crowds one day to hear Jason Derulo and Ariana Grande, and I was surprised by some of the differences since the last time I had attended the parade taping.
First, although the official tickets to be in the audience were only offered to cast members, Disney made it clear that day guests and annual passholders were welcome to join the audience spots as space permitted. My son and I arrived shortly after the Magic Kingdom opened at 9 a.m., and we had no problem finding a spot at the front of the hub by Cinderella Castle. As fellow guests got tired and left the area, we moved forward until we were only about five people back from the stage during Ariana Grande’s last song. This was a much different experience than when we attended performances by Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers many years ago. Those were so jam-packed, you could hardly walk around the crowds, let alone find a spot if you didn’t have a ticket.
Many of this year’s performers were chosen to sing their interpretations of Disney classics from the “We Love Disney” album, along with a mix of Christmas favorites. They were accompanied by Grammy Award-winning musician David Foster. The lineup includes the following artists (with descriptions from the official press release):
** Jason Derulo shakes up this year’s parade with his rendition of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” – available on the “We Love Disney” album.
** International superstar, Ariana Grande pays tribute to the Greek demi-god, Hercules with the Disney favorite “Zero to Hero,” also available on the “We Love Disney” album, along with her latest single, “Focus.”
** Grammy-winning artist, Seal dazzles parade spectators with his interpretation of “This Christmas” and new hit, “Every Time I’m With You.”
** Country music legend, Reba McEntire sings her original song, “Going Out Like That” and the popular Christmas tune, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
** Breakout musical artist, Andy Grammer delights the crowd with medley of “Honey I’m Good” and his new single “Good to be Alive,” along with the iconic Christmas song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
** Rising pop star, Charlie Puth adds Christmas cheer with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and his own single, “One Call Away.”
** “Should’ve Been Us” singer, Tori Kelly spreads Disney magic with the beloved classic “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” – available on the “We Love Disney” album – and the holiday favorite, “Winter Wonderland.”
** Soulful singer, Charles Perry jazzes up the festivities with a “World of My Own/Ev’rybody Wants to be a Cat” medley and his own spin on the famous Christmas duet, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
** The cast of the Disney Channel Original Movie, “Descendants,” Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Booboo Stewart, and Sofia Carson, pay tribute to Disney’s most infamous villains with “Rotten to the Core.”
The “Disney Parks Unforgettable Christmas Celebration” is again hosted by Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning America” with correspondent reports from Jesse Palmer, Janel Parrish from “Pretty Little Liars” and Stitch. The special airs at 10 a.m. ET on ABC. Look for my son and I in the crowd by Cinderella Castle!