Disneyland Christmas 2013 Trip Report – Part II

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I’m not quite sure where to start with Viva Navidad! Part of me wants to call it a surprise hit, and for most guests, I think that will be a fair assessment. However, after being blown away by Opa! A Celebration of Greece over Memorial Day weekend, and hearing that Viva Navidad received an even bigger budget, I had guarded but high expectations. I suppose Viva Navidad was a surprise hit even for me in the sense that it far surpassed even my expectations. 

Simply put, Viva Navidad is the type of thing you’d expect to find in Epcot’s World Showcase (but won’t). It has shades of vintage EPCOT Center, and reminded me how well that park used to integrate entertainment, education, and culture. To be sure, Epcot still hits some of these notes, but nothing has done the concept of “EPCOT Center” as much justice as Viva Navidad in the last…I dunno, decade.

This is undoubtedly high praise for a humble street party tucked back in what I’d hazard is the least-visited corner of Disney California Adventure. To be sure, I’m not saying that Viva Navidad is better than the likes of Soarin’, Test Track 2.0, etc. I’m saying that it embodies the spirit of EPCOT Center better than these attractions, and does what it does better than those things. In other words, for what it is (a street party), Viva Navidad is pretty near perfect.

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The street party features the Three Caballeros on its sole float that rolls into place in front of the center entrance to Paradise Garden (camp out in front of Bayside Brews before the show for the best view). If you want good photos, go to an earlier show. My night photos don’t do the show justice.

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I’d hazard a guess that there are also around 30-40 performers in the street party, which is pretty astounding. These performers dance and play music, giving the party a great energy.

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All of that is great, but the stars of the show by far are the large mojiganga floats. EPCOT Center fans might notice the striking resemblance these bear to the World Showcase dolls! They’re bigger and arguably stranger, and now glide around on wheels. Cue “The Creep.” Yeah, they might be a bit creepy, but so are we. ;) We loved them!

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This street party is the main draw for Viva Navidad, but activities are ongoing throughout the day. While we were there, there was also a meet & greet with Goofy (in a special costume) plus live music and face-painting. At other times, there are crafts and dance lessons. I wanted to return during the day for more photos, but we never ended up making it back.

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Wanting to soak up as much of the Viva Navidad ambiance as possible, we decided to grab dinner at Paradise Garden Grill. Both Paradise Garden Grill and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta have menu items for Viva Navidad, but in the case of the former, it’s the entire menu–everything is a special menu item.

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Guy spoke highly of the Torta al Pastor sandwich, so I ordered it. It was excellent, with a great flavor thanks to the pork, avocado, and textured bread. I’d definitely recommend it.

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Sarah got the Street Style Tacos. These were also really good, but not too substantial given the $11 price. (I feel like the prices for “special” menu items are often a tad inflated because Disney knows Disneyland fans love anything ‘special’ or limited edition!)

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Guy got the Chicken Mole. I didn’t try his, but it looked like the best pick of all, and he seemed to like it. I suspect he spoke so highly of the Torta al Pastor to throw me off the scent of the Chicken Mole, so he could order it. I guess his plan backfired, as I liked the sandwich. Foolish Captain EO fan!

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I also ordered the Manzana Lift, which is an apple flavored soft drink (a similar drink in a different flavor used to be available at Club Cool–I don’t know if it still is sine they changed their drinks). It was absolutely delicious! I would have ordered a couple more had I not learned that it didn’t have caffeine. (What? Why call it “Lift” then?!) I had been up for around 20 consecutive hours at that point, and still had a good 6 to go, so I needed the caffeine.

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While we ate, we enjoyed watching some live Latino music on the Paradise Garden Bandstand. The group was very energetic, and many guests got up and danced. The ambiance really seemed like what you mind find in a heavily-Latino community on a weekend night. It was a wholesome party atmosphere that made you feel as if you were among family and friends.

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Guy’s wife…Girl…was meeting us soon, but I wanted to grab some photos. Guy and Girl use these clever aliases as they evade law enforcement for crimes so heinous (being Captain EO fans) that they would be banished to living in Kentucky if caught.

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Sarah also headed back to the room to grab a coat, so I was on my own for photos for a few minutes.

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Then I headed over to Cars Land to get some photos of details and wait for Guy and Jennifer.

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It was busy, so details photos were all that was really possible.

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Sarah returned bundled up in a park…you’d think she doesn’t live in the Midwest!

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We decided to head back over to Disneyland for a bit because…why not?

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First stop was going to be Plaza Inn for a Yule Log, but the line was out the door. I swear Yule Logs should be traded on the commodities markets. Instead, we went to Jolly Holiday Bakery where we got a grilled cheese and soup, plus a Chocolate Peppermint cupcake.

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The cupcake was one of the few standout Christmas snacks at Disneyland for Christmas.

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I wanted to see “Believe… In Holiday Magic!,” but Guy didn’t seem to think we could catch both it and World of Color – Winter Dreams, despite a 30 minute gap between the end of Believe and the start of Winter Dreams. I’ve done it a number of times, but I wasn’t sure of the popularity of Winter Dreams given that it was only a couple of weeks old, so we played it safe and headed over to Disney California Adventure just before Believe started. Going through the turnstiles knowing I could have been waiting for the fireworks crushed me a little, but it would’ve hurt more to miss Winter Dreams. I don’t know why I’m so fireworks-addicted, but I am.

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We had some time before Winter Dreams started, so we did Luigi’s Flying Tires once. I don’t think I’ve done a Disneyland trip report since Cars Land opened, but we love Luigi’s. That’s not popular sentiment, but Sarah and I always go separately, and we can zip around on the tires. I wish the ride were a bit longer, but it’s still fun. Just requires balance and some finesse.

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Muffler garland detail shot.

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After that, it was time to go to World of Color. We arrived fairly early by our usual standards (30 minutes before the show) and there was a short line to get in. As soon as we were in, we moved to the wet zone for a front row view. It was a little more crowded than normal, especially considering that the temperature was in the upper 30s, but we still had a good view.

As for World of Color – Winter Dreams, we both liked it. I really liked it, but I am biased towards all things Christmas-related.

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The opening song, “Glow,” was performed by the internet Honor Choir and was chills-inducing, even if half the lyrics were unintelligible. It just didn’t matter. The internet choir was a great idea, and the song is beautiful.

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Note the lights projecting out of Mickey’s Fun Wheel. I got much better photos of these on the second night we watched Winter Dreams.

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Winter Dreams is arguably less colorful than regular World of Color, although at certain points, it’s much more colorful. Lots more blues and cool colors used, unsurprisingly.

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“Let it Go” from Frozen is the clear crowd favorite in Winter Dreams. I wouldn’t be surprised if this finds its way into regular World of Color, too.

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Projected snow…all of the beauty of the real thing without any of the mess to shovel.

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Projections with some laser-like dimensionality, like this “Peace on Earth” are pretty cool.

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Maybe I’m just imagining things, but the projections seemed crisper and having more depth in Winter Dreams. Could be wrong on that.

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Olaf’s song works just fine. If his presence were confined to this and minor narrative duties, he wouldn’t be an issue. He needs to be toned down a bit, though.

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Toy Story Nutcracker is another solid segment, although it probably overstays its welcome a bit. Still, I think this is a good segment–more on it later.

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Like I said, I really liked Winter Dreams. I’d go as far as to say it’s better than the regular World of Color. The presence of a host–even Olaf–gives it a nice narrative thread that makes it feel more like an actual show and less like a montage marketing reel. There are some scenes that are beautiful and capture the essence of the Christmas season, with some great music to go along. Plus, the new technology takes the already visually impressive World of Color to the next level.

Still, I think Winter Dreams is quite flawed. Olaf is more annoying than he was in Frozen, and he’s a harsh contrast to the elegant scenes. (His ‘follow my bouncing butt’ segment was a particular low-point.) This back and forth between elegance and him can be a bit jarring, and it takes away from the impact of Winter Dreams. I know Disney probably doesn’t want a World of Color that’s comparable to Illuminations (which I’d describe as beautiful and elegant), but I think that’s what so many scenes of the Winter Dreams lend themselves towards. So maybe the idea is that Olaf adds energy to the show? Personally, I think the ‘cartoony’ infusion would be better accomplished with more scenes like Toy Story Nutcracker. It merges a holiday classic with animation, and the result is a segment that does a better job toeing the line.

These are minor quibbles with a show I otherwise absolutely love. What’s most exciting for me, I think, is the potential. It shows how much better the regular World of Color could be (presumably some of the tech improvements will immediately be implemented), and it’s great to see Disney update and improve its offerings.

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The park was nearing close at that point, so we headed back to Disneyland to start taking photos. I wanted to get some good ‘it’s a small world’ holiday bokeh, but the options were limited. I don’t think the above photo works that well, but it’s fine.

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We wanted to see the “Clock Show” that has been a bit hyped up–probably over-hyped. It was fine, but I really didn’t think it was that much different than the show we saw back in 2011. Then again, I don’t really remember that show exactly.

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Looks much better with the Christmas lights, I think!

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Even at 11:30 pm, ‘it’s a small world’ holiday had a 30 minute wait. Almost any other time of the year, it would probably be a walk-on.

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I wanted to get some good photos of New Orleans Square’s Christmas decorations, so I ran over there at about 11:50 pm.

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The decorations this year seemed more subdued and classy. I’m still not a fan of all the strands of beads, but overall, I thought New Orleans Square looked great.

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The lampposts work well to anchor the composition of photos a bit.

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I call this one “Two Swans A Swimmin’.”

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Sarah went home around the time the park closed, and just after that, I met up with Kate and Henry. They tipped me off that there was a Flower Market on Main Street.

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I have a lot of thoughts about the Flower Market (probably more than you’d expect given that it’s “just” a market with flowers), but I’ll save those for the next installment.

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I’m no expert, but I could swear that some of these flowers were real!

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I experimented more with my custom bokeh lens hoods and was able to take this photo with some Mickey Mouse bokeh in the Christmas tree. To learn more about the technique I used, read this article I posted recently on “DIY Custom Bokeh in the Disney Parks.” I think this is probably a better example of the fun way to make custom bokeh than the examples in that article. 

After a long night (just over 25 consecutive hours awake), I headed back to our hotel to go to bed. Only a few hours of sleep until rope drop!

If you’re planning your own trip during the Christmas season, you should check out our “Ultimate Disneyland Christmas Guide,” which will give you tips for visiting, right down to snacks to try and when to experience certain holiday offerings!

As for figuring out the rest of your Disneyland trip, including what to pack, whether you should stay off-site or on-site in a Disney hotel, where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland trip planning guide!

For more Disneyland tips, special offers, and news, subscribe to our newsletter!

Your Thoughts…

Have you seen World of Color – Winter Dreams? Do you like it? What about Viva Nadivad? Hearing from you is half the fun, so if you have additional thoughts or any questions, please share them in the comments!

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19 Responses to “Disneyland Christmas 2013 Trip Report – Part II”

  1. Spencer says:

    Possibly a record for the fastest second installment of a trip report?

    Totally agree with your unpopular sentiment on the Flying Tires. I went in with super low expectations based on reviews, and both my wife and I loved it. On the flip side, the Small World light show was underwhelming, probably because I went in with high expectations for that one.

    Glad to hear you liked the virtual choir! It (sadly) seems to be a controversial part of the show, alot of people don’t seem to like it. I love it, but I’m biased (I’m in it). It gave us a great excuse to visit DLR at Christmas!

    Also, you aren’t crazy that the projections are sharper. They upgraded the projectors along with the show. I know I read about it on an official Disney site somewhere but now I can’t find it. Here is a blog that references it though – http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2013/11/world_of_color_winter_dreams_d.html.

  2. Kevin S. says:

    My wife and I loved Winter Dreams. This was our first time in the front row of the “wet zone” (that Sunday night), and didn’t get wet in the slightest! Usually we are further back, and had thought we imagined that the effects were more astounding this time solely due to the change of perspective. It’s just so immersive! Glad to know it wasn’t just in my imagination.

    As for Viva Navidad, I had the Torta al Pastor as well (delicious), and really enjoyed eating lunch in that festive atmosphere. It felt like it really had a real spark to the place. Caught a few of the stage acts, but sadly didn’t get a chance to catch the street party.

    You have an amazing ability to fight off your sleepiness. We flew in that morning and arrived at 8am, and were done by 11pm. Was debating about taking some nice “after hours” shots, with the off chance of meeting of you and saying “hi”. But we knew we would suffer to greatly the next morning.

    Beautiful pictures as always, and you put together this trip report super quick! Keep up the good work!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      We were probably near one another that night, then. That is literally the *only* time I have never gotten wet in the wet zone. Luckily, the wind was blowing away from the seating area. If it were blowing in the opposite direction, we would have gotten soaked. The wind blowing that way also made the snowfall finale more impressive…it actually flew into the bay instead of landing in the audience.

      • Kevin S. says:

        Wow, I feel lucky then. Because we weren’t prepared nor wanted to get too wet. The snowfall finale was a treat too! Didn’t expect it. I asked a cast member after the show what they are made of, she said “magic” (followed by a “I don’t really know”); but I’m sticking with (and love) her first response.

  3. Tyler Bliss says:

    The “Two Swans a Swimmin’” photo is a knockout! This report REALLY makes me want to visit the DLR during the Christmas season!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks! We highly recommend visiting then. Just make sure to give yourself enough time to see it all (it takes longer than you’ll expect).

  4. Kaitlin Olivero says:

    Yet again, another awesome trip report! I would loveeee to experience a Disney Christmas at either DLR or WDW! I think next year might be the year ;)

  5. Dan Hicks says:

    We were in the parks the 12th-14th. I hadn’t been in 25 years, and I was blown away with how beautiful everything was. I thought World of Color was amazing, even though it seemed like a long commercial for Frozen. You take better pictures than me.Sad boosh.

    Also, we got the PhotoPass+, and that was great, but be forewarned that some of the photographers are not so talented. We got some pretty awful pictures.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      There are only two songs from Frozen, plus Olaf as narrator, right? Given that it’s a new movie set in the winter, I don’t mind that too much. In totality, the Frozen segments combined are probably no longer than Toy Story Nutcracker.

      Good tip on PhotoPass. That’s a pretty common problem, unfortunately. Always have them take multiple photos!

  6. KCmike says:

    Awesome Disney Bokeh. Will have to read up on that.

    Have to respectfully disagree about Winter Dreams. I will have to put it right there with Jingle Cruise.

  7. Albert L. says:

    LOVE the Disney bokeh, and the flower market shots! I need to get over there at night when there aren’t people around. It’s certainly gorgeous!

  8. Kevin says:

    Have you watched the DLP Christmas show? I saw it via Youtube and it copies quite a bit from WoC (or vice versa). It’s interesting to compare the castle as a projection screen vs. the water screens.

    I agree wtih your sentiments re: Olaf. Too much, and the sing along was a terrible low point. I get that they want him to be the lovable sidekick ala Lumiere/Mushu/Timon/etc. but he just doesn’t work for me.

    Beautiful pictures of New Orleans Square. Thanks for taking those. That area was always so crowded when we were there (non-Christmas) that I didn’t get to really enjoy the sights.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Haven’t watched Disney Dreams of Christmas (I have a strict policy of not watching things before seeing them in person, so as to not spoil the surprise), but my understanding as that it and Winter Dreams were developed simultaneously. It would be interesting to see a side-by-side comparison of different scenes on Sleeping Beauty Castle v. on the water screens.

      Frozen clearly is popular–I’d attribute very little of that success to Olaf. I just hope Disney learns to use Olaf the right way.

  9. Dave says:

    Man, do I want to get out there to see those parks! Would love to see Carsland at Christmas, though any time would be fine. Glad to hear someone like Luigi’s, so many times when I read blogs or hear podcasts about it, people are so dismissive of it, when it seems like they haven’t even given it a try.

    Also, I know it’s a nitpick, but do you want nits? I think that’s an air filter garland, not a muffler. I’ll give you a pass for having a great site, though, just thought you might want to know.

    Dave

  10. Heather says:

    I’m going to describe this badly, but did you see ‘floating’ snowflakes at the end of World of Color? We were towards the back of the Show and saw floating blobs come up out of boxes that were decorated to look like Christmas packages. The snowflakes sort of blobbed up and out of the box, taking on the shape of snowflakes, and floated up and into the night sky. (We figured out they were snowflakes when several got caught up in the trees.) Did you see those floaty snowflake blobs too?

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