This Christmas at Walt Disney World, the newest holiday entertainment will be offered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with Sunset Season’s Greetings and Echo Lake Christmas. As with Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, these two new offerings will take place November 9 – December 31, 2017. In this post, we’ll share a sneak peak at these new Christmas draws, plus our thoughts on them.
Sunset Season’s Greetings will use projection mapping to bring the billboards and facades, including the Hollywood Tower Hotel, on Sunset Boulevard to life. Walt Disney World describes this as follows: “billboards suddenly begin to move into motion and tell a tale, courtesy of iconic characters sharing their love for the season. All the while, the Hollywood Tower Hotel—a.k.a. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror—magically transforms, bringing to life the characters’ stories.”
In our Walt Disney World news and rumor update a few years ago, we shared that Show Director Tom Vazzana indicated there would be “big news” breaking soon about Disney’s Hollywood Studios this Christmas, with two new holiday offerings in addition to Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam. Well, this presumably is that big news. Whether it’s truly ‘big’ or not is a matter of personal opinion…
We’ll start with Sunset Season’s Greetings, where the stories and character moments will include Mickey and Minnie reminiscing about a hometown Christmas as the scene shifts into a romanticized, Norman Rockwell-inspired town; this scene begins in black and white before slowly becoming colored. The Toy Story characters guessing which new toys are coming Christmas morning to join them as the scene covers in wrapping paper.
Swedish Chef from the Muppets babbling as the scene turns into giant gingerbread houses. Finally, Olaf sharing his holiday wish as the scene freezes over into a Frozen winter wonderland—complete with dancing Aurora Borealis lights and projected falling snow.
It’ll be interesting to see whether this ‘show’ occurs entirely on the billboards and Tower of Terror, or if additional projectors are installed up and down Sunset Boulevard to make this show more akin to the projections on Main Street during the Disneyland Forever fireworks. It likely depends on how/whether Walt Disney World intends to do shows like this again. Already, there are some projectors being installed for Tower of Terror.
Frankly, we’re a bit surprised that this show is going to happen. Assuming it’s something that occurs multiple times throughout the evening (a la the Tree of Lights Awakenings), it’s going to draw crowds and cause congestion. That’s a problem, given that Sunset Boulevard is already pretty congested due to Fantasmic and guests trying to get to Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster.
Previously, we’ve contended that the reason Walt Disney World couldn’t move the Osborne Lights elsewhere on property was because–aside from Rafiki’s Planet Watch–there was nowhere else at Walt Disney World as devoid of crowds as the Streets of America. Now, Disney is undercutting this point by installing something that’s likely to be a fairly big draw on the busiest thoroughfare in DHS.
In fairness, it’s unlikely this will be nearly as popular as the Osborne Lights. It’s going to be reliant on projection mapping in a park that already has a nighttime spectacular reliant on projection mapping. Don’t get me wrong–projection mapping is a neat technology that Walt Disney World should definitely be leveraging, but how much is too much?
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM (and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular) already leans too heavily on projection mapping, to the point that it’s best not even categorized as a fireworks show. Sunset Season’s Greetings will necessarily be dependent upon projection mapping. There are likely to be other ‘wow’ effects (if the Aurora Borealis lights are the same as those used at Tokyo Disneyland’s Frozen Forever, they are amazing), but the primary thrust of the show will be projection mapping.
Projection mapping is cool technology, but I think it’s best used to enhance or supplement, rather than as a standalone draw. Personally, my favorite use of projection mapping at Walt Disney World is during Hocus Pocus Villains Spelltacular, and if you didn’t even realize there’s projection mapping in that show, that’s sort of the point. It really enhances the mood of the stage show without calling attention to the technology.
Most other uses of projection mapping at technology treat whatever surface as a giant canvas, without too much regard for the structure itself. There’s a ton of potential for cool projections on the Hollywood Tower Hotel that up the ante on its moody atmosphere…but absolutely none of those exactly scream “Christmas,” so that’s unlikely to occur here.
Irrespective of my thoughts on Disney’s fixation on the hot new technology, I think Sunset Season’s Greetings has potential. These vignettes sound fun, and if Walt Disney World spends the money to supplement the projections with other effects, this could be a nice treat for guests still looking for something to fill the void left by Osborne Lights. (Nothing is going to fully fill that void…but it’s nice to see them trying.)
The issue I see is that, the better this is, the more guests it’ll draw, and the bigger the operational and crowd flow nightmare. Short of strategically timing these shows so they occur only during Fantasmic and during Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM, I just don’t see how this will be anything short of a disaster. Maybe they will open the Fantasmic crowd corridor bypass every evening to get guests from Hollywood Boulevard to the end of Sunset? I guess we shall see.
I’d rather the show be good and draw huge crowds than weak and unpopular, because at least there are ways to address the crowd flow issues.
Next up is Echo Lake Christmas. I’m not sure this is the actual name (or if it’ll even have one), but this will feature extra-large ornaments, colorful garland, and a giant Christmas tree in the middle of Echo Lake (literally, the water). Best of all, Dinosaur Gertie will be dressed for the occasion with a Santa hat. That’s right, SANTA GERTIE. (This is not a drill!)
Additionally, all-new songs from the new animated short Olaf’s Frozen Adventure will be added to A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, along with an appearance by Olaf himself.
All of this explains why Walt Disney World drained Echo Lake last week (see the photo above), and hopefully the area gets some added TLC on the backend of the Christmas decoration removal, too.
This one sounds fairly simple, so I’m probably alone in my excitement for it, but I’m really excited. I absolutely love Echo Lake, and consider it to be an under-appreciated area. Added decor to this area of the park sounds awesome to me, and I like the idea of Disney’s Hollywood Studios finally putting its icon Christmas tree back inside the park. I wish it were in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater like it used to be, but I’ll take Echo Lake.
I’d love to see Santa Gertie serve a seasonal menu of holiday treats, too. I miss the days when there were fun flavors of ice cream served here instead of just generic soft serve (when it’s even open), and this would be a nice step in the right direction. Definitely a little thing, but it’s those little things that add up and make a difference.
One thing here that does strike me as odd here is the “extra-large ornaments.” I tried to find vintage photos of Echo Park/Lake in Los Angeles to see whether this is something that used to be done there, but came up empty. Perhaps this is a nod to the past and I’m just missing it, or perhaps there’s some other reason for these to be extra-large? I don’t have anything against the decor not being to scale, it’s just curious and makes me wonder whether there’s more to this.
All in all, these two additions have the potential to be a nice shot in the arm for Disney’s Hollywood Studios this Christmas. I think Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! fell flat for a lot of regulars last year (us included), and it’s definitely nice to see Walt Disney World trying to do more for the holiday season in DHS. Again, I doubt all of this–even cumulatively–will live up to Osborne Lights, but that was a necessary casualty for the year-round awesomeness that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will bring. Even though we will never get that back, an effort to try and fill that void to at least some degree is a good move.
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How do Sunset Season’s Greetings and Echo Lake Christmas sound to you? Are you excited about these offerings, or indifferent? Have projection mapping ‘fatigue’ yet? Will you make a special trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios this year to see this holiday entertainment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!