Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Review & Tips

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Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is the new Christmas fireworks spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, filling the Walt Disney World holiday void of the now-retired Osborne Lights. This post offers our review of the nighttime spectacular, plus photos of the show, and viewing tips.

Let’s start with a brief overview. Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is a Christmas nighttime spectacular that is best described as a mixed media show (calling it a ‘fireworks show’ would be a misnomer) centered around projections on Grauman’s Chinese Theater. However, it’s not just like watching a montage show with the theater facade as a screen. There are also lasers & lights, special effects, fireworks, and soundtrack that elevate the show to something more. Oh, and there’s snow!

In terms of the projections, films represented include Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Inside OutUp, and virtually every princess and prince (in a brief romance montage). It’s surprisingly light on Frozen, a hot property you would’ve expected to dominate a good 25% of a show like this 1-2 years ago.

In terms of a review, let’s get the most critical thing out of the way first. That’s right, the name of the show. Wait, what? It’s a reference to Prep & Landing, and if the internet is to be believed, this name is quite the travesty. Perhaps the internet is unfamiliar with the bevy of names Walt Disney World has used over the last decade that include the following words: magic, dreams, happy (and variants), celebrate (and variants), and memories. In my book, if it doesn’t include one of those buzzwords, it’s an okay name. (I actually like this name.)

Joking aside, there’s the actual elephant in the room: this is not the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. That’s meant to be neither cheeky nor derisive. Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is a de facto replacement of the Osborne Lights, and in every single conversation I had with people last night at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Osborne Lights came up.

Obviously, it’s not even a remotely apt comparison–it’s like apples to orangutans. However, for many newer members of the Disney fandom, the Osborne Lights was the first big thing they have lost. Personally, I can’t think of anything as significant since the 1999 closure of Horizons. That’s saying something given that the Osborne Lights only ran for a couple months per year. For a lot of people, us included, the Osborne Lights were pure Disney magic.

That’s a tough act to follow. Last week in our World of Color – Season of Light Review, we speculated/hoped that some of the footage from that show would be used in Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! As Sarah and I entered Disney’s Hollywood Studios yesterday, my ‘wishful thinking’ had become ‘certain thinking.’ I told her there was no way they wouldn’t have at least that Osborne Lights tribute scene. No way. 

In my head, I was expecting more than that. I figured they’d include a couple of songs also featured in Osborne Lights and maybe–just maybe–have the whole show hosted by radio DJs from Osborne Lights. I thought that made sense, as Disney could nicely pay homage to a fan-favorite while also pulling key parts that emotionally resonated with guests. It wouldn’t be nostalgia simply for nostalgia’s sake, but a mix of nostalgia and substantive quality.

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Not only were there no Osborne Lights tributes, there was little at all in Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! that I felt packed an emotional punch.

The show features Lanny and Wayne in search of Santa, and that quest provides an opportunity to show a few montage scenes from Disney animated classics, a la World of Color – Season of Light.

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Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is at its best when focusing on these montages, but most of them feel far too short and disjointed. The most potential is with the winter wonderland/”Jingle Bells” scene with classic Disney characters, but each vignette is too brief.

Only the Nightmare Before Christmas portion was satisfying, but to be frank, I’m more or less “over” that movie by the time Halloween ends. (Perhaps that’s just me?)

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Even World of Color – Winter Dreams, a show that garnered a mixed response from fans due to a disproportionate amount of Frozen, had much more emotional payoff than Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM. About the only scene that had me feeling warm inside was the couples/romance scene, but even that sequence was only so-so.

The search for Santa plot is flimsy, but that’s no matter. That’s par for the course with this type of show, and I didn’t feel that it bogged down Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Usually, whatever plot exists is a rough framework to segue between various montage scenes, and I think the plot here did a satisfactory job of that. It’s the scenes in between that were weak. (It also seems they chose about the worst possible rendition of every song in the show.)

Others with whom I spoke lamented the lack of actual fireworks in this show, but I wasn’t surprised or upset by that. Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM seems to have about the same level of pyro as Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular (which is to say: not much) and the fireworks it does have are imbalanced, but I think that’s a result of construction at the back of the park.

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As far as effects go, I was actually quite impressed with Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM. The mix of lasers, searchlights, fire, pyro, and snow in addition to the projections made the show visually captivating.

The way some of the visuals from Prep & Landing were brought to life around Disney’s Hollywood Studios was without question the saving grace of the show for me. There are some wow moments thanks to those, and they made the experience enjoyable even if it wasn’t heartwarming.

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The most heartwarming thing was actually walking down Hollywood Boulevard under the new garland and the falling snow. I know “snoap” is not exactly cutting edge technology like Christmas lasers, but it is so effective at evoking a feeling of Christmas in Florida.

Outside of Osborne Lights, this is the first time that I’ve ever felt like anywhere in DHS has really nailed the Christmas atmosphere (just ignore those lush palms). It was wonderful to experience, and this exit experience was the most redeeming aspect of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM.

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In the end, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is a show that has some flashy effects and is fun to watch, but it’s totally devoid of heart. As the de facto replacement for the Osborne Lights, a holiday offering oozing with heart, I think that is going to be a disappointment to a lot of Walt Disney World regulars.

I can get past the lack of fireworks and every other quibble I had with the show, but Christmas entertainment should provoke emotion. This didn’t.

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In terms of viewing tips, the key here is being close to Grauman’s Chinese Theater. This is important to note if you’ve already consulted our Best Disney’s Hollywood Studios Fireworks Viewing Spots post & map, as that information is now out of date. We do recommend watching Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! from closer to The Great Movie Ride than Trolley Car Cafe (Starbucks).

The #1 spot on that is still #1, but the middle of #4 is also excellent. We were in the red area in front of that last night (to avoid the crowds) and found this to be a halfway decent spot. You’re probably better off a bit farther back, but not too much. If you are farther back on Hollywood Boulevard, you’ll miss detail in the projections, which are the highlight of the show.

Likewise, locations over by Echo Lake and outside of the park that we previously recommended are no longer viable options for the same reason. This is best thought of not as a fireworks show, but as a concert: the farther from the “stage,” the worse your view. Obviously, this isn’t a concert, but the point we’re trying to underscore is that it’s not a traditional fireworks show. The fireworks are ancillary to the projections.

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That about covers it in terms of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM. If you were not planning on heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for your upcoming Christmas trip, I’m not sure that this should be what pushes you off the fence. If you are planning on going, it’s worth seeing at least once.

Your opinion may very well differ from mine, particularly as I’m probably still bitter over the loss of the Osborne Lights (not having them this year would be a lot more forgivable if Star Wars Land were already vertical, but half of the Streets of America is still up!) and coming down off of the high of World of Color – Season of Light. This show is certainly not as good as either of those offerings, but perhaps it’s more enjoyable than I’m giving it credit.

Oh, and just a quick reminder/plug before we end: while we’ve only had a chance to quickly edit a few photos for this post, we will have several more large photos in our updated (and totally free) Walt Disney World Christmas eBook, which we’ll release Thanksgiving weekend. For more details on how to get this totally-free ebook, click here.

For comprehensive info and tips on the holiday season, read our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World post. It covers every park, the resorts, the best weeks in November & December to visit, and much more!

YOUR THOUGHTS…

What are your thoughts on Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Is this enough to get you to visit DHS this Christmas? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!


17 Responses to “Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Review & Tips”
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