Disney California Adventure Christmas 2018 Trip Recap – Part 2
We pick up from Part 1 of our Disneyland Christmas 2018 Trip Report across the Esplanade in Disney California Adventure. Due to the crowds, we spent a good deal of time in DCA, and would’ve spent even more time here if World of Color – Season of Light were being shown.
Not to be a downer here, but that’s probably the most notable thing about Disney California Adventure this holiday season–the absence of any major seasonal entertainment. Paint the Night has ended its “limited run” run for the year (it’ll presumably return in the spring, irrespective of whether Pixar Fest has another year) and World of Color – Season of Light has not been performed yet.
World of Color – Season of Light is the bigger blow, here. There have been a ton of rumors about the technical damage to the show’s platform and when it will (or won’t) return, all with questionable veracity. One thing we will say–based upon info we’ve heard that we deem reliable–is that it’s disappointing management didn’t allocate more resources to getting the repairs done expeditiously. World of Color should (and could) be back up and running by now.
Without World of Color – Season of Light, DCA has basically just got decorations, Festival of the Holidays, and Viva Navidad. We don’t mean to sell that short, as the decorations have made significant strides in the last few years, with the ones in Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, and Grizzly Peak all being particularly good.
Let’s start with the decorations, because there’s one thing that I’ve been itching to discuss on the blog: the Christmas sweater on the Grizzly River Run Bear. (Some might say this entire post only exists to discuss the bear.) Frankly, I’m embarrassed that I’ve yet to discuss this in the three (!!!) years that Disney California Adventure has been doing this.
One thing that has always perplexed me about this bear is that he has no name, no backstory, and seemingly no significance to the attraction. How could such a giant creature (both figuratively and literally) not have like a 74 page treatise written about him by Imagineering’s Backstory Department?! Apparently, I’m not the only one who is bothered by this–there are two of us who demand answers.
Unnamed Giant Bear is an icon-in-the-making on the cusp of joining the vaunted company of Tony Solaroni, Figment, Sonny Eclipse, Lagoona Gator, and other original Disney theme park characters. (As the kids would say, “legends only.”) All the bear needs is a bit more character.
As Unnamed Giant Bear gains personality via these fun seasonal overlays, why hasn’t his or her existence spawned more recognition by Disney? Why doesn’t the bear at least have a name? Perhaps a PhotoPass photographer (or box!) assigned to Unnamed Giant Bear? Would a live action origin story about Unnamed Giant Bear be too much to ask? (If so, how about at least a subreddit devoted to fan art of the bear?)
I’d hazard a guess Cast Members at Grizzly River Run already have an informal name for the bear, in which case I’ll defer to that. However, in the event that no past or present Grizzly River Run Cast Members chime in, I’m going to propose that this bear hereafter be officially known (at least as official anything on this blog can be) as “Big Marc.”
That name might seem too straightforward and not in keeping with the pun-filled legacy of Disney California Adventure, but it’s meant as a tribute to Disney Legend–and father of the Country Bears–Marc Davis, as well as a nod to Big Al.
I’m not sure he (Davis, not Big Al) would approve of the art direction of Big Marc, but the name seems like a fitting tribute, nonetheless. Plus, Big Marc has a mischievous grin so you just know he’s up to some holiday shenanigans…and the bear is quite large, so at least part of the name is apt.
Now that Big Marc has a name, I propose that, at minimum, he receive an Audio Animatronics figure in the attraction and his own line of merchandise at once. I’m not even kidding when I say I’d buy a ugly Christmas sweater with Big Marc on it.
Big Marc’s other bear homies around Grizzly Peak are also sporting sweaters.
Bears are so stylish that they can make even the ugliest Christmas sweater look like haute couture that belongs on the runway at Paris Fashion Week.
Moving along, all of the walkways around Grizzly Peak look nice; there are rustic decorations, beads, and lights in mason jars. All of this strikes the perfect ambiance, and reminds me of a quaint town in Northern California (which in turn reminds me of my hometown in Michigan).
Grizzly Peak and the Grand Californian are about as close as I can get to Christmastime at “home” without being there, so I love experiencing both on these November and December evenings. The lobby of the Grand Californian by the fireplace is great at night, and the ‘back route’ in Grizzly Peak is atmospheric and serene. (My only complaint is the smoking area.)
For most people, Cars Land is going to be the bigger deal during the holidays, and the overlay there is unquestionably more ambitious. (Unfortunately, the above photo is one from my archives–the overhead Christmas lights were not yet turned on during the nights of our visit.)
As much as I love the seasonal overlays to Cars Land, my personal preference skews towards the nuance and evocative sense, and peaceful mood of Grizzly Peak. This area of DCA is one of the few that has been excellent since day one; it’s under-appreciated year round, but especially so at Christmas.
Speaking of things that are underrated, we turn our attention to Festival of the Holidays. We’ve covered this at length in the past, most notably in our Guide to Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure post, but we’ll touch upon our experience this year here.
First, there’s the food offerings at the Festival of Holidays. It’s been a while since we’ve taken the time to enjoy the food at one of DCA’s seasonal events. While the food is generally good, we’ve found things to be overpriced and undersized.
This is a complaint that we could (and do!) levy at the various Epcot festivals, but the difference there is that readers are really interested in Epcot’s events. By contrast, when it comes to Disney California Adventure’s seasonal events, it’s pretty much crickets.
Despite that, we decided we were just going to have some fun, so on a weekend night when Disneyland was bursting at the seams, we decided to buy the Sip & Savor Pass. At $49 for 8 food tickets, this meant we were paying ~$6.13 per ticket. With several savory items above $7, breaking even would be easy. (I still remember when Disney released one of these a couple of years ago priced above the possible break-even point…and there was still a line for it!)
To be honest, buying the Sip & Savor Pass was as much about saving money as it was about not thinking about money. Yeah yeah yeah, I know this is something we admonish readers against doing in like 735 different posts about the Disney Dining Plan, but sometimes that mental disconnect is nice.
Suffice to say, it was a ton of fun snacking our way around DCA. I’m not sure every item we tried was worth $6.13, but at least half were, and we also purchased several desserts–a couple of which were fantastic. DCA’s festival food booths tend to be more ambitious than Epcot’s, and this is true of the holiday event, as well.
We’ll do a post about maximizing value on the Sip & Savor Pass and/or the best items at Disney California Adventure’s Festival of the Holidays if there’s interest (let us know in the comments).
The entertainment at Festival of the Holidays is likewise exceptional. From Viva Navidad to the various Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas acts, there’s a lot of culture offered. It’s a bit ironic that the park tied to a specific state would do this arguably better than Epcot, but it makes sense when you look at visitor and local demographics–Los Angeles and Southern California are really diverse.
Viva Navidad remains one of Disneyland Resort’s great, unheralded gems but it does (thankfully) seem to get a little more popular with each year. We have a whole post covering the greatness of Viva Navidad, so we won’t rehash that here. Suffice to say, it alone is more EPCOT Center than anything present-day Epcot is doing, save for Festival of the Arts.
There’s some merchandise available for Festival of the Holidays that’s been slightly controversial online, as the “Everyday is Magical” is (likely) grammatically incorrect.
I didn’t plan on buying this in the first place, but if I did, this wouldn’t stop me. My perspective is that English is ever-evolving. The transition of compound words from separate to hyphenated to single entities through use/misuse is a common one.
It’s also not as if this blog is the paragon of proper grammar; my perspective is that so long as you can ascertain meaning from context, typos and grammatical mistakes are no big deal. (Still, it’s not exactly a “good look” for mistakes like this on official merchandise.)
In terms of free, grammatically-correct items, the above magnet is available for Annual Passholders at a holiday station below Silly Symphony Swings.
In non-holiday news, the Luxo Jr lamp is finally installed and moving around. This thing took forever to get installed, then was under a yellow bag for a couple weeks, and is now finally “revealed.” At least it moves a bit.
Still no word on the Bing Bong display, which better be the most advanced Audio Animatronics figure of all time (I’m guessing it’ll just be a static figure) after all this delay.
Finally, ‘a bug’s land’ is totally gone. Although it’s not evident from this photo, you can see the mostly-cleared land from the queue of Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree.
I couldn’t get a clean photo from there, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Overall, that’s about it from Disney California Adventure this Christmas. We’re still holding out hope that World of Color – Season of Light will run at some point in December, as it’s a big void in DCA’s otherwise surprisingly robust holiday lineup.
In the meantime, if you do head to Disney California Adventure for an evening this Christmas season, be sure to enjoy some Festival of the Holidays snacks (focus on desserts unless you buy the Sip & Savor Pass), sit down to enjoy full performances of Mariachi Divas and the Viva Navidad Street Party, and take the time to savor a leisurely loop around both the regular and back route of Grizzly Peak. None of this has the same high profile of Disneyland’s Christmas offerings, but it’s collectively a fantastic way to spend a holiday evening in the park!
As for figuring out the rest of your Disneyland trip, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, 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 Vacation Planning Guide!
Have you experienced Christmas at Disney California Adventure yet this year? Are you visiting soon? Do you miss World of Color, or is the other entertainment sufficient for you? Do you think Big Marc is a worthy name of the giant Grizzly River Run bear, or do you have a ‘write-in’ proposal? Are you fine with Everyday is Magical or do you insist that it be Every Day is Magical? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so if you have additional Christmas tips, food recommendations, etc. for DCA, please share them in the comments!
Yes, Please on the Sip and Savor Pass review and Festival of Holidays. This is my favorite time of year to visit Disney so any info on the Holiday Magic would be greatly appreciated. Also, the sooner the better. We fly in on December 1. Yay!!!
Chiming in as another person who’d love a post about the festival food!
I’d definitely be interested in a post re: Festival of the Holidays “best of” and the sip and saver. My wife and I are going in early January, in time to catch the tail end of the festival. A lot of the items sound good on paper (or I guess on pixels), but that’s kind of the job of the marketing department.
Thanks for running such a great site; you got me into doing more serious photography at the parks, and I find it incredibly rewarding =)
I have never been to Disneyland Resort during Christmas. Grizzly Peak is my favorite themed area at DCA and I love Grand Californian so much, I bought DVC there at a premium. I would love to experiences those sometime at Christmastime.
I approve Big Marc as a tribute to Marc Davis since he was a genius with not only Country Bear Jamboree but many of the Disney Parks classic attractions. Big Marc’s cousin in Critter Country, the waiter at the entrance of Hungry Bear Restaurant, needs a name and backstory also.
I loved seeing the photos of the past of Viva Navidad with Three Caballeros. Also, I enjoyed the photos of the Country Bears making an appearance at DCA Christmas in past. Hopefully, DCA brings them all back.
On a side note – Sadly, I thought I knew every Original Disney theme park character since they are all legends to me but I had no idea who Tony Solaroni is until I looked it up. My initial guess was a mysterious character from Universe of Energy (“Solar”-oni) or one of the former EPCOT Center pavilions.
Sad about WOC, hopefully it will be up in December. Curious as to why bingbong is still not revealed, it has been months and doesn’t seem to be that complex….at all. I am interested in getting the sip and savory pass with family so a post about that would be really helpful. DCA seems to have a more subtle lineup but you said strange didn’t try to push through WOC especially given how crazy busy Disneyland is for thr holidays.
“PhotoPass photographer (or box!)”
The joke was originally more biting, but I’m not sure how many people follow Disney news & rumors closely on social media, so my Terminator reference might’ve been a bit…weird.