Will Disney Cancel Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party?
“Is the 2020 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party going to happen?” and “when will MVMCP tickets go on sale?” and (my personal favorite) “will Christmas be cancelled this year at Walt Disney World?” are common reader questions. We’ll attempt to answer those here, with an emphasis on Magic Kingdom’s hard ticket holiday party.
While the concern about Christmas being “cancelled” has amusing phrasing (at least to us), it’s a legitimate concern. Florida theme parks have essentially cancelled Halloween, with Walt Disney World not doing Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and other fall events and Universal nixing Halloween Horror Nights.
The future of entertainment and special events like Candlelight Processional at Epcot, Merry Menagerie at Animal Kingdom, and Sunset Seasons Greetings at Hollywood Studios is unclear. However, decorations alone are highly likely to be put up in the parks and resorts as there no problems with these and physical distancing or other rules. Nothing new needs to be fabricated, so the main expense is Holiday Services installing the decor. The minimal cost is more than offset by the guests drawn to Walt Disney World for the Christmas season…
The bigger question is whether or not the 2020 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will be cancelled. Subsequent to the parks closing, tickets for this year’s MVMCP were briefly released before being quickly pulled from DisneyWorld.com (within a matter of hours).
Following that, Walt Disney World made the announcement about Halloween and fall events, in which the company stated that a decision would be made on holiday festivities at a later date.
Specifically, Walt Disney World stated the following: “Looking ahead to the holiday season, this may spark questions about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, which includes the Candlelight Processional.
“We are monitoring our new environment closely, and will make a decision on these events as we continue to learn more from government and health officials. As always, our goal is to explore every option and look at ways in which we can still host events and festivals full of Disney magic, while still operating responsibly with the health and safety of our guests and cast members in mind.”
While Walt Disney World has yet to officially confirm that the 2020 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is cancelled, that’s a near-certainty. We’d put the chances of it happening at under 5%.
Let’s break down the reasons for this…
First, crowd patterns simply make the event a non-starter.
As we covered last year in Is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Too Crowded? post, guests disproportionately flock to a few limited areas of Magic Kingdom. Main Street and the Central Plaza can feel like they’re an 11/10 in terms of crowds, while Adventureland or Frontierland are veritable ghost towns.
Between the fireworks and second parade, the Hub can be downright unsafely congested as people are attempting to leave and arrive simultaneously. Last year, Disney tried to address this and better redistribute crowds with attraction overlays, but it was minimally effective.
While this is partly a failing on Disney’s part in not having more crowd control Cast Members to facilitate guest flow at the front of the park, it’s partly unavoidable. All of the major draws of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are at the front of the park, so that natural guest flow patterns won’t change without dramatically overhauling the event. Suffice to say, that’s not happening on a few months’ notice in 2020.
Second, the entertainment-heavy nature of the party is incompatible with Disney’s current physical distancing policies. This is an extension of the first point, but bears reiterating and directly addressing.
Walt Disney World’s stated reason for cancelling the Halloween Party was because its hallmarks–stage shows, parades and fireworks–are unable to take place with the necessary physical distancing and health safety requirements. The same holds true for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
There’s also the precedent that bringing back fireworks and parades would set. Right now, most guests are fairly understanding that this entertainment is gone in the name of safety. If Walt Disney World fans believed that a big reason for their absence was cost, sentiment might be different.
Given the outdoor nature of fireworks and parades, we expect both to return at some point in 2021. However, that won’t happen until Florida’s case numbers further subside, public understanding of indoor v. outdoor transmission catches up to science, and attendance reaches sufficient levels at Walt Disney World to justify the expense.
Third, Disney is still in a stand-off with the Actors’ Equity Association. (Something addressed in greater detail in our Addition & Subtraction at Hollywood Studios Photo Report.)
Even assuming there were some magical way to control crowds and make physical distancing work with the stage shows and parade (there isn’t), there’s still the standoff between Walt Disney World and the entertainment union is only intensifying. For its part, Disney is moving away from shows with equity, not towards them. Suffice to say, there’s insufficient time to develop new alternative entertainment of a high caliber that would sidestep the need for using equity performers.
Fourth, the optics would be bad.
Walt Disney World already was hammered in the media for reopening the parks at precisely the time Florida cases spiked. Even though Walt Disney World obviously didn’t cause that spike, it was a case of unfortunate timing. For this reason, Disney has been understandably sensitive of the public perception and appearance of its actions. This is why we’ve yet to see general public discounts on resort rooms and another reason why it’s unlikely Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will be held. Photos of crowds or a lack of physical distancing would be a really bad look.
Fifth, demand for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is undoubtedly low.
If attendance trends and hotel occupancy patterns hold for the rest of the year, it’ll be disproportionately locals, Annual Passholders, and Disney Vacation Club members visiting. Two of the biggest demographics for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party–College Program students and tourists–will be a limited (or non) factor. Guests are already starting to reduce their spending, and it’s hard to see that trend shift by the holiday season against the real world backdrop of a recession.
Sixth, it’s probably already too late–and if not, it will be soon.
It should go without saying, but planning for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party does not begin the day decorations start being installed in Magic Kingdom. The wheels are in motion months in advance. Orders must be placed for pyro, cookies, and more. Training begins. Collateral is designed and produced. From a timeline perspective alone, it’s possible that Walt Disney World has already made the decision to cancel and just hasn’t publicly announced it yet.
Finally, the matter of viability given the totality of the circumstances. Above we made two seemingly contradictory points about high crowds and low demand, which would seem to cancel one another out. In reality, demand isn’t quite that low, which would necessitate even a lower attendance cap than normal…which would require higher per ticket prices than normal…which would further depress ticket sales…which would–you get the idea.
In short, the math just wouldn’t work. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party ends up in this spot where a safe and “workable” party has an incredibly low attendance cap, plus sky high prices that very few guests would pay during a recession. Despite all appearances over the course of the last few years, Walt Disney World is not immune to the laws of supply and demand. Barring a true Festivus Miracle, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is not happening this year.
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What do you think about the future of the 2020 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party? Do you expect it to be cancelled, or happen but with tighter limits of attendance and more to redistribute guests throughout the park? Will you be disappointed if MVMCP is cancelled, or do you think it’s the right decision? Do you have plans to visit Walt Disney World this holiday season, or will you hold off until 2021 or beyond? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
My family and I were thinking of coming Nov 7-14th. Are Christmas decorations normally up by then??? I think it would be a great mood lifter!
Just wondering if Disney would at least consider a random firework every now and then during the holiday season. Totally at random time wise and just a few
so that a crowd doesn’t have time to congregate for a look from the castle. It would be kind of like a little magical touch every once in a while. Much like the way they are doing some of the characters now. The music would pause and Jiminy Cricket woulds say “Time for a little Christmas present from all of us to all of you!”. Then pop-pop-pop. End. Music back on. What do you think, Tom?
That’s a cool idea!
Hi: I have never been to Disney at Christmas. This year with limitations I plan to take my God kids. I was wondering if they will have those dessert parties at Christmas where you eat different desserts and watch the fireworks from a distinct location?
Not likely, since there are no fireworks.
Hi Tee – the fireworks special event parties are probably not happening. Many other posters have way more experience with Disney, but we go about once a year. We did one trip at Christmas and I said we would never do it again because of the crowds… Magic Kingdom hit maximum capacity and it was miserable. Great news for you – I bet you have an amazing experience due to reduced capacity! Even without the fireworks party, I think you will have a magical experience with your god children!!! I wish you the best possible luck with planning – Tom’s got your back with his posts/updates! I hope you have a wonderful and special vacation!
I think disney merry christmas party should go in I am coming there in november for this reason I feel they need to do the party
What is the break-even point for disney to operate a merry xmas party? No fireworks needed. Friday and Saturday nights. Clear out the Main guests at 5pm. Let in the xmas guests at 6pm. No fireworks. No parade. Charge everyone $100 or whatever. Essentially paying this amount to have 6pm-midnight of low crowds, Cool weather, xmas decorations, Hot chocolate, cookies and some spontaneous character encounters.
I fully agree Francisco! We’re going in November and are HOPING they’ll be doing the Christmas Party. We’re coming all the way across the country and that would be the highlight of our trip if they do, as I’m sure it will be for many.
I notice they say there’s a low demand for the party this year… who are they asking? Not us!
What about the santas at Epcot? We missed them last time we were there and I have been wanting to go back. I am fine with no Christmas party but I don’t want to miss out on the other hoiliday stuff. I think this year would be good only bc there may not be a huge crowd.
We are wondering about the Santas at Epcot, too! We have done Mr. & Mrs. Claus photos at America Pavilion since my daughter‘s very first Christmas, and it’s become a special tradition. I’m assuming there will be no meet and greets with Santa this year. I wonder if they will still offer the cultural story telling Santas.
We just made reservations for Christmas 2020.
It is a great time to see Walt Disney World all decked out in Christmas decor. Sure it may not be as cheerful without the parties and parades, but it will be one thing…less crowded!
(also should be more comfortable, weather-wise with a mask)
Perhaps it is time for a little festivus for the Rest of us action! I personally wouldn’t mind standing around the festivus pole and having an “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength” activity right now. 🙂
Thanks for the updates.
My Honeymoon was cancelled (as was my wedding). First time to Disney from the UK with my 2 year old and partner. Due to travel at Easter not sure wether to move my booking to Aug or wait a little longer. With my daughter being so young fireworks, stage shows, parade and character dinning is really important to us. Any advice?
Personally I would wait. My family & I went to Disney 3 years ago & our youngest was 6 nearly 7. I’m not suggesting you wait that long but there’s so much to see and do that even if you waited till later your daughter will still have a magical time & perhaps have more memories of this special time.
I guess that partly depends on your financial situation. If this is a one and done trip holding off til your little one is older might be best. But I completely agree that at that age it’s likely going to be more about characters and shows for her than rides. My oldest was 2 the first time we took her and other than “the Dolly Ride” aka Small World 😉 she was more interested in meeting characters and the parades and fireworks. And even though she had a toy face mask at home at the time, and would wear it for a few minutes to play in, I don’t think there’s anyway we’d have been able to keep her in one all day especially in Florida heat and humidity. Of course every kid is different. Since it’s also your honeymoon maybe you can book a trip for when you think things might be back to normal and cancel if necessary? Good luck and stay safe!
All solid reasons Tom….though I think 5% chance of MVMCP happening is optimistic. I think it’s closer to 1% and that’s only because I hate to say that Disney will or won’t do anything with 100% certainty.
Wonderful article again Tom..
Tom, when you do think Disney will start discounting resorts to the public? And do you think discounts will make much difference in attendance?
“Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and cancel Christmas!”
Ha! Well I will miss MVMCP which is amazing, but Disney at Christmas is still amazing just with the decorations and holiday spirit. I hope that at least Wilderness Lodge will open up rooms for Christmas. It is so beautiful there.
So here’s a question for you, Tom. In the absence of the formal events (Halloween and Xmas), do you think the parks will still put up the seasonal decorations at the same levels as usual? Even in the absence of Not So Scary as an event, I would love to have the parks at least decorated for Halloween.
I read that they will be decorating for Halloween/fall.
Tom wrote: “…the Hub can be downright unsafely congested as people are attempting to leave and arrive simultaneously. While this is partly a failing on Disney’s part in not having more crowd control Cast Members to facilitate guest flow at the front of the park, it’s partly unavoidable.”
There IS a way to help mitigate the heavy congestion, and that is to reduce the number of tickets sold per night. The crowds in recent years have been ridiculously high for an event that is supposed to be attendance-limited. For the first time in years, we did NOT attend the MVMCP in 2019 for the sole reason of over-crowding. At the end of the 2018 party, my household agreed it was probably our last. We are tired of paying so much money for hard-ticket events that are so frustratingly crowded. We didn’t see anything “limited attendance” about it. I’d be willing to pay more, if Disney would cut the number of tickets sold (per night) in half.
I totally agree. The same with MNSSHP, when we first started going to that probably 10 years ago it was well worth it and enjoyable. The last few years we didn’t see much difference in the crowds and wait time from a regular day. Limiting the tickets to both holiday parties could have been a viable solution â€â™€ï¸
These parties feel like a lose-lose. We were in WDW early December last year and didn’t buy the hard ticket MVMCP because of overcrowding. However every night we tried to go to MK when there wasn’t a party, it was insanely crowded. A part of me thinks attendance at MK would be reasonable in the holiday seasons at night again if they just discontinued these parties altogether. They’ve lost all appeal for me. We started thinking about timing our visits to WDW to specifically avoid times when hard ticket events go on.
I’m currently booked from 12/18 to 12/24. Do you think it would be horribly packed this year? I’m a bit nervous about how busy it will be
The parties USED to be special, limited event, low crowds, many freebies, now all they are is yet another Disney money grab.
I think that the “limit” they speak of for the Christmas and Halloween parties is equal to the park capacity limit! At least it seemed that way to me at the last Christmas party we attended last year.
I agree with all of the above comments. I loved the after parties when they felt small and intimate. The crowds in the past few years make them not enjoyable, and certainly not worth the cost. I hope Disney considers reducing afterparty capacity in future years!
We have had a trip planned for Christmas at Disney since last summer, a group of 12 us and we still plan on going. The only thing we are bummed about is the parade and the fireworks not being on but we none the less are looking forward to the holiday decorations in the parks and also resort hopping to see them…which I am hoping will be in full bloom…my mind thinks mainly of the gingerbread house at The Gran Floridian…hoping it will be up. I agree that the MVMCP will not happen and that they just haven’t announced it publicly.
Thanks Tom for your insights, as I look forward daily to seeing any updates you have.
Suggest you double-check the resort hopping, I believe the only way you can enter a resort now is to be staying at that specific resort or have a confirmed dining reservation. We also have a long-standing reservation for Christmas, but in all likelihood will cancel…even though we will lose major money to David’s Vacation Club Rentals.Too many things we want to do that are now closed or unavailable. Not worth throwing more good money after bad.
While officially you can’t resort hop – that’s more the case if you’re driving. If you’re using Disney transportation no one is checking whether you are actually staying at the resort or have a reservation when you get on the bus/boat/monorail/skyliner.
What Krista said ^
Resort Hopping is just fine if you use Disney Transportion. They are more than happy to look the other way.
You said spending is down. That could be because of food. Most of the good food is gone; maybe not most but a LOT. I wanted to ride and eat in the World. No hopping is a drawback to good eating. For example I only have 2 days for Epcot so can have only 2 dinners there. Bummer. They could make the buffets all family style or caferteria style. They have to start think of alternate ways to do things and right now all they think is close down. Makes me very disappointed in DW.
As much as I love MVMCP, as long as those gorgeous decorations are up and they’re blasting Christmas music down Main St., that’ll be plenty to put me in the Christmas spirit. I think canceling the party this year is a good decision. And if they add holiday music and theme the costumes and floats during the new character cavalcades, I’ll still be jumping up and down like a 5-year-old the whole time.
My biggest concern at this point is discounts/packages. The Ultimate Christmas Package was perfect for us last year (two childless adults), but obviously that included tickets to events, special seating, a dessert party, etc., so they won’t be able to replicate that this year. That’s understandable, but our current reservation is almost $1000 more than last year (last year we did Coronado Springs, this year we’re at CBR, so same resort tier) without all the extras and without prepaid food via the DDP. I think if they don’t announce any kind of package or discount, we’ll still go but opt for a cheaper third party hotel. We’re Florida residents, so even given the bad PR optics you’ve discussed in other articles, I’m hoping they’ll still throw out something to entice locals like they’re doing now with the discounts that apply through September.
Agree! We are local and holding on to our existing resort reservations in December as a wait and see, but REALLY hoping Disney will extend/offer new discounted resort rates for Oct-Dec as right now we’re paying rack rate. I wonder when discounts for that time frame are typically announced?
Agreed this is off the table for this year. But there should still be Christmas decorations and hopefully by November/December they will have worked out a plan to have smaller scale holiday entertainment like carolers or musicians that is safe and the performers’ unions will all agree to.
I don’t think you’re going to see singing–it’s just too effective a way to spread COVID. Candlelight Processional is likely off as well.
Tangentially, my kid’s school chorus performs at WDW every year, but they’ve been told that Disney won’t have school performers this holiday season. I totally understand and agree with the reasoning, but the kids are sad nonetheless.