“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.
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.
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.
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!