Viewers of ABC’s ‘Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade’ commonly ask what date it’s filmed, what watching it performed live is like, and how to get tickets to see it in person for Walt Disney World and Disneyland. If you are intrigued by the parade and thinking of booking a Christmas-time trip to Florida or California next year to watch the parade live, there are some things you should know.
First, ABC’s Disney Christmas Day Parade is not filmed live on December 25th. Showing up to Walt Disney World or Disneyland on Christmas expecting to see these celebrity performances live is about the biggest possible Disney-related mistake you can make. Not only will you not see the parade in person, but you will be subject to one of the 5 busiest days of the year in the parks. No joke–it’s nuts!
Typically, the Disney Christmas Day Parade is filmed in November or very early December. Recording is spread out over many takes, consuming several days. It is most certainly not one-time pass-through of a parade.
For 2018, the recording occurred in early November at Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom. Only musical numbers were recorded at Walt Disney World. Traditional parade segments were recorded at Disneyland during roughly the same timeframe.
Nowadays, ‘parade’ is probably a misnomer for what’s broadcast on ABC Christmas Day, because what airs is so broken up and more like a synergy fest to promote upcoming movie releases, television shows, Disney Parks, up and coming artists under Disney labels, and more. It’s basically a thinly-veiled infomercial for all things Disney…but a fun one, nonetheless!
In terms of who is allowed to watch, tickets for the performance viewing areas at Walt Disney World were distributed to Cast Members and their families. The general public is allowed to watch from farther back, but crowd control often necessitates people not being able to stand in certain areas.
We’ve also heard reports that guests have been randomly selected to receive tickets to these viewing areas, but that’s very much luck of the draw. It’s probably dependent upon how much Disney-branded Christmas garb you’re sporting or how photogenic your kids look.
We don’t know what the Disney Christmas Day Parade filming schedule will be for 2019 or 2020, but if we had to guess…we’d say somewhere in the general vicinity of November 6-11, 2019 and November 4-8, 2020, or the week after. That’s just a guess, but it follows the exact formula of filming schedules for the last couple of years.
These segments used to be filmed in early December, and we’re not totally sure why they’ve moved to November, but we have a couple of guesses. The most likely scenario is because ABC has been airing multiple holiday specials each year during its “25 Days of Christmas” and the longer lead time allows for footage from the filmings at Disneyland and Walt Disney World to be used prior to Christmas day.
On Thanksgiving, ABC airs “The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration” which featured an identical lineup of performers, and was filmed simultaneous to the Christmas Day Parade. This special kicked off the holiday season with a star-studded celebration showcasing musical performances, special appearances, and Disney magical moments including the castle lighting from Disney Parks around the world: Florida, Anaheim, California, Paris, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.
Even if ABC were to stop doing this special, which necessitates filming early in November, growing crowds in December make the parade filming a nightmare for Magic Kingdom operations. Typically, early November crowds are much lighter. We can’t say for certain if the filming would occur in November irrespective of the Thanksgiving special filming, but we think it’s pretty likely.
We’ve been at Walt Disney World a few times in the past when the parade segments were filmed there, and it was a miserable experience. Banish whatever notions you have of it being fun, and getting up close to celebrities. It’s long, drawn out, and what you’ll witness does not resemble the finished product.
We actually recommend avoiding the parks where the Disney Christmas Day Parade is being recorded, as it’s boring to watch in person and it creates congestion in the parks. What you’re seeing on television now might look really fun to see in person, but we promise you that’s the result of meticulous work in shooting, re-shooting, and careful editing.
This really goes for the parade segments more than the stage show performances, which are more enjoyable to watch, and typically involve less arbitrary stopping, pausing, and restarting. Still, it’s worth noting that the songs are not like a traditional concert with the performer singing a variety of different holiday hits. It’s the same song several times, and then the next performer moving on to their song…also performed several times.
Of course, reasonable minds can vary on this. We have friends who go every year to linger in the areas where the performances are filmed, and they generally enjoy the ‘behind the scenes’ nature of the experience, and getting to see some of their favorite celebrities ‘up close’ (err…from about 100+ yards away).
There’s definitely something to be said about the inside look at how the parade is shot, but it’s not something around which you’ll want to plan a trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. If you want to see a celebrity in the parks, we think the better experience (by far) is Candlelight Processional at Epcot or Disneyland, which is presented as a finished product.
It’s also worth noting that in early November when the Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade is filmed, Walt Disney World is not yet totally celebrating Christmas. Magic Kingdom is totally decked out for the holidays due to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but the same can’t be said for Epcot or the resort hotels.
For those curious about ABC’s Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade itself, here are the details that Disney has provided. The parade will air on December 25 from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. EST on the ABC Television Network, on the ABC app, on ABC.com, and connected devices (Roku, AppleTV and Amazon Fire TV).
The Disney Christmas Day Parade will be hosted by Jordan Fisher and Sarah Hyland, and co-hosted by Jesse Palmer. This year’s celebration brings together the adored Christmas Day parade, special musical performances, surprise celebrity guests, and heartwarming family stories to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. Musical performances include the following:
Gwen Stefani performs “Winter Wonderland” from her Christmas album, “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.”
Brett Eldredge sings the holiday classic “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Andrea Bocelli performs “Ave Maria”; Andrea is also joined by his son, Matteo Bocelli, to perform “White Christmas.”
Host Jordan Fisher celebrates the season with “This Christmas.”
Aloe Blacc sings “Tell Your Mama” from his first holiday album, “Christmas Funk.”
American Idol winner Maddie Poppe sings “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
A cappella group DCappella performs the hit “Last Christmas.”
Why Don’t We performs “Kiss You This Christmas” from their holiday album, “A Why Don’t We Christmas.”
Overall, we enjoy the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade, and it’s nice to see it returning to some semblance of a “parade” format after being simply a “celebration” for a few years. Yes, it boils down to being an extended commercial for the parks and other Disney stuff, but it’s fun. However, it’s best enjoyed as a finished product from the comfort of your home on Christmas morning.
Finally, a few plugs. First, the 2018 edition of our freeVacation Kingdom at Christmas eBook is now available for download! This free eBook is 90 pages, with 100+ photos, and tons of great tips & info for the holiday season at Walt Disney World. For more details on how to get this totally-free ebook, click here. Did we mention that it’s free?! 😉
What do you think of ABC’s Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade? Have you been in the parks during a filming? What was your experience like? Would you like to attend? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!