Viewers of ABC’s ‘Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade’ commonly ask what dates 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 want to view the parade filming live in Florida or California, here’s what to know. (Updated December 25, 2020.)
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!
With that said, we highly recommend visiting Walt Disney World during the holiday season. (If you read our Best & Worst Months to Visit WDW, you’ll see both November and December rank well, including our #1 week of the year.) However, to avoid the insanity, consult our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World. For planing basics beyond that, read our 2021 Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide. Beyond that, here’s what you need to know about ABC’s Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade…
This year, things were unsurprisingly a bit different. The 2020 “Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration” will air Christmas morning at 10 am EST on ABC, and will be hosted by Tituss Burgess and Julianne Hough. The television special was presumably filmed before park opening and after park closing at Walt Disney World, although camera crews were spotted a couple of times shooting throughout the day in early December 2020–but none of the musical acts.
This was done to facilitate physical distancing, as all entertainment has been cancelled in the parks that draws large crowds or causes guests to congregate. Other segments for holiday specials were recorded at Disneyland, which has remained closed.
ABC’s 2020 “Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration” will feature actor Keegan-Michael Key, TikTok creator Alex Ojeda, Cast Member highlights, a look at Disney Dreamers Academy, and a sneak peek at Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opening next year at EPCOT and the newest Disney Cruise Line ship.
Musical performances include:
- Hosts Tituss Burgess & Julianne Hough – “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
- Becky G – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Feliz Navidad”
- Florida A & M University Gospel Choir – “Joy to the World”
- Jon Batiste – “It’s All Right” from “SOUL” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
- Keedron Bryant with the Florida A & M University Gospel Choir – “Someday at Christmas”
- Maddie & Tae – “Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
- Tituss Burgess – “This Christmas”
- Tori Kelly with the Florida A & M University Gospel Choir – “Let It Snow”
- Trevor Jackson – “The Christmas Song”
Typically, the Disney Christmas Day Parade is filmed in November or very early December. The recent trend has been recording in early November so footage can also be used for a Thanksgiving special. Recording is spread out over many takes, consuming several days. It is most certainly not one-time pass-through of a parade.
In 2021, it’s highly likely that the Disney will return to its normal schedule and record the Christmas special for ABC, Disney Channel, Disney+ and other outlets (usually, multiple specials are recorded all at once) from November 4, 2021 to November 7, 2021. For the last few years, it’s been that first weekend in November.
Recording the first weekend of November 2021 gives Walt Disney World a chance to take down the Halloween decorations and get up Christmas decorations in advance of the recording. Moreover, Disney starts airing these television specials on Thanksgiving, which pretty much requires at least a couple weeks of lead-time for sufficient edits. So, if you do want to attend the 2021 Christmas parade filming, that’s the weekend to aim for.
As always, select Cast Members and guests are recruited for the prime viewing areas closest to the stages. However, regular guests visiting Walt Disney World on these days may fill in available space and watch the recording of segments if they so desire. In actuality, only stage performances and interviews will be recorded at Walt Disney World, and not the traditional parade segments.
The traditional parade segments will likely be recorded at Disneyland once again. Dates for Disneyland are always less certain, but it should likewise be in early November 2021. Again, Disney uses this footage for Thanksgiving specials in addition to the popular ABC’s Disney Christmas Day Parade.
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/reserved viewing areas at Walt Disney World are 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.
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.
While early November is one of the lowest crowd times of the holiday season, we personally favor the couple of weeks after Thanksgiving (just be sure to avoid Pop Warner!). We detail everything you need to know about visiting during the holiday seasons in our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World and Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Disneyland.
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.
For comprehensive tips for planning your Christmas-time trip to Walt Disney World, check out our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World. For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
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!