Walt Disney World’s Christmas entertainment at Hollywood Studios is its “Flurry of Fun” festivities, including Sunset Seasons Greetings. As with Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, these holidays offerings run from November 8, 2019 through January 5, 2020. In this post, we’ll offer tips, info, and our thoughts on Christmas at DHS. (Last updated July 25, 2019.)
For us, Christmas is a “difficult” time of year at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights was our absolute favorite thing during the holidays at Walt Disney World, and losing that was a big blow. While we’ve come to terms with that loss (and think it’ll be worth it once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens), it’s still tough.
It didn’t help matters that the initial and indirect replacement for the Osborne Lights, Jingle Bell Jingle Bam, was pretty far from being an adequate replacement. The good news is that in the last couple of years, Walt Disney World has really stepped things up, turning Disney’s Hollywood Studios into a festive place to spend the holidays, with the front half of the park having pitch-perfect yuletide atmosphere.
That’s really the story of “Flurry the Fun” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios–the festive ambiance. The entertainment listed on the times guide is the big draw, but what’s most endearing–and how you’ll spend the most time at DHS during the Christmas season, is the areas in Echo Lake and on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards that simply ooze holiday spirit.
In these areas of the park, the decorations evoke a sense of mid-century kitsch, the Christmas music is memorable, and the lights really pop against the Art Deco architecture. The little touches make all the difference, and the atmosphere is further enhanced by Sunset Season’s Greetings and ‘snowfall’ on Sunset Boulevard. Suffice to say, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is once again a good place to be for Christmas.
Next up is Christmas in Toy Story Land. At their meet & greets, Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear sport holiday finery beginning on November 8, 2019. Additionally, Toy Story Land has new holiday decor, including oversized cranberry-and-popcorn garland, a holiday card “selfie” of Toy Story characters, an oversized Hamm sugar cookie, Green Alien ornaments, and more.
Toy Story Land’s attractions are also plussed for the Christmas season with new holiday audio. Aboard Slinky Dog Dash, guests will hear sleigh bells ringing, and Alien Swirling Saucers will offer two holiday tracks, plus themed lighting for the holidays.
As for the returning entertainment and decorations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Sunset Season’s Greetings uses projection mapping to bring the billboards and facades along Sunset Boulevard. This is primarily accomplished via two large LED “billboards” and the Hollywood Tower Hotel. There are also other effects via synchronized lights on palm trees, falling snow, and the stars that line Sunset Boulevard.
Sunset Season’s Greetings features vignettes from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the Muppets, and Toy Story, plus appearances by the Prep & Landing characters. The result is a show that is a cute little diversion, although an odd juxtaposition on the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which is more akin to a Halloween attraction than a Christmas one…
In terms of viewing tips for Sunset Season’s Greeting, there really isn’t anything you need to know. The full show is roughly 15 minutes long and runs continuously throughout the evening from dusk until park closing. Consequently, there are dozens of “showings” of this every evening, and about the only thing you’ll experience in the way of crowds during the show is the people who happen to be on Sunset Boulevard when it’s occurring.
To that end, the best advice we can give is to avoid watching Sunset Season’s Greetings immediately before or after Fantasmic. Dusk is going to be another popular time for crowds to congregate, as this will be the first time many people will become aware of the show, and they’ll be more inclined to stop for it. By the end of the evening, it’ll be ‘old news.’
The plus side to making an effort for an earlier viewing of Sunset Season’s Greetings is that around dusk it’ll be easier to photograph, and the falling snow will show up better in your photos. We still wouldn’t recommend making express plans to view Sunset Season’s Greetings at dusk, but if you’re already in the area, you might as well.
Since most of the ‘action’ during Sunset Season’s Greetings occurs on the end of Sunset Boulevard towards Tower of Terror, we’d recommend watching about halfway down the street. Just before Theater of the Stars (where Fantasmic is shown) should be about ideal to see all of the effects.
The stories and character moments in Sunset Season’s Greetings include Mickey and Minnie reminiscing about a hometown Christmas as the scene shifts into a romanticized, Norman Rockwell-inspired town. There’s also Toy Story characters guessing which new toys are coming Christmas morning to join them as the scene covers in wrapping paper and Swedish Chef from the Muppets babbling as the scene turns into giant gingerbread houses.
Finally, Olaf sharing his holiday wish as the scene freezes over into a Frozen winter wonderland—complete with dancing Aurora Borealis lights and projected falling snow. It’s another projection mapping show in a park that already has a nighttime spectacular reliant on projection mapping.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM (and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular) already leans heavily on projection mapping, to the point that it’s best not even categorized as a fireworks show. Sunset Season’s Greetings is likewise dependent upon projection mapping. There are other really cool effects (and it seems like more lasers this year), but the primary thrust of the show is projection mapping.
With that said, Sunset Season’s Greetings is a fun little diversion, but it’s not a major draw that will get anyone booking trips to Walt Disney World for Christmas.
Next up is Echo Lake Christmas. This features extra-large ornaments floating on the water, colorful garland, and a giant Christmas tree in the middle of Echo Lake. Best of all, Dinosaur Gertie is dressed for the occasion with a Santa hat. That’s right, SANTA GERTIE. (This is not a drill!)
Additionally, all-new songs from the new animated short Olaf’s Frozen Adventure have been added to A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, along with an appearance by Olaf himself.
The new Echo Lake Christmas decor sounds fairly simple, but the energy it gives to this area at Christmas is wonderful. I absolutely love Echo Lake, and consider it to be an under-appreciated area. Added decor to this area of the park sounds awesome to me, and I like the idea of Disney’s Hollywood Studios finally putting its icon Christmas tree back inside the park.
One thing to potentially consider if you want a fireworks spot away from the crowds is to watch from over here. While we haven’t tried this ourselves during this Christmas season, we have done it many times in the past, and the area is usually empty.
The downside to watching from here is that Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is very heavy on projections, so you’re missing an integral part of the show. The upsides are the lack of crowds, and the potential for great photos with the Christmas tree and decorations, fireworks, and reflections on the water. Plus, the projections in Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! aren’t that good anyway.
It’s a ‘your mileage may vary’ thing, but something to consider. Now that we’ve seen Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! once from a regular spot, we prefer avoiding the crowds and seeing it from Echo Lake.
Finally, make sure to check out all of the holiday foods at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this year as part of its Flurry of Fun.
All in all, these additions are a nice shot in the arm for Disney’s Hollywood Studios this Christmas. I think Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! fell flat for a lot of regulars, and it’s still a so-so piece of holiday entertainment at best. However, in the couple of years since, Walt Disney World has gradually increased the Christmas offerings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the result is something that gives the park a lot of holiday spirit. Even cumulatively, it doesn’t live up to Osborne Lights, but that was a necessary casualty for the year-round awesomeness that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will bring. Even though we will never get that back, it’s very nice to see Walt Disney World making a serious effort to try and fill the void, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is once again a formidable park at Christmas-time.
How do Sunset Season’s Greetings and Echo Lake Christmas sound to you? Are you excited about these offerings, or indifferent? Have projection mapping ‘fatigue’ yet? Will you make a special trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios this year to see this holiday entertainment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!