Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: 2018 Photo Report

The photo above is not from this Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party–it’s from 2012. It’s one of my favorite Once Upon a Christmastime Parade photos, and it’s mostly the result of dumb luck. I used settings that were a compromise between capturing action and landscape photography. No action photographer in their right mind would use what I did there…but it worked!

One of the biggest changes in Disney photography since I started is the focus on entertainment. Back in the heyday of the Flickr community, there were only two popular accounts that revolved around photos of performers, and one was the mother of two well-known princesses.

Today, some of the most popular (and best!) Disney Instagram accounts post photos solely of parades, shows, and meet & greets; some of the most talented photographers take it seriously. I have friends who have assembled their camera bags with an eye towards difficult-to-shoot parades like Boo to You and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.

I’ve only recently started to take entertainment photography seriously. It’s not something that previously interested me, but I have a competitive streak. As I’ve shifted my emphasis from the ‘parade landscape’ to the actual characters and performers, I’ve found myself enjoying it more. It’s a fun and engaging type of photography, but also an incredibly challenging and frustrating one.

There are so many moving parts (literally and figuratively) when photographing a parade, and it’s really tough to get the stars to align–just in terms of things that are outside your control. Usually when this does happen, as luck would have it, my camera and lens decide it’s a good time to briefly miss focus. (But don’t worry, I nail focus on every single photo when performers are looking away from the camera, are blinking, or otherwise have ‘drunk’ looks on their faces!)

Anyway, that’s all a long-winded preface to these photos from both parades, in an attempt to explain-away why some of these are mediocre:

The last 90 minutes of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party was the busiest for me, as I raced around trying to accomplish as much as possible as the crowds finally started to subside. This is typical of any hard ticket event–families with small children typically leave after the fireworks, cutting crowds roughly in half.

The mass exodus at this party wasn’t quite what I was expecting, especially given the chillier weather. (Despite me plugging our Winter Packing Guide for Walt Disney World regularly, most Florida tourists overlook the possibility of anything but sunshine and heat.)

I’ll attribute that entirely to in-park announcements made informing guests that the second parade would be less crowded, and that there was “more fun” after the fireworks.

By my count, there were three such announcements, and while they partially quashed my hopes for a ghost town after 11 p.m., they are definitely a savvy move on Disney’s part.

I managed to get a lot done at the end of the party, thanks in part to not camping out at all for the second parade.

Being four rows back definitely hurt my photos, but it allowed me to see some other entertainment and enjoy some of the “free” cookies and hot chocolate at the party.

If Mariah Carey knows about this scene in Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, I wonder how she feels about it?

The more I see that show, the more I love it. It’s so delightfully tongue-in-cheek, while also featuring some great music and performances. I still don’t like the inclusion of ‘Text Me Merry Christmas’ but it doesn’t bother me as much. I get what they were going for with it, even if I think it pushes things a tad too far.

Otherwise, I don’t really have much to say about any of the entertainment.

Maybe I’ll muster up some additional thoughts for a (potential) second party party report, but this one is already getting pretty long, and I still need to wrap things up with some parting thoughts and random photos from this MVMCP interspersed.

As with the Halloween Party, I’m guessing the attendance cap was raised on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this year.

This party was not sold out, yet it felt busier than the last couple of sold out Christmas Parties we’ve attended. I’d hazard a guess that Disney is offering several thousands of additional tickets for the event.

People often point to these seasonal events as having ‘limited attendance,’ which implies that Walt Disney World is artificially capping attendance at lower levels. I’d argue that this misses the point.

These events unquestionably have lower attendance than an average day in Magic Kingdom, but that is out of necessity because of the way guests distribute themselves in the park.

On an average day in Magic Kingdom, most guests at any given moment are either in line for attractions or sitting in restaurants. The number of people on Main Street and in front of Cinderella Castle fluctuates, increasing around the time of parades and fireworks, but is still the minority of guests.

During the holiday parties, fewer guests are choosing to spend time in attractions and restaurants, and more are congregating along the parade route and in the hub/Central Plaza. Raising the attendance cap doesn’t cause guests to redistribute themselves to attractions or restaurants–it causes more to crowd into the same already-packed areas.

Accordingly, there’s only so many tickets Walt Disney World can sell to these events from a guest comfort standpoint. That number can be pushed, but without concerted efforts to change guest behavior, there is a point when “comfort” shifts to “safety” and no more tickets can be sold. (At a couple of Halloween Parties, we’ve witnessed downright unsafe congestion in front of Cinderella Castle after the fireworks and before the stage show/second parade.)

This is where things like those in-park announcements or even the attraction overlays at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party come into play. Getting guests into the lines for Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, and Mad Tea Party is a great way to make Magic Kingdom feel less crowded…or sell more tickets and make it feel just as crowded as before. Ditto these announcements.

Even well after MVMCP ended, there were still a ton of people on Main Street, and a slew of PhotoPass photographers, each with long lines behind them.

The above photo was taken at roughly 1 a.m., and was shot during a relatively uncrowded window. Immediately after this, a bunch more people came towards the end of Main Street, and looked like they were going to be there a while, so I gave up.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party once again increased in price this year, with most dates now over $100/night. With the AP/DVC discount, my advance purchase price was $94 after tax.

To be totally honest, there is absolutely no way to justify this price from anything but an emotional or sentimental perspective.

It used to be the case that you could point to the lower crowds, special entertainment, included snacks, and festive atmosphere and come up with a compelling argument.

Now, the crowds are heavier (in this case, Magic Kingdom was less crowded the same day prior to the party starting), prices higher, long waits for any of the exclusive entertainment, and upcharges within the event make that a tough sell.

Yet, we keep going and will continue to do so.

There is something about seeing the snow fall on Main Street, marveling at the toy soldiers march in formation, rocking out with Liver Lips & Big Al in Frontierland, eating ‘free’ cookies and hot cocoa until we can’t eat any more, and hearing Jolly Old Saint Nicolas in Fantasyland that just puts a smile on my face.

I cannot say all of this is “worth it” from any objective perspective. I am wholly cognizant of the fact that I have a blind spot for the holiday season, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, in particular.

Sarah and I have been doing these parties together for over a decade, and some of my best and most vivid memories at Walt Disney World are of the parties.

Doing MVMCP alone was certainly not the best way to make more memories together, but it did make me a bit wistful and nostalgic. As I walked around, I kept being reminded of this or that we had done at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties in the past, causing me to chuckle or smile to myself.

For me, this is what makes the Christmas Parties worth attending, and why I can’t imagine missing a year–I love being reminded of old memories and wouldn’t want to pass up the chance to make new ones.

Obviously, this is a very personal reaction, and not everyone is going to have the same sentimentality about the event. I feel like I’ve used this same (or similar) rationale the last few years as a way to justify it.

Honestly, unless something major changes–a huge price spike, major entertainment change, or restructuring of the event–just assume the same holds true every year going forward.

Nevertheless, I think it’s worth mentioning one last time because, at its core, Christmas is a sentimental time of year.

A large part of the holiday is structured around tugging at the heartstrings, and I think this is becoming increasingly true as young people lean into all things Christmas–from the music to the foods to the decidedly bad yet delightful Hallmark Channel movies.

Overall, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party still delivers in all of the ways that matter to us, and we’ll continue to attend every year–even if we cringe at how much we’re paying in the process. If exorbitant prices and heavy crowds are what it takes to get our favorite Walt Disney World Christmas “fix,” then so be it. The party oozes holiday spirit, and it’s this je ne sais quoi quality that will keep us returning year after year even if we cannot justify it from any logical perspective. It should go without saying, but your mileage may vary.

P.S. – I took over 2,000 photos at this Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and did not have time to get post edited for this post. We will have a ton more in our updated (and totally free) Walt Disney World Christmas eBook, which we’ll release Thanksgiving weekend. For more details on how to get this totally-free ebook, click here.

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.

Your Thoughts

Have you attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World this year? In previous years? Any thoughts of your own to add? Agree or disagree with my assessment of the event? Hearing from you is half the fun, so if you have questions or comments, please share below!

50 Responses to “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: 2018 Photo Report”
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