Slowly but surely, Walt Disney World continues to restore normalcy. With this year’s Halloween Party not just returning to its 2019 state but actually adding new things, we thought it’d be worthwhile to look at the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party to see what’s still missing and what’s been added.
Now that I’ve attended the event, I plan on offering a variety of new posts and updates to our comprehensive Guide to the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Covering what’s been added, removed, and restored relative to both last year and 2019–the last time MVMCP was presented in its “normal” form–seems like a logical place to start.
Naturally, one thing that has not remained unchanged during that timeframe is prices. As compared to last year, this actually isn’t that bad. The price range for the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is only $10 higher on the low end and unchanged on the high end, for a price range of $159 to $199. This comes as a slight surprise because last year’s MVMCP was more popular than ever, with all dates selling out. That was the first time that had happened, and it occurred despite the steepest price increases for MVMCP ever.
That’s not really the full story, though, as the distribution of dates at each price point also changed this year. This means that if you attend the equivalent party night in 2023 as you went last year, you might pay $20 more for each ticket. In 2019, the price range for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party was $99 to $139. That’s right, the highest price that year was $20 lower than the lowest price in 2023, and the highest price this year is $60 more.
All in all, MVMCP ticket prices increased by about 50% last year with the highest hikes coming after Thanksgiving. That didn’t seem to put a dent in demand as, again, tickets sold out faster than ever. Of course, that was also after Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party was on hiatus for 2 years, which distorted both demand and the degree of the increase.
The point of all of this is that it’s worth knowing what you’re getting for your money, and how the substance of the event compares to the considerably cheaper Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in 2019 and earlier. With that said, the entertainment slate is only about half of the equation. When it comes to the quality of the event (and in a way, also the ‘quantity’ of it), the other big component is crowds.
We’ll have a post on the crowds question very soon. For now, here’s a look at what’s new and still missing from the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party…
For those who are unfamiliar with the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, they were absolutely glorious and no amount of words, photos or video can do them justice. No projections can match the more than 200,000 tiny white lights that illuminated Cinderella Castle and transformed it into a veritable ice palace. The Dream Lights would stop you in your tracks, with the resplendent physical display being an absolute jaw-dropper.
The Cinderella Castle Dream Lights were the highlight of the holiday season, and it’s a huge shame that Walt Disney World has declined to spend the money to bring them back in the last couple of years. Make no mistake, money is entirely what this boils down to. Every other excuse for not doing Dream Lights is just that–an excuse.
Toy Soldier Marching Band – Over the summer, there was a casting call for College Program musicians on Disney Auditions. That specifically stated that Disney Live Entertainment wanted marching trumpet and percussion players to bring back the Toy Soldier Marching Band to Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. As such, it seemed clear the full Toy Soldier Marching Band would return for the first time since 2019.
For whatever reason, that did not happen at the first few parties. Notably, there also was not a full Toy Soldier Marching Band during the ABC Christmas Day Parade filming, and if ever there were a time when Walt Disney World would’ve wanted it, that would’ve been it! As for the why, that’s anyone’s guess. Maybe Disney didn’t receive enough student musician applicants from College Program participants? Maybe they did, but training is still ongoing and they’re not quite show-ready?
Regardless, this is a bigger loss than it might seem if you’ve never seen Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. The veritable army of Toy Soldiers was impressive, and hearing them perform music as they marched was so downright magical. The Toy Soldier unit is still cool, but it does not have the same wow-factor in its current form.
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas – The quiet loss of this campy, cult-classic show was a big blow for us and other enjoyers of fun the world over. When ‘A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas’ initially debuted over a decade ago, it replaced Mickey’s Twas the Night Before Christmas, to the angst of many fans (including us). Mickey’s Twas the Night Before Christmas was an excellent, legitimately good show.
We gradually warmed to ‘A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas,’ and developed a fondness that fell somewhere between ironic and earnest enthusiasm. The show doesn’t get a lot of love because its plot is basic, the jokes are cheesy, and the dance numbers are so eclectic that you wonder why they’re even happening–and whether you missed a story beat (you did not).
That was the brilliance of ‘A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas.’ It was Weird Disney World at its finest–a show that kids a decade from now will watch on YouTube, TikTok, or whatever and develop a fondness for thanks to its heart and madcap charm. I am completely confident in this assessment because we’ve already seen it happen. ‘A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas’ started out being pretty unpopular and grew into a moderate draw thanks to its campy quality. It already has a cult following, which is why it’s so strange to kill it now. It would’ve made more sense to retire it a few years after it debuted!
I could go on and on about what made ‘A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas’ an underrated, sleeper sensation. The showdown between Buzz Lightyear and the Zurg Dancers was one of those things no words can do justice. Crazy, chaotic energy and downright hilarious. Mike Wazowski’s dance number was not nearly as good, but still fun, with a number of corny jokes that any good dad would steal to add to his holiday repertoire.
In the end, ‘A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas’ was a lot like Stitch: endearing mischief. It never went completely off the rails, but became a fan-favorite thanks to its inarticulable x-factors. In not taking itself too seriously while offering some fun segments, it snuck up on guests–you ended up loving it for all its good-natured ridiculousness and charm. Perhaps if it only added Santa ALF, Sinclair, and Rockettes dressed as cats–as we suggested a few years back–A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas would’ve survived.
What’s New for 2023 at MVMCP
“Frozen Holiday Surprise” (Kinda) – This new stage show features Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff on stage in new costumes. Join in the celebration as Olaf and more than 100 of his Snowgie siblings decorate Cinderella Castle with festive touches. ‘Frozen Holiday Surprise’ festivities culminate as Elsa adds sparkling finishing touches, transforming Cinderella Castle into a shimmering crystallized palace.
‘Frozen Holiday Surprise’ is the direct replacement for ‘A Frozen Holiday Wish,’ which debuted in 2014 and was last performed in 2019. I’d would hazard a guess that 99% of casual visitors who saw the ‘wish’ version of the show will have a tough time distinguishing the two.
Well, with the exception of the finale, which no longer culminates in the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights being illuminated for the first time by Elsa. That was pretty much the whole point of the former show, and the reason for its existence. The whole production lacks almost all of its punch with projections instead.
Dance Party (Sorta) – By virtue of ‘A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas’ ending, there’s now a dance party on Rockettower Plaza Stage in Tomorrowland as well as one inside Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Neither of these are necessarily new–they’ve basically been relocated.
The argument could be made that these dance parties now have greater visibility and guest participation as a result. That would be my observation, albeit with a very limited sample size. The case could also be made that two dance parties in Tomorrowland and a total of zero in the entirety of the rest of the park is an imbalance. I don’t agree with that; after years of trying different locations, I think Disney has determined these are the optimal spots.
Freebies (Pretty Much)– Let’s start with the bad news within the good news. The slate of complimentary cookies and other free treats–and locations where they’re available–is still about half what it was in 2019, which was arguably the year that it peaked. There were more cookie varieties (including my personal favorite, peppermint bark) as well as other options like snowman pretzels, eggnog, and more.
The good news is that guests are now given a keepsake ornament when entering Magic Kingdom’s bypass corridor as a welcome to the event. It’s a toy soldier this year and, if you ask me, better than last year’s 50th snowflake ornament. Unlike last year, no fancy poster print on the way out of the event, but regardless, this is still a net addition as compared to 2019.
Characters (In a Sense) – At minimum, there are more characters at the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party than there were at last year’s event. That’s by virtue of the Seven Dwarfs in Storybook Circus, which is a single meet & greet but–by my count–amounts to a +7 character addition.
Whether there are fewer or more characters than at the 2019 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is difficult to discern. At least for me. “Professional” character hunters probably know the precise count at both events, but my view is that dance parties and free-roaming characters can make it tough to tell.
The most notable additions this year are Mirabel from Encanto, Stitch in a holiday aloha shirt, Alice and White Rabbit, Toy Soldiers, Snowflake Stilt Walkers, and Chip ‘n’ Dale in scarves. The biggest losses are Moana and Princess Elena of Avalor. However, those are not the only losses. The old version of the Cosmic Ray’s dance party also featured bootleg Coca-Cola polar bears and reindeer, and other offbrand characters.
On balance, I’m inclined to believe there has been a net addition of at least a few characters to the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party as compared to 2019. I don’t know the exact number, but my guess is that it’s around 3-4 core characters, and possibly 6-8 if you count ancillary ones that roam, appear without attendants, or add to the mix at dance parties. This is a net win.
Ultimately, not a whole lot has changed in the substance of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party between 2019 and 2023. There have been some minor additions in the last couple of years, but no major sources of excitement that would sell tickets. Although the loss of A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas is a big blow for us, in fairness, I don’t think that’s going to be a widely-held opinion by the average guest. Its popularity had grown over the years, but that was arguably it gaining a cult-following for its camp factor. It wouldn’t surprise me if average guests were still largely ignoring it and/or didn’t rate it highly.
As repeat visitors, our view is that the event is starting to feel stale. Last year, we and other longtime Walt Disney World fans were just excited to have it back–it was like a holiday homecoming of sorts–so what was missing or unchanged got a pass. That’s less the case this year, and will be doubly true next year.
Our hope is that, at minimum, the 2024 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party receives a shot in the arm on par with what Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party received this year. Frankly, it needs much more than that–the event could really use a new piece of major or at least medium-tier entertainment, especially after losing a stage show this year. Refreshing the parade, swapping out some characters, and smaller-scale changes should also be considered.
With that said, it’s important to underscore that this is not an answer to the question: “Is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party worth doing or worth the money?” If you’re a repeat visitor, you probably already know the answer based on seeing the lineup. Or at least, you might think you do, but there’s actually more to it than that. I’m actually quite happy that I did the Magic Kingdom event this year, especially considering how much Disney Jollywood Nights underwhelmed and since crowds were lower at MVMCP. If you’re a first-timer, what’s new or unchanged is more or less irrelevant, since everything is new-to-you!
What are your thoughts on what’s missing and been added or restored to the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party? Excited to attend this year’s event? Will your family be buying or sitting it out? What are your thoughts on additions and subtractions relative to price increases for MVMCP since 2019? Do you agree or disagree with our perspective on this? 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!