If your family is anything like mine, you have plenty of holiday traditions that you cherish. Many of ours revolve around Disney (go ahead and try to act like you’re not surprised). From Disney cartoon shorts, to theme park experiences, to decorations and recipes, we love making Disney a big part of our Christmas celebration.
Here are ten reasons why a Disney Christmas is the best kind of holiday. Enjoy!
10. Prep & Landing (2009)
After several years with very little new Christmas content (save for holiday episodes of Disney Channel and Disney Junior series), Disney released the computer animated TV movie Prep & Landing in 2009. This winning comedy tells the tale of the elves who work in Santa’s elite Prep & Landing division on Christmas Eve.
An elf named Wayne is bitter at being passed over for a promotion, so he decides to leave most of the work to his new trainee, Lanny. When a snowstorm makes landing at one boy’s house seem impossible, it’s up to Wayne and Lanny to make it happen one way or another.
Prep & Landing spawned two sequels. It’s a cute, funny movie that everyone in the family can enjoy.
9. “Toy Tinkers” (1949)
Donald Duck matched wits with Chip and Dale in the 1949 animated short “Toy Tinkers.” In this cartoon, Donald chops down the tree where Chip and Dale live to use as his Christmas tree. When the chipmunks see Donald’s holiday goodies on the table, they decide to store the treats in the tree as their own.
When Donald catches Chip and Dale using toys to transport nuts, he attempts to foil them by posing as Santa Claus and making Dale jealous of Chip’s much bigger Christmas present. The conflict escalates into an all-out war involving toys and wrapped presents. It’s a typically funny Donald Duck short with a holiday twist – and it’s still hilarious with repeated views.
8. “Santa’s Workshop” (1932)
The 1932 Silly Symphony “Santa’s Workshop” portrays the frenzy of activity taking place at the North Pole in preparation for Christmas. We see elves making toys – including painting checkerboards with special checkerboard paint. We witness Santa and an elf reading kids’ Christmas wishes and judging their naughtiness or niceness. We spy the elves grooming the reindeer. We watch the toys parade into Santa’s bag as he makes his final preparations for a flight around the world, and the elves cheer him along as he takes off.
Frank Churchill’s music propels the story along, and the whimsy of the short truly works. Disney produced a follow-up, “The Night Before Christmas,” one year later.
7. The Osborne Family Spectacle Of Dancing Lights, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
People obsess over light displays these days – ABC even makes a competition show dedicated to the phenomenon. The man who just might have started it all was the late Jennings Osborne, an Arkansas man who made millions from his drug testing business.
Osborne started a holiday light display when his daughter was young, and the display grew year after year until he bought the houses on either side of him just to accommodate the lights. When local authorities forced him to shut his display down, Disney took notice and moved all of it to Hollywood Studios, where it has become a Christmas tradition.
The display at Disney’s Hollywood Studios takes Osborne’s themes to new heights, as the city facades take on countless strands of multicolored lights that move to festive music. Guests can even see fake snow! The stunning display draws incredible crowds year after year, and it’s easy to see why.
6. It’s A Small World Holiday, Disneyland
Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom transforms one of the park’s most beloved attractions into something even more special for the holiday season. In the It’s A Small World Holiday overlay, the children of the world turn the Sherman Brothers’ iconic theme song into a medley with “Jingle Bells.” Guests enjoy festive lights and special decorations to celebrate Christmas on the happiest cruise that ever sailed.
The holiday magic doesn’t just take place on the outside of the attraction. The façade of the building becomes a scrim for whimsical Christmas-themed projections that tie in with the regular clock ceremony that takes place every quarter hour. It’s a must-see experience at Disneyland!
5. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Magic Kingdom
Imagine being one of just a relatively small number of people at the Magic Kingdom as the park is dressed in its holiday finery. That’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a separately ticketed event held at the Magic Kingdom on select nights during the Christmas season.
Guests not only get the advantage of shorter lines and smaller crowds, but they also experience carolers, hot chocolate and cookies in the restaurants, and snow on Main Street, U.S.A.! The park offers a special parade just for partygoers, and the fireworks take on their own special holiday excitement.
An extra expense of around $65 per person for party tickets may seem steep, but the extra experiences and lighter crowds make Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party well work the added cost. It’s a holiday experience the whole family will talk about for years to come.
4. “Pluto’s Christmas Tree” (1952)
This is my favorite Christmas-themed Disney cartoon short (not counting the featurettes you’ll read about later). “Pluto’s Christmas Tree” pits Pluto against his enemies Chip and Dale, and the collateral damage is the Christmas Tree Mickey brings in from the forest and decorates.
The gags are classic ’50s cartoon gags, yet they keep their humor all these years later. Dale sees his distorted reflection in a Christmas ornament and gets scared, while Pluto carries a load of ornaments to Mickey, including the star for the top of the tree, on his tail. Pluto tried his hardest to preserve the tree until Chip and Dale get the best of him. It’s a true classic that I loved as a kid and still enjoy to this day.
3. Candlelight Processional, Epcot/Disneyland
Epcot hosts one of the most moving Disney holiday traditions – the Candlelight Processional. This program takes place several nights a week, and it involves a choir of cast members who volunteer their time alongside choruses and choirs from all over the country. This huge choir sings beautiful arrangements of familiar and lesser-known Christmas songs while a celebrity narrates the Biblical story of Christmas.
The event is truly magical, and it’s a special moment for the whole family. Walt Disney World offers special dining promotions that provide preferred seating and dinner for one price. This year’s celebrity narrators include Jodi Benson, Edward James Olmos, and Blair Underwood. In 2008, my family saw the Candlelight Processional with Marlee Matlin narrating – to see her dancing and clapping to music she could feel but not hear warmed all our hearts.
The Candlelight Processional runs through the week from November to New Year’s Eve at the America Gardens Theater in World Showcase. Disneyland has their version of the Candlelight Processional one weekend a year during the holiday season.
2. “The Small One” (1978)
One of the few bright spots in the last years of the Ron Miller era at Disney was a 1978 Christmas short based on the book The Small One by Charles Tazewell. A young boy outside Nazareth loves his pet donkey, Small One. Small One is old and cannot work as hard as the other donkeys, and the boy’s father tells his son he must sell Small One for one piece of silver.
The boy tries to convince the local auctioneer to help him sell Small One, telling him that the donkey is “good enough to be in a king’s stable.” The auctioneer ridicules the boy and runs him and Small One off. The only one interested in Small One is the tanner, and the boy and the donkey sadly become resigned to that fate when a man approaches the boy to buy Small One to carry his pregnant wife to Bethlehem.
Sadly enough, “The Small One” doesn’t get replayed like so many other Christmas specials, which is a shame, because it’s a touching, beautiful story that serves as a sort of prequel to the true story of Christmas.
1. “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (1983)
Leave it to Disney to take Charles Dickens’ best known work and turn it into the most memorable Disney Christmas film. The 1983 short “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” tells Dickens’ story in a clever, heartwarming way.
The cleverness comes, of course, in the casting of some of Disney’s most famous animated characters – and even some of the more obscure characters make appearances in the movie. Scrooge McDuck is Ebenezer Scrooge, naturally, while Donald plays his nephew Fred. Mickey Mouse is Bob Cratchit, and in one of the funniest roles, Goofy portrays the ghost of Jacob Marley. The Ghosts of Christmas Past (Jiminy Cricket), Present (Willie the Giant), and Yet To Come (Black Pete) guide Scrooge to his eventual reckoning and redemption.
The scripts stays pretty close to the original, and ultimately tells the story well. “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” should be a part of the holiday traditions of every Disney-loving family.