Day 1: Snoozerific Presentations! Candlelight Processional! Dinner at the Stunt Show! Private Osbourne Lights!

D23’s two-day Magic & Merriment shindig promised a private dinner in Hollywood Studios, tours of the Cinderella Castle Suite, a private lunch in the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, reserved viewing for Candlelight Processional, access to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Christmas Party (wait, is that right…?), a dessert party and Osbourne Lights viewing at Hollywood Studios, and on and on…

In typical D23 fashion, the details for this event were not announced until just a few weeks beforehand, which meant that we had already booked and paid for half the major experiences included in the package (notably the Christmas party and a spendy Candlelight Processional dinner package). It continually amazes me how D23 can do this to their uber Disney fans, who are the same ones making dining reservations exactly 180 days out and calling for reservations the instant special events like the Candlelight dining packages or MVMCP go on sale.

On top of that, the DISBoards’ private party at Hollywood Studios had been on sale for months and coincided with D23’s Hollywood Studios night. From the two events’ itineraries, it appeared that one would only have to miss the very end of the D23 event in order to attend the DISBoards’ event—and they were taking place practically right next to each other in the park—but the official word from Disney was that if you weren’t at the front of the park to meet the escort when the DIS Boards’ event started, you couldn’t attend. And since there was no way to leave the D23 event unescorted, there was no way to get to the front of the park.

So, these were the things I was stewing over as we got up and drove—yes, drove—from the Beach Club to Epcot for the start of D23’s Magic & Merriment Saturday morning. (Check in was at Guest Services at the front of Epcot before the park opened, and they hadn’t thought to provide an escort at the International Gateway for those of us staying at the Epcot-area resorts; this was remedied at the Sip & Stroll event in 2010). My level of stew went up to about 11 when we got there and found a big line at the window headed by people who were apparently asking for 2 weeks’ worth of dining recommendations because it was taking them FOREVER to pick up their packets.

This was when it dawned on me that everyone in D23 is just like us—Type A Disney Nerds who show up 2 hours early just in case and will get in a line without even knowing what it’s for. If we were going to get this worm, we were going to have to get up even earlier than the early birds!

From there, we all made a beeline for Epcot’s Odyssey Center, which appears to be an authentic re-creation of a 1970s public library.

As soon as we entered the building, we all made another beeline for a table at the back where they were doing signups for the Cinderella Castle Suite tours the next day. Although we were only maybe 15 people from the front, by the time we got up there, the early times we needed were all gone. This put me in a tizzy because we were trying to schedule around a Bay Lake Tower photo shoot with the Roots. Suddenly, all our plans needed to be rearranged. Grrrr….. I was somewhat mollified, though, when I opened the packet and discovered that Disney had finally decided to acknowledge the existence of the DISBoards event. There was a note saying that those of us who were attending both events would be escorted from the D23 event to the DISBoards event at the end of the D23 event. Hooray!

So our pix of the inside of the Odyssey Center aren’t great because it’s super-dark in there and they had all the blinds open…

The event kicked off with an introduction by the ever-bubbly Becky Cline, who has since become the Director of the Disney Archives.

Next up was a snoozerific PowerPoint presentation on how many miles of this and tons of that go into decorating Walt Disney World every year. What should have been a fascinating peek behind the scenes at how they accomplish the magical transformation became a litany of quantities arranged in hilariously long bullet points on slides, read aloud, verbatim. To fit it all in, they had to make the text so small that you could barely read it. Our favorite part was learning that the ginormous wreath on the side of the Contemporary Resort is made up of “over 10 pieces!” (So would that be… 11 pieces?) Bless her heart for trying, the presenter was very earnest but definitely not a public speaker and should not have been put on the spot like that.

Got all that? There will be a quiz…

Amazingly, the first presentation at D23’s Sip & Stroll event at the Odyssey Center in 2010 was a similarly dismal slog through a slideshow. Apparently it’s part of the formula for these things! We all perked up a bit when the pastry chefs from the Grand Floridian and Yacht & Beach Club came on and talked about making the giant gingerbread confections in the lobbies of their resorts.

Chef Eric from the Grand Floridian also demonstrated how to make a small gingerbread house, and at the end they gave us each a gingerbread shingle from the GF.

Among our other shwag were Santa hats with Mickey ears and a fistful o’ FASTPASSes for Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. Cool! And then Stitch showed up.

From there, they turned us loose for the day until Candlelight Processional started. 

OK, so Candlelight Processional…. I knew that this was supposed to be a big deal—for many people, it’s their absolute favorite part of Christmas at Disney. And I was ready to like it—I like Christmas! I like singing! And don’t get me started on candles and processing! But after it was over, I still wasn’t sure whether I liked it. Maybe it’s been overhyped. Maybe (as I just read somewhere on the Internets) it’s a shadow of its former self. Maybe it was the fact that we had to see it in broad daylight and D23’s seats were at the very back of the theater…

Uh-oh—looks like Patrick was bored!

The narrator that night was Chita Rivera. She was good, but I didn’t realize just HOW good until I saw Abigail Breslin narrate a few days later. She made Rivera sound like Dame Judy Dench!

Sign-language Interpreter

I'll bet this guy is just itchin' to bust out a crazy drum solo!

Chita Rivera: "Wha—WHOA, where did YOU guys come from?!"

Patrick must've been REALLY bored!

If this was his view of the show, I don't blame him…


…So I dunno about Candlelight Processional. I love Christmas music—it’s the one thing that instantly gets me in the Christmas spirit. But I think I was expecting something a little more pro… It felt very unpolished, and not in a charming way—certainly not in a way I would expect from Disney. I would say it felt like a high school production, but I hear those are almost as slick as Broadway these days, so… I did enjoy getting to sing along to the Hallelujah Chorus, but it made me realize I’d rather be singing, not watching others sing. I’ll bet it is amazing to be *in* the Candlelight Processional!

About two-thirds of the way through the show, I realized we had left our Magic & Merriment ID badges back in the room, and Patrick—either from sheer devotion to his wife or sheer boredom from the show—volunteered to sprint back to the room and get them. He may have clocked a new record for travel between Beach Club Villas and American Gardens Theater, because he made it back with time to spare before they loaded us on a bus to Hollywood Studios!

Waitin' for the bus…

Ooooh! Backstage…ish!

It's like you're THERE!

How we felt after all of Patrick's running

The bus took us into DHS and dropped us behind the Lights, Motors, Action area, on the studio tour tram route. Patrick accidentally took this picture of Walt’s plane.

It’s going to be hard to show you what it looked like cuz it was so dark, but the setup was pretty dang cool – the entire back of the stunt show set, in front of the buildings, was lined with buffet tables.

I dunno if I can match the names up with each picture, but here’s a list of the placards Patrick photographed:

  • Yukon Gold Potato-Crusted Lobster-and-Crab Pie topped with Aged Cheddar (favorite!)
  • Sweet Potato Mash with Toasted Marshmallows
  • Thyme-Roasted Pork Loin with Apple Dressing and Cranberry Jus
  • Sage-Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy
  • Crushed Peppercorn Strip Loin o Beef with Sun-dried Tomato-Tarragon Sauce
  • European Greens with Heirloom Tomatoes, Euro Cucumbers, Carrots and Olives
  • Hot Grilled Seasonal Vegetables with Acorn Squash
  • Carrots with Dill

It was quite tasty!

Here's what the table settings looked like, if you care…

They had a free Mickey there, so we figured we’d prolly better get a picture with him.

Where the stunt cars sleep

I love stuff like this—99% of the guests will never see this poster, but here it is!

Dueling badges!

Never thought I'd get to walk the pavement they burn up daily at Lights, Motors, Action!

One of the fun parts of this D23 event was getting to meet up with DISer MyMuse (Michelle) who was flying solo and having a grand old time. It was nice to already know someone there, plus, she offered to take a picture of us on the set.

After about an hour and a half, they rounded us all up and walked us over to Toy Story Mania for one private spin. It was funny to know that just a little while later we’d be back here taking dozens of private spins at DISapalooza.

Toy Story Mania as you've never seen it… empty!

I s’pose I should go easy with these pictures, cuz in the next post I’ll have bonafide Root photos of this ride!

As they ushered us out of Pixar…land to our dessert party, we saw them setting up for DISapalooza.

The dessert party was… interesting. Maybe I’ve been spoiled to only associate dessert parties with fireworks shows, but… it was just a bunch of desserts set up at the counter-service seating area for Studio Catering Co. Maybe if they’d been serving actual, identifiable desserts, I would have been more interested. Instead we got a ton of high-falutin’, unappealin’ fruity nonsense drenched in liqueur and a ton of gas-inducin’ cheese. Who were they trying to impress? Seriously, every dessert had some kind of alcohol in it. Um, what about, like, chocolate chip cookies?

We grabbed Michelle and chose a spot as close to Osbourne Lights as possible.


"I can haz a cookie?"

Me and Michelle retaining our girlish figures by not eating any of the desserts

After the dessert party, they herded us all down the street to where the Osbourne Lights were s’posed to be… but weren’t!

I mean, they were there, but they were turned off until Disney could find the one lone kid at this pricey adult-y event to throw the switch. It was nice to get to experience that “WOW!!!” moment since we’d never ever brave the crowds to see them turn the lights on during regular park hours.

"Hooray! We found a kid!"

"So did you just wanna go ahead and do it yourself, mister?"

Now I almost can’t believe this, but Patrick didn’t take *any* pictures of the lights! I think it was because he knew we were going to have scads of amazing photos taken by the Roots, so why bother?

I’ll just refresh your memory about what Osbourne Lights look like. The presentation started with the street looking like this…

… but when they threw the switch, it looked like THIS!

And this is about where the stage for the presentation was set up:

Unfortunately, the guy they had doing the presentation seemed to have attended the same public-speaking school as the woman with the PowerPoint. I think there was probably an interesting story in there, but most of the talk was devoted to describing in excruciating detail the series of phone calls required to bring the lights to Walt Disney World.

"So then Jennings called me back, but I was at lunch, so he had to leave a message…"

"I am totally never going to get a word in edgewise."

That went on for, I dunno, an hour? It felt like an hour. So after an hour of standing in one place looking at this guy, they finally gave us a few minutes to wander around and enjoy having the lights all to ourselves. They also began distributing the shwag, which was a D23 Christmas ornament.

How it later looked in action!

Click Here to go to the DISapalooza Party at Pixar Place!

Click Here to skip to Day 2 of Magic & Merriment!

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