Disney World’s Jollywood Nights Has Two Great New Shows and a Lot of Hurdles

Chủ nhật - 19/05/2024 21:51
The new Walt Disney World nighttime event is highlighted by appearances by the Muppets and Jack Skellington but also has huge headaches to overcome.
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Florida’s Walt Disney World kicked off their new holiday season nighttime event, Jollywood Nights, at Disney Hollywood Studios this past weekend. And while there were enjoyable elements to be found, there was also a notable amount of frustration from many attending too.

This was night one of a new event, so there will certainly be adjustments as it goes on that hopefully fix some issues. Other problems though feel more ingrained, at least in the event in its current form, meaning a larger overhaul is needed. For now though, here’s what worked and what didn’t…

Jack & Oogie and Kermie & Piggy

Oogie Boogie appears during What’s This? Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-Along

The clear highlight of Jollywood Nights were the two new shows introduced at the event, What’s This? Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-Along and Disney Holidays in Hollywood. Both are very well done and creative and notably well received by the opening night crowds.

Though the title hints at a mere movie clip Sing-Along, there’s more to What’s This? then you might expect. Well, it is a movie clip Sing-Along, yes, but it’s also a stage show, with two performers – doing a very good job performing in pantomime, since they don’t speak – playing a couple who have The Nightmare Before Christmas come alive and burst into their home in a surreal way. And yes, much of it is focused on movie clips, but then you have elements like Oogie Boogie wandering on stage for his big number, “Oogie Boogie’s Song”

Jack Skellington, as seen in What’s This? Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-Along

Jack Skellington also appears in a really inventive way. Rather than it being simply a person in costume, like Ooogie Boogie is in the show – or is usually the case when Jack appears in the parks for photos with guests – there is a very large, articulated puppet portraying Jack, to better capture the character’s gangly frame. It felt delightfully old school, but at an impressively large scale, and was another standout aspect.

Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog in Disney Holidays in Hollywood

Holidays in Hollywood meanwhile is meant to evoke an old school TV holiday variety special, with two human hosts welcoming none other than Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy as their co-hosts. The appearance of these beloved Muppet characters – who many, myself included, feel are often underutilized by Disney – is a crowd-pleaser to be sure and there were huge cheers for their big reveal in the show’s opening number.

On top of that, there are appearances by Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse, Tiana, and Belle. It’s an eclectic group of characters, but fits the variety show theme, which is underlined in amusing ways, including “commercial breaks” (with fake, in-universe ads featuring familiar Disney characters and names) and other nice touches.

A big team up occurs during the finale of Disney Holidays in Hollywood

The finale in fact involves Mickey & Minnie returning alongside Kermit & Piggy, which feels pretty notable, given Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog are such central figures to the Disney and Muppets brands. As Matthew Hamel (Show Director, Disney Live Entertainment) put it, “They share the stage together in our finale in a dynamic way. It’s so much fun to see. Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog, those two icons under one roof in one song, dancing their hearts out, it’s kind of amazing.” He’s not wrong!

Tiana and Belle in Disney Holidays in Hollywood

While Tiana sings a very fun, uptempo new song, Belle’s number goes for a number that has a nostalgic appeal for some, while functioning as a deeper cut for others, “As Long As There’s Christmas” from the 1997 straight-to-video movie, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas – all while she wears the outfit from that film.

Said Hamel, of having Belle sing a song from that project, rather than the more standard go-to songs from the theatrical Beauty and the Beast film, “We knew that that tugged on the heartstrings of a lot of Disney fans and that would be a great opportunity, because we don’t see that in our parks, in any of our shows.”

MUSICAL Accompaniment

Jollywood Nights is billed as an event “where you can dance the night away,” and there is a lot of live music – though not many were taking the opportunity to dance, alas. The Commissary Lane area has some very fun live Latin holiday music being performed, while two other areas have been given makeovers into would-be club scenarios, with mixed results.

I didn’t have as many issues with the Twilight Soirée at the Tip Top Club as some I’ve seen. It’s an innately cool idea – taking the already established Tip Top Club from The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror lore and allowing guests to actually experience it – or at least an outdoor event held by the fictional Club (which is supposed to be on the 13th floor of the Hollywood Tower Hotel). I do agree with others that they could have done more with the theming, but did enjoy the period appropriate band and overall vibe.

The band performs at the Twilight Soirée at the Tip Top Club

However, this is one of many places where Jollywood Nights quickly became notorious for its lines, as there was a very long, very slow lineup to get specialty drinks at the makeshift bar. As someone who’s not much of a drinker, it didn’t personally affect me, but it was a very legitimate gripe and unfortunately just one of many areas where waits to get food and/or drink were painfully long.

Jazzy Holidays at The Hollywood Brown Derby was more of a straightforward dud. The Brown Derby is one of Hollywood Studios’ regular restaurants and it felt like little was done to make it unique for this event besides adding a piano player, whereas at least the Twilight Soirée was providing something that isn’t typical at all in the area of the park it’s located in. Jazzy Holidays is one of the places at Jollywood Nights where it felt like a lot more elements could have been added to truly transform the area.


It's a rare thing indeed where the wait is so short for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith that they don't bother with the pre-show

Like all Disney nighttime events, a notable benefit at Jollywood Nights is the minimal wait times for the regular attractions. It’s a tricky balancing act, of course, because you want to experience all of the unique parts of the event, but at the same time, it’s hard to resist being able to walk right onto Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith vs. the huge waits they might typically see. At the event, there were a couple of attractions that had waits closer to a half hour (mainly in Toy Story Land), but they were the exceptions and still far shorter than the norm.

On the character front, you had perennials like Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daffy and Pluto in holiday garb available for photos, but the big draw were the throwback characters from the 90s and 2000s. Too big a draw, as the lines to meet Phineas and Ferb in particular were stretching to an hour, in an area that also included Max Goof dressed as Powerline or Chip ‘n Dale dressed in their Rescue Rangers outfits. As fun as it is for many to get these photos, it would often require giving over a huge chunk of your evening to it.

As the evening went on, it began to pour -- as often occurs in Orlando -- but the line remained to meet Chip 'n Dale

When it came to those ever-troublesome lines, the problems began at the very start of the night. Because I attended as Media, I was lucky and didn’t experience this myself, but I certainly could see the dramatically long line weaving through a large part of the park that all the paying guests had to go through in order to get their credentials. It was very poorly designed, as guests had to first come through the front entrance of the park and then get in the line to and wait (and wait) to get their wristbands. On top of that, lanyards being distributed were required as well and there was a lot of poor communication with many guests unclear what they needed to even begin experiencing the event properly.

Though I skipped the drink-specific lines, I I very much did find myself waiting in a couple of very long lines for food though. The Birria Taco and Mexican Hot Cocoa Cheesecake at the ABC Commissary were both particularly tasty and I felt sympathy for the extremely hard-working cast members dealing with so much at once, but again, it was surprising to see this scenario where Disney seemed underprepared to get guests through more efficiently at so many areas. Yes, some of these things could (and hopefully will) be tweaked in the weeks to come but it feels like there’s only so much that can be done, especially given one glaring problem…


Newly created character Ollie can be seen playing his heart out at Jollywood Nights

Jollywood Nights only goes from 8:30pm to 12:30am and four hours just isn’t enough time. With prices to attend starting at $159.99, it’s fair to expect that you could do at least a large amount of what’s available but that’s just not the case; not with these lines (which include lining up for the two shows too, with Holidays in Hollywood reaching capacity).

Unlike the other attractions, the popular Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is using a virtual queue system during Jollywood Nights and even though I successfully added myself to it and had my group called, I never went there because it felt like it would take too much time to walk up to that corner of the park. (Also, the entire Galaxy’s Edge area not having any additional theming during the event feels like a big missed opportunity. Why not have Chewbacca in his Life Day outfit?? If we can get a new action figure of that infamous part of Star Wars history, then we can get Chewie in those red robes!)

Simultaneously, it feels like there actually should be a couple of additional notable experiences at the event that make it truly special, along with adding more flourish to some of what is provided. The two shows are very fun to be sure, but just aren’t enough on their own. The more minimal nature of what is provided makes it feel too threadbare because super short wait times for attractions and two great shows is cool, but not $160.00 cool, especially when you need to plan on spending so much of your time in long lines to actually partake in the food, drinks or photo opps available.

Making the event an hour or two longer would help a lot but there’s almost no way that’s happening this year at least, given the hours for those days are already in place. So for now, I’d say the event is really only worth the money if you feel it’s enough to be hyper focused on accomplishing just a couple of the unique experiences (and to me, that would have to be the shows, though mileage may vary for those more photo or specialty drink-minded) and then using the rest of your time for those short attraction wait times.

Jollywood Nights feels like it’s intended to be a more adult-skewed take on the nighttime holiday event Walt Disney World already has so much success with at Magic Kingdom, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. From using Hollywood Studios’ innate retro feel – which does look lovely with all the holiday decorations – to the lean into some more specific throwback character elements and references (not to mention all the alcohol opportunities), you can feel that vibe. There’s a good starting point here, but in its current form, it leaves a lot to be desired. We’ll see if things can shift moving forward.

Jollywood Nights is currently running on select nights through December 20, 2023.

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