By: Jennifer Romano
Christmas is almost here, and everyone knows that the holiday season cannot be celebrated without viewing the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade. This year, we had the opportunity to go to the Magic Kingdom on December 7th during the filming of the parade. This event is not for the faint of heart; it is an all-day stand in the sun marathon. When we entered the Magic Kingdom, cast members directed the parade audience to Main Street where ropes were set up to mark off the reserved areas. After getting settled on Main Street, the waiting began.
The parade was supposed to start at 9:00 am, but we did not see anything happen until closer to 10:00 am. The first thing we saw was the Main Street trolley getting into position so that Neal Patrick Harris could film his big opening number for the parade. He didn’t actually sing during the filming, but there was a recording of him singing playing in the background. Now, this is a television production, so the same scene was taped several times from several different angles. We saw Neal sing and dance down the street at least ten times before the producers finally decided to move on to another section of the parade. Neal danced with the Main Street Philharmonic and the Dapper Dans as well as had a show down with Darth Vader. While the crew was waiting to film this show down, Vader was being watched over by two stormtroopers who stood guard near a door to the Emporium. When it was Vader’s time to exit, smoke filled the doorway, and he made is dramatic entrance. R2D2 was also in attendance. In addition to these celebrities, there were also many other Disney dancers and characters who participated in this huge musical number. It was so interesting to see all of the different parts of this opening number come together.
During the parade filming, Main Street is littered with cameras and wires, and all of the trashcans are removed so that the audience can be seen without gaps in between. Before the actual parade came down Main Street, a group of dancers performed as well as a huge group of cheerleaders from all over the country. A marching band also played during the filming. Finally, the actual parade made its way down Main Street some time around 3:00 pm. In order for the special events in the parade to happen, the decorations on Main Street had to be adjusted. The garland that runs across Main Street is removed for the filming because the parade is divided into sections. After each section, there are placeholders like a Macy’s parade type balloon and then Christmas flags. These placeholders allow the television production of the parade to cut away to a commercial or to the parade that is also going on in Disneyland. Since the Christmas day parade is celebrated in California and in Florida, certain characters can only be present on one of the coasts. For example, Mickey cannot be in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at the same time, so this year he was in the Magic Kingdom. Stitch was in Florida, and Goofy was in California. However, the biggest surprise was that Darth Vader had commandeered Santa’s sleigh! Who do you think was pulling Darth Vader’s sleigh? Well stormtroopers of course! Santa had already flown to California for Disneyland’s Christmas parade, so Florida got Darth Vader instead. Everyone in the crowd was very surprised when Vader made his arrival!
All in all, we stood on Main Street from 9:00 am until around 5:00 pm. We had to clap and look perky and excited even when the exact same thing happened ten times in a row. This type of event is not for the casual guest; I would avoid Magic Kingdom at all costs on parade taping day, unless you are there for the taping. Every pathway was super clogged, and you cannot walk down Main Street. I hope that we get the chance to go to the filming next year. If I do, I will definitely arrive very early so that I can snag a prime spot. This year, we arrived a little late, and the crowds were pretty intense. As the day wore on, people lost interest, so we were able to make our way nearer to the action. Even though it was a very long day, I though it was very interesting to see how a television production is created. Now I just have to wait until Christmas day to see if I actually made it on camera!