Opening night for Disney’s brand new holiday party was not their best hour. It was kind of a disaster. The concept of Jollywood Nights has a lot of potential but there are clearly some serious logistical issues in the event’s execution that still need to be worked out.
So what went wrong?
It’s a pretty long list but, it mostly breaks down into three categories of logistics: Communication, Crowd Control, and Scarcity.
First of all, I want to make it clear that these problems were in no way the fault of the Cast Members working the party. The Cast Members were all doing their best but there was A LOT of confusion and they clearly weren’t prepped properly by management for the event. We literally asked three different cast members the same question and got three different answers. This happened more than once during the evening.
There was also a significant virtual communication/lack of communication issue that caused chaos. We’ll get to that a bit further down.
Long lines became the real theme of the night instead of the “Hollywood Glamour Meets Holiday Cheer” we were promised. This problem started before the party even did, with the event check in line for guests already in the park stretching from Echo Lake to Galaxy’s Edge. Lines at the Hollywood Studios main entrance were not quite as bad but came with their own set of problems. Guests at Disney Jollywood Nights must wear a wristband AND a lanyard. This wasn’t clearly communicated to guests at the main entrance so many got their wristbands, bypassed the lanyard pickup, and went straight into the park, only to find that they were then denied entry to shows and such because they did not have a lanyard. The lanyard thing doesn’t make any sense.
Character lines were long, as you would expect at a special event, but the problem here was that some locations had rotating characters. Meaning you may have gotten in line to meet one character, but an hour later when it’s your turn, you meet a completely different character. This character roulette approach confused and disappointed many guests.
Lines for the new event exclusive shows Disney Holidays in Hollywood and What’s This? Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-Along weren’t too bad early in the evening. Although the line for the Holidays in Hollywood show started to stack up on Sunset Boulevard as the night progressed.
Virtual lines weren’t any better. There was a major issue with the wait list for the Jazzy Holidays lounge at The Hollywood Brown Derby that led to a lot of confusion, long waits and disgruntled guests. A virtual wait list was available for party guests in the My Disney Experience app but since this feature is location specific it led to hundreds of people crowded in front of the restaurant waiting for the list to become available at 8:15 PM. Guests who joined the waitlist were notified of a 10 minute wait time for their table… all 300+ guests. Guests were never notified of this error and would only find out if they came back to the restaurant check-in desk to ask about their wait time.
The Virtual Queue for Star Wars Rise of the Resistance was available for about an hour but then the ride was closed for most of night due to technical issues. Lines for rides weren’t an issue with essentially walk-on wait times. But since no one was there for the rides, I’m not counting this as a positive for the party.
Food lines were a major issue for Jollywood Nights but that had more to do with Scarcity than Crowd Control. We’ll talk more about this issue below.
While the entire park was technically open all evening, there was absolutely nothing event-exclusive happening in Galaxy’s Edge or Toy Story Land so those areas were practically deserted all night. By putting all of the party offerings in the front sections of the park, all Disney did was create a massive bottleneck point for the crowds. I realize that Star Wars and Toy Story don’t easily fit into the ‘glitz and glam of old Hollywood’ vibe Disney wants this party to have, but if they want to tell me that it makes sense for Phineas & Ferb and Max Goof as Powerline to be greeting people during this ‘old hollywood’ party then they can figure out a way to incorporate Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land. (Star Wars Holiday Special… all I’m saying.)
The final point of this triangle of failure is scarcity. We’ll start with food. When Disney announced Jollywood Nights they really emphasized the massive amount of party-exclusive food and beverage options with a menu boasting more than 60 items ONLY available during the party. So lack of food options wasn’t the issue. The problem was lack of locations – 60+ menu items available at about a dozen locations, two of those being the limited capacity lounges. The math does not add up. This is why guests found themselves in hour long lines down Sunset Boulevard to buy snacks. All while, as mentioned before, half of the park was nearly empty.
Pretty sure the only reason people were willing to stand in line for an hour to get food is because there wasn’t that much else to do. Jollywood Nights offers two indoor stage shows, two extremely limited capacity lounges and the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! fireworks and projection show. In contrast, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party has a variety of secondary entertainment. including a parade, outdoor stage show, dance parties, and a lot of rides get holiday overlays.
So at Jollywood Nights the issue is that there’s just not enough to do that guests actually want to do. No one was really riding the rides because there was nothing “jolly” added to that experience. The stage area in front of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway was empty the entire night and feels like a glaring missed opportunity for a stage show that you don’t have to stand in line for.
There was a lack of event-exclusive merchandise. There was one t-shirt available, but we never found it. One cast member we asked about merchandise said there wasn’t anything exclusive for the party so… that circles back to lack of communication to cast members working the event.
That covers the logistical failures of the event, but there were other reasons guests were disappointed by the party.
Fa-La-La-La… Lack of Festive Atmosphere
Honestly, Disney kind of phoned it in on the festive atmosphere. It didn’t feel like the park itself transformed for the event like the Magic Kingdom does for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. In the Magic Kingdom there’s snow on Main Street, a lot of rides get holiday overlays, there’s special lights and projections all around, a parade, plus free cocoa and cookies.
Hollywood Studios didn’t really get dressed up for the occasion like the guests did. There was occasional snow on Hollywood Boulevard but that was pretty much it. Even the decorations in the Brown Derby and the Tip Top Lounge felt pretty low effort.
Commissary Lane, which was supposed to be transformed into the “Holiday Fiesta En La Calle” did not meet expectations. There were a couple of colored flood lights formed the bulk of the decor, and the musicians were often playing to an empty street and the people standing in line for over an hour to try the food.
The Twilight Soiree at The Tip-Top Club in the courtyard at the exit of the Tower of Terror offered Disney the perfect opportunity to really go all-out with their theming but…. nope. We were never able to get in but we had reports from other guests that the bar averaged almost an hour long wait for most of the night. While the drinks look beautiful on the menu they were served in plain plastic cups with shockingly small portion sizes for the food costs. There was a live band that was nice but only a few standing tables, so mostly just a crowd of strangers standing. The general consensus was that the experience was underwhelming and low-effort.
We already covered the virtual wait list problems with the Jazzy Holidays Lounge at The Hollywood Brown Derby, but we did eventually get in and were… underwhelmed with the atmosphere. There was literally one garland hung in front of the musician’s stage. That’s it. The food was good though
While a lot of people were excited to see Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! return to Hollywood Studios, it’s technically a recycled show instead of a new creation exclusively for the event, so that’s kind of a let down. Speaking of, it started pouring rain right before the show started so it was a soggy exclamation point on a pretty disappointing evening.
Yes, the party is kind of a hot mess but there are definitely some positives worth noting. The entertainment available is good. The brand new stage show Disney Holidays in Hollywood is awesome and exactly the caliber of entertainment you would expect for an extra ticket holiday event at a Disney park. It’s inspired by vintage Hollywood TV specials, complete with “commercial breaks” between stage setups. The 30-minute show includes a series of vignettes with appearances from Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Tiana, Belle, Mickey, and Minnie.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-Along is also fun and it’s pretty cool to see the Jack Skellington puppet (we assume the same one from MNSSHP) up close.
The Sunset Seasons Greetings runs throughout the night on Sunset Boulevard, lighting up the Hollywood Tower Hotel with festive projections set to music as snoap floats around you. This has become a holiday tradition in Hollywood Studios and we assume will continue running on non-party nights as well.
What food we were able to get was pretty good. A couple of duds but overall tasty. The Oyster Rockefeller and Bison Sliders at Hollywood Brown Derby were probably our favorite bites of the evening. We never got to try any of the offerings from Holiday Fiesta en la Calle at ABC Commissary but we heard really good things from everyone who did survive the line.
Is it worth the $160 – $180 price tag? Honestly, right now, probably not. The concept of the Jollywood Nights party has a lot of potential but there are clearly some serious logistical issues that need to be addressed before I would recommend that anyone spend the extra money on a ticket.
I have no doubt that Disney will re-work this party before next year and probably make changes this year as well on future party nights. They have reportedly already removed the virtual wait-list for the Brown Derby Jazzy Hollywood Lounge. So I’m optimistic that Jollywood Nights can improved and become the festive, glamourous holiday experience we were promised.
But for now, if we’re making a choice, we’ll recommend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party over Jollywood Nights.