Disney’s Jollywood Nights is an after hours Christmas party event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. The party is new for 2023 and the second Christmas party offering available at Walt Disney World. The other holiday party is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
The Jollywood Nights event was billed as a more adult, though all ages are welcome, glitzy Hollywood take on Christmas. The event promotion relied heavily on the photo opportunities with characters throughout the parks, unique eats, and three special shows. We’ll dive into whether Disney’s Jollywood nights is worth it and what to consider if buying a ticket.
Generally the event didn’t feel like it delivered as much value as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for the money and felt disorganized on the first night. Some of these issues were first night bugs that will be sorted out, but many of the aspects that didn’t work were structural.
Let’s dive into what could make this event worth it for you and then shift to some of the more difficult aspects of the party offerings. I was invited media for this event, but as you’ll see below I won’t hold back on my full review. We still attend these parties on our own to get the full experience. We’ll also dive into whether Disney’s Jollywood Night is good for kids.
Jollywood Nite Improvements
In response to the longer lines many experienced, including us which you can read more about below, Disney has made some adjustments to the party including adding new characters! Adding more characters is a great way to help spread out the crowds and lower lines as this just gives guests more to do.
The newly added characters include:
- Santa Duffy Bear- Mickey Short Film Theater
- Snow White & Dopey OR Mary Poppins & Penguin Waiter- Grand Avenue
- Jiminy Cricket OR Pinocchio- Center Stage near Chinese Theater
- Santa Stitch- Center Stage near Chinese Theater
Many guests will be most excited about Santa Duffy Bear and Santa Stitch which are not characters you see out too often. This is a great response to our earlier reaction that many of the characters offered were just not special enough to justify the lines. The addition of these holiday characters is a great move.
Disney has also added more check-in locations for guests to receive their wristbands which should help distribute those lines more evenly. The wristband check-in stations are now located at Star Wars Launch Bay and Muppet*Vision 3D. I think this is a smart move to respond to the long lines that happened during the first Jollywood Nites event and it demonstrates that Disney is watching and listening to guest reviews!
We also heard reports that more servers have been added to the Jazz Holidays at the Brown Derby dine-in experience which has greatly increased capacity.
With that all being said, let’s get on with our review of night one at Jollywood Nites at Hollywood Studios including the good, bad, and is it good for kids?
Disney’s Jollywood Nights Review Good Stuff
The highlights for Jollywood Nights for me were the Disney’s Holidays in Hollywood Show, the walk on attractions throughout Hollywood Studios, and the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM projections show. Those who are fans of the Nightmare Before Christmas will also enjoy the sing-along show but that property has never been my personal favorite (one caveat there that I’ll cover below).
Those who enjoy dressing up in dapper outfits and specifically like the glitzy aspect will also really enjoy the dapper day type feeling from the event. There were definitely some fun outfits spotted. My favorite was someone dressed up as Bing Crosby from the “Sisters” scene of White Christmas. Right on point for the theme of the party! Made me wish that there was some general White Christmas songs featured in a Disney show.
Disney’s Holidays in Hollywood is a variety show meant to be a live broadcast featuring Mickey & Minnie, Belle, Tiana, Belle, and most importantly Kermit and Miss Piggy. The show is inspired by the Radio City Rockettes. It’s a very cute mix of Christmas songs and banter between these favorite characters. This would be very fun for a Muppet fan. I really love seeing the characters performed in person at the parks – the biggest takeaway from this popularity is that we should see them in a more permanent addition at Disney World – ahem let’s drop Aerosmith right now and get the Muppets on Rockin’ Rollercoaster.
The songs were very cute and dancing was super impressive. Hats off to the entire cast of the show that really sang and danced their hearts out. Always difficult to nail it on the first night of something new. I was particularly impressed with Mickey & Minnie Mouse breaking out dance moves on the stage.
The part of the show that didn’t work that well was the mix of being at “commercial” and “live” for the show. They didn’t sell the fact that the audience was meant to be a live studio audience well enough. Combine this with some first night missed cues and you had some confusing moments on stage.
Overall this is a very cute show that should be offered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios throughout December and not just for a ticketed event. Generally this is a sentiment that I would echo for all of the entertainment that is specific to the party.
As the focuses of the party are the various food offerings, characters, and shows there was really no focus on people riding attractions. The best value of the event was perhaps walking on to the various popular attractions at the park (save for Rise of the Resistance that required a virtual queue but once lined up there was minimal wait) and there was reportedly no line for the Oga’s Cantina Star Wars Bar. A note – how could Disney not have integrated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in some way to the party. It’s another example of the big mistake in Star Wars Land that needs to be fixed manifesting itself. Looking back at the event I didn’t take enough advantage of the attractions as we were aiming to cover the unique features of the party. Even here though we did see some wait times – Slinky Dog Dash still had a full 25 minute queue around 11 pm when we checked. See selection of wait times from 10:24 pm on the first party night.
The other aspect that may be a highlight for those who are fans of Nightmare Before Christmas was the “What’s This: Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-Along”. The best part of this show was the impressive Jack Skellington puppet that appears to be the same one or similar to the one that is used for the Mickeys Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
The other highlight was the musical number featuring Oogie Boogie dancing around the stage to his song.
The rest of the show was meant to be a sing-along to the songs featured in the movie. In our performance and others, few people were singing generally just watching the clips from the movie.
The show was hosted by two mute hosts performing a kind of interpretive dance. That part was a fun acting performance but I just don’t think we need a Nightmare sing-along. After watching the Frozen sing-along in the same theater a few hours before, the contrast between the audience engagement with the two shows could not be more stark.
The Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM show is a fun projections and fireworks show that nicely captures classic Disney songs and characters along the front of the Chinese Theater in the center of the park. I like this show more than the fireworks at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas because of the content and also because Prep and Landing is one of the best Disney Christmas shows/movies ever made. On our night we were hit with an hour-long downpour which killed some of the vibe of ending with the fireworks, but they were still fun. This show was previously offered as part of general entertainment at Hollywood Studios before COVID closures.
Disney Jollywood Nights Review 2023
Other aspects of the event include the character meet and greets, food offerings, dining, and other entertainment throughout the parks. Put bluntly the lines were long and the lack of organization was surprising. There were two promoted special dining events – Jazz Holidays at the Brown Derby and the Twilight Soiree at the Tip Top Club.
The Jazz Holidays at the Brown Derby required guests to join a walk-up wait list. We arrived at the restaurant just as they were sharing that the list would open in two minutes at 8:15 pm. Just like a virtual queue for Guardians Cosmic Rewind, we all started refreshing on the phone and then clicked in. The entire crowd was accidentally sent a 10 minute wait notification at this point which led to chaos as people kept checking with hosts to be seated.
We were eventually called inside and seated at a table right by the piano player. It was a nice atmosphere as the piano player belted songs from his perch. The menu is limited to appetizer options and the specific drinks already available. They can also do simple mixed drinks. The food and drinks came out quickly. We ordered the Pork Belly Bao, Crispy Duck Drumettes, Derby Sliders, and Tuna Carpaccio. I would recommend the Pork Belly Bao and Derby Sliders the most. We enjoyed the food and atmosphere here but based on our experience understand that it will be difficult for many party attendees to enjoy and it’s difficult to plan around.
Good food and quick service. If you are attending the party already, definitely try to get inside here. If there weren’t other things to do and our table weren’t right by the speaker for the piano player I could’ve easily sat here for another hour enjoying the Brown Derby ambiance.
The Twilight Soiree at the Tip Top Club is a different story all together. The bar there was a small stand that had a limited selection of pre-mixed drinks that grew a massive line. In a good move, Disney kept the band removed from the bar area so that you could pop over and see the band playing and not have to line up for that area. If you are attending, definitely come over and see the offering but this is not the place to get a drink. I would personally save that for Oga’s Cantina (see above, no line). This seems likes such a big miss to have one bar and also something that is fixable. I bet we see Disney throw three or four more carts back here for the next party night.
Obviously “worth” is difficult to judge but for the same amount of money people paid to get in to wait in a long line for a drink at the Tip-Top Club below Tower of Terror or wait to get seated at the Brown Derby they could have enjoyed a better dinning experience at one of the other Walt Disney World restaurants with much less frustration.
Next up was the general food lines. There were massive lines to pickup the signature Gertie Dinosaur cookie and other holiday food. Alert – the cookie is just a sugar cookie. You’ll be far better off lining up for one of the treats at the Disney World gingerbread houses for a treat at one of the hotels. Only line up here if you need the photo of it that badly.
Of the food items we enjoyed the birria taco at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (it has nothing on the offerings at San Fransokyo Square in California Adventure but that’s generally true of tacos in Walt Disney World). Why Disney doesn’t implement mobile order for the party in at least some limited capacity or increase the amount of locations selling key merchandise is a question that we hope will be remedied.
Finally, there were characters throughout the parks available for meet and greets but generally these lines were long and many weren’t even special for Christmas. I met Edna Mode and Frozone from the Incredibles in the Pixar Place courtyard but didn’t line up for any of the other characters. Mickey and Friends were also available in holiday outfits in the Animation Courtyard. The Phineas and Ferb photo opportunities also drew massive lines. There weren’t enough individual rare characters at the event to spread our demand. There were also a number of fun magic shots throughout the party and a robotic arm shot like what you may have seen on a Hollywood red carpet.
Is Disney’s Jollywood Nights Good For Kids?
Though the event is promoted as an adults focused event the Jollywood Nights offering could be good for kids too. Disney’s Holidays in Hollywood show is perfectly good for everyone and the Nightmare Before Christmas show might not be good for little kids, but that’s true of the movie too.
Generally the event is just as good (or bad) for kids as it is for adults. As I’ll share below, the Jollywood Nights offering is a nice way to see Hollywood Studios during the evening with minimal wait times if you approach it that way. The lines for characters are long but there are characters present that kids would have a fun time with.
The dining options are also perfectly good for kids too. The Hollywood Brown Derby turns out food quickly and much of the menu is perfectly good for kids too. There’s not really any area that would make this more adult party not kid friendly. That said, the Very Merry Christmas Party is SO MUCH more kid focused so that party is the clear winner if you are debating between the two offerings.
Is Disney’s Jollywood Nights Worth Your Time?
The Jollywood Nights event is a fun attempt by Disney to spread our the Christmas offerings at Walt Disney World. The party doesn’t come close to the grandeur of the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom, but perhaps it will expand and improve in coming years. The Jollywood Nights event is lacking destination entertainment that would make this event a must-see. It feels like it needs a parade or maybe even a big arena show on the Fantasmic! stage that would make this an iconic must-do.
Also, the party is priced similarly to the Christmas party at Magic Kingdom which means that when comparing the Very Merry Christmas Party vs Jollywood Nights you have to look at all of the offerings together. The Magic Kingdom party includes free cookies and hot chocolate or cider and so many more themed character experiences. The ambiance of that park also feels much more festive for Christmas. The event is similar to length to the After Hours events at Disney World but doesn’t include the freebies that they have there. The event feels like an After Hours event with additional entertainment with perhaps too many people in attendance all wanting the same things that were promoted. While the offerings are comparable from a logistics perspective they aren’t comprable for a guest at Disney World as the next After Hours events aren’t being offered until January 2024.
Generally it feels like the Jollywood Nights offering included a lot of unique characters as an attempt to grow party appeal – see Phineas and Ferb, Muppets, Nightmare Before Christmas – and didn’t deliver enough things to do in the process.
Some have compared the party to the Disneyland After Dark events that are available but that comparison is a little bit flawed because those events only happen one or two times while Jollywood nights occurs 10 nights throughout the season giving them time and motivation to address these issues.
Looking ahead, we hope that Disney makes some tweaks here to allow for more people to get to the special offerings available at the party and smooths out some of the kinks.
Here’s when the Jollywood Nights event would be worth it. If you currently have a trip to Walt Disney World planned where you were going to just be in town for two days and Hollywood Studios was not on your list, you could use this night to be your time at Hollywood Studios and pretty comfortably see all of the hit attractions and grab the party highlights while others wait in line for food and attractions. Especially now that the general reviews have not been stellar for the party, it might really be an opportunity to have a “ghost town” Hollywood Studios night. Sure at a high price point, but I bet that if you hit a random night in early December when all the local buzz has died off and before the beginning of the holidays you could have a wonderful night here.
My plan for a perfect Jollywood Nights event would be to get on the wait list for the Brown Derby, be ready to join the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance, enjoy the empty lines for attractions throughout the night, and then see the Disney Holiday Hollywood nights show which will undoubtedly only get tighter and better. Throw a visit to Oga’s Cantina in there and you have a perfect holiday night at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you come in with these expectations and then end up with a fun character meet too, you’ll be in a great place. Thinking back on the party now after attending the first night, I sure wish that had how we had used the evening too.
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