When a brand new special ticketed event, Disney Jollywood Nights, debuted in November, the reviews were terrible. There were complaints about long lines and not enough to do. (The weather was bad that night, which made some guests crankier.) Disney listened to those complaints, and immediately made improvements.
My daughter and I attended the final Disney Jollywood Nights of 2023 on Wednesday, December 20. We were originally supposed to go a few days earlier, but severe weather had other plans. Instead of waiting for a refund, we decided to switch the tickets. I’m glad that we decided to not skip this one, we had a great time.
When I’ve attended Mickey’s Parties in the past, I’ll skip the characters. The lines are always crazy long and there are other things that I’d prefer to do. Disney Jollywood Nights, for us, ended up being all about the characters. This is where Disney made one of the improvements after the first event. Some rare characters were added, which made Disney Jollywood Nights extra special.
One of my all-time favorite theme park characters is Duffy the Disney Bear. I loved his meet and greet at Epcot, and am still sad that it ended back in 2015. At Disney Jollywood Nights, Duffy in his Santa suit was greeting near Echo Lake.
I didn’t care how long the line was, I wanted to meet Duffy again! He didn’t disappoint, the interaction was fantastic. I told Duffy that he needs to stop traveling so much and return home to Florida where he belongs. Considering how popular Santa Duffy was at Disney Jollywood Nights, maybe someone from Disney will decide to bring him home for good.
Of course, Duffy wasn’t the only character that we saw. The classics were dressed up in special outfits. Phineas & Ferb were very popular, as was Santa Stitch. Mary Poppins greeted with one of her penguin friends. Powerline Max also had a line, and there were several other characters throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
For Disney Jollywood Nights, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance used a Virtual Queue. It opened at 8:00, while the event officially started at 8:30. I’m not sure if the queue filled up or not, because I joined right when it opened and we got Boarding Group 10. As much as I enjoy Rise of the Resistance, if Disney Jollywood Nights returns next year I think I’d skip it. Even with the Virtual Queue, it takes up a lot of time. Disney Jollywood Nights is only four hours long, and that time flies.
The Wait Times for other rides seemed manageable throughout the evening. At the end of the night, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway had a five minute wait, which means it was pretty much walk on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that low before!
We skipped some of the activities because the time was short, and we didn’t order any food or drinks. The gentleman in line in front of me for Duffy let me take a picture of his Santa Gertie cookie.
There were two live shows, and we watched both of them. What’s This? Tim Burton’s THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Sing-Along was cute and well done. That said, it won’t be high on my priority list if Disney Jollywood Nights returns in 2024. To me, it didn’t really fit in with the theme of the event, which (I think) was the holidays during the Golden Days of Hollywood. But Jack was really cool. The other live show, Disney Holidays in Hollywood, was a lot of fun. It features classic and new songs, dancing, and a few characters. Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy were a large part of the show, and they were a delight. Mickey and Minnie were also there, and they can dance! If Disney Jollywood Nights returns I will want to see this one again.
Disney Jollywood Nights is more of a grown up event than Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, even with all the characters. There weren’t all that many children there. Many people (including my daughter and me) donned their Christmas best for the evening. There were lots of Christmas shirts and Disney Christmas spirit jerseys (it was a cool evening), but many people just wore theme park casual. I even saw a few costumes. I don’t think anyone felt out of place. No matter what they decided to wear, it worked.
The evening ended with Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! While it was nice to have fireworks back at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this is probably my least favorite Disney fireworks show that I’ve ever seen. I had hoped that it would be updated, but as far as I could remember it was the same loose story. Santa is missing, and it’s up to Wayne and Lenny from Prep and Landing to find him. I’m not sure where Bambi or Lilo and Stitch play into the story, but they were part of the numerous projections on the Chinese Theater. Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom is a gorgeous, well put together show. Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is lackluster and only has a couple of “wow” moments. All that Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! did was remind me of how much I miss Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. I’m holding onto hope that this was a trial run of fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and that they’ll bring them back nightly soon.
Was Disney Jollywood Nights perfect? No, far from it. It needed something more. There is no hot cocoa or cookies like at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. There are no included beverages, ice cream, or popcorn like the Disney After Hours evenings. You aren’t given an ornament or a commemorative poster as you leave. It would have been nice to have Sunset Seasons Greetings run continually instead of intermittently throughout the evening. Something was lacking to push Disney Jollywood Nights to the next level. That said, we had a fantastic time. There is plenty of time for Disney to analyze the good and the bad, and figure out what needs to be done next year. If Disney Jollywood Nights returns in 2024, we’ll be there! Especially if Duffy is once again part of the magic.