All of today's photos are here.
Every park and resort at Walt Disney World has its own Christmas display to match its particular theme. Where do all the decorations come from and how are all the beautiful displays designed? We found out this morning during the Yuletide Fantasy tour. This tour took us "backstage" to areas not open to the general public. Because Disney doesn't ever want to lose its "magic", we were not allowed to take any pictures while we were backstage.
Our group of 32 started out in Epcot, where our tour guides James and Carmen (from Puerto Rico) escorted us into the World Showcase from behind the Germany pavillion where we looked at the decorations in Germany and Italy and heard about how Christmas traditions in those countries have been absorbed into the traditional American Christmas celebration. Leaving Epcot, we boarded a bus for Disney MGM Studios. We learned how the 3 million-light display formerly owned by the Osborne Family became the basis of what is now a 5 million-light Spectacle of Dancing Lights on the City Street at MGM Studios.
Next we visited the Grand Floridian resort. This is the most elegant of the Disney resorts, themed after the grand seaside resorts of the Victorian Era. The tree and gingerbread house in the lobby were as formal and elegant as that by-gone era.
Our bus then took us to a part of backstage that few visitors see. We stopped in a very industrial area at "Holiday Central" where the decorations for all the December celebrations at Disney World, the Disney Cruise Line and Disney Vacation Club resorts are created and stored. Each design is unique to the theme of its location and take over 2 years to develop. Once a design is adopted, it usually has a 5-year run before being replaced. The warehouse stores 5 years worth of replacements for all the breakable pieces of each design. A full-time staff of 20 works there year round and is doubled during the holiday decorating season. Decorations at Disney seem to appear overnight - and in many cases, that is exactly what happens. The staff comes to work at mid-night and works through the night for several weeks so that decorations seem to magically appear. In large areas like the parks, decorating is a gradual process, with different elements added each night until the design is complete. Decorations begin to appear right after Halloween and magically disappear back to Holiday Central around January 6th.
Our tour ended with a quick stop at the Magic Kingdom, where today they were taping the "live" Christmas Parade on Main Street. We observed from a distance and looked at the Christmas tree which has been temporarily relocated to the side of the castle while the parade is being taped, which actually takes four days. We found out that all those happy people you see on TV watching the parade are actually Disney cast members who volunteer to do the 8-hour a day stint of standing, smiling and waving as each float's appearance is recorded at least three times.
At the end of the tour James and Carmen presented of us with a limited-edition pin issued exclusively to participants in the Yuletide Fantasy tour. We really enjoyed this peek inside of the magic of Disney.
After we left our tour group behind, mr. lo and I went over to the Fort Wilderness campground and had a nice lunch at the Trail's End Buffeteria. This secluded campground is the favorite of many frequent Disney vacationers. The beautiful wooded setting on Bayside Lake is removed from all the noise and hustle bustle of the parks and offers horseback riding, fishing, canoeing, and many other outdoor activities. There are sites for trailers and tents as well as cabins to rent. I've heard that some people camp there for most of the winter.
Tonight mr. lo and I returned to Disney MGM Studios to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. All I can say is, "spectacle" is the right word for it. I have never seen so many Christmas lights. There was quite a crowd there tonight to see this incredible attraction.
We finished the evening with a ride on Star Tours, an old favorite, and the Muppet-Vision 3-D movie, still delightful no matter how many times we see it.