Last night was the second-ever Disney Jollywood Nights event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a week after a disastrous debut for the holiday season event. Long lines were the theme of the first Jollywood Nights, perhaps showcasing how ill-prepared Disney was for the event. Last night, Disney made a few operational changes that seem to have improved the event. While we weren’t in attendance, here’s a list of the changes that Disney implemented.
Opening night for in-park wristband credential pickup was so bad that Cast Members eventually advised guests to exit the park entirely and utilize the much smoother process at the main entrance. It looks like in-park wristband pick-up was improved for night two, with two distribution areas in use to ease lines.
This was the easiest thing for Disney to roll out on short notice. From the outside looking in, the first event appeared to be oversold and underdeveloped. While we still have some complaints as to how Disney is using Hollywood Studios for the event, adding more characters was a quick and easy band-aid.
In short, the idea is that in order to combat long lines for a limited number of offerings, Disney can add a new character or two to entice guests to stand in a new line, thus making the existing lines shorter. Disney didn’t just add a character or two, but rather four new meet-and-greet areas and a total of eight new characters. This was Disney scrambling for a solution and it appears to have worked, but that wasn’t the only change last night. Before we get into the other changes, here’s a look at the newly added characters that will appear in addition to the existing character lineup from night one:
- 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)
None of the communications to guests were changed to include these character meet and greets, so they are subject to change at future events.
Tip Top Club Changes
It also looks like Disney made a few operational changes to the Tip Top Club, which was one of the busiest bars at the event. Disney added a second line and doubled the capacity of the bar by adding more servers. That kept the line short(er) during last night’s event. Disney also appeared to dress the servers in Tower of Terror Cast Member costumes instead of the standard outdoor vending costumes. It’s little details like this that we would expect from Walt Disney World on night one if they didn’t outsource their creative solutions to complaints on social media.
Jazzy Holidays Reservations
Disney World also changed the way that reservations worked for the “Jazzy Holidays” offering at The Hollywood Brown Derby. On night one, all guests were asked to join the list via the My Disney Experience app. A technology issue called back hundreds of guests at the same time and led to frustration and long waits. On night two, the Jazzy Holidays opened with a standby line and then guests were directed to join the waitlist via the My Disney Experience app.
The experience inside The Hollywood Brown Derby doesn’t appear to have changed, with a single pianist throwing the entire vibe on his back and trying to create a Jazzy Holiday feel.
Disney also made some adjustments to try and create more of party atmosphere throughout the event. The biggest change in that regard was creating new projections for the Chinese Theater during the event and moving the DJ to center stage along with lighting and other effects.
It also looked like Disney added a DJ to the Pixar Plaza area, which was downright dead when we visited on night one.
Toy Story Land & Galaxy’s Edge Remain Abandoned
Despite the two newest lands at Disney’s Hollywood Studios being ripe for special events, Disney is still not doing anything in Toy Story Land or Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Making adjustments to include all-new areas of the park is not something we think Disney could slap together in less than a week like they did with the character meet-and-greets and other operational adjustments. Changes to include these areas would likely involve more planning and budget than Disney is willing to do this year.
Another factor for night two was likely much lower crowds. We don’t have access to the actual number of attendees, but with night two being sold out long before the event and Disney not reopening sales following night one reviews, it’s likely that a significant number of guests asked for a refund on their unused tickets or changed their tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. While night one was oversold and new offerings overloaded with guests, night two appeared to offer far more breathing room on top of the operational changes and improvements.
We’ll start with the positive: changes were made. It was almost shocking to see so many new characters rolled out in short order. Traditionally, Disney doesn’t move fast to implement change, but they certainly had to do something here, and they did. Kudos. As we said in our review, the stage shows remain standout offerings, and we’re very glad to see that other guests are enjoying them just as much as we did.
That said, two things can be true at the same time. We are happy that Disney implemented the changes, and very unhappy that opening night was as much of a cluster as it was. To be clear, I paid full price for my ticket on night one (minus the standard Annual Pass discount). In fact, the price of my night one ticket was the same as the price of a night two ticket. I have not asked for a refund because I was generally able to accomplish what I wanted during the event for the site. That is, I was able to film and photograph both stage shows, stood out in the pouring rain during Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM, and captured some photos from a distance of character meet and greets and peripheral entertainment during the event. I might have purchased a Gertie cookie if there wasn’t a 30-minute line, and I would’ve liked to have seen more of the entertainment (that ended early due to the weather), but it was a decent enough night from a content collection perspective.
Embarrassment might be too strong of a word, but night one should’ve never happened the way it did. Management was caught off guard by their own event, and all of the changes that we listed above have been entered into evidence. Even so, the changes might not be enough to make the event a worthwhile visit at such a high price, but Disney demonstrated that they simply weren’t ready for opening night. The alternative is worse – that Disney simply wanted to save money by offering as little as they thought they could to get away with an event that was good enough. I’ll choose to think that management simply didn’t have a clue what they were doing.
Another thing that I’ve seen mentioned online that is confusing to a degree is the notion that night one attendees should’ve known better than to attend opening night and expect the event to be perfect. Yes, perfect is probably the wrong word, but you get the idea. I would simply say that Disney should’ve held a Cast Member preview night. Disney didn’t offer a discounted ticket rate to guests who ended up being guinea pigs. If Disney wants to charge full price for opening night, it should be expected that they can provide a full product. Instead, they scrambled to implement changes after night one and have not been proactive in acknowledging what a failure opening night was. Simply put, last night’s event showed how unprepared they were for opening night and it’s frustrating to see.
Going forward, we don’t plan on attending Disney Jollywood Nights again this year, and still wouldn’t recommend it to our friends and family. The event still isn’t built out enough unless you are going just for the character meet and greets. As we said in our review of the event, we are fans of Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the holidays, and we had high hopes for Jollywood Nights. Until Disney makes it a whole-park event, it’ll be tough to recommend.
As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!