By Mandi Wright, Senior Travel Planner
Have you ever wondered how Disney decorates for the Holidays, or who makes this festive magic happen so quickly every holiday season? Well, I do! In fact, I am one of those magic makers! At Holiday Services in Walt Disney World, avery talented team of elf’s are working all year to plan, prepare, create and decorate for the Fall and Christmas season. Found backstage behind the Magic Kingdom is one of 3 Holiday Services warehouses. A large red and green sign with a logo of ornaments in the shape of a Mickey head reads “Holiday Services – Everything in the World for the Holidays”, and that’s exactly what you will find behind the doors. Not many people have been allowed to see the warehouse, like Santa’s secret shop this department remains a mystery to many who want just a peek inside!
With the help of approximately 40 full time Cast Members and another 40 Seasonal Cast Members the 4 theme parks, all 22 Disney Resorts, Disney Springs, Disney Cruise Line ships and Castaway Cay are transformed for the Holidays during the month of November. There is 170,000 square feet of warehouse space with rows, and rows of ribbons, floral, ornaments, lights and foliage of every shape, color, size and theme including 40,000 decorated pieces waiting to be on display!
Before the Christmas Holiday décor can be installed, the fall décor must come down! From the iconic Mickey Pumpkin wreaths in The Magic Kingdom to the Spooky Trees on the cruise ships, Holiday Services is also responsible for decorated for Fall for the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Halloween on the High Seas themed cruises.
The Christmas Holiday starts on November 1st, and the transformations begin. After the parks close for the day and in the middle of the night when guests are sleeping the team begins making magic. The perfectly themed holiday garlands, sprays, wreaths, trees and props are installed and lit with special attention given to each land, storefront, lamp post, restaurant and resort, with a grand icon tree ranging from 15-70 feet as the main centerpiece. At Disney Springs, in addition to all the holiday décor throughout the 4 neighborhoods, the annual Christmas Tree Trail with 20 themed Christmas Trees all designed, decorated and installed by the talented decorators at Holiday Services are on display.
The Cruise Line team, which I am fortunate to be a part oftravels to 4 of Disney’s ships (Dream, Magic, Fantasy and the Wish) while docked in port in Miami, Port Canaveral, Galveston, Texas, New York City, San Juan, Puerto Rico and to Castaway Cay in the Bahamas to decorate Disney’s own island. In addition to the Cruise ships, this team appropriately also transforms the Jungle Cruise attraction in the Magic Kingdom to the “Jingle Cruise” with a special Holiday overlay. A fan favorite and must ride attraction during the Holidays at Disney World!
Transforming the cruise ships is different. My team goes aboard the ship while docked in port and with only a few short hours to install all the Holiday décor including a 25-foot Icon tree in the grand lobby atrium before the next group of guests board the ship for their Disney Cruise! This small but mighty team of 22scurries in the bowel of the ship, up crew elevators from bow to stern decorating the atrium, balconies, restaurants, lounges, kids’ clubs, gift shops, crew areas and more. Even the Captain on the Bridge gets a special tree! The crew members were always so excited that we were bringing the Holidays to them and decorating their ships!
What goes up must come down, which means that right after Christmas, the team goes back out under the cover of night to return the parks, resorts, springs and ships back to their original state until next season. The rest of the year, the team in the warehouse, will plan, rehab, remake, and create new décor for the next Holiday season.
At Holiday Services, I have walked amongst the Icon trees and Mickey pumpkins, hung a Santa hat inside a Tiger’s mouth, prepared ornaments for hanging, been covered in glitter, painted props, decorated a tree for Good Morning America, built Icon trees on cruise ships, hung garlands, wreaths and sprays, traveled to Texas, Port Canaveral and Miami several times, fluffed branches, bows and straightened and hung ornaments, been in spaces I never thought I would see, done things I never thought I would be able to do, climbed up numerous ladders, wore a hard hat and steal toe boots, laughed a lot, sweated a lot, learned a lot, heard some amazing stories, met some of the most talented and fun people, and checked one large item off of my bucket list.