This annual tradition
has been around in one form or another since Disneyland opened back
in the 50s (December 20, 1958 to be exact). In the early 60s the show adopted its current format with
the live choir and narrator. When Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
opened in 1971 a second version of the show started there then was
moved to EPCOT in 1993 where it has been ever since.
The show is similar at both parks, but each has its own unique
elements and the song list/arrangements are different. The ceremony consists of a large choir, an orchestra,
and a guest narrator. The guest narrator reads the story of Christmas
and it is intertwined with song. Past guest narrators have included
James Earl Jones, Robert Urich, Marie Osmand, Roy Disney, John Wayne, Carey Grant, Dick Van Dyke and the
list goes on.
Disneyland: At Disneyland this annual tradition
occurs usually the first weekend in December and there are four
shows. Two on Saturday and two on Sunday. For the 2012 season they expanded this to 20 nights going from December 1st through 20th with two shows a night.
The main part of the ceremony
takes place on Main Street USA in Town Square. Large bleachers are
brought in and the choir assembles in front of the Train Station.
There are folding chairs for the audience throughout Town square
then the rest of the guests stand around the square and down Main
Street. (In 1998 the show was in the Fantasyland theater).
The choirs process in along the entire parade route from Small World
all the way to Main Street where they assemble for the reading of
the Christmas story by the guest narrator.
Walt Disney World: At Walt Disney World the show
takes place on the American Gardens stage on a much smaller scale
than Disneyland but much more often. They run several shows a night
(usually three) from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Guest narrators
usually do 2-4 nights in a row. The choirs process in from the backstage
gate near the American Adventure and assemble on risers around the
stage. In the center of the stage the Voices of Liberty stand and
they lead the show musically.
Disneyland Seating: Traditionally seating at Disneyland
has been reserved for invited guests and Club 33 members. Usually
the invited guests are people affiliated with the choirs, or community members as a thank you. A couple of years they tried a very limited dinner/pay option. In 2012 with the added nights there was a lottery for Annual Passholders for 18 of the nights (36 shows). The first two nights/four shows were done the traditional way.
Walt Disney World Seating: Since the show occurs
many more times than the Disneyland version seating is easier to
come by. The early shows each night do flll up quickly though. The
most popular way to reserve seating is the Dinner package where
you eat at an EPCOT restaurant and get a reserved seat at the show.
This package is so popular it makes it challenging to get dining
reservations on many nights. There is usually a standby line which will vary in length depending on the narrator, weather, etc..
For both venues if you do not mind standing you can usually find a spot with an ok view, but good sound, without a lot of hassle.
Geeks thoughts: I think the Candlelight is a not to be missed Disney event. I find the Disneyland one more impressive and I tend to favor the song arrangements and selection too, but that just may be my West Coast bias.