Jollywood Nights Debuts at Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Hollywood Studios tried something new this year. The park hosted a new after-hours ticketed event called Disney Jollywood Nights.
I realize many of you have taken a wait-and-see approach to the event. So, here’s a realistic evaluation of the event and whether it’s worth your time and money.
What Is Disney Jollywood Nights?
You might expect Disney Jollywood Nights to work as the Hollywood Studios version of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. And that’s true to an extent.
Yes, you’ll gain four hours of exclusive park access at a time when Hollywood Studios has closed to other guests. And yes, you’ll discover all sorts of Yuletide entertainment and decorations during your visit.
Realistically, the similarities end there, though. Disney has styled Jollywood Nights as a series of mini-cocktail parties, character interactions, and nighttime presentations.
Also, Hollywood Studios has introduced some new offerings specifically for this event. For example, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror superfans know the hidden backstory of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The elite once hobnobbed on the 13th floor at a place known as The Tip Top Club. Disney has created a Tip Top Club just for Jollywood Nights! We can all agree that’s terrific.
Similarly, Disney has added two new shows connected to beloved stories. Disney Holidays in Hollywood stars The Muppets and is quite charming:
Meanwhile, What’s This? Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-Along isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, but it is a real crowd-pleaser. Take a look:
Disney has also posted its own top five for Jollywood Nights. So, here’s what the company believes is most important:
The video draws attention to other offerings I haven’t mentioned yet. Holiday Fiesta en la Calle turns Commissary Lane into a “lively Latin street fair.” The performers Disney has cast for this are spectacular, making it an absolute must-do.
Disney adds that it has returned Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! for Jollywood Nights, which sounds great. But then you remember that it used to be free with park admission. So…
What Are the Flaws with Disney Jollywood Nights?
I’ll be blunt. Disney has haphazardly organized these mini-cocktail parties throughout the park. That’s a feature, not a bug, which is to say that it will likely not change any despite innumerable opening night complaints.
Park officials anticipated that many guests would take advantage of the four-hour window to ride the staples of Hollywood Studios. Most of these attractions reside at Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which are toward the back of the park.
So, Disney has set up most of its pop-up lounges and entertainment activities toward the front of the park. Unfortunately, this has caused some congestion issues, starting with when you check-in for the event.
Anyone following this on social media or a live stream already knows the deal here. The line to get into Jollywood Nights was longer than anything anyone faced that day at Slinky Dog Dash. It was pretty brutal.
After that, guests quickly discovered that the lines for many of the specialty treats and drinks at the event were almost as long. Guests paid $159 plus tax for opening night tickets, only to stand in line for 20 minutes for popcorn.
Speaking of which, Disney offered a highly desired commemorative Mickey Toy Soldier Popcorn Bucket. People stood in line for as long as two hours for this! I think eBay would have been a better deal.
What Else Went Wrong at Jollywood Nights?
For whatever reason, Disney’s virtual queue system proved unreliable as well. A friend bragged to me that their estimated wait for The Tip Top Lounge was ten minutes. Then, a cast member informed them the actual wait would be closer to 90 minutes. Whoops!
Also, many guests expressed disappointment with the food. Several offerings, especially at Holiday Fiesta en la Calle, sounded great but tasted meh. The only universal hit was the Gertie Cookie, which everyone loved. You can also add mint ice cream for two dollars more, although opinions were mixed about the pairing.
Finally, the merchandise order must have gone wrong. Disney offered only one Jollywood Nights piece of commemorative clothing. It was a shirt. Just one shirt. I’m not even joking. Guests would stand in line, tell a cast member their size, be handed said shirt, and then stand in a different line to pay.
The end result of all the waiting and lackluster food and merchandise was that Disney faced a rare public backlash for an opening night event. Some of what we’re discussing is fixable, but a lot isn’t. Sure, Disney can order more merch, but cast members have already set the menu.
Similarly, the lines are unavoidable since Jollywood Nights has sold out. So, while I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt after a rough opening night, we should be realistic about potential improvements.
Unless Disney acknowledges its miscalculation and spreads out the activities a bit, this year’s event will involve lots of congestion and long lines. Still, you’re at Disney, you’re probably dressed up for the cocktail party, and the booze is by all accounts excellent. Personally, I’d favor Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but you’ll have a great time at either event.