D23 Lights Up the Season at Walt Disney Studios

Back in the halcyon days of yore, Walt Disney Studios would open their doors once a year for a Magical Holiday Faire. It started as a craft faire for studio employees in November, right before Thanksgiving, and at some point they opened their doors and began welcoming the public.  It wasn’t announced or advertised in any way, but word of mouth spread and by the time I started going in 1999, the lines were long, but it was always worth the wait. 

When else could you walk the hallowed streets where history was made?  The animation building, the studio theater, and the art deco sign at the corner of Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive are awe-inspiring if you’re a Disney fanatic. 

There were annual sweatshirts and pins to purchase, character photo ops, free film screenings in the studio theater, crafts for the kids, and the opportunity to shop the Disney studio store.  In other words, an absolutely magical experience.  I went year after year. 

2003 was the last year the Holiday Faire was held, due to increased security concerns.  At least until they quietly brought it back a few years ago, but only for Disney employees. 

This year the event, now re-christened Light up the Season, was extended a day for the benefit of D23 members.  D23 is the official Disney fan club, and they hold all sorts of awesome events including VIP studio tours and the three day D23 Expo. 

This year’s event was very similar to the Magical Holiday Faire’s of the past.  The one major change was the timing, the Holiday Faire’s were held during the day on the weekend, and this was a nighttime event.  But other than that, all the old favorites made reappearances.  Sorcerer Mickey and Pluto were out for photo ops, as well as a roaming Santa.  You could watch Disney holiday shorts in the studio theater, or stop in the commissary for a cup of Walt’s Chili.  There was complimentary hot chocolate (that ran out much too early), cookies, and popcorn.  There were also an large assortment of carnival-style game booths where you could play games for Disney prizes.

The studio store was open to the public, and the line to get in was nearly as long as the line to check-out.  There was also a Mickey’s of Glendale pop-up store in the historic Hyperion bungalow selling Imagineer gear.  The Melo-D23 Choir were on hand providing Christmas carols and there was a tree-lighting ceremony followed by holiday snow.  And of course, being a craft-fair, there were vendors.  Many were Disney-centric, such as Vault 28, Marceline’s Confectionery and Photos from the Walt Disney Archives, while others offered yummy holiday treats. 

In short, the event lived up to the legacy of its famed predecessor, and I hope it returns in 2016.

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Kathy Flynn

Kathy Flynn is a freelance concert, theater, event, and travel photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. Kathy started photographing bands in the early 80s, where she was a fixture on the L.A. rock scene. She returned to concert photography in 2011, starting Wicked Goddess Photography. Kathy is editor-in-chief of Spice of Wickedness, and is a regular contributor to several music sites. She can be found on twitter @wickedgoddess.

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