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Lighting Up The Season with D23!

In the past, D23 has traditionally held a holiday event on the Walt Disney Studio lot in Burbank each December. This was interrupted, just like so many different things, by the COVID crisis but has now returned with extra cheer with this year’s “Light Up the Season With D23!”

Check-in for the four-hour event started an hour earlier with guests choosing to either queue up for the D23/Employee store or entry into the main Studio lot.

The evening’s gift was given out at the start rather than the end this time, and was an adorable ornament commemorating The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Once inside, there was merriment of all sorts for guests to enjoy. The Theatre was open with a screening schedule of several different holiday shows, old and new.

Shopping opportunities in addition to the main Studio stores were set up in small booths all around the lot. Some companies were traditional Disney Company partners and had merchandise from the last D23 Expo at heavily reduced prices, while other companies seemed to be largely connected to the event by holiday spirit.

For children of all ages, there were crafts and free carnival games with small prizes for everyone.

People with a mind for more cerebral competition could participate in trivia contests that went on throughout the evening, with prizes ranging from fine art to Citizen watches. D23 also had booths out where folks could sign up for discounted memberships or throw dice for tote bags and pins.

Having worked up an appetite from all that activity, guests could take refreshment at the Studio Commissary where special items for the evening were available for purchase. Out in the parking lot, there were also several food trucks and a few carnival rides.

Free snacks were also provided, with popcorn, cookies, hot chocolate, and apple cider on tap. For those old enough who had no interest in cocoa, the nearby Frank G Wells building had been converted into the Hearthstone Tavern, where alcoholic drinks could be had.

Nearby, close to the Legends Plaza, were booths representing a few of the charitable/socially responsible organizations the Disney Company supports, along with the Toys for Tots toy drive.

In the Legends Plaza there was a stage set up with live entertainment, as well as the “Partners” statue decked out for the season. Also nearby was one of my personal highlights, the mini train ride. You wouldn’t have thought a little thing like that could pick up enough speed to be interesting, but you would have been mistaken.

Photo-ops abounded as you might expect, with both static backdrops and live character meet-and-greets scattered around the lot.

The main Studio store had the usual Disney Store assortment of merchandise, while the smaller Employee-only part of the store which is usually a huge logjam on account of its small capacity had its merchandise moved to Stage 2–an arrangement that I thought worked considerably better than past attempts to cram hundreds of people into that closet of a retail space. Shoppers then had to wait in line to get in there to pay, but at least they already had their items picked out and people not purchasing could get in and out to get a look at what was available. There was a book signing with the authors of the Holiday Magic at the Disney Parks book, but oddly enough, no one I asked in the stores could point me toward a copy.

No holiday event is complete without carolers and a tree lighting, and this one had both to top off everyone’s holiday spirit.

At a price point of $75, “Light Up the Season With D23!” wasn’t one of their cheaper events, but there was a lot of entertainment offered that easily filled the four hours. Additionally, being able to be back on the lot after all these years away and wander around those famous soundstages and buildings that Walt designed is a great experience for any big Disney fan. As Fred says of Christmas in The Muppet Christmas Carol, “Light Up the Season” may not put a scrap of silver or gold in your pocket–but if it brings you joy and holiday spirit in these often-trying contemporary times, then I believe it has done you good and will do you good

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