Filming Disney Television Specials: Everything You Want To Know

It has almost been two months since the holiday season at Disney, and while we believe any time is a great time to plan a Disney vacation, there is something extra magical about taking a trip to Disney during the holidays! The television specials we see each year at Thanksgiving and Christmas don’t have to try too hard to gives us all the feels as we find ourselves grabbing for our calendars and credit cards, booking another trip on the spot.

Have you ever wondered how and when Disney films those undeniably affective (and effective) television specials? Perhaps you want to know if you could find yourself on TV if you’re in the right place at the right time? Maybe you have already planned a trip to the parks for the 2022 holiday season and want to know if filming will effect your visit? We’ll share everything we know about how Disney films their television specials below.

What Television Specials Does Disney Film?

Each year, Disney typically films “The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration” to be aired on the evening of Thanksgiving and “Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade.” It is probably not shocking to read that these specials are in fact filmed over several days and/or nights and are not broadcast live. In addition, the “parade” that airs on Christmas Day could probably be more appropriately named as there is a lot of separate performances and commentary, often times in a location different from where the parade is filmed (usually Disneyland), in between the floats and processions down Main Street U.S.A.

Disney Parks Christmas Parade
Is watching the “Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade” a part of your family’s yearly traditions? Photo courtesy of Disney

When And Where Are The Disney Television Specials Filmed?

Filming for the television specials normally occurs in early November when the holiday decorations have already gone up, but the big holiday crowds have not yet arrived. Filming days in early December may also be added for additional scenes for “Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade”. The Thanksgiving and Christmas specials are usually filmed simultaneously in order to feature the same talent and hosts as was the case in 2021.

Many segments of the television specials are filmed during the day while the parks are open, but some filming also occurs after the parks close. It is possible that filming could effect park hours, so if you plan to travel in early November, be sure to check park hours as your departure date approaches in case you want to make any changes to your itinerary!

Inside of the parks, you can find filming near centrally located park icons like Cinderella’s Castle or the Tower of Terror, but in order to better disperse crowds, filming has also taken place on smaller stages that are more out-of-the-way where crowd control can be better managed.

Disney Parks Christmas Special
Filming for the Disney television specials takes place at a number of Disney parks around the world! Photo courtesy of Disney

Who Can Attend The Filming Of Disney Television Specials?

Tickets to the reserved filming area around the performer are usually distributed to cast members and their families who are expected to dress enthusiastically in Disney holiday clothing and accessories since they may find themselves on camera! If you are a guest at the park on a day when filming takes place, you are welcome to watch from farther back and it is possible that you could be asked to take part in the filming if the crew finds that you are a good “fit” to be in the performance crowd.

It is also possible to earn your spot on camera by being a “seat filler.” A “seat filler” is someone who volunteers, and is sometimes hired, to fill a “seat” during a filmed performance. Keep an eye on and also their corresponding Facebook group. Here, they will advertise for extras and detail the requirements for each “seat filler.” For Disney, we know to expect the need for seat fillers in early November, but you never know when they may have something special to film!

If you were at a Disney park and saw a film crew, would you try to get close or avoid the area? Photo courtesy of Disney

What To Expect If You Are Part Of The Film Crowd

As mentioned above, when filming a television special, it takes place over several days. If you are visiting the parks during this time, it may be that you see a film crew in Magic Kingdom one day and Epcot the next! For editing purposes, crews film the same scene many times over and over in order to capture a variety of angles of the performer and crowd for editing purposes. If you are a part of that exclusive up-close crowd, be prepared to cheer on demand and watch the same performance several times in a row as well as standing for perhaps several hours at a time. If you are a “seat filler” you will only have access to the filming area and not allowed entrance to park attractions. Upon conclusion of filming, you’ll be kindly escorted out of the park. Then, it’s simply waiting patiently for the television special air date to see if you spot yourself in the final cut of the show! Is being part of a Disney television special something you’d like to add to your Disney bucket list?

Have you ever witnessed the filming of a special event in one of the Disney parks?  Were you able to get close or just sneak a peak from far away? Let us know in the comments below if you think you would like to be a seat filler for the filming of the next Disney television special!

Featured Image Courtesy of Disney

Written by

Shelley Wehler

Contributing Writer

Shelley is a stay-at-home mother of two girls living outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. Her love of all things Disney has grown even more as she sees the magic come alive through the lens of her young daughters. She spends her free time keeping up with the latest in Disney news and daydreaming of her next trip to the parks!

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