Earlier, we were invited to celebrate Halfway to the Holidays at the Walt Disney World Resort by taking a rare look into the Holiday Services warehouse. Nearly every ornament, light bulb, ribbon, or string of garland seen at Walt Disney World theme parks, resort hotels, and even the Disney Cruise Line fleet passes through this facility for refurbishment and storage before returning to their seasonal display on site.
Located in a top secret section of the Walt Disney World Resort, the Holiday Services facility is actually one of a few warehouses that make up over 300,000 square feet of storage and workspace for holiday decor at the parks and hotels. Recently, I was able to sit and chat with the authors of Holiday Magic at the Disney Parks, Charlie Price, Rebecca Cline, and Graham Allan.
“Actually, I don't know that they're a secret,” says Allan, “there's often large props [visible]…And ‘holiday,’ of course, covers Halloween and the fall holidays, not just the winter holidays. But yeah, in Florida, there's four enormous warehouses. It's over 300,000 square feet of warehouse space for holidays. The one that's famous, at least in the before times, there was tours offered to guests, is behind the Magic Kingdom, and that's the production facility where the people that are doing the refurbishing and the creation, but there's another three warehouses that are purely storage, including one that's halfway out to Port Canaveral, where all the cruise materials are stored. There's a lot. There's a lot.”
Since 1996, this building has been the central hub for holiday decor at the Walt Disney World Resort. Before that? It was a food processing facility that now plays host to faux glittery ice and snow instead of frozen edible delights. Throughout the building, which felt very much like a Costco or IKEA, yet somehow more organized, you’ll find aisle after aisle of ornaments, ribbon, garland, and a full section they lovingly refer to as the “artificial forest.”
Have a fear of glitter? This place isn’t for you. I’ll be finding the stuff on my person likely for weeks to come just after a simple stroll. Everything has a place, organized by color and in some instances, theme. Price said of the cast members who work in the building, “the amount of knowledge that they have, and research, you could go down an aisle with them and point out something and they'll tell you exactly where that goes.” Something that I put to the test, not only in terms of the warehouse, but where in the Walt Disney World Resort as well and found Charlie’s statement to be absolutely true.
“The vast majority of the ornaments that you see are commercially produced ornaments,” says Allan. “The Disney magic is how they are assembled in ways that support and tell the story and the theme of the area. Once you start noticing these things, and unfortunately, we're now in that camp where we can't not notice these things, you will see the same ornament appear in two or three different locations, but it looks different, because of the setting or because of the other ornaments that there are around it, or because of the color palette of the garland. And I'd say that's the magic of the decorating team that assembles all of this, is just how they put all these components together to really support the theme of the story of an area.
We were fortunate enough to see this in play, as a team of Cast Members readied some garland for installation.
Though it is only June, Cast Members are already getting ready for later this year, with Halloween just around the corner followed very quickly by the winter Holidays, which are installed beginning October 31st, and all the way up to Thanksgiving throughout the Resort. Speaking of Halloween, while we took a gander at most of the winter celebration decorations, we noticed some empty spots on the warehouse floor.
These are where the Halloween trees, featured in the atriums of the ships across the Disney Cruise Line fleet, are stored. They’re notably missing though as they are on their way to their respective locations to get ready for “Halloween on the High Seas.” Fortunately, we were able to see some of the branch work that hasn’t left the facility yet. You’ll also note that under each ship name, is the name of the tree, each with a correlating backstory. Not seen here however, is the tree for the Disney Wish, which is named “Boo.”
Think that’s it for trees in the Holiday Services building? You are sorely mistaken. A hefty portion of the building is dedicated to what the cast call the “Artificial Forest,” with all the largest trees seen around the parks and hotels split into sections that does, in fact, feel like you are in an indoor forest.
“The icon trees are all stored there,” says Allan. “It's fun to walk up the aisles of where the sections of the big icon trees are, and work out which is which, try and work out from the decorations which section is which tree.” See if you can guess what tree sections belong where in the photos below!
Don’t recognize that last one? Don’t worry, you’d have to head out into the Bahamas to see it! That tree can be found on Castaway Cay, Disney’s Private Island destination available to passengers aboard the Disney Cruise Line. For more of the Holiday Services warehouse, check out the video at the top of the page, and be sure to check out the full interview with the authors of Holiday Magic at the Disney Parks here!