I love Thanksgiving. I know a lot of people simply feel like it’s just the holiday stuck in between Halloween and Christmas, but I love it and I wish the Disney Parks did more to celebrate this holiday.
I understand that the end of year holiday celebrations are big business for Walt Disney World Resort, so it only makes sense that they would want to get those decorations hung and festivities begun as soon as we blow out the candles in our Jack-O’-Lanterns. If they didn’t begin that process early, there wouldn’t be enough time (or space) for guests from all over the world to enjoy the Disney Parks Christmas experience. But what if just a bit more space was carved out for the Thanksgiving holiday?
It’s not fair to say that the Disney Parks skip over Thanksgiving entirely. They have a number of Thanksgiving meal opportunities and minor decorations and recognition of the day, but I still feel that more could and should be done.
A big Thanksgiving Day tradition for me is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of the parade before I even think of turkey. And when I think of the best parades in the world, I think of Disney. So, obviously, I would love to see Disney tackle an annual Thanksgiving parade to march down the streets in one of their parks.
One of the most iconic elements of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are the large balloons that march down the streets of New York City. Although balloons this large probably wouldn’t fit in the Disney Parks, it would be fun to see this tradition as part of the celebrating even if they were scaled back.
Fun fact: In 1992, some of the balloons from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were shipped to Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) to be displayed on and around the buildings of the former Streets of America. This special event was called “Macy’s New York Christmas,” and featured character balloons like Kermit the Frog, Santa Goofy, and more. In more recent years, some of the balloons from the Macy’s Parade can be seen at Universal Studios Florida.
Another reason I wish Thanksgiving was recognized more overall is because I feel like my favorite season of the year is currently rushed. Autumn doesn’t technically begin until the later half of September. In early September, we’re still clinging onto the last days of summer and, unfortunately, immediately after Halloween, most places start their winter decorating. If Thanksgiving were recognized a bit more, we’d have more time to enjoy the beautiful foliage, bright orange pumpkins and chill in the air before we freeze.
Considering that Walt Disney World has four theme parks to play with, would it really hurt to take just one of them and make it the resort’s Thanksgiving headquarters? The one that makes most sense in my mind would be Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is dedicated and themed around the natural environment and animal conservation. That feels like a very fitting location to celebrate this American holiday, considering that Native Americans treat animals as sentient beings equal to humans and they have great respect for the land; themes that are innately part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Thanksgiving.
As much as I love the winter holiday updates that came to Disney’s Animal Kingdom last year, I would be okay with that all going away if the park became the headquarters for Thanksgiving where it was decked out in autumnal affair, characters in themed costumes, a Thanksgiving feast and even the tradition of a Thanksgiving parade.
What do you think? Would you like to see Thanksgiving celebrated more in the Disney Parks or do you think they do the right amount of celebrating already?
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.