/ Saturday, December 24th, 2011

by Anthony Sbarra

A Christmas morning tradition for many families over the years, but more importantly for ABC, has been the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade. Filmed in the Magic Kingdom in Disney World as well as Disneyland in California, the Christmas Day Parade is a parade showcasing appearances by many celebrities and also famous Disney characters in a parade to celebrate Christmas. However, like many other things that exist in Disney World, the Christmas Day Parade is a parade that has evolved greatly over the years.

With the parade set to air tomorrow, on Christmas day, this is just a brief history of the parade to read up on before you go and watch the parade!

The Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade in the Magic Kingdom was originally called the “Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade,” and first aired in 1983 on ABC. The first Christmas Day parade in Disney World was hosted by then Good Morning America host Joan Lunden and Mike Douglas.

Mike Douglas, Bruce Jenner, Ben Vereen, and Alan Thicke all filled in as co-hosts during the early years of the parade. Joan Lunden would continue to be the primary host of the parade until 1991, when Regis Philbin joined Lunden as co-host of the parade. Regis would ultimately become a long time host of the parade, eventually being joined by Live! With Regis And Kelly co-host Kelly Ripa in 2002. Regis last hosted in 2008; Kelly Ripa last hosted in 2009, alongside Nick Cannon that year. As the parade grew even larger throughout the1990s and 2000s, more and more celebrities joined the parade. In recent years, a plethora of celebrities have helped in co-hosting and reporting duties in the parade. The hosts this year are Mario Lopez from Disney World, and Nick Cannon from Disneyland.

The parade originally had a filming focus on Disney World; however, over the years more incorporation from the parade in Disneyland was given on TV. Now, the parade is filmed entirely in advance. Beginning in 2004, approximately equal parade footage from both Disneyland and Disney World was put on the air, and that remains the same today.

From 1983 through the early 1990s, the parade was broadcast live on ABC on Christmas morning. However, there would be some segments that were recorded ahead of time. For nearly the last 20 years, the parade has been entirely recorded ahead of time, usually during the first weekend of December. During this time period, the parade was dubbed the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade.

In 1999, the Christmas Day parade aired at night instead of during the day for the first time, deviating from its original format. The very next year, 2000, was the first and only time to date that the Christmas Day parade did not air on Christmas Day. Instead, a “Tracking Santa” special aired on Christmas Eve instead of the normal Christmas Day parade.

In recent years, the then Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade won five Emmy awards, most notably winning a 2005 Daytime Emmy Award for ABC, for Outstanding Special Class Special.

The name Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade would stand until 2009, when the current incarnation of the parade’s name was put into place. In 2009, the parade was officially given the name the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade, referring to the parade footage shown from both Disney World and Disneyland.

For nearly the last 30 years, the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade has only grown larger and into more of a spectacle, and has proven to be a Christmas morning staple on ABC, and more of the same is expected this year when the parade airs on Christmas day. The Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade begins at 12pm EST on Christmas day, December 25, except for in New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago and Raleigh, where the parade will air at 10am.


Anthony Sbarra is a 20 year old college student whose love for Disney has grown only larger over time. When not immersed in studying or reading for college, one of his favorite hobbies is researching the history, detail and little-known aspects of many of the facets that Disney World has to offer.

2 Responses to "Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade: A Brief History"

  1. Excellent look back at the history of the Parade! It’s been a tradition for me to watch it since 1992, and to go to the filming since 2007. I remember 1996 was the last year it was live, and also the last year Joan Lunden hosted. When it didn’t air in 2000 I remember throwing a fit and actually calling our local ABC station to complain, haha. Hoping the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade continues for many years so that I may continue the tradition with my family.

  2. GREAT info Anthony! I loved the parade ever since I was little and it has been tradition to watch it Christmas morning! It gives me a couple of hours of “being” in the parks!!

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