The Holiday season is a great time to visit a Disney theme park. Not only are guests introduced to seasonal food and entertainment offerings, but the Holiday decor ranges from blindingly apparent (a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree) to charmingly subtle (Holiday-themed paper cups), and rewards curious visitors who scout around.
Although all the domestic parks and resorts get makeovers,* the biggest concentration is in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. The element that binds it all together and moves you from land to land is the atmospheric Holiday music; and the loop on Main Street, U.S.A. is a particular pleasure. The songs are a chime-y mix of Christmas standards, and sound like they came straight out of a December cocktail party at Walt and Lillian’s house.
[*One of the under-appreciated wonders of modern management is the decoration of six theme parks and thirty resort hotels by Disney cast members in Florida and California. Not only is the level of detail astounding, but most of the work is completed without the guests seeing it happen.]
The authoritative breakdown of the Main Street, U.S.A. loop was compiled by the great Al Lutz, and his post is the starting point for these notes. I highly recommend clicking over, it’s great. In fact, go ahead and do that right now. This will still be here when you get back. Although, I mean, make sure and come back, too! Haha, don’t just… you know; click away and stay away. You know what? I am overthinking it. Just… do whatever you want.
Assuming you have come back from Al’s post, and with the background out of the way, let’s dive into the Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday music loop notes. The songs in each category are listed in no particular order.
The Five Best Songs
White Christmas – Lawrence Welk Orchestra: When considering catchiness and appropriateness to the theme, this song is the holotype. Not only does it have the distinctive, chiming sound that defines most of this list, but it is often the first song my tin ears pluck out of the loop.
O Tannenbaum – A Music Box Christmas: This is the music box style at its finest, which is simple on the surface but with a layer of complexity that develops as you listen. It also feels like it was written specifically for a Disney park at Christmas.
Petit Papa Noel – Raymond Lefèvre: This is the best song on the whole loop. It is both sweet and a little melancholy, reminding you of how wonderful it is to be there, as well as the ephemeral nature of any holiday. Beautiful and moving.
Do You Hear What I Hear? – Ed Sullivan Orchestra: One of the most distinctive of the entire loop; you will hear it at least once when in the park. If you find yourself scowling with confusion at your computer/device when you click on the track above, it’s understandable: this is better over a loudspeaker than through headphones.
The Christmas Tree – David Rose: A whimsical and fun song with a potent earworm in the first half of the track. While it is not a familiar Christmas song (unless you inexplicably remember the Christmas episodes of The Red Skelton Show), it’s another that right feels at home in a Disney park.
The Five Next-Best Songs
The Twelve Days of Christmas – David Rose: One of the better of the orchestral tracks, this sounds like a something that would be playing in Fantasyland any time of the year — if it wasn’t so recognizable as a Christmas song, of course.
Zu Bethlehem Geboren – A Music Box Christmas: This short, pretty song has a delicate sound, and is a good fit for the Main Street, U.S.A. theme. Based on the evidence of this song and O Tannenbaum above, German Christmas carols in a music box style is a formidable combination.
Caroling, Caroling – The Hollywood Pops Orchestra: Another catchy song with a pleasant orchestral sound. This doesn’t hang in the memory as well as some others on the list, but is fun to hear when crossing the Hub to grab a Mickey pretzel.
The Christmas Waltz – David Rose: This almost replaced The Christmas Tree in the Five Best, as it is also very catchy. However, it also reminds me of the superior Carpenters version, and makes me want to listen to that song, instead. Points should probably be deducted for driving me to other music.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – A Music Box Christmas: A somewhat more complex tune from the music box tracks, this is easy to catch when walking through Main Street U.S.A. I feel like this is performed in a minor key…? But, since I don’t really know what that means, it’s probably best that I leave off such speculation.
The Nondescript Middle Group
Lobe Den Herren – A Music Box Christmas: A pretty song with a charming, light sound, but is not particularly catchy or memorable. It may rate higher with guests who are familiar with the song, but otherwise disrupts the German/music box streak of excellence.
White Christmas – Ed Sullivan Orchestra: Not as catchy or memorable as the Lawrence Welk version also in the loop, but it’s not terrible. Fun fact: There are 29 songs on the list, but only 24 titles; this is one of four similar match-ups.
Jingle Bells – A Music Box Christmas: This is the best of three different Jingle Bells versions on the loop, which is damning with faint praise. It’s a pleasant music box style recording, but is not as solid and memorable as other songs higher up the list.
Deck The Halls – Felix Slatkin: Another of the orchestral tracks, this has a pleasant, layered sound that is better with headphones than broadcast over loudspeakers. Although it blends well with the rest of the loop, it is forgettable in the parks.
The Christmas Song – David Rose: One of the catchiest songs in the loop, this has a distorted/surf guitar sound that seemed more at place in the 2001-2007 era Disney California Adventure. The rest of the song is not as engaging as the distorted guitar, though; the strings and harp runs are pretty dated.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – Lawrence Welk Orchestra: This one is easy to catch on the Holiday loop, and the joyful and triumphant finale makes it sound like the day is coming to an end. The “oooOOOooos” from 1:07 to 1:18 sound like something from the Haunted Mansion.
Carol of the Bells – Hollywood Bowl Symphony: I would have preferred this in the music box style, but the Hollywood Bowl Symphony didn’t ask me when they recorded it. Plus, my dad was in the third grade at the time, so it would be a couple of years yet until I appeared on the scene. I like the instruments at the start of the song (clarinet? oboe? shawm? seriously, I have no idea with some of this stuff), but it zips past quickly without leaving an impression.
Ihr Kinderlein Kommet – Felix Slatkin: This one is also a great listen with headphones, but it gets lost in the chime-y music box wonderland of Main Street, U.S.A. It’s a little reminiscent of Petit Papa Noel, but does not replicate that song’s magic.
The First Noel – A Music Box Christmas: I usually enjoy The First Noel, but there are too many runs and scales in this version for my taste. It matches the Holiday theme of Main Street, U.S.A. well, but is otherwise forgettable.
Almost The Five Worst
Silver Bells – Raymond Lefèvre: The plucked strings in the middle of this song are easy to pick out when walking through Main Street, U.S.A., but the rest of this song is lost in whining violins and “aaaAAAaaas” from the choir. I am also ready to retire all versions of Silver Bells for a while. Maybe disappearing for a decade or so will make us all like it again.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Lawrence Welk Orchestra: There are two version of Rudolph’s sad story on the loop, and neither is very good. This one is a touch catchier, though. Serious question: did the singers ever feel like idiots just singing “la la la” instead of the words? I’m pretty sure they did.
Still, Still, Holy Medley – A Music Box Christmas: This song makes me think of walking into a charming, little clock shop, which is nice. But it also does not match the quality of other music box songs on the Main Street, U.S.A. loop. Sweet, but forgettable.
Deck the Halls – Lawrence Welk Orchestra: Another “la la la” version of a Holiday song, which is great for the right event, like a Christmas party during the Nixon administration. It’s a fine track — I love them all, really — but not my favorite.
Jingle Bells/Jingle Bell Rock – Hollyridge Strings: This song is packed with catchy earworms, but the ‘60s groove does not blend well with the other songs in the loop. The Jingle Bell Rock half is better than the Jingle Bells section, which is bananas, because Jingle Bell Rock is a terrible Holiday song.
Actually The Five Worst
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Ed Sullivan Orchestra: You might have heard this in a random elevator in December 1968. There isn’t anything catchy or memorable to seize your attention, but at least it’s brief.
Jingle Bells – Raymond Lefèvre: Three versions of Jingle Bells feels like a lot for a single loop, especially when they are all below average. This one is pretty vanilla, with nothing memorable about it.
The First Noel – Ed Sullivan Orchestra: As stated earlier, I like The First Noel, but I am not a fan of this version. The orchestra throws in some flourishes and melodies to make it a little catchy, but nothing sticks.
Toyland – David Rose: The strings in this song are easy to pick out over the crowd noise when on Main Street, U.S.A, but that’s because they are super weird. I am usually happy when this one comes to an end.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas — Lawrence Welk Orchestra: The original version of this song was recorded by Bing Crosby to honor the troops in World War II. I’m glad they didn’t hear this version, though — it’s as boring as old-school rice cakes.
How did your favorites fare? Please share your thoughts in the comments!