Hi All, I just got back from an evening trip with the family and after watching both the 5:30 and 7:30 (which was cancelled mid-way because of some drizzle) performances I've brought back some info on what to expect at this year's candlelight :
Lottery Winners Viewing - **Update 12/02 thanks to malcon10t** there will be several different areas of check in. Your ticket will have a section color on it (Section Blue or Section Yellow, etc...). In front of the Mickey Floral, about 45 mins before the performance, they will have a board with where the line is for each color.
Standard Viewing - For those who have attended Candlelight events in the past few years this aspect will feel very very familiar, and it should because the mechanics are almost exactly the same. Unfortunately, that also means the politics of getting a good viewing spot for Candlelight also returns this year.
For the first (5:30pm) performance there are little to no boundaries set aside for camping out and once again there are some areas where the "first come, first to the front" rule will not apply and you will get no support by cast members or security, so good luck. The safest bets are still to camp on the curb adjacent the Opera House or across the way on the small stretch of curb immediately adjacent to City Hall, and as always ask a CM or better yet guest control shift lead and a security guard if it's safe to camp there as the two business units sometimes don't know one another's plans.
For the second and final (7:30pm) performance I don't recommend the method of slipping into a good viewing area while the first performance is going on in order to get up front for the second. The reason is because security will promptly flush everyone out of the viewing areas so that they can be broken down a bit to allow foot traffic to flow through. If you show up for the 7:30 performance you really only have two options. The first is you can wait in a long line that starts forming along main street, something that every CM and security person will tell you to do (but won't mention to you that there's a line for wheelchairs and a different line for everyone else so be careful). Or, you can pop into any of the remaining viewing areas that haven't been broken down, the ones I know of for sure are on the curb next to the Disney Showcase and the Mad Hatter. There probably are some across the way by the fire house too but I'm not sure. Being in these pen's basically assures that no CM will tell you to keep shuffling down main street and at the same time, as soon as they start letting people back into the better viewing spaces you can easily hop from one area to the other and get a great spot.
As always the easiest viewing areas to get to are the ones that run down main street. Keep in mind though that you will still be required to stand and the stage is only 10% viewable at best.
Foot Traffic - As with any other event foot traffic is a mess. Looking from the hub towards the Christmas tree, any traffic exiting the park must go down the right side of main street while inbound traffic comes up through the left. Expect traffic to crawl and come to a stop several times. Some shops along main street closed their doors, and I can't blame them because just tonight I witnessed an ECV driver wreck an ornament display over at the China Closet during the traffic snarl going on moments after the last Candlelight ended.
Cast Members - Unfortunately like years past the CMs have little idea what is going on. While they do get points for knowing certain logistical elements like where every viewing area is, what time the events will begin and end, and where event ticket holders can check in. They are reluctant to answer questions about where it is appropriate to camp, where exactly can you get in line for the 7:30 showing (some will tell you it's in the front by the turnstiles which is false.. this is only the line for the AP lottery winners holding a ticket), or if it is okay to mill about in a viewing area that has been set up but doesn't have guests in it yet. Your best bet is to ask for or find the shift leads (they're usually the ones in the navy blue sweaters and have the earpieces or walkie-talkies.
Guests/Viewing Audience - Okay, the last thing I want to mention is the viewing audience. For you, the experienced Candlelight goer, this is going to be the most drastic change from any of the other Candlelights and I believe it is specifically related to the slight bump in this event's in-park advertising as well as it's extended multi-night run this year. I would say it's a safe bet this year to expect that some people in your viewing area will pack up and leave well before the performance is finished. It may even even be a benefit because if a party that's been standing in front of you happens to leave you may have just found yourself unobstructed viewing for the awesome finale.
Based on my personal experience some people just had no idea what they were getting themselves into and had become bored of the "less than spectacle for their tastes" event that they were witnessing. And by the third reading several groups had turned around and left because apparently hearing the story of Christmas told by the President of The United States in 24 (Dennis Haysbert) and epic Christmas songs being sung by a massive choir isn't really worth seeing unless fireworks start exploding everywhere and Murphy comes tearing out of the ground to fight the one and only lord and savior (Mickey).
Anywhoo, with this in mind you have a very very very good chance that if you happen to arrive late to candlelight you can easily slip into any of the viewing areas with plenty of breathing room.
Please note that some of my tips may not apply for the performances where Dick Van Dyke is narrating as there may be many of his fans in the masses, like me, coming down to see him rock the story of Christmas.
I hope you all have a great time at Candlelight this year, hopefully some of my tips will help you have a really happy and incident free time!