This is an old picture I took of Candlelight back in 2009, but in some ways, this is where this tale begins.
Back in 2009, Theresa, Jacob and I were at Disneyland to watch Candlelight. We watched the first show and had to clear out of the area we were standing. For the second show, we were really far in the back center but right up against the ropes. With 5 minutes to go before showtime a cast member came up to us and asked us if we'd like to sit in the seats they had for people who purchased dining packages. Apparently there were some no-shows and Disney didn't want seats to go empty.
Jacob, Theresa and I were grinning from ear to ear. It was an awesome Christmas present from Disney to us. This was the only chance we've ever had to sit in the very center of Candlelight and we knew it was special.
Once they sat us down I knew what kind of picture I really wanted to get from this perspective. Getting the shot was not so simple though. During the show, the lights are all over the place. Sometimes the center tree is lit up, sometimes choir, plus the lights change from purple to blue to orange. And then the trumpeters are only standing and lit up for a small portion of each show. I had my camera ready, my settings dialed in, and I was waiting for the perfect time for it all come together at once.
In the end, I was able to come away with this shot.
Fast forward to October 2012. I got an email from Ruston, who had received an email from another Disney cast member stating that someone was trying to find the person who took this picture.
Once we got in touch, I learned that Armand D'Alo was creating a tribute book to Candlelight and was looking for images to put in it. He and his wife Robbin have been attending Candlelight since 1990 when James Earl Jones was the celebrity narrator. There is a Carolwood event at Club 33 and he was printing a small run of books to give as gifts to those attending. Along with my photos, there were also photos from Dave from davelandweb.com, his wife Robbin, along with a history of the event written by Disney Historian Jim Korkis.
The event was on December 5th so we all met up at the park to finally meet each other in person. Along with meeting up, Armand also printed some hardbound books for the contributors.
The old timey clothes are because it's December 5th, and there is a "Dress Like Walt" celebration going on with a group from Carolwood at the park.
Armand was also able to contact Nancy Sulahian, the conductor for Candlelight. He printed a hardbound book just for her. She really liked it!
And she really enjoyed my photo of the whole stage. It's a view she said that she never gets to see.
Getting my photo with Nancy (thanks Dave for the picture).
Dave getting a photo with Nancy as well.
Theresa and I got off work early and got to the park around 2:00pm. We love that it's all decorated for the holidays. I knew where I wanted to line up and wait for Candlelight (the area right in front of the Opera house), but it was roped off.
Instead there still happened to be a park bench free which really surprised me. I bet they're all gone immediately after opening when Dick Van Dyke is narrating. We sat here until 3pm when we started to see people going into the roped off Opera house area.
We're just about alone here at the moment. It'll get pretty crowded soon though. I'm loving that we're right on the rope!
Even before we got there, the whole area was roped off, preventing me from getting any close up photos of the stage. Also around 3pm they started setting up all these chairs for the lucky annual pass lottery winners tonight.
This is what the area looked like around 4:15pm. Candlelight isn't starting until 5:30 so we've got just a little while to wait.
We had some time to chat with the people around us. The couple beside us went to their very first Candlelight in 1971.
With 5 minutes to go before showtime, cast members walked up and down the line looking for people who had small children and inviting them to take some of the open seats that were still available. After that, they started taking families. Because it was first come seating, the only seats available were in the very back. There were quite a few seats open though and the area around us thinned considerably once people sat down.
At 5:30, the lights dimmed and Nancy started leading the orchestra as the Candlelight choir walked in.
I just happened to get lucky and have a view of the processional as they were walking in.
It's really dark as they're walking in, and the whole time I was starting through my lens looking for Ruston. Anyone who looked somewhat tall got their picture taken, but finally I was able to pick him out from the crowd. I just so happened to get super lucky and get Paula in the same shot. Paula is one of Ruston's co-workers who we've seen in Candlelight in years past and who also was with us when we visited the Disneyland Dream Suite.
Just like last year, Ruston decided he'd rather lead a row instead of being on the main tree. When he's on the tree, because he's so tall, he gets put in the very back in the shadows.
From this viewpoint, the trumpeters on top are a little obscured by one of the trees, but they're still one of my favorite parts of the show.
Tonight our special celebrity narrator was Kurt Russell. He's been in lots of Disney films such as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Sky High, and was even the voice of Copper in the animated film The Fox and the Hound.
The best part about standing over near the Opera House is that you have a straight on view of the narrator.
This year, the Voices of Liberty are singing with the Candlelight choir.
The bell ringers.
In all the other years we've come to see it, the narrators read their portion and sit back down. Kurt Russell instead was standing and watching the whole time, from looking at the choir to watching the sign language interpreter.
The Voices of Liberty.
Are these lights new this year or am I just now noticing them? Either way, they looked great this year.
The singing of Silent Night in Italian is also a favorite of mine.
And when Nancy turns around and leads the entire audience in Silent Night it's beautiful.
A big thank you to the celebrity narrator.
As well as the Candlelight choir, featured soloists and orchestra.
Everyone in my group thought Kurt Russell did a fantastic job. His pacing was fantastic and he sounded like he was enjoying himself the whole time.
"This is a special day. It happens to be the birthday of a man I knew and worked with and admired and shared some very special moments with. Walt Disney. Happy birthday Mr. Disney."
"There are many many ways to celebrate this wonderful time of year. How ever you and your loved ones choose to celebrate; may peace hope and joy be shared all around the world, and may yours be in abundance this holiday season, from my family to all of yours, Merry Christmas!"
After the show was over, we caught Ruston as he was walking out.
I happened to see Paula as well.
And there is Chelle! You might recognize her as the Disney Cast member who showed us around the Disney Dream Suite back in July!
After the first show, a line was forming on Main Street for the second show. We were really surprised it wasn't longer. We lined up at 6:45 for the 7:30 and we were probably the 40th people in line.
The people in front of us all went to the benches, while we headed straight to the front of the ropes.
Again with 5 minutes to go, cast members invited a couple families to fill the empty seats. There were a lot fewer seats for this 2nd showing and I'm not sure if that's because more people showed up and there were fewer seats available, or if it's because we were on the west side near City Hall instead of the Opera house side.
From this side, I have a much better straight on view of Ruston.
And I can even see all the trumpeters.
And from this side I can see Paula and Chelle!
Kurt Russell walking up to the podium
This side is much closer to Kurt Russell which is great, even though all the shots are in profile.
The sign language interpreter.
Kurt Russell standing and enjoying the choir. You can see Paula and Chelle in the background.
Again, it's great to see members of the Voices of Liberty
Nancy conducting the choir.
At the very end of the show, when Nancy turns around and leads the audience in Silent Night, I was watching Kurt Russell and noticed that he was standing up singing along with everyone and really enjoying himself. That's where this video picks up. It really made me and Theresa smile knowing that he was really enjoying himself here tonight. The video continues with the Hallelujah chorus that always sends shivers down my spine, and ends with Kurt Russell thanking everyone for being there and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!
It was another fantastic night of Candlelight. We waited around the tree and took a few photos while we waited for Ruston and Paula to come out.
And finally they showed up. It's so great seeing them sing every year and we really appreciate them volunteering not just their time on this night, but on all the rehearsal nights leading up to it that really make this show so special.
Our two Candlelight stars.
We gathered on Main Street to watch the fireworks and enjoy the "snow" while drinking homemade spiced tea that Theresa brought in a thermos.
Paula bought me a delicious gingerbread Mickey.
After that, we decided to do some shopping. As we're standing there shopping, we saw someone we recognize walk by us and up to the register. Kurt Russell had already changed out of his tuxedo and was shopping with his family. Disney security was making sure no one got too close to him, but there was a buzz of excitement all around the store with people shouting out their favorite names of characters he has played.
Our little bit of excitement over, we went back to shopping. They've got some really cute things available this holiday season.
And it has taken just about a year, but I think Theresa has finally succumbed to Duffy Fever. I suspect she picked up the bug when we were in Tokyo Disneyland last year. She's starting to get a full blown case of it now since this makes her fourth Duffy bear.
And to end the night and bring it full circle, I present Ruston with the book Armand made for him, to thank him for his participation in Candlelight and for getting us all in touch.
It was a great night! We love Candlelight!