The Best Ways to Spend the Holiday Season in the Disney World Parks

Spending the Holiday Season in the Disney World Parks

As you might have already guessed the DW Dads really love the Christmas Season.  Although Disney gives you a taste of the holiday season all year long, starting in early November, Disney World starts to celebrate the holidays as only Disney does.  So if you are looking to book your trip anytime from early November through early January, you can enjoy some of the festivities.  Although there are so many ways to spend the holidays in Disney World, below are a few of our favorite suggestions. So if you are looking to make a quick getaway in 2013 or plan a trip for next season, let DWDads get you started with a quote.

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

  • Location: Magic Kingdom (special event)
  • Dates: Select Nights – Early November–Late December
  • Times: 7:00 PM-Midnight (entry starting at 4:00 PM)
  • Cost: Tickets $62-71–ages 10+; $57-66-ages 3-9

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a special ticketed Christmas themed event.  This event includes Special Character Meet & Greets including Santa, Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, Holiday Wishes Fireworks Display, Special Holiday themed stage shows, snowfall on Main Street and all the hot chocolate, cider and cookies you care to enjoy.   The event festivities begin at 7PM, but the ticket grants you admission starting at 4PM on the day of the party.  Since there are so many special attractions, setting a plan for the night is important.

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Tip:  Special Meet & Greets are one of the major attractions at these private parties.  All Seven Dwarfs only appear together during this event in Frontierland so the line can become VERY long.  If you want to meet these guys, we suggest you line up before the party starts about 6pm, this way you won’t miss other scheduled events.

Holidays Around the World Candlelight Procession

  • Location: Epcot – America Gardens Theatre
  • Dates: Every Night – Late November–Late December
  • Times: 5:00 PM, 6:45 PM & 8:15 PM
  • Cost: FREE with park admission – First come first seated

The Candlelight procession is held three times every night starting in late November at the America Gardens Threatre in Epcot.  A large ensemble choir joins a celebrity narrator to tell the story of Christmas with words and music in a very special way.  Some of the celebrity narrators for 2013 are: Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, Ashley Judd, Trace Adkins & Blair Underwood.

Tip:  To guarantee seating at the Candlelight Procession, reserve a Candlelight Dining Package available starting in July at many table service restaurants in Epcot.   This reservation not only provides you one three course meal or buffet, it also guarantees you a seat for the Candlelight Procession, and reserved viewing for IllumiNations. 

 

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

  • Location: Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Streets of America
  • Dates: Most Nights – Early November to Early January
  • Times: Dusk until about 1 hour after close
  • Cost: Free with park admission

Close your eyes and imagine Clark Griswold’s house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Now imagine that Clark’s whole neighborhood joined in and decorated their homes.   If you can picture that in your head, you are just scratching the surface of the display that is put together on the Streets of America in Disney’s Hollywood Studios every year.  This tradition began in 1995 in Disney World after a real life Griswold family from Arkansas – the Osbornes – were no longer permitted to display their light display by court order.  Each year since then, Disney has proudly displayed this collection at Hollywood Studios.  The lights are turned on as dusk and are displayed on most nights when there is not a special event at the park until an hour or so after closing.  Although aptly named as a “Spectacle of Dancing Lights,”  words truly do not do this display justice.

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Tip:  On your way over to the Streets of America, stop and grab some treats (Mickey Ice Cream Bar or PB&J Milkshake from 50s Prime Time) and casually walk through the display just before park closing.  The lights stay on for about an hour after the park is closed, so you can enjoy a couple more attractions before ending your night with the show.

 

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade Animal Kingdom

  • Location: Animal Kingdom
  • Dates: Every Afternoon – Early November – Early January
  • Times: 3:45PM
  • Cost: Free with park admission

This popular music-filled street celebration is a variation on Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle parade and is full of holiday spirit.  The daily parade has festive music and Mickey and all his friends get you into the holiday spirit as they parade through the park.

 Tip:  There are stone “benches” that are between Pizzafari and the restrooms on the same side as the restaurant.  These natural seats are right on the parade line and nicely elevated to give you a good view of the parade.  They are close by the bathrooms and typically there is an ice cream cart nearby.  Since the parade line runs right by you, your party can sit at these benches while enjoying an ice cream or beverage and wait for the parade without fear that someone will stand in front of you.

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12 Months of Christmas in Disney World

So, your friend just came back from Disney World and told you how it was the most magical place to be in the whole world for Christmas.  You’d like to jump on a plane and be there right now to bask in the balmy holiday season of sunny Florida, but you just can’t make vacation plans in the fall and winter.  Is there any way to visit Disney when it’s convenient for you, but still enjoy Christmas while you are there? You bet!

Most Disney fans know that visiting the parks at Christmastime can be one of the most festive and enjoyable vacations that your family can take.  What happens if you can’t visit during the holidays, but you still want to feel some holiday cheer while you are in the World?  Well, as usual, Disney has you covered, with Christmas-themed experiences that span three of the four parks and a few spots outside of the parks.

The most obvious place to go to feel the Christmas Spirit all year round is one of the four Christmas shops that populate Disney World.  Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe is located in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, and while it isn’t the biggest Christmas shop on property, it does weave itself into the story of its host land better than any of the others.  The Shoppe is actually three separate late 18th century locations that have been combined; they are the home of a music instructor (Ichabod Crane), a woodcarver’s shop (the Woodwrights) and the home of German folk artists (the Kepples – a nod to Walt Disney, whose grandfather’s first name was Kepple).  The exterior still maintains the appearance of three separate facades; the stores are connected inside, but have each maintained their respective personalities.  This is not only a great place to shop for Christmas souvenirs, but Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe also really helps to tell the story of Liberty Square.

There are two other Christmas shops within the parks that help to tell the stories of their locations.  The first is housed in the Germany Pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase: die Weihnachtsecke. This shop offers many Christmas items, specializing in those that exhibit German craftsmanship.  This is also a perfect place to get a pickle ornament, a German Christmas tradition.  The other in-park shop is It’s a Wonderful Shop, located in the Streets of America section of Hollywood Studios.  Like many spots in this section of the park, it is dressed to appear as though it is being used to film a Christmas movie: decorations are visible, but props and “off-camera” areas are left untouched.  These two are small shops, but offer nice, quick doses of holiday cheer.

They’re sweating from making snow angels. In Florida. In July.

The biggest Christmas Shop on property is located in Downtown Disney and anchors the Marketplace: Disney’s Days of Christmas.  This massive shop houses everything you can think of to hang on a tree, place on a mantle or top an antennae. While the other shops offer better theming, this is definitely the place to go if you are looking for the widest selection. There is also personalization offered on most items. (Tip: Get off the bus at the Marketplace end of Downtown Disney and make this one of your first stops.  By the time you are done walking the other shops and are returning to your bus, your personalized items will be ready!)

There are a few other locations to get your year-round Christmas fix during your Disney World vacation.  The first is Winter Summerland Miniature Golf, which tells the story of a holiday-themed vacation spot for Santa’s off-duty elves.  It’s a little off the beaten path, but Christmas fanatics won’t want to miss it.  Two attractions also offer some allusions to Christmas.  Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress features four scenes, each set in a different time of year.  The final scene, which reeks of the ‘80s, is set during Christmas in the home of the story’s family.  A much more subtle reference is made in the final scene of Soarin’, which features a flyover of Anaheim’s Disneyland during Christmastime, made most clear by the Clark Griswold-inspired lighting of it’s a small world in the upper right-corner of the park.

So, don’t be a Grinch if you can’t make it to Florida during the actual Christmas season.  Take advantage of these experiences to keep a Disney-themed Christmas with you all through the year!

Disney’s Best Christmas Programming

One part of the holiday season that I looked forward to the most as a child and I still treasure today are watching “Christmas Specials”.  My father used to record Christmas themed programs onto VHS tapes (sometimes he even tried to edit the commercials out).   We would enjoy those tapes throughout the month of December into January.  DVDs, BlueRays, DVRs, and streaming content to our mobile devices, have made these programs more readily available today.

Although not all of my favorites are by Disney, here are the DWDads – Top 5 Disney Christmas movies:

1) Mickey’s Christmas Carol – (1983) as part of Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mickey Mouse – Currently steaming on Netflix; Airing December 18 @ 7:30PM on ABC Family

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2) A Muppet Chrismas Carol – Airing Friday December 6 @ 6:30PM on ABC Family

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3) The Santa Clause Series – Parts 1, 2 & 3  – Airing multiple times in December on ABC Family including all three starting @ 6:00PM on December 21st;

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4) A Christmas Carol (2009) Available on DVD @ Amazon for under $10

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5) Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999) – Currently Steaming on Netflix

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ABC family each year puts out a schedule of 25 Days of Christmas.  Be sure to DVR your favorites on this this.

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Hallmark Keepsake Disney Ornaments 2013 – Updated

During DW Dads’ Christmas in July celebration, we previewed this year’s Disney-themed Hallmark Ornaments.  Since then, some new ornaments have been released, so now is a good time to update the list and head out to your local Hallmark store. For the sake of those of you who could use a reminder, or those of you who are new readers, here is the updated 2013 list of ornaments:

Added – Mater Peekbuster ($17.95)
Motion-activated Mater makes noises when someone spies on the gifts!

Mater Peekbuster

Mater Peekbuster

Added – Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ($14.95)

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

Added – Yo ho! Let’s Go! ($12.95)

Yo Ho! Let's Go!

Yo Ho! Let’s Go!

Added – Jack’s Sleigh O’ Scares ($19.95)

Jack's Sleigh O' Scares

Jack’s Sleigh O’ Scares

O, Hunny Tree ($29.95)

Baby’s First Christmas ($14.95)

Baby's First Christmas
Baby’s First Christmas

The Band Concert ($34.95)

Mickey’s Gumball Machine ($17.95)

Mickey's Gumball Machine
Mickey’s Gumball Machine

Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim ($17.95; 5th and final in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol series)
Brave Little Tailor ($12.95; 2nd in the Mickey’s Movie Mousterpieces series)

Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim Brave Little Tailor
Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim
Brave Little Tailor

Two to a Chair ($17.95; pull string to see Mickey and Minnie cuddle)

Two to a Chair
Two to a Chair

A Hunny of a Holiday! ($14.95)
A Bounci-ful Christmas! ($12.95)

A Hunny of a Holiday! A Bounci-ful Christmas!
A Hunny of a Holiday!
A Bounci-ful Christmas!

Various Princess/Minnie Mouse Ornaments ($12.95-$19.95)

Various Princess/Minnie Mouse Ornaments
Various Princess/Minnie Mouse Ornaments

Cinderella’s Castle ($24.95)

Boo and Mike ($24.95)

Boo and Mike
Boo and Mike

Crush and Squirt ($17.95; 3rd in the Disney/Pixar Legends series)

Crush and Squirt
Crush and Squirt

Dusty ($14.95)

Dusty
Dusty

Buzz is on a Mission! ($17.95; push the button to hear Buzz talk)
Astro-saurus Rex ($14.95)

Buzz is on a Mission! Astro-saurus Rex
Buzz is on a Mission!
Astro-saurus Rex

The Rainbow Connection ($19.95)

Agent P Saves the Day! ($14.95)

Agent P Saves the Day!
Agent P Saves the Day!

Pirates of the Caribbean ($17.95)

Jango Fett ($14.95)

Jango Fett
Jango Fett

AT-ST ($29.95; press the button to hear sounds)

AT-ST
AT-ST

Yoda ($14.95)

Yoda
Yoda

Wicket and Teebo ($17.95; set of 2; 17th in the Star Wars series)

Wicket and Teebo
Wicket and Teebo

At Jabba’s Mercy ($32.95)

Iron Patriot ($14.95)
Here Comes the Spider-Man! ($17.95; press the button to hear the song)

Iron Patriot Here Comes the Spider-Man!
Iron Patriot
Here Comes the Spider-Man!

Don’t forget that there will be some new Disney ornaments available in the fall. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or subscribe to us here on the blog to keep up to date with all of our newest articles!

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A Target Disney Shopping Trip

Christmas shopping season is in full swing, and retailers have been breaking out the big sales since early October.  If you have kids, you have probably noticed that nearly all of the big box stores have Christmas Toy Catalogs that include deals that run until Thanksgiving.  Even if you are just shopping for some special kids in your life, you can find some good prices on popular toys for Christmas.

I recently took a trip to Target to take advantage of a few coupons.  I wasn’t that surprised to see that the items I came home with were all Disney (we’re pretty predictable!). The Target toy catalog is filled with coupons for various popular brands.  Many of these brands sell Disney-themed items, so it worked out that I could use multiple coupons.  Also, there was a $5 off of $50 toy coupon attached to the back of the catalog that was mailed to my house, so I wanted to break that threshold (that was pretty easy!). Here’s how my list broke down.

1. The Baby

It has been a few years since our older boys have been babies, so certain toys are in need of replacement.  Our supply of bath toys is especially low, since they don’t last as long as other toys. I spotted the $5 off Fisher Price coupon and went to the baby toy section.  There were lots of fun Disney-inspired Fisher Price toys, including toys that featured Dumbo, Dalmatians and the Lion King, but then I found what I was looking for:

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Fisher Price Finding Nemo Nesting Bath Toys: $19.99 ($14.99 after the $5 coupon)

2. 4-Year-Old

Next up was our 4-year-old, who is at that weird age when he can play with age-appropriate toys one minute, but be totally into whatever his 8-year-old brother is playing with the next minute.  With a new baby brother in the house, it makes buying younger kid toys easier, knowing they will get used by a few children over the next couple of years. There is one brand that immediately came to mind that would bridge all of these gaps: LEGO. We love LEGO in our house.  The older boys love the regular LEGO sets, but can also be found playing with DUPLO (the bigger blocks) from time-to-time.  There are some fun Disney Duplo sets out right now, including Disney Princess and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  I finally settled on this set:

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Skipper’s Flight School: $39.99 (on sale this week for $38.00 – $5 LEGO coupon = $33.00)

3. The 8-Year-Old

I knew my 8-year-old would be a little tougher since he is getting to the age where he doesn’t really want toys anymore.  Instead, he’d prefer movies, video games and electronics. Luckily, there are more than a few Disney items in those categories, including one of this season’s hottest gifts for Disney fans: Disney Infinity.

We LOVE Disney Infinity and have been picking up most of the guys and discs as they come out. There are a few items, though, that would be nice for under the tree.  I picked up one of the newer sets that we didn’t have yet:

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Disney Infinity Toy Story Playset ($34.99 – $5 coupon = $29.99)

The Final Tally

So, the three items I purchased came to $78.  I also had that $5 off $50 toy coupon, so that dropped it $73.  After my RedCard 5% savings, the total was $69.35.  Not bad! It was nice to pick up Disney-themed gifts from some very popular brands and save some money at the same time.

We’ll feature some other Disney-inspired shopping trips over the next few weeks.  If you really want to put an amazing gift under the tree, why not contact DW Dads and let us help you plan that surprise Disney trip you’re giving the family this Christmas? Don’t forget, our services are FREE and we’ll always help you find the best deals for the vacation that fits your needs!

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

This past weekend marked the opening of Christmas season in Walt Disney World with the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) of the year. For many, planning for the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party can be both exciting and overwhelming.  Since this event requires a separate ticket ($62-$71 ages 10+; $57-$66 ages 3-9) and some make this a one-time experience, most want to get the most out of this evening and DWDads is here to help.

The most important way to prepare yourself for MVMCP is knowing what to expect.  The event is held November 8, 11, 14, 15, 17, 21 and 22 and December 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 20 from 7PM-12AM, though the park opens to those that have party tickets at 4PM  Given that this party begins at or around many of our little children’s bedtimes, taking a late afternoon nap, might allow your group to prolong your night later than a typical night – after all, it is Christmas. Eating dinner prior to the start of the party is also a good idea, unless you plan on eating cookies and hot chocolate for dinner (no judgment here).  Pick a few things that you list as your Must-Dos and prioritize the rest.  Since the party is only 5 hours long, it nearly impossible to do it all and that is ok.

Here is our list of the 12 best things about the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – the Twelve “Yays!” of MVMCP.

The 12 “Yays!” of MVMCP

12) All you care to enjoy cookies, hot chocolate and cider

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These posts mark the places where you can find these treats

11) Glow with the Show Mickey Ears – new in 2013

10) Special Party Edition Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Cards

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9) Character Dance Parties – Club Tinsel (Cosmic Ray’s) & Woody’s Hootin’ Holiday (Diamond Horseshoe)

8) Seeing Santa Claus in Disney World (Parade and Meet & Greet Next to City Hall)

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7) Very short lines at attractions – most rides are walk-on throughout the night

6) A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

5) Celebrate the Season Cinderella’s Castle Stage Show

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4) Special Character Meet & Greets in Holiday attire – especially All of The Seven Dwarfs

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3) Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade

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2) Holiday Wishes!

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1) Snow falling on Main Street

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DWDads’ MVMCP plan:

In 2012 we went to the first MVMCP of the year on November 9th.  At the time, our boys were 3 and 18 months.  We spent that morning at Animal Kingdom and left right after lunch. All four of us went back to our resort and took a 1-2 hour nap and got ready to be on the bus by 4:30 or so.  We arrived at the Magic Kingdom just after dark and we watched the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party coming down Main Street.  After picking up some hotdogs and snacks at Casey’s, we immediately headed toward Frontierland to line up to meet the Seven Dwarfs.  We got there at about 6:30 and the line had already formed and continued to build as we enjoyed our dinner in line.  The party started at 7 and we were able to meet the 7 Dwarfs and get pictures by 7:30.

Clare and Charlie then walked toward Main Street to get a spot for the parade while Jack and I rode Splash Mountain (no line).  We then met up with them on Main Street and waited for the parade.  You want to make sure you watch the parade from in front of the shops ON Main Street in order to capture the full effect of the snow falling during the parade.  As you wait for the parade, there are cast members in the street entertaining you and the kids. Charlie even got called out with other kids to dance in the street. As soon as the parade ends, you should make your way into the street and grab a spot for the special Holiday Wishes! somewhere in the street before the hub.  As we waited for the show, Clare ran to get some cookies and hot chocolate for all of us to enjoy.  It was truly one of the best displays we had ever seen.

Once Wishes! was over, we made our way down toward Cinderella’s Castle to get a spot to watch the Celebrate the Season Stage Show which started soon after the end of Wishes!  During that show, our 18-month-old fell asleep. It was at that time that I realized how important seeing the early parade and naptime had been.  Our 3 year old continued to party, though, at the Character Dance party in Cosmic Rays.  We enjoyed a few more cookies and he and Clare rode the WEDway People Mover once again. We caught the end of the 2nd parade as we walked down Main Street and stopped in the shops. I picked up my special Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards.  The thing I remember most, though, about that night was that as we walked down Main Street and glanced back at the castle, how softly the snow fell.  It was truly a magical night!

If you want to give Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party a try, please contact us and we can help make it happen!

MVMCP Show times:

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade – 8:15pm, 10:30pm
Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season – 9:30pm
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show – 7:45pm, 8:45pm, 9:55pm, 10:50pm, 11:45pm
Celebrate the Season Cinderella’s Castle- 7:45pm, 10:05pm, 11:20pm

Christmas in July: Hallmark Keepsake Disney Ornaments 2013

Christmas in July is a fun diversion from the sweltering heat of the dog days of summer; but for Christmas fanatics, it truly is the official beginning of the most wonderful time of the year.  Lists start formulating and holiday plans start percolating; perhaps you begin putting the finishing touches on your planned Disney World Holiday Vacation. One store in particular makes the coming of the Christmas Season official: Hallmark.  It seems every year that their Ornament Premiere Weekend is earlier and earlier (this year it was on July 13-14).  “That’s okay by us!” exclaim Christmas crazies nationwide.  And judging by the Hallmark Keepsake Dreambook (read: ornament catalog), there is a vast intersection between two major fandoms: Christmas and Disney. Here are the new Disney Hallmark Keepsake ornaments for 2013. Keep in mind that while these are most of the Disney (and Star Wars and Marvel) ornaments available this season, there will be some new ones that become available in the fall.

O, Hunny Tree ($29.95)

Baby’s First Christmas ($14.95)

Baby's First Christmas

Baby’s First Christmas

The Band Concert ($34.95)

Mickey’s Gumball Machine ($17.95)

Mickey's Gumball Machine

Mickey’s Gumball Machine

Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim ($17.95; 5th and final in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol series)
Brave Little Tailor ($12.95; 2nd in the Mickey’s Movie Mousterpieces series)

Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim Brave Little Tailor

Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim
Brave Little Tailor

Two to a Chair ($17.95; pull string to see Mickey and Minnie cuddle)

Two to a Chair

Two to a Chair

A Hunny of a Holiday! ($14.95)
A Bounci-ful Christmas! ($12.95)

A Hunny of a Holiday! A Bounci-ful Christmas!

A Hunny of a Holiday!
A Bounci-ful Christmas!

Various Princess/Minnie Mouse Ornaments ($12.95-$19.95)

Various Princess/Minnie Mouse Ornaments

Various Princess/Minnie Mouse Ornaments

Cinderella’s Castle ($24.95)

Boo and Mike ($24.95)

Boo and Mike

Boo and Mike

Crush and Squirt ($17.95; 3rd in the Disney/Pixar Legends series)

Crush and Squirt

Crush and Squirt

Dusty ($14.95)

Dusty

Dusty

Buzz is on a Mission! ($17.95; push the button to hear Buzz talk)
Astro-saurus Rex ($14.95)

Buzz is on a Mission! Astro-saurus Rex

Buzz is on a Mission!
Astro-saurus Rex

The Rainbow Connection ($19.95)

Agent P Saves the Day! ($14.95)

Agent P Saves the Day!

Agent P Saves the Day!

Pirates of the Caribbean ($17.95)

Jango Fett ($14.95)

Jango Fett

Jango Fett

AT-ST ($29.95; press the button to hear sounds)

AT-ST

AT-ST

Yoda ($14.95)

Yoda

Yoda

Wicket and Teebo ($17.95; set of 2; 17th in the Star Wars series)

Wicket and Teebo

Wicket and Teebo

At Jabba’s Mercy ($32.95)

Iron Patriot ($14.95)
Here Comes the Spider-Man! ($17.95; press the button to hear the song)

Iron Patriot Here Comes the Spider-Man!

Iron Patriot
Here Comes the Spider-Man!

Don’t forget that there will be some new Disney ornaments available in the fall. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or subscribe to us here on the blog to keep up to date with all of our newest articles!