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Tiny decorations have a huge impact when it comes to the Christmastime version of Disneyland’s Storybook Land Canal Boats

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Tiny decorations have a huge impact when it comes to the Christmastime version of Disneyland’s Storybook Land Canal Boats

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David Caranci has a rather bland-sounding job title: Manager of Resort Enhancement at the Disneyland Resort.

But don’t be fooled by David’s non-descript job description. Because – truth be told -- Caranci has one of the coolest positions at DLR. He’s the guy in charge of getting the Resort ready for the holidays.

Which means – this time of year – that David rides herd on a dedicated cadre of Cast Members ,who work long after all of the Guests have gone home, to transform Disneyland, virtually overnight, to the Merriest Place on Earth.

But if you were to ask Caranci what his favorite part of handling the holidays at the Disneyland Resort is, his response might surprise you. It’s not watching as that 13-ton, 60-foot-tall artificial tree is winched into place in Town Square. Nor is it making sure that New Orleans Square is festooned with all sorts of massive Mardi Gras-colored ornaments.

Storybookland at Disneyland involves miniature wreathes and Christmas trees
Photo by Noe Valladolid

No, what David enjoys most is Disneyland’s smallest decorating job. Which is when Caranci sends three or four of his most trusted Cast members into Storybook Land to handle the very delicate task of bringing a little bit of Christmas to this 1955 Original.

Christmas time in Storybookland in Disneyland
Photo by Noe Valladolid

“We actually started doing this back in 1997, 1998,” Caranci explained. “And each year, we revisit how exactly we’re bringing the holidays to life in Storybook Land. Because – when you’re dealing with an attraction like this which is loaded with miniatures – you have to be very careful about how you decorate. More importantly, where you decorate. Otherwise you risk upstaging or overwhelming what makes Storybook Land so charming in the first place.”

And given that the most important word used in Storybook Land Canal Boats' title is “story” … David makes an effort to make sure that all Christmas decorations that are placed in this Fantasyland attraction are story driven.

“Take – for example – the Three Little Pigs area. The Big Bad Wolf – being a Disney Villain – wouldn’t celebrate Christmas. Whereas the Three Little Pigs might,” Caranci continued. “But should all Three Pigs houses be decorated? According to the story, the House of Straw and the House of Sticks were eventually blown down by the Wolf. So only the House of Brick was left standing. Which is why we only put holiday decorations at Practical Pig’s place.”

David also carefully considers the original source material when deciding which Storybook Land miniatures get decorations.

“’Alice in Wonderland’ is a perfect example of this aspect of our holiday enhancement program. Given that Disney’s animated film or even the original Lewis Carroll books make no mention of Christmas, it just doesn’t make sense to decorate Alice’s house,” Caranci said. “But let’s remember that this miniature creation of the English countryside also features a church. Does it seem logical that the congregation of a church would do something to celebrate the holidays? Absolutely. Which is why we place a lit-up Christmas tree right next to the church.”

Christmas at Disneyland includes miniature decorations in Storybookland
Photo by Noe Valladolid

Some of the decorating choices that David & his crew make in Storybook Land are subtler. They actually require the Canal Boat hostesses to explain what is actually going up for the holidays in a particular miniature.

Take – for example – Cinderella Castle. Which this time of year is decorated with pink & blue bows. So what’s the deal here? Well, Christmas is typically a time when friends & family get together. So who’s decided to spend the holidays with Cinderella & her mice pals but Princess Aurora and Prince Philip from “Sleeping Beauty.”

So – to welcome their royal guests (as well as pay tribute to that sequence in this 1959 Disney animated classic where Flora & Merryweather do battle with their magic wands, continually changing Briar Rose’s dress from pink to blue and back again) – Cindy had the castle covered with big pink & blue bows. Which is kind of a cute in-joke, don’t you think?

Anyway … Just because an area in Fantasyland’s Storybook Land Canal Boats ride has been decorated for the holidays in the past doesn’t mean that it will automatically be lit up again this year.

“We re-evaluate our holiday enhancement program every year,” Caranci explained. “Take – for example – Peter Pan Park. For years now, we’ve put tiny Christmas lights in the trees on this island to make this area in the attraction seem more festive. But during our recent rehab of Storybook Land Canal Boat, we added permanent twinkle lights to the trees in Peter Pan Park. And given that this new lighting package actually makes this area in the attraction look pretty festive, we saw no reason to add Christmas lights this time around. So that’s an area where we actually cut back on decorations this year.”

Again, it all comes down to deciding what’s appropriate -- story-wise and holiday-wise – for each individual sequence in Fantasyland’s Storybook Land Canal Boats.

Christmastime in the Storybookland ride at Disneyland
Photo by Noe Valladolid

“We used to do so much more in the Pinocchio’s Village. Especially around Geppetto’s Toy Shop,” David remembered. “But then we started thinking. Geppetto’s a toymaker. Which means that Christmas would be his busiest season. Which means that Geppetto just wouldn’t have the time to decorate his toy shop. Which is why we cut back on the decorations that we used to put up in and around that miniature building and opted instead to have the village itself celebrate Christmas. Which is why there’s a tree lit up in the town square, wreaths on a few doors, and garland strung between several buildings.”

Disneyland cast members work hard to make sure Christmas is everywhere in the park
Photo by Noe Valladolid

It’s all those years of practice in enhancing the Disneyland Resort this time of year that have taught Caranci that – at least when it comes to the Storybook Land Canal Boats – that a small amount of holiday decorations properly placed can have a really big impact. Which is why the Christmastime version of this 1955 Original has become a must-see for many Disneyland Guests as they make their annual holiday pilgrimage to the Park.

And speaking of the holidays … If you’re planning on doing any Christmas shopping on Amazon.com this year, could you please do JHM a favor and – before you begin bargain hunting online – click on the above banner?

If you do that, Jim Hill Media then gets a teeny tiny chunk of whatever you soend, Which would be a very generous way to show your appreciation for all of the great stories that you’ve read on this website over the past year.

Happy Holidays!

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  • enjoyed this article a lot.

    And not to quibble, but storybook land was 56, canal boats were 55.

  • Well, if you talk with the Disneyland Resort's PR people, they'll insist that Disneyland's Canal Boat ride was a 1955 Original. Where this gets confusing is that -- for the first year of its operation -- the boats that floated through this Fantasyland attraction moved passed bare earthen banks. The miniatures themselves weren't added 'til 1956.

    So -- yes -- Storybook Land Canal Boats didn't open 'til 1956. But given that the Canal Boats themselves were in operation on July 17, 1955, Disneyland does still now get to claim that this Fantasyland attraction was a 1955 Original.

    How's that for waffling?

  • Your story was featured in DisMarks! Here is the link to vote it up and promote it: http://dismarks.com/Disneyland/Jim_Hill_Tiny_decorations_have_a_huge_impact_on_Disneylands_Canal_Boats

  • I just landscaped my backyard with all succulents, inspired by the succulent carpet/boxes on this ride.

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