Heigh-ho, heigh-ho-ho-ho: Disney hails the season
The acres of wrapping paper and ribbon that artfully tied together the presents are a jumble on the living room floor. As children embark on seeing how much can be broken before lunch, weary adults collapse onto the couch and turn on the television in hopes of finding a family show.
ABC's "Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade," with hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa in Florida, and Ryan Seacrest in Los Angeles, gives everyone two hours to relax.
As always, the parade kicks off with Mickey and Minnie and ends with Santa, but what's in the middle changes. During this, the 23rd parade, Beyonce, in a flowing gown, with the castle as her backdrop, will sing "Silent Night."
"I love a parade," Ripa says. "And this one is especially magical and done to perfection. We have never had bigger stars -- Beyonce, Miley Cyrus from 'Hannah Montana,' which is my daughter's favorite show, Andrea Bocelli and the stars of 'High School Musical.'"
Ripa recalls watching the parade from her childhood home in Berlin, N.J., and how her on-air partner was also a presence then. For about seven years, Philbin was the street reporter, he recalls. All told, Philbin has been at 21 Disney Christmas parades. Last year's telecast won an Emmy.
Just in case you were wondering, Philbin's favorite Disney character is Donald Duck. "I always loved Donald Duck," he says. "He always lived in Mickey's shadow. He's a good duck. I liked the way he talked. He has a girlfriend named Daisy, but Minnie overwhelmed Daisy."
Ever the diplomat, Philbin quickly adds that he, of course, likes Mickey and Minnie as well. The parade stays fresh for him, he says, because each year is different.
"There are new movies and they are introducing new characters and they generate a fresh look," he says. "Disney is absolutely superb in taking those characters and developing it into a parade-oriented float."
Philbin and Ripa were heading down to Florida to tape the parade on the first weekend in December.
"I don't mean to stress the taping," Philbin says. "It makes it a better parade; they get a chance to take in floats from various angles, and it looks so much better than when I see it on camera."
He and Ripa do not have a great view of the proceedings because they are in front of it, both say. Ripa and Philbin are positioned at an angle.
"They are behind us, we have a really good view of the back of everything," Ripa says. "So I like to turn around and steal a peek."
Ripa, who takes her three children and parents to the parade, says this remains a thrilling assignment. "This is one of those things they don't ask, I just sort of show up," she says. "I am sure they are trying to figure out a way of making me not show up."
A team of hundreds works all year to coordinate this parade, says Darlene Papalini, Disney's vice president of global marketing. At Walt Disney World, 24 floats and nine balloons will make their way along the half-mile route. Disneyland's quarter-mile route features 17 floats and no balloons.
Though home viewers certainly have more comfortable sight lines than those lined up at the theme parks, it's too bad TVs are not equipped with smell-o-vision. "One of our floats, the candy factory float, emits the smell of candy," Papalini says.
Walt Disney World showcases the Royal Unit with princesses Cinderella, Belle and Jasmine. Disneyland's parade has the Winter Wonderland float with ice-skating snowflakes.
"Santa always finishes," Papalini says. "Interestingly enough, the musicians that accompany Santa -- women playing the glockenspiel, the chimes, we call them the glock girls -- well, one year we decided to eliminate them. And there was such an uproar that we brought them back."
Though Disney makes sure every detail is correct and scripts are given to the hosts, some of what the at-home audience hears is improvised.
"So much of the reason they have Regis and me doing it, and Ryan Seacrest, is because we have great ad-lib skills and feed off each other," Ripa says.
Surely she must stay awake nights and devise clever lines about elves, no?
"I don't," Ripa says. "Spontaneity is spontaneity. Thinking does not work to my advantage. It is best for me if I go blank and just let the words come."
Though hosts have changed over the years, the parade itself has become a holiday staple.
"It's become a tradition, and I have seen it grow over the years," Philbin says. "People come from all over the country just to stand on the street to watch the parade. The parade is a big upper as it goes by. By the time you are finished with the parade, you feel you have experienced Christmas."
Ripa also loves the crowd's energy. "The people who come out to watch, they get dressed up, and even if it is 85 degrees, they are in their holiday sweaters, and it is colorful," she says. "And it has Regis. What can be bad?"