The Disneyland Resort’s holiday season kicks off Friday, Nov. 11, so Resort Enhancement Area Manager Dawn Pipal-Keehne and her team of 60 cast members are busy this week transforming the parks.

This year is Pipal-Keehne’s 25th decorating the Anaheim parks (she and her team also decorate Aulani, A Disney Report & Spa in Hawaii). Among their seasonal duties are assembling the 60-foot-tall Christmas tree on Main Street at Disneyland and the 50-foot-tall holiday tree on Buena Vista Street inside Disney California Adventure. For Cars Land, her resort enhancement team collaborated with Pixar to transform the area and two attractions, Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree, for the holidays.

“We had the great opportunity of working with the Pixar team and they’re very specific,” says Pipal-Keehne. “They’re very willing to work with us because it brings to life that dimensional piece you see on the screen.”

Though decorations come down in January, the planning process for the holidays starts in February.

“There is a devoted team called holiday services within the enhancement group,” she says. “Literally, that’s what they do all year long. They’re rehabbing garlands and trees. Fixing the lights and changing the ornaments. … It’s a yearlong process.”

Since Pipal-Keehne is familiar with the resort’s holiday transformation, we asked her about what’s it like behind the scenes, how to recreate the Disney decorating magic at home, and where guests can take the best holiday pictures this year. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q. What are you most excited about this year’s décor at the parks?

A. We’re ramped up to be 100 percent. Whereas even last year we had a reduced package because of the time, I’m excited because we have 100 percent of all the décor going back into the resort — and that’s Downtown Disney, it’s DCA, it’s the hotels. We’re at 100 percent capacity so I’m really excited. Everything looks fresh and new and super shiny. So that’s what I’m most excited about is bringing that whole package to our guests this year.

Q. How many cast members does it take to transform the parks? 

A. We have 60 cast members [on the enhancement team] and not all of that is for holiday. The broad swath of what we do: We also maintain all the props and set décor for the window displays and in all of the attractions. We do tables, chairs, awnings, umbrellas, shade control. Holiday is just a piece of that.


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