‘Too Religious’: Some People Don’t Believe Disney’s Explanation for Making a Big Change to Its Christmas Show
Dec. 24, 2013 1:53pm Billy Hallowell
Disney’s removal of “One Solitary Life,” a powerful essay about Jesus’ life, from its annual “Candlelight Processional” Christmas show at both Epcot and Disneyland, has raised some eyebrows.
While the company told TheBlaze that operational needs and concerns over timing drove the decision to cut the essay, two sources with knowledge of the show said they doubt the authenticity of the claim.
One singer who has participated for years in the “Candlelight Processional” told TheBlaze that the cast choir was shocked in November when show producer Thomas Tryon announced at rehearsal that “One Solitary Life” was being cut.
“He implied that it was for show flow reasons — to make the show go more smoothly and for timing reasons,” said the singer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
While she said musical changes to the show are nothing new, the singer said script amendments are uncommon. As for the claim about timing, she said there was a sense in the room that the explanation given “was not the whole story.”
The source said Tryon told a different group of singers about the changes days later at a different rehearsal.
“This time when he mentioned the poem there was an audible gasp and he responded that this has been the reaction [to the removal of 'One Solitary Life'] … commenting that, as they were going through the script and making changes to wording, the sentiment behind the poem was one that they didn’t feel should be made in this current environment, which seemed to imply that they were not wanting to offend people,” she said.
The singer added, “[Tryon] basically said ‘we’re not taking the Christianity out of the show,’ I believe was the statement he made.”She said the producer also announced that the version of the Bible scriptures presented in the show has been changed from the King James version to the English Standard Version.
She said the “One Solitary Life” removal was the first major script change she’s seen. Last year, there was an addition to the script: a story about how “Silent Night” — a song that is important to the production — was composed, which was added right before the performance of the popular hymn.
This addition to the script, 155 words in length, was kept in the 2013 “Candlelight Processional” script, creating a number of questions.
Disney previously told TheBlaze that “One Solitary Life,” which was 221 words in length, was removed because the show was running long and there was a need to remove the essay and replace it with something shorter.
It was replaced with a 78-word segment that mentions “the blessed babe in a manger” but is less pointed than the hard-hitting Christian message in “One Solitary Life.”
The central question is why, if operational needs were paramount, was the “Silent Night” story kept along with the new text while “One Solitary Life” was cut? Collectively, these two portions of the script add up to 233 words — more than the original “One Solitary Life” text that was removed.
Watch a performance from 2012 at Epcot below:
TheBlaze inquired about the “Silent Night” story and its inclusion in the 2013 script and received the following response from Disney: “The traditional nativity story is still at the core of Candlelight Processional. This year, we had an operational need to shorten the program at Walt Disney World — shows were consistently running long — and so for consistency, the same changes were made at Disneyland.”
The singer we spoke with said that before 2012, “One Solitary Life” came right before the performance of “Silent Night” and that the new language “takes you out of the whole context of the story.” The script was reportedly changed last year to move “One Solitary Life” right before “Joy to the World.”She said that the rumor going around among cast members was that a “higher up from California” had decided that “Candelight,” in its current form, is “too religious.”
“Honestly, I think the timing issue is a load of garbage, because you have plenty of time between both shows no matter what the timing is,” she added.
Another source with extensive knowledge of the show who also spoke on condition of anonymity agreed that the changes are profound and doubted that the “One Solitary Life” removal was truly rooted in operational needs.
“I would say that’s the company line, but I don’t think it’s the truth. That is not the reason,” he said. “That’s an excuse because they added in other narrations. They took out a four-minute song.”
The song he referenced is “Do You Hear What I Hear,” a musical arrangement that was cut from this year’s show.“I think (the removal of “One Solitary Life”) takes the conclusion out of the show,” he added, noting that Jesus is no longer given “any life after the manger” in “Candlelight.”
Watch the 2013 show with celebrity narrator Sigourney Weave
TheBlaze first covered the removal of “One Solitary Life” earlier this month after readers sent tips claiming that the show, which tells “the biblical tale of a savior born to a virgin in Bethlehem,” has been amended and sanitized to diminish some of its Christian message.
“One Solitary Life” is an overtly Christian text, written by Dr. James Allan Francis in 1926, which details Jesus’ life, death and historical impact.
It culminates with the following words: “Nineteen centuries have come and gone, And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race, And the leader of mankind’s progress, All the armies that have ever marched, All the navies that have ever sailed, All the parliaments that have ever sat, All the kings that ever reigned put together, Have not affected the life of mankind on earth, As powerfully as that one solitary life.”
Disney previously told TheBlaze that religious considerations were not at the center of the removal, focusing solely on the need to cut text for operational sake. They have maintained that this is the case.
“‘Candlelight Processional’ is a longstanding tradition, and we regularly review and adjust various elements of the program to deliver a great guest experience that meets our operational needs,” Disney spokesman Bryan Malenius previously said.
While some might point to the amended language as definitive evidence that Disney is trying to diminish the Christian undertones of the “Candlelight Processional,” the show is still comprised mainly of Bible verses recounting the entire story of Jesus’ birth.
Thus, without Jesus or the Christian message, there would very literally be no “Candlelight Processional.” Still, a critique centered upon an absence of Jesus as the centerpiece of the world does hold validity as skepticism over the true motivation surrounding the “One Solitary Life” removal abounds.
Producer Thomas Tryon did not return an email seeking comment from TheBlaze. When reached via telephone, Forrest Bahruth, the show’s director, would not speak with TheBlaze and forwarded us to the press office. We have not been granted interviews with either Tryon or Bahruth to further discuss the issue.
Gary Sinise, Steven Curtis Chapman and Edward James Olmos — all celebrity narrators for the 2013 season of “Candlelight Processional” — were also not available for comment.