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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Jodi Benson Adds Glow to Candlelight Processional

Experiencing the Candlelight Processional at Epcot is something special to guests who behold it, the massed choir and 50-piece orchestra performing the music, and of course each A-list celebrity narrator who dramatically interprets the Nativity from the Gospel of Luke, the story of “Silent Night” and the classic essay, “One Solitary Life.”

For Disney Legend Jodi Benson in particular, the Candlelight Processional reaches deep into her heart and soul. “It’s one of my favorite things to do,” the Tony Award-nominated star told us. “I get to combine all the ‘parts’ of me reading a story with an incredible impact on my life; not just words on a page, I’m speaking truth for my life and of course, I’m quietly singing along.”

Holidays Around Walt Disney World Resort in the 1980s

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a Candlelight Processional narrator? For Jodi and the other celebrities, the first day at Epcot begins with “blocking.” “You get up onto the stage, learn your entrance and exit, work with your script, do a sound check with the microphone and go over the lighting cues,” she explains. “You get your whole dry run.

“Then every day around 3 o’clock in the afternoon—and I love this part—you do a meet and greet with the student choir and Disney Cast Members. They ask questions and maybe sing for you. So, when you’re all there on stage, you’ve established a bond. You do that every day you’re here, three shows a night.

“Each time that you perform the words, you can approach it from a somewhat fresh approach. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy the choir and the symphony. Music is such a big part of my life and they are all fantastic.”

During the remainder of their Walt Disney World Resort visit, Jodi and her family enjoy the four theme parks as much as the rest of us. “We are ‘Park-a-holics!’ We really are! We do it all. My kids are big thrill riders, so we hit those as many times as we can. And of course, I have to see all the shows!

“You know, it’s kind of funny. You would think that after all these years, why don’t we just visit here and kind of ‘hang out’? But every day, off we go to the parks. I’m there all the way up until about 2:15, then I run back to the room to prepare for the show. After the fireworks, I put on my comfy shoes and we do more park hopping. It is kind of crazy! This year, we were beyond excited to see everything, especially because of New Fantasyland.”

In addition to being the voice of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” Jodi’s iconic performances include nods to the golden age Disney heritage. She voiced Lady in “Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure”; Anita in “101 Dalmatians: Patch’s London Adventure”; and played “Sam” on camera in Walt Disney Pictures’ “Enchanted.”

Many fans believe that Jodi provided some of the greatest (and funniest) moments in the Disney•Pixar Toy Story movies, in which she’s the delightfully lilting voice of Barbie, along with Michael Keaton voicing Ken. Incidentally, back in 1994, the America Gardens Theatre was enhanced to its present grandeur to present the live musical show, “The Magical World of Barbie.” Jodi was delighted to recently discover that she and Barbie have the same Epcot stage in common!

And of course, in practically every form of entertainment, Jodi continues to bring her acting and singing talents to our favorite mermaid. As you can imagine, it’s exhilarating—even a little overwhelming—to be the voice of someone who touches so many lives. “It’s a huge responsibility to maintain the character’s integrity, to represent that character well and to make sure you take the time with those who have a connection with the character. Sometimes I stop and have a ‘WOW!’ moment, thinking about the ‘big picture.’”

It’s real. And Jodi Benson wouldn’t have it any other way. “Whether I am on stage at Epcot, in a recording studio, homeschooling my kids or in a church building, it is the same ‘Jodi.’ They’re all me. And I love getting to be with people that are young at heart. That is why the match with Disney is so perfect for me. I feel that it was planned for me, long before Disney ever came into my mind.”

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  • I had the honor and pleasure to see Jodi Benson as the narrator of the Candlelight Processional all 4 nights she did it last week. I have seen many different narrators over the years, and I have to say, Jodi Benson is without a doubt the BEST narrator I have ever seen. She tells the story with such emotion and care, and it was especially exciting to see her singing along with the choir. PLEASE Disney, bring her back again as a narrator for Epcot’s Candlelight Processional next year, and every year after that.

  • We enjoy seeing the Candlelight Processional each year, it is a big part of our family Christmas tradition. We were blessed to be able to see Jodi Benson for the first time this year, her rendition was beautiful and uplifting! God Bless her sweet spirit and joyful outlook on life. Merry Christmas to all of you!

  • Thank you for sharing this article. We enjoyed the Candlelight Processional for the first time tonight, with Jodi as our narrator, and it was wonderful. She did a beautiful job.

  • Great show tonight, Jodi! I was looking for to your performance and you delivered with flare!! Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  • I saw Jodi tonight at the Candlelight Processional and wow she did an amazing job. Her enthusiasm and passion for her love of the Christmas story was very evident and I was touched. But, what touched me even more is her tender spirit. After the show, she was taking pictures with some and there was a beautiful family in front of me. This family had a small child that was getting scared every time the fireworks went off and Jodi went and spoke to him and spent some precious time with the family. I am sure that was a magical moment for them. Thank you Jodi for sharing your tender side and making that little one feel special. God Bless you.

  • I can honestly say that the Candlelight Processional tonight was amazing and the best I’ve experienced yet! Thanks to the awesome Jodi Benson!


  • Oh how we wish we could have heard her read the Christmas story… IT TRULY is a beautiful experience.
    Love that she hits the parks every day she’s there… Must be super cool to have “Ariel” as your Mom!

  • I love Jodi, I love Ariel, I love Barbie, I love WDW!

  • Fantastic article! It’s great to see some “celebrities” are just like us!

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