Is Disney really removing Christ from its traditional Christmas show -- or at the least watering down the traditional story of the Jesus' life and birth?
That's the claim coming from a number of tips to TheBlaze, which purport that Disney's "Candlelight Processional," an annual show at Epcot and Disneyland that 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.
At the center of the contention is the removal of "One Solitary Life," an essay that has been read during the "Candlelight Processional" since 1976. This overtly Christian text, written by Dr. James Allan Francis in 1926, 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."
Considering the cutting of the essay and the tips we've been receiving, TheBlaze decided to explore the issue further, so we reached out to Disney and asked why "One Solitary Life" is no longer a part of the show.
The essay has been recited to complement the traditional biblical story of Jesus' birth since 1976, making its recent removal more than noticeable.
But demand for the show and production constraints have apparently created a need, according to Disney, to shave time off of each performance so that the cast and crew can properly prepare for the three back-to-back performances that unfold each night during the holiday season.
Rather than an attack on the Christian message inherent in the show, Disney said the decision was all about logistics.
'"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," said Disney spokesman Bryan M. Malenius.
Operationally, Disney said that the show was running long and that there was a need to remove the essay and replace it with something that would be a bit shorter in length.
Watch the entire 2012 show below ("One Solitary Life" is at the 42:10 mark):
While the new text refers to Jesus as "the blessed babe in a manger," there are no mentions of Christ's death. That said, the tone certainly aligns with the traditional Christmas story, though the more general text will likely not be as pleasing to those who enjoyed the hard-hitting spiritual nature inherent in "One Solitary Life."
Arguably, it lacks the same biblical strength. Most noticeably, there's the fact that "One Solitary Life" positions Jesus as "the central figure of the human race" -- something that the new wording doesn't quite accomplish.
"Heavenly peace… It is a gift bestowed upon us all during this special time of year. Tonight, people around the world mark this joyful season with heartfelt sentiment," the new text reads. "As we each treasure our unique holiday traditions of family, faith, and culture, let us join together in celebrating the birth of the blessed babe in a manger, and rejoice in the universal message of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Joy to the World!"
Comparatively, "One Solitary Life" spans 221 words and the new wording is just 78 words, so the goal of shortening the show via replacement text was met, Disney said. Both the essay and the new wording were, in context of the rest of the show, a very small proportion of the "Candlelight Processional."
"One Solitary Life" wasn't the only casualty this year. The song "Do You Hear What I Hear" was also cut from the event.
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 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 some validity.
Scriptures are read in the Disney show verbatim from the English Standard Version of the Bible. Luke 1:26-31, Luke 2:1-18, Matthew 2:1-2, 10, Matthew 2:9, 11 and Isaiah 9:6 are all read aloud. In these verses, Jesus is still referred to as "Christ the Lord."
Isaiah 9:6 provides what very well may be the strongest remaining spiritual language in the "Candlelight Procession." It reads, "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
In the end, Disney repeatedly denied that alleged complaints over Christian content led to the removal of the popular Christian essay and reiterated numerous times that the changes to the show were -- and have always been -- related to production and the continued push for a quality public performance.
"Candlelight is a Disney tradition that dates back to Walt Disney himself and has been a guest favorite since 1958," the company told TheBlaze.
The "Candlelight Processional" is running from Nov. 29 to Dec. 30 this year, with each show filling up the 1,800-seat America Gardens Theater at Epcot; it is also a popular fixture at Disneyland, where it is limited to a two-day showing.
We discussed this story on today's BlazeCast: