MNSSHP TS and spot-saving timing questions

For those who have attended the parties this fall, I need advice on when is best to time a TS dinner. Yes I know many will advise not to do TS during party, but I want a reserved time and table to give a bit of a break in the evening. Initially I planned dinner at 4:45 before the party really started, but with reports of crazy crowds I wonder if we would do better to eat later such as 6-6:30 ADR so we can maximize use of our 3 FPP between 4-6 pm. They are timed 3:15 PP 4:30 HM and 5:30 UtS so we might only be able to use the first one with a 4:45 meal. I don’t care much for waiting to meet characters but want to be able to do some attractions without long waits, and it sounds like that may not happen in the 6-8 PM window anyway. Also, when do we realistically need to arrive to get a spot for the first Hocus Pocus show that is suitable to also watch the first parade? Thank you so much!

We had our party-day Crystal Palace dinner at 6:15pm specifically so we could use a couple of FP before dinner.

That is one I have an ADR for, how was it? Reviews seem to be so mixed!

We liked it… it was mostly empty by 6:30 or so (which is so weird for a TS place in a park!), and the food was good. My friend had never been to a character meal before, so that’s why we went, and I realized that I’d only ever had breakfast there before.

Was the food the best character lunch/dinner buffet at WDW? No. Was it better than some? Yes. I’d say it ranks a little below 1900 Park Fare dinner, but above Hollywood & Vine and Chef Mickey’s for sure.

Were Pooh and Co dressed in costumes for the party dinner?