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LP Lotion: Choose Your Dark Side: Hong Kong Disneyland’s 2012 Halloween Haunt
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On September 14, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort offered a sneak preview of their 2012 Halloween celebration. The 2012 Halloween Haunt adds a great werewolves vs. vampires theme, reprises several recent attractions, and sprinkles in minor additions that range from charming to “meh”. Guests trying to catch all of the seasonal action will find their day at the park suddenly much busier than usual – during a full day with very light crowds, I managed to fit in all the Halloween Haunt activities but only a couple “regular” rides.
The biggest addition this year is the “Choose Your Dark Side” theme, which covers a number of attractions. Guests are invited to join the ranks of vampires or werewolves in an ancient conflict that goes back many, many centuries, perhaps all the way back to the dawn of the “Underworld” and “Twilight” franchises. The theme has a panache of its own, however, that manages to keep thoughts of (other studios’) successful movie franchises at bay.
A mausoleum has been erected on the Hub with howling stone wolves to the west and a fearsome bat gargoyle facing east, symbols of the “warring clans”. While not as iconic as last year’s eerie Sleepy Hollow tree, it’s a nice centerpiece to a highly-themed storyline that runs all the way down Main Street. Passholders and press were given temporary tattoos to symbolize which monster clan they supported; unsurprisingly, the park was chock full of vampires.
By far the most successful of the “Choose Your Dark Side” additions is the kitschy but fun “Clash of Evil” on Main Street. The evening kicks off with a dance number that’s one part Thriller, one part Jets-versus-Sharks. The vampires (in Edwardian frocks and long coats) have a dance-off with the werewolves (whose ragged attire is made up for by their rather, erm, sensual dance moves). The monsters might scare toddlers, but they are heaps of fun for anyone 10 and above. When the big number is over, the groups continue to prowl Main Street for an hour, offering generous photo ops. The crowd, especially the locals, loved the creatures. My only quibble with “Clash of Evil” is that the werewolves, especially the women, look more like characters from the musical “Cats” than any werewolf I’ve ever seen. Still, the performers play it to the deadpan hilt, and everyone had a fantastic time.
The second most popular “Choose Your Dark Side” feature was a “magic mirror” in Tomorrowland. Passholders line up to have a computer scan their face and turn them, for a few seconds, into a werewolf or vampire. After they pose, the computer takes their monster-photo and offers it as a free download on the “Magic Access” (annual passholder) website. Since the scanner is activated by scanning your pass, it doesn’t appear that this will be open to the general public, and that may be a good thing. The “magic mirror” had a lot of trouble with finding the faces of shorter guests (like 4-year-olds) and taller guests (like my American self), leading to a lot of “do-overs” by frustrated parents. Still, it’s a stellar effect and a lot of fun.
“Choose Your Dark Side” also includes an interactive vampires vs. werewolves game, played with a phone app by visiting various stations around the park. The app was not yet available for today’s preview, but appears to be a more sophisticated version of the Cars 2 promotion last summer. Cast members were vague on whether the game would work on non-Hong Kong resident phones.
The shops along Main Street have been given “magic mirrors” of their own, which work with seasonal t-shirts. By holding the t-shirt in front of you in the mirror, an animated sequence is launched in your reflection. A ghostly vampire appears, a werewolf stalks across the background, or a cascade of Mickey pumpkins rolls across the screen. An app is available for home computers to duplicate the “magic mirror” effect after you leave the park.
Disney has reprised many of the features of previous years’ Halloweens, including the “Haunted Jungle” in Adventureland. Witch doctors and other generally creepy characters pose with guests at skull-covered sites throughout the land. A nice layer of fog and colored lights effectively transforms the land into an eerie space.
Also back this year are two truly superb “haunted houses”: last year’s “Revenge of the Headless Horseman” and a new “Graves Academy”. Compared to Halloween maze at your county fairgrounds or the local Elks’ Club, a Disney haunted house is a thing to behold. The storytelling is punctuated with lots of “jump out and boo” moments, of course, but the atmosphere is solid and a handful of special effects really set these a notch above what other parks could offer. The highlight for me remains the finale of “The Revenge of the Headless Horseman”, in which you pass through a room full of crystal balls containing your own heads! Though a bit of a scaredy-cat myself, once I’d gone through the mazes I was eager to try them again to revisit the effects.
“Ghost Galaxy” is on again this year inside Space Mountain. Last year’s Ghost Galaxy was an exact copy of the event in Anaheim; this year (at least for the preview day) they’ve turned off all the star projectors, leaving you in pitch darkness with the ghost. It made the attraction a tiny bit scarier than usual, even for those of us who know the Space Mountain tracks with our eyes closed.
For kids, there is Trick-or-Treating in Fantasyland and face painting at the Boo-Tique in Tomorrowland, as well as lots of jack-o-lantern themed sets to pose on for photos.
Minor attractions this year include a couple of events sponsored by Dunkin Yoyos. During the day, professional yoyo-ers display their yoyo virtuosity in a niche next to the teacups. They’re quite good, but the connection to Halloween was lost on me. Even more bizarre was the Laser Man, who appears at night on a TRON-inspired stage in Tomorrowland. Laser Man does a number of yoyo-related tricks while surrounded by pulsing music and lights. I have to say that this would simply not work at an American park – after one minute of Laser Man, I was ready to call it a night. In China, however, it drew a massive crowd – a crowd who honestly would never have danced at ElecTRONica, so maybe Laser Man was the way to go for this audience.
The last big Halloween event of the night is the “Glow in the Park” parade, reprised from previous years. The villain-themed parade has good floats and fun black-light effects. Try for a seat along the parade route at the hub, since the Main Street lights drown out the “glow” for most of the show.
Overall, weekends at Disneyland in October are going to be much fuller this year. I only hope that the Hong Kong resort steps up their game at Christmastime as much as they have for Halloween.
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A masked Mickey, his grin made of pumpkins, greets guests.
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City Hall has a slightly sinister makeover.
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