This year, I had the pleasure of experiencing the Disney Parks Halloween parties on both coasts of the U.S.A.. I had so much fun it’s almost hard to describe. Let’s begin with Disneyland.
I have been a Southern California resident for nine years and a Disneyland Annual Passholder for almost as many, but I had never experienced Mickey’s Halloween Party (or any of its various other names) until this year. I’d always had the mentality that there weren’t enough additional experiences to what I would get during normal park hours to fork out the extra money. The only reason I ended up going this year is because I got in for free, but, by winning those tickets through Disney Parks Blog, they may have created a Mickey’s Halloween Party addict.
As I crossed under the railroad tracks adorning my Newsies costume, I was immediately thrilled and surprised by the vibe in Town Square. There was an excitement level not normally felt during normal park hours. The Halloween music was blasting through the park playing songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Haunted Mansion and, of course, the undeniably perfect Halloween movie Hocus Pocus (at least it’s undeniably perfect in my opinion). In front of the railroad station were long lines of guests waiting to get their pictures taken with villains like Hades, Jafar, Maleficent and more. The photo op villains rotated throughout the night with a little entrance/exit show each time they switched out.
As I followed the crowds, I was guided backstage where there were multiple Cast Member sections handing out candy. Although collecting candy was not a priority for me that evening, they were so generous with it that it was almost difficult to leave the park without a bagful.
The overall atmosphere of the park was probably my favorite part. Main Street was transformed with projected images of pumpkins and ghosts changing throughout the night. The castle also got a projected makeover throughout the evening. One of the most beautiful sights to be seen would have to be The Rivers of America. Using the available Fantasmic foggers, the river was completely covered in fog and beautiful mood lighting creating a creepy setting I had never seen before in this area of the park. It was simply beautiful.
A lot of the featured entertainment experiences throughout the night are things you can do during normal park hours like Haunted Mansion Holiday and Paint the Night, but the big added benefit of attending the party is the fireworks show, Halloween Screams. I had seen this fireworks show numerous years ago when it was shown during normal park hours before becoming part of the exclusive party. I remember enjoying it back then and it was nice to see it again. One of my favorite parts of the fireworks is having Jack Skellington as our narrator with his face projected on the full moon inflatable rising above Sleeping Beauty Castle. It’s also nice to have Zero flying high above. Overall I enjoy this fireworks display featuring Disney villain music although I do wish that the audio recordings were pulled directly from the films instead of popped up versions of the song. I do have to applaud Disneyland for including “Hellfire” from Hunchback of Notre Dame in the mix. It’s always a welcome song in my mind especially since it was cut from the original World of Color, but I digress.
Overall I became a big fan of Mickey’s Halloween Party. Here are some things to be aware of before attending: first, you need to prioritize what you want to do before you go. The park will be crowded and you probably will not get to do everything. Are meeting characters your priority or collecting candy? And how badly do you want that perfect spot in front of the castle to view the fireworks? If you are not an Annual Passholder, I actually think that Mickey’s Halloween Party is the perfect way to make your once a year excursion to the park. The admission price is less than a one day ticket yet you are able to enter the park hours before the party and experience most things you would be able to on a normal day. We even had the option of hopping over to Disney California Adventure before the party began. Of course, these rules could change in future years, but, if you do your research, Mickey’s Halloween Party could be a great time to visit for the infrequent park guest.
Now let’s hop on a jet and head over to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Why the name change? Who knows, but I accept it with a grin even though the billboards leading to the park label it as Mickey’s Halloween Party. So I zipped up my Jurassic World security guard park employee costume (yes, I’m aware this isn’t a Disney property) and I rode my dinosaur over to Magic Kingdom.
This was my first time visiting Magic Kingdom in October and I absolutely fell in love with the Main Street Autumn decorations everywhere. The scarecrows were funny and the foliage was lovely. The biggest difference between Disneyland and Walt Disney Worlds parties is the fact that Walt Disney World has more unique experiences during their party than Disneyland. Sure there are still the villain meet and greets as well as even more candy. Like, seriously more. The Magic Kingdom Cast Members were giving me handfuls of candy at every stop.
Florida has its own fireworks spectacular for Halloween called Happy HalloWishes featuring most of the same music as Disneyland’s but there are some noticeable changes. Jack Skellington is no longer our host and the inflatable moon doesn’t exist considering the size of Cinderella Castle. “Hellfire” is also missing from the mix and has been replaced by “Court of Miracles” also from Hunchback of Notre Dame. The show is equally as nice as Disneyland’s with some changes.
The popular Boo to You Halloween parade returned this year. This parade seems to focus a lot on the Not So Scary part of the party name. The not-so-scary music will get stuck in your head whether you like it or not. The best thing about this parade is the uniqueness of the floats and characters. The parade begins with the headless horseman riding past guests on his horse. It’s a very cool start to the parade. My favorite part would have to be the Haunted Mansion float. I don’t know of any other parade featuring ghostly ballroom dancers and gravedigger’s creating sparks along the parade route with their shovels. You’ll even come across some hitchhiking ghosts. I also really enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean float featuring Jack Sparrow and Barbosa. The one complaint I would have about the parade is that it’s not always easy to see the characters walking along the parade route that aren’t featured on a float considering it is dark outside. Some characters aren’t externally lit at all. Overall it is a nice addition to the Halloween party although I would not rave about it the way that a lot of people do.
What I would rave about is the addition of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular to this year’s party. Yes, I’m biased when it comes to this show. I grew up with the movie Hocus Pocus and the Sanderson Sisters can do no wrong in my book. My biggest complaint would be that there is no Sanderson Sisters meet and greet. Putting that aside, I find it hard to describe the energy felt among the guests when Winifred, Mary and Sarah first enter the stage. The crowds roar with excitement as The Sanderson Sisters bring along some villainous guests to the party including Dr. Facilier, Oogie Boogie, Maleficent, Captain Hook, Hades and more. The highlight of the show in front of Cinderella Castle would have to be the recreation of the show-stopping number “I Put a Spell on You”. I watched this performance three times in one night and simply couldn’t get enough of it. I hope this is simply a sign of Disney recognizing the films cult-like fan base and that we will be seeing more of The Sanderson Sisters in the future. Perhaps even at Disneyland.
Overall, both parties were nights to be remembered for me. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I attend a lot of scary haunt events. The Disney Halloween parties were a nice change of pace full of unique entertainment not normally available to guests. If you can handle the large crowds, I would say these parties are not to be missed for you.
Jeff DePaoli is an entertainer/producer living in the Southern California area. He produces and co-hosts the podcast “Dizney Coast to Coast”. Visit www.DizneyCoastToCoast.com to get your list of “America’s Hidden Mickey’s”. Play along with his “Daily Disney Decisions” every day on Periscope and on his weekly Blab game show “A Spoonful of Disney Debate”. @JeffDePaoli on Twitter/Periscope/Blab/Instagram