As much I as I love Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s nice every once in a while to attend a Disney Halloween event that doesn’t pay tribute to the 1993 stop-motion animated feature. Or Hocus Pocus, for that matter. Last night I attended D23: The Official Disney Fan Club’s Mostly Ghostly Halloween on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, and the event was a very welcome departure– dedicated to three of my personal favorite spooky-time offerings from Disney’s archives.
Upon checkin, Mostly Ghostly Halloween attendees received a wristband and a terrific Headless Horseman pin commemorating the 70th anniversary of Walt Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (released October 5, 1949) and ushered toward the lot’s main screening theater, where the evening’s main attractions were to be hosted.
On display in the theater’s lobby was a collection of The Haunted Mansion merchandise from through the years, including Hitchhiking Ghost plush dolls, creepy Mickey ears, the much-loved tie-in read-along record, action figures, and more cool collectibles.
Once we were seated inside, Disney-based Halloween trivia played on the big screen (in addition to several recent D23 Halloween-related YouTube videos) as we waited for the main attractions to begin. Then, D23 vice president Michael Vargo took the stage to introduce the event’s first speaker: Walt Disney Imagineer Chris Merritt (co-author of the recent coffee-table book Marc Davis in His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks), who gave an enlightening presentation on the development of Disneyland’s The Haunted Mansion attraction– complete with concept design artwork spanning over a decade of the mansion’s planning stages. Though I’m positive many in attendance had heard these stories before, it’s always nice–and incredibly interesting– to be reminded of how different one of Disney’s most popular and enduring theme park attractions could have been.
The second presenter was noted Walt Disney archivist Becky Cline (co-author of The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember), who introduced two classic and seasonally appropriate Walt Disney animated shorts: “Lonesome Ghosts” starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy as professional ghost catchers and “Trick Or Treat”, which sees Donald’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie team up with a witch to give their mischievous uncle his just desserts one Halloween night.
Lastly, it was time to visit Sleepy Hollow, as Disney animation researcher Fox Carney gave the audience an eye-opening behind-the-scenes peek at deleted scenes, concept art, pencil tests, and jaw-dropping background artwork from the second half of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Unfortunately, guests were not permitted to take any photos of the art on screen, but suffice it to say it was pretty great to see this unique compilation of animation history. We were then treated to a 70th anniversary screening of the full animated segment, and it was especially neat to be able to view this time-honored piece of Disneyana mere feet from where it was originally drawn.
Outside the theater after the presentations, D23 had set up a series of fun photo ops, plus a buffet of Halloween-themed desserts and beverages for guests to enjoy. There was also some cool lighting effects and a chance for visitors to shop in the studio store while on property.
Overall, D23’s Mostly Ghostly Halloween was a fantastic event that ended up being right up my alley. For access to future fun Disney experiences like this one, be sure to check out D23: The Official Disney Fan Club.
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general since a very young age and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.