Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2015
Subtitled: surviving a sold out, nighttime, hard-ticketed event with a toddler in tow.
In another (childless) life, the hubby and I were Frequent Fear Passholders for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. We loved the scare factor and the horror homages of the event, would plan group outings involving drinking and haunted house debauchery. Like I said, another life. At that time I was aware that Disney had a Halloween themed event. That the title included the words "Not So Scary" and I couldn't think of anything less appealing to describe a Halloween event. WHAT WAS THE POINT?
Like so many revelations post Parenthood: Touché, Disney. Last year, kiddo was still a bit young to even contemplate an event that didn't start until 7pm. This year? It's been one of the most anticipated nights of our year.
If you have found your way to this page without already knowing who we are, allow me to give you a few notes:
1) I'm a hardcore planner. I believe proper planning and research means maximized enjoyment, particularly if money spending is involved.
2) I hate lines and crowds. If a wait of more than 20 minutes is involved, I probably won't do it. Mostly because...
3) I have a high-energy, vibrant, exciting, HIGH-MAINTENANCE, low-patience toddler who is normally in bed by 7:30 p.m., does not take naps (especially not in strollers), and wants nothing to do with meeting most villains or male characters at Disney.
With all that in mind (we found out some friends from across the pond would be in town, and that it was another friend's birthday, and that it was a weeknight and one of the first nights of the party), I purchased our tickets for Tuesday, September 22nd's Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (hereafter referred to as MNSSHP). All research suggested weeknights as far from Halloween as possible were the best option to avoid crowds.
I avidly watched the internet for announcements of which events would be going on at the party. Initially there was much disappointment: no Villains mix and mingle (I'm die hard for villains, y'all), fewer rare character meetings, etc. But then a new stage show was announced that had the potential to make up for all of it...
Hocus Pocus Villains Spelltacular. My kid, despite not having yet inherited my villain obsession, LOVES Hocus Pocus since the first time she watched it. I watched reports from friends and blogs who attended the first events of the year: huge crowds, 2 hour waits for Jack Skellington & Sally, people practically camping out for spots to view the parade or the HoPo show. My Planny McPlannerton apprehension continued to grow as I came to the realization that it was highly unlikely I would get to do all the things I wanted to do in a single party. Two parties, financially, was not an option. So I decided to make the most of our one party in a way that was wholly outside my MO.
Sit back, enjoy time with our friends, and let the night happen. No planning.
We even managed (some at the last minute) to get a big group of friends together in themed costume: Neverland and Pixie Hollow. The only true regret of the night is that we never managed to get a shot of all of us together at once, but we had Peter Pan, Wendy, Smee, Tinker Bell, Periwinkle, Zarina, Silvermist, Rosetta, Iridessa, and Bobble. If you have no idea who the last 6 are, do yourself a favor and watch some of the straight to video Disney Fairies prequels that revolve around Tinker Bell's life pre-Pan (my particular recommendation is Legend of the Neverbeast, which was such a good film it should have gone to theaters).
The only "plan" aspect we had was to arrive at least an hour or two before formal party start time (a luxury of being an annual pass holder), so we wouldn't get caught up in the crowds trying to get in at the start of the party. After an obligatory toddler picture in Town Square (you know, before she has a chance to trash some aspect of her costume), we headed to the Hub grass to await our friends.
In case you aren't in the know, the hub is a magical place in the center of Magic Kingdom where they sprinkle the toddler version of catnip over the grass, there are gates to keep kids relatively contained, you can watch Move It Shake It parade or Dream Along, and all kids are naturally absurdly happy. Other than the lack of shade, my kid could stay in the hub ALL DAY.
Maddie & Bella's families joined us in short order for hub grass fun and a Move It Shake It parade. Eventually Amy, Liv, Mellie & Sam also joined the party, closely followed by Lindsey and Klarisa. Secret tip #1 for maximizing your MNSSHP experience: TEAM PARENTING. Up your adult to child ratio. Our party included 4 toddlers and more than twice as many child-friendly grown ups. This seemed to be the magical balance, because there was never a shortage of people around to play with or keep these kids happy. There were never complaints of boredom or waiting, because they never noticed they were waiting around. Ever. Huge thanks to everybody who took their turn entertaining/wrangling my kid.
Daphne also wanted to see if anybody else's wings would glow with hers (Secret of the Wings! Watch it!).
Our party assembled, we made the call to get in line to see Tarzan, Jane, and Terk. (Jane being a favorite of Amy, this being potentially their only chance to see her ever). The kids partied hard in the line, taking turns leaping off of benches while the dads leapt to catch them. Inevitably, Daphne was the one who leapt without a catcher. To the ground. No survival instincts, but a slightly bruised knee instead of a smashed face, so it could have been worse. We were the last group to make it into the first meeting window. D, predictably, wanted nothing to do with Tarzan, but was more than happy to share some hugs with Jane & Terk. Here, the closest we have to a group picture for the night (not pictured: our Smee, Lindsey).
The sun had set and Lindsey let us know she was holding down some prime Boo To You Parade real estate in Town Square, but that we should probably arrive soon to help hold the curb. Perfect. We found ourselves in position for the first parade with about 30 minutes to kill. Not too bad, but without all these friends to entertain the kids, it could have been endless. We noticed Aurora was all alone next to City Hall, so the kids got taken over there to entertain the princess while the rest of us held down the fort. Video compliments of Mellie, since I stayed on the curb.
Most recommendations said to go to the second parade for reduced crowds, but with kids this young? Waiting for the second parade would have been an exercise in futility. Fortunately, thanks to this large group of awesome people, we had great spots for the Boo To You parade and all the pre-parade festivities.
Like Balloon shopping with friends.
Or leading the Phineas and Ferb pre-parade. As for Boo to You? I think it's my favorite Disney parade EVER. It's possible, as a villains and Haunted Mansion aficionado, that I am biased, but I don't care. It also has the best music.
The parade ended and we debated whether we should try to go to the Hocus Pocus show that was about to start. I checked out the schedule and saw there would be another right after the fireworks. I thought we should gamble that a lot of people would clear out after the fireworks, so we might have a better spot for Hocus Pocus. With that decision made, it was time that we made our obligatory appearance to visit Tinker Bell (given our costumes). Thankfully, since Tink is a regular greeter at the parks, she had almost no line. I was terribly nervous, knowing that this giant of a party with this many toddlers could be a recipe for character meeting disaster. Turns out I was worried for nothing. [video by Amanda]
It didn't hurt that Tink was absolute perfection, too. Daphne, of course, had to see if their wings glowed. The girls took turns tickling her wings.
What could have been a complete train wreck turned out to be one of the highlights of the evening. We exited Town Square theater with just a few minutes until the Halloween version of Celebrate the Magic would start (it's the castle display that is the precursor to the fireworks show). The Hub was pretty packed with people (sold out night, after all. Only one HalloWishes fireworks show...), but considering we didn't stake out our spot early, we still managed to get an ok viewing space that was only partially obscured by some trees (the castle part, the fireworks visibility was fine) and without being packed in like sardines with other people.
Daphne thought the fireworks were loud, but she still watched them pretty avidly. The fireworks were great, mostly themed around villains theme songs. I will say, however, that after seeing MK's July 4th fireworks? It's really hard for anything else to compare.
Fireworks over, the crowd started surging back up Main Street toward the exit. Time for some fancy footwork (and stroller wrangling) to finagle our way closer to the stage for the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular due to begin in around 20 minutes. The word of mouth on this show is so good that people have been grabbing their spots an hour or more in advance. Eventually we managed to stake out a spot about 10 people deep from the front of the stage. Liv conked out in her stroller, so D was the last toddler "standing." Our friends still helped entertain her until the show started. D saw villains and hid in her stroller until she heard the opening notes of "I Put a Spell On You," which triggered her nearly leaping out of the stroller to watch the rest of the show.
I seriously can't say enough about this show. The hype is real. THIS is the calibre of show that should have a permanent place at a Disney Park. The Sanderson Sisters all sing and perform live, the choreography and villain involvement is witty and perfect. Oogie Boogie, Dr. Facilier, and Maleficent all feature prominently. Disney even pokes a little fun at itself here and there. I want this show to be every night. Take note, Disney: Dream Along by day, Hocus Pocus by night. It's amazing. The show ended near 11 (a mere 4 hours after my toddler's normal bedtime, yikes), so we finally threw in the towel. My kid was asleep before our car left the parking lot.
In conclusion my #1 piece of advice for someone looking to enjoy a sold out night at a hard ticketed event like MNSSHP is to lower your expectations for how much you will accomplish. Even without a kid in tow, even if it isn't sold out, there's no way you will get ALL of it done. So pick a few things that matter most to you, find some friends, and just go have fun. It was absolutely worth the price of admission for us (the Hocus Pocus show alone...).