Last night, we headed to Disneyland to attend the first Mickey’s Halloween Party of the year. In this post, we’ll share our photos, observations, and thoughts about the California version of the popular fall, hard-ticket event. Plus, another super-rad Halloween costume that I made with zero adult supervision. Let’s get started!
First of all, I want to underscore that Mickey’s Halloween Party is the event at Disneyland Resort, in Anaheim, California. I know, I’ve already made that abundantly clear, but the very similar names between the two parties–and the fact that I just shared a recap from this party’s Florida cousin–leads to some confusion. They could call this Goofy’s Slightly-Spooky Halloween Party to distinguish them, but I guess the Great Goofini isn’t quite as bankable as Mickey?
In reality, I think they could call the Disneyland event, “Oogie Boogie’s Poopy Party” and locals would still throw their money at Disneyland, selling out the event in record time, at record high prices. That’s what happened this year, as Mickey’s Halloween Party sold out for the entire season before the first party even took place. In that sense, I’m not totally sure why I’m even writing this. Even if you were on the fence about attending, this post won’t do you any good now…
Now, I realize many people like to read recaps like this as a fun way to vicariously experience something they could not attend, for reasons ranging from living across the country to being anxious they’d never have a costume as dope as mine. I’m sort of the opposite. I hate read. If I couldn’t go to something, I only want to read about it if it was a disappointing event. That’s why I’ve spent 27 hours (to date) reading about Fyre Festival.
You might be here for either of these reasons…or because you already purchased tickets and want a preview of the event. I haven’t been shy about my criticism of this party on the blog in the past, so the “hate reading” option wouldn’t come as much of a surprise. In both our Tips for Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland and our Ultimate Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland posts, we have expressed apprehension about the value proposition of this hard ticket event. (By the way, if you’re looking for planning info or party strategy, definitely check out that ‘MHP Tips’ post. This is more of an anecdotal report for the evening.)
Before we get too far into this, I should probably disclose to the haters that we had a good time this year. While there were a handful of one-off issues, it was by and large a really fun evening. Between incremental improvements, better crowd management, and perhaps just the event growing on me, I’m slowly warming to Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland.
With that said, let’s get started with a recap of the event…
Our original plan was to get to Disneyland early in the day, eat a bunch of the Halloween foods, and then line up for Toontown at around 4:15 p.m. for the pre-party, which starts at 5 p.m. However, when I got up, I discovered that my new Nikon D850 was “out for delivery” a day earlier than I anticipated, with a deliver-by time before 3 p.m. So, we waited at home.
When 3 p.m. rolled around with no brown truck in sight, we decided to wait until 4 p.m. Unsurprisingly, no UPS truck came during that time, and with traffic getting worse by the minute (sadly, that’s no exaggeration), we had to leave just to get to the party before 6 p.m.
After a commute that took triple its normal time, we arrived at our hotel, and raced to the park. We got into Toontown at 5:45 p.m., at which point all of the character lines were already really long. They had not yet been cut, but we were looking at waits that would last until 6:30 p.m. at that point.
We were not interested in those lengthy waits, but if character photos were our top priority, we would’ve waited. The Halloween costumes Mickey & Minnie wear during the Toontown pre-party are unique to Mickey’s Halloween Party, whereas many of the other costumes found during the party are the same as what you’ll find during the event.
If character photos don’t matter to you, the alternative to this would be starting over at Disney California Adventure–guests with Mickey’s Halloween Party tickets are allowed to enter both Disneyland and DCA 3 hours before the party starts this year. Perfect for seeing Haul-O-Ween in Cars Land. Free MaxPass access is also included prior to the party starting!
Our friends Jenn and Guy Selga of TouringPlans were already there, and had arrived as planned, knocking out all of the characters in short order. While it might appear that Guy is throwing his usual temper tantrum that we won’t take him on the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, this time he’s actually mourning the loss of Country Bear Playhouse, proverbially pouring one out for his homie, Henry.
I give Guy a lot of well-deserved grief, but I have to admit that he made the greatest Halloween costume of all time. This was a brilliant idea, hilariously executed. (Don’t worry, he was back to the regular Selga form by the end of the night, claiming Frightfully Fun Parade is better than Boo to You.)
For those who are unfamiliar with Guy’s costume, it’s Henry from Country Bear Vacation Jamboree/Hoedown (pictured above). Sadly, in a world where Country Bear awareness is at an all-time low, adoring Country Bear Jamboree enthusiasts didn’t flock to Guy at a nonstop pace throughout the evening.
Throughout the entire party, we observed long lines for character meets, contrasted with really short lines for attractions. We never saw Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy or Haunted Mansion Holiday with wait times above 30 minutes. Towards the end of the evening, both were near walk-ons.
Without a doubt, characters are a priority for many guests. The character meet & greets (and AP backdrop) in New Orleans Square and Frontierland had huge lines. At one point early in the party, a Cast Member quoted a wait time of “at least an hour” to meet Sally & Jack Skellington. Judging by the visible line, it could’ve been more like 90 minutes.
Right before the party started, we lined up for the Pirate Pals, which has two separate meets: the Mark Twain dock and Petrified Tree. At the tree, Pirate Minnie and Mickey Mouse meet. At the dock, Peter Pan, Wendy, and Captain Hook meet.
We opted for the mouses, as we’ve never gotten photos with them in their pirate attire. This meet & greet was chaotic early on, with a large team of entertainment managers trying to figure things out on the fly. Our line was not clearly marked, and was relocated three times in the opening minutes of Mickey’s Halloween Party.
Nonetheless, we only waited about 10 minutes, which was no doubt because we lined up before Mickey’s Halloween Party started, and before the characters were out. Once Pirate Mickey & Minnie appeared, a veritable horde of people raced to the line. I’m guessing it was 45 minutes long by the time we were done.
After this, we made a first-timer party blunder: we ate dinner. In pretty much every post we’ve written about these hard ticket events, we stress the importance of eating early and maximizing party time.
Due to our late arrival and our absurd shortage of bison burgers at home, we were “forced” to head to Hungry Bear Restaurant to have their new “Halloween” bison burger. On the plus side, it was really good.
Following this, we wandered around for a bit, checking out the entertainment and atmospheric elements before going to the Aladdin and Friends meet & greet in Adventureland. The only character was Jasmine, but her line was short, so we met her.
As with the East Coast party, the Frightfully Fun Parade was our main priority for Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. Knowing people camp out way early for parades at Disneyland, we wanted to make sure we got good spots for it.
Last year, the curb filled up as early as 6 p.m. on some nights. We had zero interest in waiting that long, so we wandered over to Main Street at around 7:45 p.m. At that point, spots halfway up Main Street were starting to fill in, but towards Town Square was relatively empty.
Jenn, Guy, and Sarah were all content just getting a spot then, but I wanted photos (and I also didn’t want the spot they were in), so I wandered around with my camera and tripod while they sat.
I returned at around 8:15 p.m., and to my surprise, the spot I wanted was still totally open. I asked a Cast Member when they’d put the rope up for this seating area, and a couple of them indicated they’d wait until the very last minute, right as the Headless Horseman was approaching.
My guess is that this delay was due to people wanting photos with the giant Pumpkin Mickey. I waited for a bit over by the rest of our crew, but went to my spot when the PhotoPass photographer left the area. No one else joined me (sad trombone), which was probably because they had curb seating, whereas I’d be standing against a rope.
On the “plus” side, I got to awkwardly sit by myself off to the side while group after group came up to take photos with Pumpkin Mickey. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in any of their photos, but it was still uncomfortable.
Sure enough, as the Headless Horseman approached, this rope went up, and people filled in along it. It was interesting just how last-minute this was. Someone could’ve strolled up 5 minutes before parade time and had (literally) the best parade spot in Disneyland.
After the trials and tribulations of the Headless Horseman during Disneyland’s Halloween Parties last year, I was thinking maybe more training would’ve occurred during the “off-season,” and the horse would be better this year.
Against all odds, the Headless Horseman was somehow worse this year. I know absolutely nothing about equestrianism, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s difficult to train a horse to gallop down a crowded theme park corridor with a headless rider without freaking out.
Still, it surprises me that this horse is so all over the place. More surprised that Disneyland would continue to do the Headless Horseman. To their credit, villagers have been added to the Headless Horseman’s “run” to make the scene more interesting, but it still lacks the wow-factor of the Florida version.
At least…that’s my take on it. I talked to several guests afterwards who all talked about how cool the Headless Horseman was, some even calling it their favorite part of the parade. I do have to admit that even an aimlessly meandering Headless Horseman is pretty cool–especially if you’ve never seen something like this before.
Shortly after the Headless Horseman, the rest of the parade approached. One of the bold moves of the Frightfully Fun Parade was making it slightly darker, and highlighting villains instead of classic Disney characters. Heck, Mickey and Minnie were not even in it last year!
This year, Mickey and Minnie now lead the parade with a bunch of other dancers before the other floats arrive. I think this is a good concession. It gives parents and kids what they want and expect, while maintaining the spookier atmosphere in the rest of the parade.
Here are some of my photos from the first Frightfully Fun Parade:
As I said last year, the Frightfully Fun Parade is such an improvement from the previous cavalcade that used to run during Mickey’s Halloween Party that there’s really no comparison. Other minor enhancements have been made throughout Frightfully Fun Parade, but no new floats have been added.
In my opinion, the Frightfully Fun Parade remains a couple of units too short. Well, it would be too short during a normal running. During this first parade, Jack & Sally’s float got stuck on the trolley tracks, and after about 15 minutes of technicians inspecting it, a tractor came out and one side of the float was put on a dolly and towed.
Rather than circling Town Square the long way, this float cut the corner (turning to the left). As it did, it fell off the dolly. This was directly in front of me, and you could see the faces of the parade techs drop as it happened. I felt really bad for everyone involved. It seemed like a fluke accident, and it had to be stressful for the performers and parade crew on an already stressful opening night.
On Page 2, we’ll see whether Zero was able to fly above Sleeping Beauty Castle, watch the second Frightfully Fun Parade, offer thoughts on crowds, and provide our overall impression of Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. Click here to continue reading.