by Ken Bingham | Release Date: August 28, 2014 | Availability: Kindle
National Geographic author and Disney expert Ken Bingham guides you through Disney's scariest event of the year, with tips for getting the best treats, meeting all your favorite characters, and finding Halloween adventure outside the parks.
Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party draws hordes of horrific celebrants every year, all of them jostling (usually in costume) for the ideal spot to watch the parades and the fireworks, the shortest line to grab an autograph or a photo op with their favorite spooked-up characters, and the fastest route to Disney's treat trails.
There's a lot to see and a lot to do during the five-hour party. By following Ken's advice, you will see it all and you will do it all, and you'll enjoy Mickey's Not So Scary as never before.
The tips in this frightfully helpful tutorial include
Put in your fangs, pull down your fright wig, and shamble through Mickey's Not So Scary with ghoulish ease. Happy Halloween!
At a Glance
Dates and Times
Before You Go
Planning Your Day
Worth the Visit? Worth an Annual Visit?
Expected Party Attendance
Let Disney Dress You
Once You Get There
Ghost Relations Department
Villains Mix and Mingle
Boo-to-You Halloween Parade
Celebrate the Magic Castle Projection Show
Villains’ Sinister Soiree
Character Meet and Greets
Plan of Attack
Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball Dance Party
Happy Harvest Roundup Dance Party
Trick or Treating
Open Dining Spots
Special Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom Card
The Haunted Mansion
Welcome, Foolish Mortals!
Grim Grinning Interaction
The Attraction Itself
Mayhem at the Mansion App
Halloween Around the World
At Grave's End
Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. The glorious mix of fear, candy, costumes, fun, goblins and ghouls, and…did I mention candy?
It takes me back to the endless days and continuous theater of childhood. I don’t know about you, but I felt absolutely certain that hairy beasts hid out under my bed, slavering ogres waited in my closet, and nests of carnivorous, boy-consuming zombies stalked my home.
Seriously. Everything lurched larger than life. And I absolutely loved it, especially at Halloween.
My dad would always hoist me on his knee on the weeks leading up to the big event to watch old 50’s “horror” movies. We would laugh at the riotously underwhelming monster make-up of Horror at Party Beach, leap with joy when the “undead” emerged in Plan 9 from Outer Space, and quiver with fear when that poor Giant Gila Monster thrust his little head through the wall of the high school gymnasium.
Oh, what fun.
When Halloween would hit, I’d strap on some plastic “ghoul” mask, grab my candy bag, and haunt the streets until I filled that sack not once but twice, and…then I’d be forced to go home, where I’d swap goodies with my brother, before going to bed with a stomach ache.
And then I went to Walt Disney World for the first time.
When I encountered the Haunted Mansion I knew I’d entered Halloween nirvana. It’s the perfect blend of fun and fright. The laughter and screams blended together from the start when I saw the body of the Ghost Host hanging from the ceiling of our elevator (“There’s always my way”).
Naturally enough, I couldn’t (still can’t) get enough of that Doom Buggy. It’s one of the few times I ever hope to have car trouble, hopefully right in front of the ballroom sequence.
I want to just kick back and watch those joyful ghosts drinking their fill from the shaky chandelier, the organist collapsing his hands to the discordant sounds of the grim and ghostly, the two gunmen endlessly dueling each other from side-by-side portraits, and on and on.
Since Disney can’t revamp the ride each time I visit, I’ve had to settle for purchasing every book I can on the Mansion, every tale I can find on the Hitchhiking Ghosts, while collecting every single piece of merchandise available.
It wasn’t until Disney began its Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party that I began to feel sated. Here, the Magic Kingdom could open even wider the explorative doors to its Imagineers, its Cast Members, its decorators, and all its ghoulish party guests.
Only here can you hang with the entire cadre, from the Evil Queen to Maleficent, from Captain Hook to Cap’n Jack Sparrow, from Dr. Facilier to Lord Frolo.
Oh, sure, you’ll have Mickey and the rest of the Fab Five, as well as Pooh and the gang, together with every Prince and Princess you can imagine, but, when it comes show time, the whole troupe from the Mansion takes over Cinderella Castle and have the night of their lives.
So do we.
You can dance with the gigglers from Monsters Inc., get down with the posse from Toy Story, and leap up as the Gravediggers shovel past you in the Boo to You Parade.
Disney doesn’t forget about the candy either. Not by a long shot. There are Milky Ways and Snickers and M&Ms and Heath Bars and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Mickey Lollipops and…I haven’t even gotten started yet.
And if you’re in need of gluten-free, sugar-free, peanut-free, or any other free, the good people at City Hall will replace your stash with the sweets that fit the bill.
Only problem is that, with so much to see and do, it’s hard to know where to begin, when you should go, what to see next, and how to organize your full time at the World.
That’s where this guide comes in.
This Disney Festivals guide will present expected crowd levels for each of the 26 party dates, offer tips and suggestions as to how you should costume, show you how to manage the extensive meet-and-greet lineup, where you can find the best sweets, how to garner premier showtime spots, where you can capture the most ghoulish photographs, and when best to score on the extensive party-specific merchandise so you can bring the festival home with you.
And if you still haven’t gotten your fill, we’ll give you video, web, and podcast links to further enhance your visit.
But this book goes even further than the party itself. Much further.
Since most of us will only attend the Not So Scary once on any typical Halloween stay, that leaves many other days to explore the World. This guide will lead you through the near endless spooktacular festivities to be had around the parks and resorts, from the decorated golf cart parade at the Fort Wilderness campgrounds to the Monster Mini beachball games at Kidani Village, from the Trick or Treating Trails at the Polynesian Resort to Frankenstein’s Cake Walk at Saratoga Springs.
You’ll soon learn that a visit to Disney during Halloween season will not just be a one-and-done event, and that you will hurry back, hurry back for more.
Ken Bingham is the author of 14 books, most recently publishing with National Geographic and Camino Press. He has been a lifelong Walt Disney World NUT, whose children have bought into the addiction and whose wife tolerates him. Wellâ€¦sort of. He spends on average about a month a year on “research” trips to the Happiest Place on Earth. He teaches Creative Writing, Drama and Literature at Drexel University, and lives in Philadelphia and Cape May with his wife, two beautiful children, three dogs, two cats, and large quantities of Disney merchandise.
If you have a question for Ken Bingham that you would like to see answered here, please ask it here.
I think of Disney Festivals as an Mary Poppins carpet bag that holds within it all the holiday and special event activities that take place across Walt Disney World over the course of a normal calendar year. Disney originally created these events to take advantage of slower times in the park. However, Disney being Disney, these events have now become so successful and exciting that they’re some of the most popular times to visit. Last year alone, over twenty million tourists (28% of all visitors) came to Disney just to partake in one of these specialized events.
The events range from Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party; from the Food & Wine Festival to the International Flower & Garden Festival; from the Princess Half Marathon Weekend to the Wine & Dine Marathon; from Star Wars Weekend to Painting Masters Weekend; from Gay Days to Grad Days; from the Night of Joy, which celebrates contemporary Christian music, to the Flower Power Concerts, which celebrates the sounds of the sixties.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The very first Mickey’s Not So Scary party was held in 1985 as a response to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, which feature more hard-core chills like Frankenstein, Dracula, and chain-saw-wielding maniacs. These thrills do indeed have their place, especially on Halloween, but following Walt Disney’s family-oriented philosophy, Disney World wanted to create a party that could be enjoyed by all, no matter their disposition.
This philosophy hasn’t changed since the inception of the party or indeed of the first Disneyland resort in California. The party itself changes each year, however. Sometimes, events are tweaked, sometimes entirely new events are introduced, and at all times Disney has their ears open to the public to find out exactly what they’re looking for.
There are many rarely seen characters at the Not So Scary Party. Some of the 999 Happy Haunts that have escaped from the Haunted Mansion can indeed be seen at no other time outside their ghostly domain than at the parties. The prime time to catch them is during the parade.
The Gravedigger and his dog walk warily ahead of the gang, followed by a team of dancing shovelmen, who send off sparks every time they scrape their spades to the ground. The ballroom dancers waltz along the crowds, with the crowning touch of the Hitchhiking Ghosts saluting the audience from their very own float. You can also find Madam Carlotta and Madam Rinata standing outside the Haunted Mansion, involving the guests in some frolicsome improvisation.
Jack Skellington & Sally made their Not So Scary debut last year, and, even though they have been known to pop up at Epcot now and again during the season, you can only count on finding them for certain at the parties themselves. Their nemesis Oogie Boogie also makes a rare appearance.
One of the main attractions of this Festival are the Seven Dwarves, who can also be found only at one other time: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Among the plethora of villains who haunt the party, you can find such rarely do-badders as Dr. Facilier, Lord Frollo, and Lotso. And if you’re looking for some heroes, you’ve got Tarzan and Jane making an appearance in Adventureland.
For those who may not be in the know, Disney has introduced a free augmented-reality app for the iOS and Android devices that can help you and your family track down the free-wheeling ghouls who have escaped from the Haunted Mansion. Using your provided “spectre collector” you locate the ghosts, scan them with your phone’s camera, then return them to the Mansion, where you’ll get the opportunity to win prizes.
I have had a chance to see the app in demonstration; however, I’m not going to get the opportunity to really use it until I arrive at the Not So Scary myself. As of now, Disney hasn't released plans as to its future. It could augment the already popular Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game. Then again, they may just want it to spook up the parties every year.
Let’s start by familiarizing everyone with the Soiree.
Disney has introduced a new way to plus your party this year with an event, which, as you said, will grant you a preferred viewing area for the 8:15 pm Boo to You Parade and the HalloWishes Fireworks Spectacular. As if this weren’t enough to make one’s antennae quiver, you also get a seat at the Royal Table for one of two villainous dessert party blasts.
Lady Tremaine will host the event, regaling her audience with some ghoulish musical numbers. She’ll be joined by cohorts Captain Hook, Cruella de Vil, Dr. Facilier, Snow White’s Evil Queen, Frollo, the Queen of Hearts, and this year’s Villain of Choice, Maleficent. All guests will receive a special autograph card and a collectible Maleficent dragon cup.
I personally think it’s worth the extra cost. I mean, just look at it. You get to hang with villains while enjoying desserts in a castle and singing creepy songs with Lady Tremaine herself. And you get preferred seating at the parade and fireworks to boot.
However, you have consider that I’ve been to the Not So Scary many times before. If you’re on your first or even second visit, it’s a tougher decision. There are so many events and spectacles at the party that you’re not going to be able to see everything you want to see. Sure, you might want to take in the Sinister Soiree, but you’re going to have to levy this against the fact that there are some events which you may miss because of it.
In addition, though the desserts look plentiful and delicious at the soiree, Disney is giving away tons of free treats that already come with your price of admission.
I’ve been working on this book since January of 2014, and completed it in late July. But...I wouldn’t really say that “working” is the right verb here. I had a ball while putting it together, putting on the headphones and listening to Disney music while doing research and composing the piece. That’s not a bad “working” day.
I have worked with National Geographic for about five years and have been involved in many books, but rarely under my own name, with such titles as “The Jagged Edge of Silence”, “Blue Zones”, “Lost Gold of the Dark Ages”, and “Thrive”.
That’s like asking me my favorite ice cream flavor. It all depends on what I’m wishing for at the time. Both parties have great benefits, and I can absolutely never get enough of either.
I do, however, enjoy the Christmas season more at Disney because every single park, resort, and entertainment facility gets in on the events in a big way. Thus, when the Very Merry is over, you can continue on the Yuletide trail throughout your stay.
No. Both parties are capped nightly at 20K so that you can be assured of easy movement on your night at the ball. Many more Very Merrys will sell out than Not So Scarys. This is not because the Not So Scary is a less popular event; it’s more because Halloween is treated as a one-night holiday across the US. Outside of the weekends, most of the traffic at the parties is local. In fact, if you go on a Tuesday during the first weeks of the festival, you’re going to feel like you have the park to yourselves.
I would go as Goofy’s version of Marley’s Ghost. I’m a huge Dickens and Goofy fan. It’s a marriage made in heaven…or really in Disney, which for me is pretty much one and the same.
In this excerpt, Ken Bingham gives some tips on how to get the most hair-raising view of the Boo-to-You Parade.
Boo-to-You begins in Frontierland and completes its run at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. You’ll find that most guidebooks will tell you to catch the later event, and they’ve got a point. The earlier parade is much more crowded, while the later will allow you a much more easily attained prime viewing spot.
However, I would recommend that you see the first. If you love this parade like I do, you’ll want to see it twice. You might not get as great a viewing position for the first parade, but you’ll be satisfied knowing you will have a much better view later.
You’ll find people staking claim to a spot for the first parade up to two hours ahead of time, but this isn’t really necessary. Other than the sold-out nights (and there should only be two or three of them: see “Expected Party Attendance”, above), you should be able to gather a fine spot just by showing up a half hour ahead of time.
If you don’t mind settling for something less than a premier position, you can maneuver in even at the last minute (especially on a Tuesday night), using that extra half hour before the parade to take advantage of the lessening crowds through the rest of the park and grab some extra treats or jump on a couple more rides.
When choosing a spot, there’s really no bad place to view the parade. However, the ambience around Main Street is always a highlight for me. And, if you’re going to be taking photographs, you’ll find that the lighting on Main Street allows for a much better shot.
Remember that when scoping out your area, most people remain seated until the parade begins, and then stand during the performance. If you have small children, this will affect your selection of sight lines.
Both Main Street and Frontierland provide unique experiences for the show. Waiting on Main Street allows you to see the fabulous Creepa Crew, a high-energy dance troupe that appears along the street a half hour before the parade. Last year, Phineas and Ferb became a part of the troop.
On Main Street, you can set a place holder in line while taking your kids to Town Hall to meet Mickey and Minnie before the parade begins.
In addition, seeing the parade from Main Street allows you to view the subsequent fireworks with Cinderella Castle in the foreground, which is what most guests, especially photographers, prefer.
On the other hand, you’ll find many people who favor Frontierland. It’s usually less crowded, making it easier to find a prime viewing spot. It’s also close to Woody’s Happy Harvest Roundup at the Diamond Horseshoe, which allows you to take the kids dancing with the Toy Story characters while other members of your party hold a spot.
The greatest advantage of Frontierland is that it holds the Cadaver Dans (the Dapper Dans dressed as dead cowboys) pre-show. It’s one of my very favorite Not So Very attractions. While they do perform fifteen-minute sets at various times throughout the evening, you won’t find the performance times in the guide map. The parade pre-show is one of the only times when you can be certain to find them.
Rest assured, however, if you miss this performance, you’ll find them offering a final show at 11:15 pm, although that will conflict with many other final endeavors you might want to complete before the party closes at the stroke of midnight.
This is another reason why I like to see the parade twice. I take in the first one on Main Street, seeing the fireworks immediately afterward, then see the second in Frontierland so that I can watch the Cadaver Dans.
In this excerpt, Ken Bingham shines his orange light on Mickey's Treat Trails.
What would Halloween be without chocolates and candy?
Don’t be shy. Grab yourself a bag and set yourself and your kids loose on the lands. You’ll find Candy Stations and Treat Trails throughout the Kingdom just waiting to be plundered. The big difference between the stations and the trails is that stations usually have one candy bin while you’ll be able to find at least three along the trails.
Disney doesn’t pull any punches with the goodies either.
Remember how on those Halloweens of your youth, you may have avoided Old Man Johnson’s house, because all the guy knew to hand out was that sugared hard tack?
Not gonna happen with the Mouse.
Cast Members hand out over 200 tons of candy, ranging from mini-Snickers, Mars bars, lollipops, Tootsie Rolls, and even Werther’s Caramel Apples at Pinocchio Village Haus.
Complimentary Halloween candy bags are provided at the entrance and Candy Stops. Unlike the candy itself, however, they run out of these bags, so grab yours early.
If you’d like to purchase a larger bag, or alternatively a plastic pumpkin with Mickey Ears (my favorite), you can do so at the Emporium. Then again, you could always buy some popcorn in a souvenir Hitchhiking Ghost or Hatbox Ghost Mickey tub. That way, you can enjoy the popcorn during a show, then reuse it for the Treat Trails.
If your child has a favorite treat bag, just bring it along. Cast Members have no problem with this.
You can follow the directions below to all the Treat Trails, or look for the Goofy’s Candy Company balloons which loom above each station. If you ever feel lost, just follow the throng of kids in front of you. They know where they’re going instinctively.
You’ll find the easiest movement through the trails and stations during the parades and later in the evening. Keep in mind, however, that they do close 15 minutes before the end of the party, so time yourselves accordingly.
Br’er Rabbit’s Candy Cavern
This trail leads you behind the queue at Splash Mountain. It’s an area many don’t travel down very often. Hopefully, there will be a bit of a line allowing you take in the detail that Disney puts into the Splash Mountain world.
Hakuna Ma Treata
This is situated beside the Jungle Cruise. After digging in for some candy here, you’ll want to cross over the lane and go inside the Tiki Room where they’ll pass out Craisins.
Buzz Lightyear’s Candy Blast
The Buzz Candy Station is located in Tomorrowland between Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and the Carousel of Progress. Most times you’ll find Buzz here as well, so this one doubles as a meet and greet. Don’t get confused, though. There are two lines, one where you can grab some candy and a photo with Buzz, the other just for the candy. The candy-only line moves a lot quicker.
Alice and The Mad Hatter’s Treat Party
You’ll find Alice and the Mad Hatter available for photos and autographs on this Treat Trail. For my sweet tooth, this is the best trail in the Park, providing multiple stops on the back walkway between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland (the old Toon Town for those in the know).The Cast Members give out bucketfuls on this one, so come hungry.
You’ll want to spend some extra time here hanging with the Hatter. He provides one of the funniest experiences at the party.