With Halloween just a week away, the Disneyland Resort continues to seize the season in creating special thrills coupled with family-friendly excitement in celebration of the holiday. As they like to say, “The Happiest Place on Earth Just Got Spookier” during Halloween Time, a special time of year in which The Haunted Mansion becomes wackier and Space Mountain is taken over by intergalactic spirits while Mickey and other Disney characters don colorful costumes and invite guests to trick-or-treat until villains show them the way out.
Both the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks have added elements of Halloween this year, some returning by popular demand from years past while others are new for 2012 and have instantly become must-see attractions for a limited time. On top of the many classic and brand new attractions the Disneyland Resort has to offer, Halloween Time packs in so much additional entertainment that it takes multiple days to really see it all.
Below are some of the highlights of all of the special activities, attractions, character greetings, and shows that will only be around the parks until this spooky season ends.
To step foot into Disneyland during Halloween Time is to enter a world of pumpkins big and small, some shaped as familiar Disney characters scattered across the entrance turnstiles and in Town Square, others made up with funny faces and themed to match the Main Street USA shops and windows they surround. Upon and down the entrance area, Jack-O-Lanterns populate the path along with decorates in shades of orange and yellow, bringing a Fall feeling to the park. And surrounding the famous Partners statue of Walt and Mickey in the Hub are specially “carved” pumpkins representing each of the park’s lands.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Though many of Disneyland’s separate lands remain relatively Halloween free, retaining the themes on which they are based, New Orleans Square has a few dramatic differences due to Jack Skellington and the gang from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” taking up residence for the season, particularly in the ride overlay called “Haunted Mansion Holiday.” This twist on the classic Haunted Mansion attraction depicts what happens “when two holidays collide,” as Christmas meets Halloween and the quirky characters from the cult classic film take over.
It’s an annual tradition that takes weeks to install and later remove, but draws huge crowds of repeat visitors, eager to see what Jack has in store for the Mansion each year, introducing subtle changes that include a giant gingerbread house on the ride’s ballroom table. Even some of The Haunted Mansion’s regular residents get into the “spirit” of the season, including Madame Leota floating around her seance room dressed as a Christmas ornament this year. And just outside the ride, Jack, accompanied by his companion Sally, meet and greet with guests, immersed in the “Nightmare” world. Tim Burton’s latest big screen endeavor “Frankenweenie” is also represented outside the Mansion with the titular dog Sparky’s tombstone making an appearance in the pet cemetery, freshly dug up, naturally.
Take a walk through the queue and spin on the ride in the video below, followed by a few choice photos.
Video: Full ride on Haunted Mansion Holiday
In a nearby store, the “Nightmare” theme continues with the masks of Lock, Shock, and Barrel on display:
And at Cafe Orleans, just outside the Mansion, a special Fall menu includes a must-try Pumpkin Creme Brulee:
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
While The Haunted Mansion goes from one playful motif to another during Halloween Time (and beyond), Disneyland’s classic Space Mountain attraction receives a much more sinister selection of scares as part of its Ghost Galaxy overlay. The roller coaster’s usual space scenery and sci-fi score are replaced by a glimpse at a monster from out of this world, chasing passengers through the attraction’s high-speed twists and turns in the dark.
Loud sounds, spooky music, and surprising ghostly apparitions are all part of this intense experience that’s a perfect match for older guests looking for some Halloween screams. Even the outside of the attraction gets a makeover with an eerie color palate fading across its surface, occasionally enhanced by projected effects that show a monster ready to break out from within.
Take in the Ghost Galaxy experience via the videos below, taking note that the ride itself is rather dark, so much of the full ride video below is as well.
Video: Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy building effects and projections
Video: Full ride on Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
Mickey’s Halloween Party
Those looking for even more Halloween fun at Disneyland can turn to Mickey’s Halloween Party, an after-hours, separately ticketed event that invites guests to go on candy grabs, meet characters, and enjoy special music, lighting, fireworks, a small parade, and a few more surprises throughout each evening. Though the event is similar in tone to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World, Disneyland puts a few distinct twists on it, with fireworks themed to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and continuations of daytime meet-and-greets with Jack and Sally near their Haunted Mansion Holiday attraction. Though Orlando’s Boo To You parade is large and always impressive, Disneyland offers amusing street entertainment with Mickey’s Costume Party, a tribute to dressing up for Halloween that ends with a cavalcade of Disney characters. And at the end of the night, Disney’s Villains come out to surprise guests a final time, lining the Train Station in a goodnight moment that’s a perfect farewell photo opportunity.
See the full parade and goodnight kiss from the Disney Villains in the videos below.
Video: Mickey’s Costume Party parade during Mickey’s Halloween Party
Video: Villains goodnight moment ending Mickey’s Halloween Party
Big Thunder Ranch Halloween Carnival
Not all Halloween fun happens after dark. The surprise standout success at Disneyland’s Halloween Town is new for 2012, taking over Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland. The park’s Halloween Carnival offers a wide array of activities, from a simple makeover of its petting zoo, adding festive bandanas to the animals, to a character-filled hub with villains, pumpkin carving, games, and live entertainment. For an area of the park that’s normally bypassed by many a guest, the Halloween Carnival offers plenty of additional treats, especially for regulars.
Disneyland’s Zocalo Park receives additional decorations for Halloween Time representing Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Halloween gets a Mexican flare here with a skeleton band, cultural information posted about the holiday, and face painting.
Over at the Disney California Adventure theme park, the new Buena Vista Street and Cars Land areas did not receive any Halloween attention this year, though they are gearing up for Christmas with plenty in store soon. However, the park isn’t completely scare-free, not only featuring the Tower of Terror every day of the year, but also adding entertainment showing off Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” in two forms.
The MuppetVision 4-D theater is taken over by Victor, Sparky, Edgar, Weird Girl, Mr. Whiskers, and other bizarre characters from the new film in a stunning extended preview that shows off a few of the movie’s most enjoyable and impressive scenes, utilizing in-theater effects to enhance the already enjoyable experience. When Victor brings his dead dog Sparky back to life, lighting flashes throughout the theater while a thunderstorm rains down on the audience - among other surprises. Though it’s a “preview,” those who have seen the movie will enjoy it even more.
And across the street in the Animation Building, the traveling exhibit first set up in the U.S. at the San Diego Comic-Con has found its final resting place at the Disneyland Resort, providing up-close access to some of the stop motion character models and sets used to make “Frankenweenie.” The detail is impressive throughout the displays, providing a further appreciation for the art form.
Halloween Time ends at Disneyland as soon as the holiday does, with the last day being October 31. But the remaining week provides plenty of time to take in the limited time offerings for those visiting soon. And those wanting to hang onto a bit of the spookier side of Disneyland can still do so at Haunted Mansion Holiday, which remains in the park through the end of the year.
More photos from Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort:
(Photos by Ricky Brigante and Michelle Moss)