This may be hard to believe -- especially these days, when Main Street, U.S.A. is festooned with Fall colors from the last week of August all the way through to the first week of November -- but there was actually a time when the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort didn't celebrate Halloween.
Mind you, this was the early 1970s right after the WDW Resort had first opened to the public. And given that the Imagineers had decorated the retail corridor for this theme park with all sorts of patriotic bunting (That's because -- on Main Street, U.S.A. -- it's always supposed to be the Fourth of July, which explains why there's a parade being held every day at 3 p.m. More importantly, why fireworks are presented every night) ... Well, they didn't want to confuse Magic Kingdom visitors by trying to celebrate two holidays in the exact same space right on top of one another.
Now, this isn't to say that Halloween wasn't celebrated elsewhere at the WDW Resort during the 1970s. Take -- for example -- the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village AKA that 120-acre entertainment, shopping and dining complex which is now known as Downtown Disney but is currently being transformed into Disney Springs.
When the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village first opened in March of 1975, Disney was desperately looking for ways to encourage Central Florida locals to come out and sample the 29 shops and 4 restaurants that the Resort had just built. And one of WDW's more successful promotions was the Village Halloween Party. Where kids from the local area (as well as children who just happened to be vacationing at Disney World when this seasonal event was being presented) were encouraged to come on by Lake Buena Vista in costume so that they & their parents could then go trick-or-treating by wandering from store to store to store.
Around this same time, WDW's onsite hotels tried hosting Halloween parties for its Guests (EX: That Resort Halloween Party which the Contemporary presented back in October of 1976 in its Ballroom of the Americas) and the Magic Kingdom would occasionally experiment with hard ticket events that were held on or around October 31st (EX: 1979's Halloween Hysteria. It was held inside of the Magic Kingdom from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. after that theme park had officially closed for the day which then featured musical performances by Dr. Hook and the Police). But it wasn't 'til October 31, 1995 that the very first Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was presented at this theme park.
And why did it take so long for this now-super-popular hard ticket event to finally get underway at the Magic Kingdom? To be honest, a lot of this had to do with the way that Walt Disney World Resort had slowly grown out its Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. It began as a one-night-only event at that theme park back in December of 1983, but then slowly expanded out to two nights in 1989, then three nights in 1990.
And once the 1990s arrived, Disney World officials began seriously exploring the idea of creating special seasonal events that would then encourage guests to come visit the Resort during its slower times of years. Which is why -- in a single five years span -- we saw the first Flower & Garden Festival presented EPCOT's Future World in the late Winter /early Spring and the first Holidays Around the World held at World Showcase in late November / early December. Not to mention, the Mardi Gras celebration which Pleasure Island used to present back in February.
And since the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party had already proven that it could lure tens of thousands of guests to come out to the Magic Kingdom on cold December nights, WDW officials wondered if a similar sort of Halloween-themed event could then convince on-site hotel guests as well as Central Florida locals to come visit that theme park after dark in October. Thereby, it would give the Resort yet another seasonal event to promote. That was the beginning of the similarly named Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
And just like Mickey's Very Merry, Not-So-Scary started small. With a single night back in October of 1995. And back then, even the ticket price for this after-hours hard ticket event was small, just $16.95 per person.
But based on the very strong reaction that this first official in-park after-hours Halloween event got from guests, by October of 1997 Mickey's Not-So-Scary was being bumped out to two nights. By 1999, the Magic Kingdom was then presenting its Halloween-themed hard ticket over three nights in late October.
And based on the extremely strong word of mouth that those first few Not-So-Scarys got, guest demand for tickets grew exponentially. That is when -- in 2001 -- Disney World held Halloween parties in the Magic Kingdom on 5 nights. And by 2003, they'd bumped the nights that Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was presented out to 10 nights. And by 2005, it was up to 15 nights.
Now, in 2013, Walt Disney World Resort is presenting its after-hours Halloween event at the Magic Kingdom on 23 separate nights. Which -- to put things in perspective here -- is four more nights than WDW will be offering tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party this year.
So why is Mickey's Not-So-Scary so popular with Central Floridians as well as Disney World visitors? It isn't the 215 tons of Trick-or-Treat candy that WDW cast members are expected to hand out between September 10th and November 1st. But -- rather -- the fact that, due to the limited numbers of tickets that are sold for each of these after-hours hard ticket events, many of the Magic Kingdom's most popular attractions (including New Fantasyland's Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction and the recently opened Princess Fairytale Hall) are virtual walk-ons. Which means that you and your family really make the most of your time in this theme park while Mickey's Not-So-Scary is going on, racking up ride after ride after ride.
But for Disney enthusiasts, the real reason that they repeatedly buy tickets for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is that they want to see how WDW has plussed this year's edition of this after-hours hard ticket. Take -- for example -- those castle projections that have just been added to the Villains Mix and Mingle (it’s a special Disney Villains-themed meet-n-greet event and show at the Castle that is only presented at Mickey's Not-So-Scary). The projections transform Cinderella Castle into a genuine multi-media extravaganza.
So -- yeah -- looking all the way back to the 1970s, it did take Disney World almost 25 years to finally get into the Halloween game. But given that the Mouse is now a major player in Central Florida when it comes to staging this sort of seasonal spectacular, Disney certainly made up for that lost time. So if you're looking for a family-friendly way to celebrate Halloween if you're going to be down in Orlando later this month, then you really should consider springing for some tickets to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, so that you can then experience in person what it's like to explore a radically re-themed Magic Kingdom.
By: Jim Hill
Orlando, FL – 10/09/13