30 October 2018

Halloween Hysteria

Mickey’s head may seem the perfect size and shape for a Jack-o’-lantern, Disney’s vault shelfs are lined with spooky stories and terrifying villains, and the Haunted Mansion is living ghost story, but that doesn’t always mean that the Magic Kingdom has been a happy home for Halloween. From the day the park opened and even through the bicentennial, the main holidays visible within the park were Christmas and the Fourth of July. Yet, like the Headless Horseman waiting for just the right time to appear to Ichabod and make his blood run cold, Halloween was just biding its time around the bend.

The Magic Kingdom’s first real foray into a Halloween event long predated the now beloved Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. It was known as Halloween Hysteria, and it wasn’t even held on Halloween! Instead, it was held on the Saturday closest to Halloween in October of 1979, which fell on October 27th. This one night event followed the formula for after-hours events set by Disneyland and continued well beyond the Magic Kingdom’s first decade: attractions with smaller crowds, special entertainment, and even musical performances by The Police and Dr. Hook. The single night events that would grow to larger affairs were the hallmark of special events for a long time at Walt Disney World. Even the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party held in 1983 was only a single night affair.

It would be under the tenure of Michael Eisner and his drive to create a Walt Disney World where guests could spend their entire vacations and have more entertainment options than ability to do them all in a single vacation when the modern Magic Kingdom Halloween party would start to take shape. The first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party would be held in 1995 and would still be a single night soiree, but the curve for expansion would be steep. In 1997 it became two nights, 1999 saw it reach three nights, 2001 upped the nights again to five nights, in 2003 it doubled to ten nights. Soon after, it was bursting at October’s seams and spilled out into September.

The offerings have, appropriately, changed over the years. Fireworks, parades, character meet-and-greets, not to mention the character’s costumes and photo backdrops, trick-or-treating trails, shows and entertainment, and even the variety of meals and sweet treats have shifted with the times. I, for one, would love to venture back to 2000 and visit with Frankenstein Goofy in front of a flimsy façade, and not very accurate, Haunted Mansion background for a photo or two.

Today, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has invaded the end of summer season and is held on 34 nights over the course of August, September, and October. For the curious, this means 12 more nights than Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party in 2018, making Halloween the (pumpkin) king of Magic Kingdom holidays. While bigger is better in the world of specially ticketed events, and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary definitely delivers big thrills and chills, not to mention lasting memories, it’s almost uncanny to think of how small the party’s origin was in comparison.

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