The autumn breeze is here, leaves are being kicked and trees are being climbed.. That’s right, Halloween is finally here! Gone are the oversized flowers of Swing Into Spring and the singing of Frozen Summer Fun and in their place are all the frightful sights and sounds of Disneyland Paris’ Fall celebration. While this year may not promoted as the “Maleficent Celebration” or Harvest festival of previous years, there’s still plenty to see and do for both first timers to the most haunting time of year and Halloween veterans such as myself.
Before we delve into this cauldron of spooktaclar entertainment, I must stress that these are just my first impression thoughts of this year’s Halloween celebration. Like most of my season reviews, I will be basing my opinions on videos, photos and experiences found online. I will however be in DLP towards the end of the month for the Halloween Soirée, so you can expect a “Hands-On” and more in depth review materialising in November.
General Theming and Atmosphere
One of my favourite aspects of Halloween at DLP has always been the decorations and theming. Ever since the Halloween revival of two years ago, pumpkins, brambles and ghosts have slowly begun to populate Disneyland Park every October. Former residents of Main Street pop back to their old home, pumpkin men and women have their annual vacation in Thunder Mesa and – since last year – Maleficent shakes up the power balance of Fantasyland transforming the castle courtyard into her own bramble haven.
This year DLP really have outdone all their previous efforts and has brought us the best looking Halloween I think I’ve ever seen. All of your favourites from last year are back and then some with additions on Main Street including some fantastically unique pumpkin characters sporting different characteristics such as a fortune teller, a mayor (I presume) and a pilot. You can really see the level of detail and creativity the art department has put into creating the pumpkins this year; the sort of thing that makes Disneyland Paris and our Main Street the most beautiful in the world at any time of the year.
Main Street isn’t the only place you’ll find Halloween’s signature fruit present this year. As previously mentioned the pumpkin people have returned once again but this time they’ve brought a few more orange and black creature comforts with them. The Silver Spur Steakhouse, which saw last Halloween completely covered in a giant white scaffolding cover, has finally received the Halloween decoration treatment and it looks fantastic for it. The new, darker colour scheme for the restaurant has really allowed the Halloween banners to shine on the building’s facade, all while still being subtle enough that it isn’t as in-your-face as you might expect.
Moving quickly on to Fantasyland I am very pleased to say my favourite aspect of last year has returned, Maleficent’s dragon brambles in the castle courtyard. This time around however it isn’t the only place you’ll find the Mistress of Evil’s handiwork. To the side of the castle is where you’ll find small, single brambles which have “sprouted up” from the ground leading up to the castle stage. These are a fantastic addition to what is normally a very bland and empty open space of Disneyland Park, as well as adding to the Maleficent element of the castle stage’s new show (but more on that later).
Speaking of the castle stage there’s only one word that can properly describe its new look; WOW. It’s very clear the once neglected and forgotten stage in Fantasyland has been set out by management to be the major player in this year’s Halloween season in what is easily the most detailed theming I can ever recall. Large pumpkins of green and purple surround the front of the stage while more of Maleficent’s brambles cause havoc for DLP’s ground maintenance team to create easily the busiest and most “living” static stage arguably the resort has ever seen. I’m really struggling to think of a stage piece that comes even close to the level of detail and life such as this; even the summer’s Frozen Sing-along’s stage pales in comparison.
Mickey’s Halloween Celebration
Dubbed the “Halloween Cavalcade” for several years now, Mickey’s Halloween Celebration well and truly is a fan favourite with its colourful costumes, detailed floats and, in my opinion at least, the best parade song to come out of a Disney park. Despite rumours earlier in the year of a new float and removal of ‘Vivre La Vie’, the additions we actually have seen come to light is that of new dancers and costumes.
At the cavalcade’s opening is where you’ll find the first addition; a group of farmers armed with their trusty pitchforks to help them dance along to that great beat. It isn’t much but definitely a most welcomed addition to the parade and adds even more life to the Harvest celebration. The new dancers do a great job keeping the energy up even at the very start of the cavalcade to help rally the crowd into the first float. The second set of dancers found just before the finale float of Mickey and Minnie are masquerade performers of some description, boasting sticks of Mickey shaped flower arrangements. I’ll admit these do feel a little found of place and more on the creepy side of things, especially for a show that has 0 villains/horror elements. Perhaps this is to cater for the crowd still unhappy the only Halloween “parade” has no spookiness in it? I’m not sure, but for me the jury’s still out on these dancers.
Overall Mickey’s Halloween Celebration is still my number one favourite parade in any Disney park, and while I can’t help but feel the tiniest bit disappointed we didn’t we a new float I’m still very, very happy to hear Vivre La Vie once again along with my harvest pals. It makes me wonder if they were spoiled last year with the ‘Raise the Rafters’ float addition which could have been more suitable this year? With Christmas failing to attach a new float onto its parade either (something that much like Halloween was achieved last year), this means 2015 has seen no new floats of any description coming to Disneyland Paris. Fingers crossed this will be rectified next year.
It’s Good to be Bad with the Disney Villains
A brand new addition to this year’s Halloween celebration and the spiritual successor to Maleficent’s Courtyard, all talk in preparation has called ‘It’s Good to be Bad with the Disney Villains’ a mini show which opens into a character meet & greet with the Disney villains. In reality however, a mini show is definitely a very generous description.
The “show” virtually finishes as soon as it starts and completely lacks in any interesting quirks, content or even use of the castle stage. The.. “thing” (I can’t bring myself to call it a show anymore) opens with Maleficent entering the stage, which is made so very clear as the mistress of all Evil very politely informs “I am Maleficient” and her villain friends have come to take over the castle this Halloween. Upon arrival of said villains, who clearly have a soft spot for the Princess Promenade as they twirl (yes.. the most ruthless and evil creatures to ever grace animation twirl for a bit. WHY?!), we’re then treated to the fantastic version of “This Is Halloween” we heard last year in the now defunct Villains Promenade and Halloween fountain show.. or at least we would if it wasn’t for Maleficent interrupting with the most generic and boring dialogue you could possible have for her. Stopping only for the song’s chorus, our evil friend once again feels it necessary to exclaim “It is I, Maleficent!” Who knew giant black horns would become SO mainstream this year you’d need to introduce yourself twice in the space of a minute? There’s then a bit of a “dance” from the villains with more repeated generic dialogue – just in case you forgot Maleficent and her friends have taken over the castle – before the grand finale.. or in reality a burst of water from the castle fountains. This then concludes the “show” element and turns into a character meet and greet which I go into more detail below.
What a massive disappointment. Is this really the best DLP can do right now with the villains? We already know it isn’t. There was some controversy last year with the Villains Promendade over a lack of content and energy, but I would very happily welcome it back every time over this. In fact, the more I think about IGTBB the more it just makes me wish we had the Promenade instead. Furthermore, not only was the Villains Promenade canned in favour of this but also the Halloween fountain show. That’s two great pieces of entertainment axed for a short, boring and lifeless wait before you can meet the villains. The real crime however is we’ve been treated to such a beautiful castle stage decoration – the best ever I’ve already argued – and this doesn’t even try to do it justice.
Disneyland Paris is entering a very big transition year. 2016 is going to see more major attractions closed for lengthy periods of time than ever before as they prepare for the 25th anniversary. This is the time entertainment need to step their game up and give us something that will not only get us through the park gates but also keep us their for the next 12-18 months. While its true ‘It’s Good to be Bad’ wasn’t designed to be a show in the same degree of something like the Frozen Sing-along, quality can be made from anything regardless of scale, size, cost and importance.
Meet and Greets Galore!
If there’s one thing this Halloween isn’t short of it’s characters. With 7 individual locations set up and a potential of 20 characters to meet in them, character hunters are going to have plenty of fun filled times with their camera and autograph book. Returning favourites includes Minnie’s Costume Maker and Goofy’s Bonbons as well as the stunning Maleficient’s Courtyard; though only with the mistress herself these days. Jack Skellington and Sally also return to their usual spot in Frontierland while Marie takes over that little corner to the entrance of Liberty Arcade. The nicest surprise addition to this Halloween though has got to be Mickey himself – spotting a new costume – outside the bewildering closed Cottenwood Creek which venued for Frozen Summer Fun. It’s a very cute and pretty meet and greet I must say with a very cool ‘Jack’O’lantern In The Box’ prop forming the backdrop.
The biggest change to meet & greets this year however is definitely the movement of (most of) the Disney villains to the castle stage. Several times a day, much like the old Maleficent’s Courtyard, a set of villains will come to meet their adoring subjects. What’s unfortunately also returned from the old system is the manic crowds and scrums that put so many people off last year. It was under my impression that this would be resolved with actual queues for each villain like what we see for every other character meet in the resort. What we actually got was a pumpkin sticker on the ground and hope that guests will follow this as a guide to where to stand when waiting to meet someone.. spoiler alert: they won’t.
Hopefully this is something that will be addressed by management but, at the time of writing this, they really could and should be doing better. Everyone who was at DLP for Halloween remembers the mad crowds and scrums that Maleficent’s Courtyard brought, it has been a year now and really they should have come up with a better solution to this other than “put it in a bigger location”. Only time will tell if this will be improved upon as the season progress but – in this current form – I can’t see myself spending a lot of time near the castle stage.
So how does Halloween fair up against last year and, a big question, the other seasons? Well, that depends on what you want from your season celebrations. If you’re big into your characters then this is probably the best Halloween yet.. albeit not the most comfortable one as the castle stage will bring more problems than solutions I’m certain. On the other hand if you’re more into the general atmosphere of Halloween and how Disneyland Park can be transformed, this is a huge step up from last year and one I’m sure you’ll enjoy too. If however character meets aren’t your thing and you’d rather simply watch the villains and ghouls spook it up, you’re in for a nasty surprise and not the good type of nasty you want either for Halloween.
But what about me, where do I stand on Halloween 2015? Quite frankly.. I’m not too sure yet. There are some aspects I absolutely love and think are really great additions to my favourite season, but at the same time there have been changes and new “content” that are making me scream for a revert back to 2014’s roster. Hopefully when I visit later this month (and see all that’s on offer in the moonlight of the Halloween soirée) I will be able to make a more formulated opinion on this year but for now, I shall sit on my pumpkin covered fence.