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You don’t know Jack about Disneyland’s “Halloween Screams - A Villainous Surprise in the Skies"

You don’t know Jack about Disneyland’s “Halloween Screams - A Villainous Surprise in the Skies"

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Boys and girls of every age,
Wouldn’t you like to see something strange …

Like – say – Zero flying over Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Disneyland Halloween Fireworks - Zero flies above the crowd
Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer. Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Or – better yet -- a 20-foot tall magical orb that rises 45 feet in the air behind the Castle. Which then allows Disney Villains like Maleficent, Ursula the Sea Witch & Oogie Boogie from “Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas” to serenade the crowd that’s gathered out around the Hub.

Disneyland Halloween Fireworks
Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer. Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

That’s just a sample of the eerie fun you’ll get to experience if you drop by Disneyland now through November 1st.Where – as part of that Anaheim theme park’s Halloween Time celebration – they’re rolling out a brand-new fireworks  display, “Halloween Screams - A Villainous Surprise in the Skies.”

Disneyland Halloween Fireworks
Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer. Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Well, perhaps brand-new is a bit of a stretch. Given that much of the music used in “Halloween Screams” is a direct lift from the soundtrack of WDW’s own seasonal spectacular, “Happy HalloWishes: A Grim Grinning Ghost Spooktacular in the Sky.” Which has been entertaining Guests at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party since this Magic Kingdom fireworks display first debuted back in 2005.

Now a lot of Disney World visitors have grown fond of “Happy HalloWishes” over the past 4 years. But to Steve Davison (i.e. Walt Disney Creative Entertainment’s Vice President of Parades and Spectaculars)’s way of thinking, this “Grim Grinning Ghost Spooktacular in the Sky” was never quite as successful as it should have been. WDW Guests liked the fireworks and all. But they never quite grasped the concept that the Disney Villains were supposedly trick-or-treating high in the skies over Cinderella Castle.

Hallowishes
Copyright 2005 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Then there was the issue with “Happy HalloWishes” ‘s M.C. Who is supposed to be The Ghost Host from The Haunted Mansion.The only problem with this story idea was … Well, since Guests have never actually seen this disembodied spirit , The Ghost Host’s presence in this fireworks display didn’t quite excite WDW visitors the way that Davison had hoped it would. So even though Corey Burton did a spectacular job of imitating Disney Legend Paul Frees’ sinister tones, this character just wasn’t a strong enough presence to put “Happy HalloWishes” over the top.

So when it came time to create a special Halloween Time fireworks display for Disneyland Park, Davison knew that he had to come up with a far stronger M.C. this time around. A character that people would immediately recognize & associate with this time of year.

“It was Steve who came up with the idea of making Jack Skellington the host of ‘Halloween Screams,’ explained John Addis, Senior Show Director for Disneyland Entertainment Productions. “Once people heard that idea, they then got very excited about this new seasonal show.”

Disneyland Halloween Fireworks-Jack Skelington rises above the castle
Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer. Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Of course, in order for the Guests to realize that “Halloween Screams -- A Villainous Surprise in the Skies” was actually being hosted by Jack Skellington, they first had to see the Pumpkin King. Which is when Steve & John came up with the idea for that 20-foot-tall magical orb. Which would then allow Jack – as well as several other Disney Villains – to appear in silhouette form as part of the show.

“That’s all new animation that you’re seeing projected on the surface of that orb,” Addis pointed out. “We had that footage created especially for ‘Halloween Screams.”

And – of course – since Jack never goes anywhere without his ghostly dog, Zero … Well, Steve & John knew that they had to create a moment or two in the show where Zero makes an appearance.

“We actually built on what we learned from putting Dumbo into this past summer’s new fireworks show, ‘Magical,’ “ Addis continued. “What sort of flight pattern had the maximum impact for all those people standing out there on Main Street. How to time Zero’s entrances and exits.”

Addis’ team also used projections on the side of Sleeping Beauty Castle to clarify, underline and enhance specific moments in “Halloween Screams.” Take – for example – the moment where Cruella De Devil’s theme song is being played. When the lyric “She’s like a spider waiting for the kill” plays, to nail home this story beat, giant spiders are briefly projected up on the Castle walls.

Disneyland Halloween Fireworks-the castle looks great in spiderwebs
Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer. Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

The end result was a Halloween fireworks display that had a far stronger story than “Happy HalloWishes.” One that Disneyland Guests seem to have already taken to heart. At least based on what John saw back on September 25th. Which is when “Halloween Screams - A Villainous Surprise in the Skies” first premiered for the public.

“You have to understand that – up until that night – we’d only had two rehearsal performances. And Disneyland doesn’t have the luxury that Walt Disney World does. Because so many people actually live in those neighborhoods that surround the Park, we can’t test our new fireworks show late at night. Make sure that every single shell & effects works exactly the way it’s supposed to before opening night.”

“So my team and I are in the Park for the first public performance of ‘Halloween Screams,’ “ Addis remembers. “And we get to the Scream-Along part. And as those scream comets are rocketing up over the Castle, the screams from the people inside the Park are absolutely deafening. And that’s when I realized: They get it. The Guests are actually listening. They’re genuinely engaged in this show. Which is why they’re all screaming along.”

Disneyland halloween fireworks-Oogie Boogie menaces the castle from above
Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer. Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Now you’d think that – given how well “Halloween Screams - A Villainous Surprise in the Skies” went over – John could then take a moment to catch his breath, savor the success of this new seasonal show. But no. Even though Halloween is officially still more than three weeks away, Addis is already hard at work on the next seasonal celebration – “Holidays at the Disneyland Resort.”

“Everyone’s favorites will be back again this year. The snow falling on Main Street, the shimmering lights on the Castle. We’re even going to try and add a few more lights to the Castle this year. I just wonder where we’re going to put them,” Addis laughed.

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort continues through November 1st. For further information on this seasonal celebration, please click on this link.

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