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How come Hong Kong Disneyland can have a frightening Halloween event but the Anaheim original can't?

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How come Hong Kong Disneyland can have a frightening Halloween event but the Anaheim original can't?

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So how did Disney diehards react to the recent news that Walt Disney World would soon be getting a brand-new interactive experience, "Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom" ...

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... and Disneyland Park would soon be bumping out the borders of its Fantasyland section with the addition of a new "Fantasy Faire" experience?

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Just as you might expect. By complaining loudly.

"So what was the reason for the complaining this time?," you ask. Basically the problem (as theme park purists see it, anyway) is that these proposed rethemings / additions to WDW's Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park is that they don't really fit in with the story that's supposedly being told on Main Street, U.S.A. Which - as all good Disneyana fans know - is supposed to be this idealized version of small town America at the turn-of-the-century.

Which is why I hope that the Disneyana fans who are making such a big fuss about Fantasy Faire and  "Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom" don't hear about what's going on at Hong Kong Disneyland later this month. I mean, the very idea of a Magic Kingdom receiving a really-for-real horror-themed overlay ...

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... where Main Street, U.S.A. could actually be the stepping-off point for a Universal Studios-style walk-through haunted house ...

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Where - according to the official scenario for this HKDL's Haunted Halloween attraction ...

Over a hundred years ago, something went terribly wrong with the hotel situated in Main Street U.S.A., and it became haunted thereafter.

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The reason has always remained a mystery. Only recently has it been discovered that Victoria Maxwell was taken by the dark force and her ghostly soul now roams the rooms and corridors of the hotel, hungry for new victims and eager to scare guests with new antics.

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 So, if you seek a spine tingling experience, check into the Hotel. We hope that you'll be able to check out.

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You can almost hear the theme purists out there already moaning about how Walt would never allow an attraction like this to be part of the original version of Main Street, U.S.A.

Which isn't exactly true. Take a gander at this piece of concept art from 1951. Back when Disneyland was originally going to be built across the street from Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. To be specific, on an 8-acre parcel of land on the other side of Riverside Drive.

At Walt Disney's request, Harper Goff put together a sketch for a side street that was to have come off of Main Street, U.S.A. Where - if Guests had wandered off in this direction - they would have found a church, a graveyard and a haunted house.

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Here's a closer look at Harper's take on that haunted house.

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Where - if they'd have gotten up the nerve - these Guests could have then joined a walking tour of that haunted mansion ... er ... house. Where menace loomed in every corner ...

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... and your tour of this Main Street, U.S.A.-based  attraction was to have concluded with a sudden  appearance by the Headless Horseman. Who - ironically enough - is the central character of this year's Haunted Halloween celebration at Hong Kong Disneyland.

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So as you can see, Walt had a far more free-form view of what fit in his theme park than most Disneyana fans do today. Which - given that Disney thought that it was perfectly okay to cap off his Main Street, U.S.A, area with a fairytale castle as well as a 1/100th scale version of the Matterhorn ...

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... is kind of understandable.

But before it seems like I'm deliberately going out of the way here to bash Disney diehards, let me share what one veteran Imagineer had to say when I asked him / her if a Hong Kong Disneyland-style Haunted Halloween event would ever work at Anaheim. In a word, they said "No." But not for the reason that you might think.

Here, I'll let this WDI vet explain:

Hong Kong Disneyland will be six years old next week. Whereas the original Disneyland is 56 years old. Hong Kong Disneyland still has parts of its backstage area that haven't been built up yet. Which means that there are places where you can actually build a temporary walk-through exhibit.

You ever been backstage at Disneyland? Especially between Main Street and Tomorrowland? There's no room back there to build something like a haunted house. And there's even less room between Main Street and Adventureland.

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Then when you factor in how tiny Disneyland's walkways are - especially in the Adventureland part of the Park - there's just no way that we could safely stage like something that "Cursed Jungle" thing that they do at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Hong Kong Disneyland is a theme park that was deliberately built to absorb huge crowds. That's why all of its walkways are so wide. Whereas most of Disneyland's walkways were designed to handle people back in the 1950s. Back when Guests were a lot more polite and not nearly as big as they are today.

So, at least in this WDI vet's eyes, Disneyland really couldn't do an event like Hong Kong Disneyland's Haunted Halloween. Not because Disneyana fans would revolt if they encountered a really-for-real horror-themed event inside of Walt's theme park. But - rather - because at this point in Disneyland's history, this 56-year-old theme park lacks the necessary wide open spaces backstage where haunted houses could then be built on a seasonal basis.

More to the point, given how tight & small so many of Disneyland's walkways are ... Well, it would just be unsafe to attempt to set up any scare zones / deliberately frightening character encounters inside of this theme park.

Interior of the Fantasy Faire Theatre in Disneyland's Fantasyland section prior to the
February 2004 opening of "Snow White: An Enchanting Musical."
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Mind you, once Disneyland's new Fantasy Faire complex opens in 2013 on the site of the Carnation Plaza Gardens ... Well, that then opens up a huge piece of real estate between the Storybook Land Canal Boats and Mickey's Toontown. You know? That spot which the current version of Fantasy Faire currently occupies?

"So what do the Imagineers have in the works for this soon-to-be-vacant spot at Disneyland?," you query. I don't know. But I bet you - when the Disneyland Resort finally gets around to revealing what its plans for this part of that theme park is - there will still be Disney diehards who then complain loudly about those plans.

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Which is just ... scary.

Your thoughts?

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  • Other than space requirements, the real reason is the existing SoCal Halloween marketplace -- it's already crowded with TWO major horror events right in their backyard at Knott's & Universal, not to mention a slew of smaller haunts like Queen Mary, etc.

    Halloween is just starting to exist as a recognizable holiday in Hong Kong, so they have the chance to "own" it early. Here in CA, it makes far more business (& creative) sense to own the segment of the marketplace that is usually ignored at Halloween -- kids & families.

  • Hard to see what the kid in the concept art for "Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom" has in his right hand--is it his wallet??

  • I've said it before on another site but I think a slightly scarier Halloween theming could work well at DL.  It doesn't have to be all gore and zombies; in fact, that's just NOT Disney. But they could use the Haunted Mansion to do a more macabre, tongue in cheek type of scary throughout the park.  I even have the back-story: Halloween could be the ONE TIME where the happy haunts are allowed to escape the confines of the mansion and run amock in the park.  I would LOVE to see the whole park themed out more like the mansion.  Leave Jack out of the mansion till Nov.  He's got a whole holiday to run anyways.

  • figured the reason Disney land does not do a real halloween horror show like the one coming to Toyko Disney is due to  the size space the Imagineers have to work with it not big enough without winding up compromising safety of the guests. though that idea could always show up at Disney world

  • Who are these "theme park purists" that are complaining loudly. Jim, you should cite your sources or provide links. You did cite one person in your article, but he/her gave an entirely different reason. I see no problem with Disney in deciding to have an actual "horror" Halloween, but I don't see how it will fit with what Disney is currently doing with its Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Certainly, one theme park can be a kids version and the other theme park can be horror for the teens and adults, but both can't be at Disneyland. And I don't expect the horror version to be much of an success with Universal and Knott's in competition. On the other hand, how about a more milder version of Halloween for myself who doesn't like intense adult Halloween events. Turn Disneyland into two events, kids and seniors (literally).

  • Lets not forget the possibility of walk through haunts at DCA. That's not possible at present of course but it's very possible in the near future. As far as Fantasyland theater, that's an interesting location to consider. At least there I would have the option of taking my child to Disneyland and if I have a teen that wants the horror stuff, they could go there. However as far as Fantasyland theater goes I won't be surprised to find fantasy forest etc. going in there.

    As for Carnation Plaza, I don't get why guests would be complaining about the princesses going in there. It's basically been dead space for awhile now and needs something new...unless you're a die hard Osmond Brother's fan and you want to bemoan the loss of the spot where they made their television debut.

  • You have to suspect that Disney looks at all the money the other California and Florida theme parks (as well as parks in other places) make off of the scarier and gorier events and wishes they could do it, too. But never mind the "Disney diehards" - all it'd take is a few casual park guests taking their kids to "Mickey's Pretty Damn Scary Halloween Party"  and getting the bejeebers scared out of them, or being refused admission to same because they're too young, and the regular media would be up in arms about how Disney could have such an event, how Walt wouldn't approve, etc.  Disney wouldn't risk its reputation for the money they'd make on an HHN-style event at a US Magic Kingdom.

    That said, I've always wondered why they've never had a more adult-themed event at the other parks - something not for kids, but not as gory, or a straight-up costume party on steroids at DCA or DHS.  It might be a niche that'd appeal to adults who want a fun Halloween event, but don't want the blood and guts at HHN.  I'd go.

  • I wouldn't mind seeing an adult event happing over at California Adventure.  They've moved the family friendly party over to Disneyland, good move.  But why not do a scary party over at DCA?  And at Disney World, it would make sense to do the same kind of party at the Studios.  It's not the scary part that intrigues me, but the way Disney can theme a party and I would like to see what they can do.

  • On further thought from looking at the photos, the hotel is very much like Tower of Terror. The walking tour of Haunted Mansion is rather redundant considering how the actual ride turned out and now it has a Halloween overlay. So the point of Hong Kong's "horror-themed overlay" is much about making up for the lack of attractions in the park. Their own version of "Mystic Manor" will not open until 2013. Hong Kong won't get a Tower of Terror yet. So what's the big deal? Maybe nothing at all.

    Disneyland could benefit from having a few scary (as opposed to horror) mazes if it chooses to do them for a plussed up Halloween event. How about one in Big Thunder Ranch with a haunted western theme? How about a space themed scary maze in Innoventions? Other sections in the park like Main Street can benefit from more scary decor and walking scary characters. There's a large untapped market for more gentle Halloween entertainment. Disney should try to cater to this market.

  • I agree 110% with Dave.

    Plus, the kid friendly Halloween plays to Disney's strengths just as the horror themed event plays to Universal's strengths. Disney's bread and butter is kids and families. They tried to cater to an older audience with DCA and look how that turned out. Disney is smart enough to know where their strengths lie and to OWN that market.

  • I wrote my master's thesis in anthropology about HDL and specifically referenced their Halloween event. HDL attempted a MNSSHP style event when the park first opened, it was a flop. People in Hong Kong want to be scared. Halloween in Hong Kong is less about the date itself and more about a particular feeling or aura. Disney management felt Ocean Park down the street had monopolized the "horror" market and was going to go for the families & children's market. It just didn't work. Hong Kong doesn't have the "trick-or-treat" culture like in the United States. When HDL did go with a more horror-filled event, the guests said it was too scary. Eventually HDL management attempted a more balanced approach. I attended every Halloween party they had at HDL last year and it was certainly a more mature crowd, but children could also be seen as well.

    As a side note, HDL's Halloween event does not require a separate ticket. Guests may purchase a full day ticket and enjoy the park's full hours, or purchase a separate special price ticket allowing them entry after the official start of the event.

  • They should have a Horror Nights-type thing at DCA.

    A similar article can be found here:


  • @Craig, the kid in the Sorcerers concept art is holding a paper card. The new experience will utilize similar technology as the enchanted artwork on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

    @Gimbo, you don't have to look hard to find people who seem to only complain no matter what TWDC does. It's less about any actual problem and more about those folks needing to be the center of attention. Often, the complaints contradict prior complaints by the same people, or completely ignore the history of how Walt himself operated the park. Go to Twitter and search #D23Expo and you'll find plenty of silly complaints. If you want other examples, go to pretty much any unofficial Disney message board.

  • Let the other parks do to  the temporary "horror" attractions.  

    There's already enough of them cashing in on that  lower end  side of the Halloween market.

    Most Disney fans are a step above that cheap type of entertainment.

  • No, I think Disneyland does need to be a bit "scarier" depending on what part of the park you're at. Yes, it should be cute with pumpkins and stuff like that. But as long as it's not blood, guts, murder, and other things the other parks do, I don't see the problem with having a bunch of skeletons, ghouls, or zombies going about and scaring people.

    As for the rest, I'm totally stoked Disneyland is going to be getting some enhancement. I'm soo tired of hearing DisneyWorld is getting this and DisneyWorld is getting that. I think it's time Disney showed some more respect towards the park that made it all happen in the first place. So here's hoping for a bigger better FantasyLand, Tron ride, and Haunted Mansion update.

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