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Could a seasonal Tim Burton celebration soon be coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park?

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Could a seasonal Tim Burton celebration soon be coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park?

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Troy P. writes in to ask:

Hi Jim! Love your website.

I was in Minneapolis this weekend and I attended the annual nighttime Halloween festival at ValleyFair, a local theme park here in the Twin Cities. "ValleyScare" was a fun event with creepy theming, chilling music, tons of fog machines, and about 8-10 walk-thru haunted houses.  Combine that with ValleyFair's great collection of thrill rides, and it made for a great night.

Copyright 2012 CFEC. Cedar Fair Parks. All rights reserved

But the whole time, I couldn't help but think about a missed opportunity at Walt Disney World.  I kept daydreaming about what it would look like if the Imagineers and Entertainment Department were given free reign over Hollywood Studios and allowed to "spook it up" for all of us adult fans.

So why for hasn't Disney thrown its hat into the ring?  Sure they've got the market cornered with Mickey's Not-So-Scary.  And good for them.  Totally appropriate.  But there's a whole other crowd out there, a whole other market that they aren't tapping into at all.  From the looks of it, Universal seems to be making a mint off of their Halloween Horror Nights, so I'm really surprised that Disney hasn't been more aggressive in trying to get their share of that cash flow.

Any reason why this hasn't happened? Any thing you know about it?  Has the idea ever been seriously considered?  

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I've always heard those rumors about "Tragic Kingdom" / Villains Parks for the 5th theme park one day.  Not sure if that's even a possibility but, if so, then doing a nighttime event at DHS could be the perfect way to test the waters for that, right?


Troy --

Photo by Jim Hill

Thanks for your kind note. As the folks at Disney World looking down I-4 and then envying the amount of money that Universal Orlando hauls in with its after-hours Halloween Horror Nights event ... Yep, you're right. Over the 20 years, the Mouse has periodically explored the idea of putting together a second hard ticket event for the month of October. Something would be a bit darker and scarier than Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. With the idea that this event would be held during the latter part of October at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

"Why only during the latter part of October and not in both September & October, like with Universal's Halloween Horror Nights?," you ask. To be blunt, it's because -- during September and the first part of October -- Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party typically doesn't sell out. And since there are still tickets available for this seasonal after-hours event at the Magic Kingdom ... Well, why waste money to create a Halloween-themed event that would then be in direct competition with Mickey's Not-So-Scary?

No, the period of time that WDW's Entertainment staff and event planners are most interested in are those last two weeks of October. Which is when Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party begins to consistently sell out. Which means that there's then pent-up demand on property. Guests who are more than eager (more importantly, would be willing to pay top dollar) to take part in another Halloween-themed after-hours event at the Resort. Which -- ideally -- would be held at the Studios.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Of course, what further complicates this whole matter is that -- beginning in the month of August and continuing right through much of November -- a good-sized chunk of Disney's Hollywood Studios is off-limits to Entertainment & event planners due to all the wiring work involved with transforming that theme park's Streets of America section for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

And since that seasonal attraction has a huge impact on DHS's attendance levels during the holiday season (There are a lot of Orlando-area  locals who have now made a trip to the studio theme park part of their family's holiday traditions. Just so they can then welcome Christmas by walking through that part of the DHS Backlot and just being dazzled by those thousands of dancing holiday lights overhead) ... Well, there's just no way that Walt Disney World officials are ever going to allow a 10 day / two week-long Halloween-themed event at Hollywood Studios to possibly compromise the set-up and/or operation of Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Which -- this year -- is running from November 9th through January 6, 2013, nearly 8 1/2 weeks.

And then when you factor in that the back half of Disney's Hollywood Studios is reportedly about to become a construction site. What with all of those persistent rumors that this theme park's Pixar Place section will soon be doubling in size with the construction of that long-delayed Monsters, Inc. -themed coaster as well as a WDW version of DCA's super-popular Radiator Springs Racers attraction.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Taking into account that one-two punch (i.e. Disney doesn't want anything going on at DHS that would possibly compromise the annual set-up of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights AND the northwestern-most corner of this theme park is going to be wall-to-wall construction  walls) ... I just don't see WDW doing anything about getting a second Halloween-themed, after-hours hard ticket event going until after construction is complete on all these additions to the studio theme park. Which I hear will take 'til late 2015 / early 2016.

That said, I did (just this week) hear from someone fairly senior on the Entertainment side of things at Walt Disney World. And what with this past weekend's release of Tim Burton's new stop motion movie, "Frankenweenie" ... Well, there's supposedly this proposal making the rounds at the Walt Disney World Resort. One which calls for Disney's Hollywood Studios becoming the home of a Tim Burton Celebration during the latter part of October.

This celebration would supposed to be modeled after that theme park's highly successful Star Wars Weekends. With screenings of Burton's Disney-owned shorts (i.e. 1982's "Vincent" and 1984's "Frankenweenie") and feature films (i.e. 1994's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," 2010's "Alice in Wonderland" and 2012's "Frankenweenie") in the Sounds Dangerous Theater, displays of props and costumes from Burton's films in that in-park display space that's soon-to-be-home to the "Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow" exhibit. Not to mention a daily Burton-themed park as well as appearances by various actors who've appeared in Tim's movies. Who then make themselves available to Guests for photos & autographs.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I know, I know. This sounds like kind of a weird idea. But given all of those people who -- late last month -- stood in three hour-long lines just so that they could then get their pictures taken with the face character versions of Jack Skellington & Sally at Downtown Disney's "Frankenweenie Weekend" (not to mention how the plush version of Sparky has been flying off of store shelves in both Anaheim and Orlando) ... There seems to be a sincere belief among some WDW managers that a Tim Burton-themed event like this (whether it's held during the day and open to all DHS Guests like Star Wars Weekends OR done after-hours as a hard ticket like Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party) would finally address that persistent Guest comment (i.e. "Why doesn't Disney do something dark & weird like Universal does for Halloween?").

Mind you, there is one wee little stumbling block to this idea becoming a reality. And that's Tim Burton himself. Disney have to approach this acclaimed filmmaker directly and then ask for his blessing. Not to mention getting Tim's permission to use his name on all of the promotional materials that they'd then have to create in order to hype this proposed celebration.

And just in case you're wondering ... This Tim Burton Celebration proposal that's allegedly making the rounds  does reportedly take into account that the back half of Disney's Hollywood Studios is basically off-limits (at least while the Monsters,Inc. coaster and Radiator Springs Racers is being built). Which is why all of the exhibits and entertainment venues are supposedly being proposed for the front part of DHS, from Echo Lake all the way back to Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Copyright Disney / Lucasfilm LTD & TM

So what do you folks think? If the Walt Disney World Resort were to present a Star War Weekend-like event during the latter part of October that then celebrated the various films & shorts which Tim Burton has directed / produced for Walt Disney Studios, would you then scheduled a special trip to Orlando just to take part in this sort of seasonal event?

Your thoughts?

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  • I probalby wouldn't make a trip to Florida for something like this, Jim, but then I'm not a big Tim Burton fan; I'll bet that plenty of folks who are fans probably would, though. Intersting idea - hopefully, they can pull it off.

    As far as Halloween parties, if Disney ever decides to do it, I'd hope they'd create an event that would find a middle ground between the kid-friendly Mickey's Not-So-Scary and the scare the livin' crud out of you events at Uni and Busch Gardens. I mean, think about it - Halloween's become an excuse for adults to dress up in costume and have a party, so why not offer an event that offers adults - and only adults - the opportunity to do just that? No "scaracters", no mazes - just dress up, have some booze, and offer some Pleasure-Island style entertainment (dancing, improv comedy, etc). I can't be the only person out there that wants to get in costume and not get the bejeebers scared out of me.

  • I'm all for this if they do it...however, it's a rotten (get it?) shame Corpse Bride couldn't be part of it since, to me, it's the superior film.  

    Would it be a separate "Why For" as to why that film was not done under Disney?

  • I would be first in line if this ever happened!

  • I would love to see this become a reality. Frankenweenie truly is a great little film, and I would hope it lives well-beyond the mediocre box office like Nightmare. Good to see that Merch is moving at least. I'd love to see them give trick or treat a greenlight eventually to complete the trifecta, and things like this can only help that.

  • I like the Weekend idea as that line for Jack and Sally was insane...worth it, but insane!

    The bigger thing of note in that article is since when did Monsters Inc/Radiator Springs get green lit again?  The last word I heard from a decent source was that no major WDW additions, save for rest of anything New Fantasyland,  was to happen until after Avatarland opens.

  • I seriously doubt that Carsland is coming to Orlando, and certainly not Disney Hollywood Studios.  They spent over $600 million for Carsland for DCA because the park was an abject failure.  Disney Hollywood Studios still has healthy attendance, don't understand why they spend three years ripping up this park for little gain as this park doesn't have room for expansion.  Fans that aren't aware of logistical issues, such as wetlands, just think automatically that they'd put Carsland in Orlando.

  • Anonymouse,

    I think Jim was saying that they'll be just adding the Radiator Springs Racers ride to the already existing Pixar Place, not adding the entirety of Carsland. Am I right Jim?

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! So far, Steve, you're the only one who seemed to pick up that. The way I've been hearing it, Pixar Place isn't going to get all of Cars Land. Which is understandable. Given that this "land" at Disney's Hollywood Studios is meant to pay tribute to numerous Pixar films (i.e. Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., A Bug's Life, Ratatouille and Cars). Then when you factor in DHS's on-going design conceit (i.e. that most of its rides, shows and attractions are housed in soundstages that have thematic props & set pieces on their exteriors), that full-sized recreation of Radiator Springs that DCA got was never meant to go to Florida.

    Please keep in mind though that these plans remain in flux. And as any Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Tinker Bell fan will tell you, just because a proposed attraction appears in the concept art (remember that first iteration of WDW's Fantasyland expansion) doesn't necessarily mean that it then actually get built. As my ex-wife, Michelle Valladolid (who now has her own new entertainment news blog, pinkmonorail.com. Go check it out) nothing's concrete until they start pouring the concrete. And if you know your Disneyland history and how construction of Rogue's Gallery (i.e. that walk-through attraction that had been proposed for New Orleans Square that was supposed to use wax figures with limited movement to celebrate the great pirates of history) was halted for three years, leaving just a empty cellar hole filled with steel beams & cement before Walt then came back from the 1964 New York Worlds Fair with a whole new take on this proposed attraction (i.e. the float-thru ride that we all know and love today, Pirates of the Caribbean), even after they pour the concrete nothing's concrete.

    Anyway ... Getting back to what from Cars Land is supposedly coming to Florida: I hear that Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, Flo's V8 Cafe and Radiator Springs Racers have definitely made the cut plus some yet-to-be-officially named or themed "Cars" -related retail area. But beyond that, everything else remains in flux as the Imagineers try & decide just how big Pixar Place should wind up being. How deeply this new "land" should extend back into the now-rarely-if-ever-used-for-actual-film-and-TV-production portions of that theme park.

  • I just wish they would suck up to Burton enough to finally get his blessing for a WDW version of the Haunted Mansion/Nightmare Before Christmas overlay.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: It's not Burton's blessing that's preventing the "Haunted Mansion Holiday" seasonal overlay from coming to WDW's Magic Kingdom. Every time I talk with friends who work in Ops at that theme park, the explanation that they give me is that it's just simply logistics.

    To explain: In order for the standard version of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion to be changed into Haunted Mansion Holiday, that New Orleans Square attraction has to close for roughly two and a half weeks in early September and then close again in early January for a week to 10 days for the removal & storage of these same seasonal decorations.

    Which is all well and good in Anaheim. Where roughly 70% of the patrons visiting that theme park come from within a 100 miles of Disneyland. More to the point, given that the typical Southern Californian Disneyland fan visits that theme park twice a year, it's really no big deal if the Haunted Mansion is closed as they install this seasonal overlay. These folks will just catch this ride the next time that they drive on over to Anaheim for the day to experience this theme park.

    Now contrast that with your typical Walt Disney World visitors. Who only vacations at that resort once every 3 1/2 to 5 years. They've spent big bucks to fly on down to Orlando, not to mention whatever it costs to book a hotel room for their length of stay plus theme park admission.

    So when you factor in how often people actually vacation at Walt Disney World plus the expenses involved ... This is a far larger commitment both (financially as well as time-wise) than your typical Southern Californian's trip to Disneyland. So these people -- when they arrive at the Magic Kingdom -- they want all of that theme park's signature attractions up and running. And to have the Haunted Mansion shut down even for just four weeks (i.e. the combined time it takes to load in and then take out all of the seasonal decorations for Haunted Mansion Holiday) would result in long lines of angry tourists at the Magic Kingdom's Guest Relations Office.

    Which -- I know -- sounds silly and extreme. But just ask any WDW Guest Relations staffer about all of the complaints that they got at that theme park when this popular Liberty Square attraction was shut down for months in 2007 for the installation of 3D audio in the Stretching Room as well as the Escher-inspired staircase sequence. Or -- for that matter -- when daily operations of the Mansion was periodically disrupted while that ride's new interactive queue was added in 2011.

    This (to be blunt) is why Haunted Mansion Holiday has become a regular seasonal feature at Disneyland Park in Anaheim & Tokyo Disneyland but not at WDW's Magic Kingdom. The first two are basically regional theme parks that get most of their patronage from locals, whereas Walt Disney World is a destination resort. And given that people save for years and then have very high expectations when they fly on down to Orlando ... Well, that's WDW approaches things like seasonal overlays for theme park attractions differently than the folks at Disneyland do.

  • I would love for a Tim Burton weekend to happen. As a fan of his work, it would be great to take part in such a exclusive event.

  • I also doubt Cars Land is coming to WDW.  First, for the same reasons Anonymouse mentioned.  And second, WDW already has Test Track, which is currently in the middle of a complete thematic overhaul.  I doubt they're going to have two E-ticket attractions at neighboring parks that use the same ride technology, especially when they spent a lot of time and money refurbishing the current one.  It's the same reason WDW will never get the Matterhorn (because of thematic similarities to Expedition Everest) or the Indiana Jones Adventure (because it is the same ride technology and even the exact same track layout as Dinosaur).

  • It's simple... With how popular the Tim Burtan brand is at wdw, why doesn't wdw transform the Haunted Mansion into Holiday Mansion like Disneyland does? Problem would be solved. People in the area would LOVE to see this come to wdw because if they are will to stand in a 3 hour plus line to meet Jack Skellington and Sally, then imagine how long they would wait for a ride with these characters in it. Its been done already with that exterior in tokyo's version, so just copy and paste. Its really just that easy. I can figure it out for the life of me why doesn't wdw do seasonal rides like its west coast counter part. This is a HUGE opportunity missed.

  • Dustin, look a few posts back: Jim Hill explains in an Editor's Note why the Haunted Mansion Holiday won't come to WDW.  Also, I would like to edit my last post by replacing Cars Land with Radiator Springs Racers, specifically.

  • From things I have heard from friends that work in the offices at Disney. Cars Land coming to DHS is a very realTpossibilty. To make this happen the plan is that both catastrophe canyon which is in serious need of refurbishment anyways and Lights, Motor, Action which has dropped in attendance and number of shows performed will be removed. There is also talk of making a more Star Wars themed land around the Star Tours ride with a Cantina and an inside version of the Jedi Training Academy.

  • I know Jim explained it, but I'm sorry, that seems to be wdw excuse for A LOT of things.

  • Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't mind a copy of Radiator Springs Racers at DHS.  However, I would rather they fix existing attractions first.  For instance, finally bringing Space Mountain up to par with DL's (including getting rid of those half-hearted off-board speakers and installing proper onboard audio) and fixing the Yeti on Expedition Everest.  Of course, if these things ever occur, they likely won't happen until after both the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train AND Avatar Land open.  Maybe not even until WDW's 50th anniversary in 2021.  WDW management is of the philosophy to open new attractions first so that guests will have more to do while old attractions go under the knife.  Understandable, since each park at WDW has fewer attractions than those at DL, though I wish it were otherwise.

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