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Walt Disney reminded us that “it all began with a mouse.” That’s certainly true of the company as a whole. When it comes to Halloween, though, it all began with the Disneyland Cast Members, before it spread across the country and then world-wide in the Disney empire. And in some ways, the center of balance is now moving to the visitors themselves.

Disney was late to the Halloween game. For decades, the local (and perhaps national) champ was Knott’s Berry Farm, where the Halloween Haunt was a tradition among teenagers looking to be startled in the mazes, and perhaps take in the “hanging,” where pop culture (and Disneyland) would be mercilessly ribbed. Eventually in the 80s and 90s, Disney started to dip a toe in the water. The first explorations came with Little Monsters on Main Street, which was a cast member-only affair, featuring trick or treating along the stores of Main Street USA. It was cute, dainty, and right-sized, since not that many thousands of kids joined in.

Read what you’re missing...

Fort Wilderness campsites get decorated by the guests themselves.

Things hit a higher gear in 1995, when the first-ever Disneyland private party for Halloween occurred. Mickey’s Halloween Treat was held on several nights in October, meeting with some limited success. A year later, in 1996, Walt Disney World wanted in on the action. 1996 saw the first-ever Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (so named to make it obvious that this park would not be the gorefest of Halloween Horror Nights up the road at Universal Studios Florida, and thus aimed at little kids).

Many of the decorations at Fort Wilderness are Disney-themed.

That first year, the party was offered only on October 31. It featured a special stage show, a themed parade, hay rides, and pumpkin carving. The cost was a mere $17.95, or $25 in 2010 dollars if you bought in advance. By contrast, today’s advance tickets cost $57-72 per adult, depending on which weekend you choose to visit).

Certainly Disney has amped up the party (there is now more candy given out, and the HalloWishes fireworks are always a crowd favorite). But they’ve also taken away over the years. As recently as five years ago, every party got a free 5x7 photo of themselves at a themed backdrop, with a Disney character, handed to you after a short wait. Now you have to buy a regular PhotoPass picture. And the event is extremely crowded. The price hike thus seems a bit extreme.

Some of these decorations would be right at home in the Haunted Mansion.

In the meantime, another tradition has quietly been building elsewhere on property. At Fort Wilderness, the campers (some of whom live here year-round, I just learned—how is that legal?) decorate their campsites, carve pumpkins, and even take part in a parade of dressed-up golf carts. You may have heard that they go all-out for Christmas. That’s true, but they do it for Halloween, too.

This year, the campsite judging was on the 30th and the parade of golf carts was on the 31st. I couldn’t make it for the parade, but I did wander the campsites to see the decorations on the 30th. Some of these folks go all out!

The Disney tent has “dropped” on the – you guessed it – Wicked Witch of the East.

Their efforts are laudable precisely because they are amateurs. Disney’s holiday celebrations are professional-level, and thus higher than an amateur could do. Look at the Osborne Lights at DHS, which wow visitors year after year. Of course, having said that, one must acknowledge that this same display began as, yes, an amateur display by Jennings Osborne. So while it may look like Disney is no slouch in the holiday decorations department, the truth is, the amateurs can be pretty darn good too.

Probably the only time you’ll get to see Minnie take a bubble bath.

Speaking of which, consider this other amateur in Riverside, CA. This house has been dressed up for the season for a few years, and the 2011 version is now online:

Maybe Disney is a slouch, after all? In some ways, that puts the Osborne Lights to shame. This is presumably just one family (maybe even just one guy), and he can do all of that? I wish Disney would apply that kind of fervor to their displays, too (Halloween as well as Christmas).

Roar 'n Soar at Fantasy of Flight

I've got a four-pack of tickets to give away for the Nov. 12 "Roar and Soar." According to the press release:

The All-American-themed, family event returns for its fifth year with an even more thrilling, jam-packed roster of events, including hair-rising aerial demonstrations, nail-biting classic car slalom competitions, exhibition fly-bys from sleek vintage race boats, an aerial “dog fight” by powered paragliders, and an exciting sports showcase featuring skilled motocross riders.

Meanwhile, the classic boat show plus regatta, and classic car show provide entertainment for the slightly more faint of heart.

The first family of four (you must be able to bring exactly four people) to e-mail me at the link below will win. The event is most-of-the-day on Saturday November 12, in the Fantasy of Flight location halfway between Orlando and Tampa. Good luck!

Video Slideshow

Here is the slideshow for this week.

(As a reminder, look below the video for a bullet-point list of what’s talked about. For those of you about to watch the video, don’t peek at the bullet points! They would be “spoilers.”)

  • Potted plants now cover the raised platform where the ‘newspaper robot’ stood next to PeopleMover.
  • Flowers around central plaza appear newly planted
  • Swiss Family Treehouse queue being rebuilt with new wood poking over the fence
  • Sunshine Tree Terrace has a themed scrim and ‘working rehab’
  • Sorcerers in the Kingdom displays now spotted also outside Frontierland pin shop and Adventureland “outdoor hallway”
  • Seven Dwarves coaster basement now being dug out
  • Potted trees in Fantasyland behind rehab walls are gone
  • Finally found Mickey pretzels – so far, only at Frontierland cart near Pecos Bill
  • Golden Oak Outpost closed before dusk on Saturday… and its menu has lost the unique flatbreads. Back to just nuggets and fries at this location.
  • Police dog spotted making rounds on the TTC monorail station
  • Fort Wilderness signage not displaying times or prices – looks run down
  • New Disney Dollars have Queen Anne’s Revenge from Pirates on the reverse

Weekly Walt Disney World

All are welcome to join our Facebook group dedicated to meetups every weekend in Walt Disney World. We announce the weekly destination from that Facebook group. If you’re local, or even if you are willing to take a brief break in your upcoming vacation, plan to hook up with us! Newcomers are very welcome! The meet lasts an hour (always starting Sundays at 2pm), but many folks just hang out the rest of the day, so you are welcome to drift in and out as your schedule allows.

This next Sunday, we will be at Epcot for seeing Future World attractions (Food and Wine is open but not on the agenda, as this was visited a few weeks ago, though you could easily hit that up before the meet if you wanted!) The meet starts at 2pm in the unused hallway behind Club Cool. I will be out of town myself, but the group will still meet.

Let’s Discuss!

Click on this link to discuss this article on MiceChat!

Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

© 2011 Kevin Yee

Find Kevin on Social Media

Readers are invited to join Kevin on Facebook, where he offers regular "Where in Walt Disney World" photo quizzes.

On his public Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Google+ account, he also offers regular smaller updates on the parks.

Kevin’s Disney Books

Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:

The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.

History was on my mind as I composed this book. As you might expect, there is a section on additions, another on removals, and a third on events. But I wanted to make sure to include some prices from January 2010 in the book, the better to capture in future years (and future generations?) exactly what it costs to buy admission, parking, a night at each level of hotel, or such food items as a turkey leg. I also wanted to provide a bit more specificity to the unfolding of events, so the various additions and removals, as well as smaller alterations and debuts, are laid out in a timeline broken down month-by-month.

In short, the book is designed to appeal to those folks who are similarly history-minded, as well as those who are hungry to know what changed at Disney World since their last visit. Or perhaps it’s a worthwhile keepsake for anyone who DID visit in 2010—it captures what was new, after all.

Also recently issued...

Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes:

As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted. When a ride closes, sometimes pieces or props from that ride are folded into the replacement attraction (think of the World of Motion car seen in the queue of Test Track). Other times, designers intentionally craft a tribute to the previous ride—an example of that might be the carving of a submarine in the cement tree created for Pooh’s Playful Spot where the 20,000 Leagues subs used to be.

The other kind of homage in the parks concerns not rides, but individuals. The designers, artists, engineers, executives, and people important to Disney’s history often provide the inspiration for names and titles used at the attractions. Sadly, these are almost always unheralded. All of these remnants and tributes are normally left for the truly obsessed to spot piecemeal. They are usually not even discussed in the official Disney books and tours. This book sets out to change that, and catalog all such remnants and tributes in one spot.

The final result is 225 pages of hyper-detailed historical factoids. Broadly speaking this is a “trivia” book, but remember that it’s a particular kind of trivia. You’ve known before that the Walt Disney World theme parks wove a thick tapestry of details and backstory into a seamless (and peerless) experience. But armed with the specifics of homages and tributes, you’ll become aware that the parks are even more alive, and layered with meaning, that you could have ever imagined.

Might this be an ideal present for the Disney fan on your shopping list? If so, please have a look.

Also written by Kevin...

  • Your Day at the Magic Kingdom is a full-color, hardcover interactive children’s book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
  • Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Member provides the first authentic glimpse of what it’s like to work at Disneyland.
  • The Walt Disney World Menu Book lists restaurants, their menus, and prices for entrees, all in one handy pocket-sized guide.
  • Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free for non-speakers of Japanese.
  • Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller story on this place rich with details.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book, namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides and attractions.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Walt Disney World follows the example of the Disneyland book, detailing tributes and homages in the four Disney World parks.

More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.