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9/13/13 - My thoughts and observations from Friday 13th and the Unleash the Villains events at the Disneyland Resort
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Welcome to the disneygeek.com Geek Speaks section. In this section I will post my comments on trips to the parks or other Disney related events.

9/13/13 - My thoughts and observations from Friday 13th and the Unleash the Villains events at the Disneyland Resort

Hello all,

I headed down to the Disneyland Resort to see the kickoff to the Halloween Time Festivities and the Unleash the Villains, Friday the 13th Limited Time Magic. For those of you into numbers.. thought it was interesting that Friday marked my 26th visit/day at the Disneyland Resort this year.. there were a lot of 13s and this being a multiple of 13...

The crowds at the parks were mild in the afternoon, I would say maybe a tick above average for a Friday afternoon, but as the sun set the masses descended on the resort for the evening festivities and Disneyland became very crowded and getting to the parks was a challenge. The wait times were light with most under half an hour except for a couple of the usual suspects like Ghost Galaxy and Splash Mountain. Haunted Mansion Holiday hovered in the 20-40 range most of the afternoon but crept upwards as night fell.


Trip logs and mileage reports are in the Park Miles section.

Thoughts and Observations:

  • First stop of the day for me was Disneyland. Main Street USA had its usual assortment of decorations up for Halloween. Nothing new or different jumped out at me on a first walk through. The entrance character pumpkins and pumpkins along the street all seemed about the same. As did the hub.

  • The Halloween Carnival at the Big Thunder Ranch Jamborees Halloween Roundup has returned and been enlarged. This year it features the Pirates League. This is an interesting addition and seemed to be doing a healthy business. Should be interesting to see how it does over the run. Last year it seemed rather quiet most of the time when I stopped by. The rest of the Carnival looked to be the same. The Haunted Hillbillies, Conjure a Villain, Games, Pumpkin Carving, arts and crafts, food, and Disney Characters have all returned. Moving the Conjure a Villain tent further back and by the gate by the train tracks looked cleaner to me.

  • Haunted Mansion Holiday is celebrating its 13th season this year and also opened on Friday. There is a banner marking the occasion across the front of the mansion. I like the acknowledgement but the banner seems awkward to me and not really fitting the story line. Seems more clever tribute would have been nicer vs the in your face one. Once inside there are two changes this year that jumped out at me. First is the stretching room now features projection effects which are very well done. Wonder if they will be changing the regular show eventually? Here is a video of the effect if you missed it:

  • The second new item that popped out to me is Zero makes appearances in the hall of portraits. This is a little change that brings some more life to the hallway and when you are jammed in there later in the season I am sure it will be fun to watch as you wait. When we visited guests were walking quickly by so not sure most even noticed. We stopped to watch and take some pictures but opted to move on without video before the next elevator rush run into us. Also new this year is the gingerbread house which celebrates the 13th season. On a first look it is big but not overly impressive to me. I need really get some good looks at it to see the details.

  • Over at Disney California Adventure circled around the park to see what was going on and there was a lot of nothing. The park felt really calm on my short time walking around. Some of the lines were short, not as short as last week for example Tower was 20 min instead of a walk on, but others like Soarin and the Flying Tires were still walkons and the Racers were posted under an hour.

  • Speaking of Soarin the pre-flight video, the one that lists the locations you will be flying over now features fly bys with the Planes Cast of Characters. I thought this was an odd little addition. There is no mention of it or even to Planes that I saw. The characters are just there. Seems weird to spend the money and put the characters there but no push to go with it. This change and the billboard out front are small subtle changes.. wonder if it is a test to see the reactions? The start of something? Or just a minimal marketing effort. Should be interesting to see. As for the additions themselves I would have liked to have seen them fly by a little slower. If you blinked you missed it. Here is a video of it:

  • A reminder for you corn dog fans.. I had intended to grab one on Main Street for dinner but the line was 20 people deep so I skipped it and tried the Stage Door Cafe. There was no one there, I walked up, ordered, got my corn dog and was on my way in only a couple minutes. The corn dogs are basically the same, even though I tend to like the ones from the cart on Main Street slightly more. Not sure why but they just seem better, maybe its more batter or something? Or just the environment. Anyways if you want to get a corn dog and the line is long remember the Stage Door Cafe has them. Also there you get fries or fruit instead of chips.

  • The big event Friday was Unleash the Villains at Disneyland Park. This was part of the Limited Time Magic promotion and included special food offerings, merchandise, Party Like a Villain and Unleash the Villains Dance Party. Also DCA had a Special Photo Location by the Tower of Terror as part of the event. I thought theory of the event was great. Have a celebration on Friday the 13th. But I thought the communication of the events and activities was lacking and that they misestimated the crowds and that led to problems. Most of the Limited Time Magic Events have been small in nature and in attendance. I would venture to guess most guests did not even know they were part of a promotion. Seems the folks planning this event went with that mind set and planned a fairly limited set of events. A perfect storms of some word of mouth, the kickoff of the Halloween Time festivities, one of the few Fridays during Halloween Time when the park is open late, DCA closing at 10pm and Disneyland at 1am and regular Friday crowds and the park was jammed with guests. This led near gridlock on the streets surrounding the resort as well as within the park near the events. When I left the park at 10pm the lines to get into Disneyland were stretching to the center of the Esplanade and growing. The parking situation was even worse with some guests reporting up to an hour to get to a spot from the freeway. Disneyland Drive looked like a parking lot again. As I merged onto the I-5 North I could see the southbound carpool exit for Disneyland was backed up all the way to the start of the ramp (and anyone that has driven it knows it is a fairly long ramp). The regular exit looked backed up onto the freeway too.

    • Party Like a Villain - This portion of the event took over Town Square from 8pm to 1am. It featured a dance floor in front of the train station and two character photo locations in the heart of Town Square. There was a queue for the Dance floor set up in front of the train station and using the tunnel on the east side. The queue for the characters wrapped around the flag pole area and then switchbacks in front of the Opera House. The event consisted of a DJ on the dance floor, some Disney dancers around the floor, then a couple Villains at a time at the photo stops. In theory this seems like a good mix. But add in large crowds and it was extremely confusing for most guests and the crowds seemed much more than the event could handle. By 7:30 the area around the dance floor was becoming crowded with guests like myself waiting for the start to see what would happen. Many believed the Villains would be making an appearance or somehow interacting with the dance floor. We thought maybe they would be up on the train station or something for pictures. The DJ came out, the lights came on, and they started to let the dance floor queue onto the floor. It soon became apparent that this was all that was going to happen and guests started to leave the area. I was watching those on the floor and many seemed to walk through, look around, and head out. Guess they thought there would be more. I hung around for the first half hour or so and since nothing different was happening I moved on. The Meet and Greets had solid lines and a mass of guests trying to figure out what was going on. There was no real signage or explanations so it was all word of mouth with other guests and cast members to find the queues or what was happening. I really thought Disney could have done a better job of informing guests what was happening. The front line CMs trying to keep the walkways clear and guests in the queue they wanted were working hard but many times it seemed a loosing battle. I could not find a clear sight line to the photo ops and was not going to wait in the line so I did not get any pictures of the Villains.

    • The second event was called Unleash the Villains Dance Party and this took place in a unique location.. the New Orleans Train Station. They had a dance floor set up on the train tracks. Two Disneyland trains flanked the floor. One side the engine and the other the Lilly Belle from another train. The setting was great on paper and probably in some photos. But it was not sized correctly to handle the guests and add in the fact that the Haunted Mansion Holiday opened today and had new effects and that queue was in the area and two Fantasmic shows going on and it was very congested in the area. I left as it was just getting underway so I did not get to experience it. I had a pre-dawn wake up call and a long drive home so I left the parks by 10pm. If anyone has pictures from this party and thoughts to share and would like to do a guest post please drop me an email (disneygeek@disneygeek.com). I thought it was frustrating you really could not see or get to the dance floor except for the queue for it and the location was rather small for the crowd that had gathered.

    • I did not make it over to DCA to see the ghostly Bellhop photo op. Did anyone go to that? Your thoughts?

    • There were some special food offerings and merchandise to mark the event. The T-Shirt line was incredible. Disney fans never cease to amaze me with how long they will wait in line to buy things. (I know I am one of them from time to time too, but I seem to have less and less patience in recent years and usually skip the merchandise). The line in New Orleans Square was incredible.. stretching from the Royal Courtyard, out of New Orleans Square, over the Pirates Bridge, past the tree house and to the Indiana Jones queue when I saw it. The line was moving incredibly slow too. Over at DCA the line for the same shirt was substantially smaller and there were more cash registers too at the Tower of Terror gift shop. What many guests did not seem to know is you could purchase the same shirt online at the Disneystore.com too (and you still can as of 9/15) as well as the WDW shirt. Here are the two links:

    • I felt bad for the average tourist that read that September has mild crowds and they were in the park all day with average crowds and enjoying themselves then come nightfall they were met with holiday like crowds. If you are not aware/used to what happens at Disneyland at nights like this I am venturing to guess it was not a pleasant experience.

  • One last note. The Cell Reception Friday went to nearly zero for me once the sun set. Several times regular texting was not even working or was delayed. So posting video and or pictures was just no happening. This seems like a bad omen of things to come this holiday season. It could be another frustrating cell experience. I talked to several others with various carriers and everyone seemed to be having problems. Hopefully it was just a Friday the 13 problem and reception will get better or at least return to normal.

Interesting Web Finds/Notes:
Below are some interesting links, notes, and rumors I found/stumble across/or have been informed of since the last Geekspeaks column.

Be sure to check out the picture update that goes with this Geekspeak column, it can be found in our Disneyland Resort Pictorial Update section

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