With witching season right around the corner, Southern California theme parks are rolling out their separate-ticket seasonal Halloween haunts.
Since Knott’s Berry Farm launched its Knott’s Scary Farm event in 1973 — making it the first, largest and longest-running Halloween event at a U.S. theme park — other regional theme parks have begun cashing in with mostly positive results.
Among the events are Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Brick-or-Treat at Legoland California and Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld San Diego.
The Disneyland Resort entered the Halloween party stakes in 2006 with a “not-too-scary” Mickey’s Halloween Party event that included toddler-friendly shows, trick-or-treat stations and special merchandise and food. It started at Disney California Adventure park, then moved to Disneyland park in 2010 before taking a break this year to introduce a new themed event that’s so successful it has already sold out for the season.
The new Oogie Boogie Bash, which premiered Sept. 17 and continues on select nights through Halloween, takes place at Disney California Adventure. The Disney villain-themed event was designed to take a bigger bite out of the theme park haunt market by aiming for a slightly broader age demographic than the old event.
No, the Oogie Boogie Bash doesn’t have scary adult-themed walk-through monster mazes like those at Knott’s, Magic Mountain and Universal Studios, but the new programming is just eerie, eye-popping and mysterious enough that it expands its appeal to pre-teens and young-at-heart adults.
Named for the boisterous bag-of-bugs villain in Disney’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the Oogie Boogie Bash includes a freshened-up Halloween parade, an all-new World of Color show on the Pixar Pier lake, walk-through attractions, a dance party for all ages, character encounters and enough trick-or-treat stations to fill a full-size backpack with candy, if that’s what you really want to do.
Tickets are $110, which may sound steep until you recognize the great secret of special-ticket events. It’s virtually the same price as a daytime admission ticket but it comes with all-you-want free trick-or-treat candy. And ticket sales are strictly limited, so wait lines for rides range from nonexistent to 10 or 15 minutes. Ticket-holders can also enter the park three hours early, so that’s nine hours in the park, which is plenty of time to ride every ride and see every show with plenty of time left over for trick-or-treating.
Disney parks don’t allow adults to dress in costume during regular daytime hours, but they’re OK at the Oogie Boogie Bash. During opening week of the event, many of the costumed party-goers were adults in elaborate homemade costumes of Disney characters from “Toy Story,” “Inside Out,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Nightmare Before Christmas” and many more.
After dark, much of the magic of the Oogie Boogie Bash is in the computerized video projection technology that has transformed the nightly fireworks show next door on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. The Carthay Circle building, near the entrance to Disney California Adventure, is an oversize canvas for a mesmerizing and fast-changing mix of projection designs of snaking vines, flying bats and other spooky creatures.
But the best use of projections is in Villains Grove, a magical walk-through light, smoke, sound and special effects attraction that wondrously transforms the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.
Another popular attraction is the DescenDANCE, a new dance party inspired by the “Descendants” movies, on the Hollywood Land backlot stage. An energetic pop band and singer/dancer crew kept a large audience, from toddlers to adults, dancing and playing along to song callbacks throughout the night.
There are also character encounters around every corner, but they’re more eerie than lighthearted. Actors playing voodoo shadow man Dr. Facilier, The Mad Hatter from Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and the evil queen from “Snow White” come off as aloof, strange and imperious, but they seemed more fascinating to small children than scary.
One of the best shows is “Villainous,” an all-original “World of Color” show featuring a new character, a pre-teen girl named Shelley Marie, drawn by Disney animator Eric Goldberg, who is considering which Disney villain she’d like to dress as for Halloween. The new show features new lighting, laser and dramatic fire effects as well as an all-new score.
The Frightfully Fun Parade has transferred over from Disneyland, where it was presented last fall, with a few new floats. And there’s a new stage show for young children, “Mikey’s Trick and Treat” at the Disney Theater in Hollywood Land.
Guests at these parties will be able to purchase special limited-edition merchandise, clothing and themed food and drink items.