When we were in Walt Disney World last month, we attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for the first time in four years, mostly so we could experience the new Villains’ Sinister Soiree: A Wicked Takeover of Cinderella Castle—because if they were charging $99/person on top of the cost of a party ticket that costs $62–$77/person, it must be starring Michael Jackson returned from the grave and feature brand-new Cadillacs as favors, right?!

Despite not being a huge fan of character meet-n-greets, parades or stale candy, I was really looking forward to attending the party this year. The only other time we’d been, we went with our pals the Roots in our Harrison Hightower and Haunted Mansion Constance costumes, which was fun until my feet started hurting and my costume got all sweaty and itchy. And then it was the WORST. Only the Roots’ infectious enthusiasm for the party kept me from heisting some grandma’s E-Z-Go and scooting straight outta the park.

But this year I would be in my comfiest clothes, footloose and fancy-free to enjoy all that MNSSHP had to offer.

How Not to Do Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Because we were only in town for 72 hours, I crammed way WAY more stuff into the party day than I should have. They say you should spend your MNSSHP day sleeping in, relaxing at the resort and maybe swimming. So, naturally, I had us dashing off to a Be Our Guest Restaurant pre-ordered-lunch test in the morning (more on that in a separate post) and trekking several miles around World Showcase in 95-degree heat sampling Food & Wine Festival treats all afternoon. The resultant showering and recovering meant we didn’t get to MNSSHP til 8pm. (Wait — don’t cringe yet! Save that for dinnertime, when I stand in line for 20 minutes at a place that isn’t serving dinner!)

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Reading people’s scheduled-to-the-minute party plans on the DIS made my eye twitch, so I went the opposite way and made no plans. We thought perhaps we’d breeze onto Seven Dwarfs Mine Train a few times, grab some candy here and there, and maybe take in one of the parades before our 11:25pm reservation for the Villains Sinister Soiree.

But when we walked in and saw everybody lined up for the first parade, I bowed to peer pressure and went in search of the soiree’s reserved viewing area.
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Included with your Villains’ Sinister Soiree ticket is access to a reserved viewing area for the first Boo to You parade and the HalloWishes fireworks. The entrance is on the Tomorrowland side of the Hub, and the area wraps around the front of the hub to the Liberty Square bridge. We showed up a few minutes before the 8:15pm parade and found plenty of open space in the middle, but all the benches and every spot along the rope in front of the castle were taken. For me, this was ameliorated by the ice bucket full of free mini water bottles.

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The only gap in the crowd at the rope was around the corner, facing the bridge from Liberty Square.

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On paper, this is a pretty great spot for shooting pictures of the parade because you can snap the floats head-on as they cross the bridge and from the side as they round the corner. But as you will see, there’s also a huge spotlight shining directly at you when you face the castle that mucks up those profile shots.

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I noticed a few instances of “declining by degrees” since the last time we saw the parade, mostly that Goofy’s helpers don’t chuck candy at you anymore, and the pelvis-thrustin’ cowboys have been replaced by plain old square-dancing ones (perhaps due to pelvic-safety measures instituted by OSHA).

After the parade I made two more rookie MNSSHP mistakes. First, I be’ed hungry. Everyone knows you’re supposed to eat dinner before you get to the party so you don’t waste valuable time eating. I thought an afternoon of stuffing ourselves with samples from the marketplace booths at the Food & Wine Festival would take care of this for us. But apparently my tummy had heard something about there being free stale candy and decided to make room.

By that time I was thinking we should take advantage of our reserved viewing spot for the fireworks, too, so we needed to grab something quick and close. As we struggled through the crowds, my first thought was candy, but the line for the distribution spot near the Liberty Belle snaked all the way down the river and back again. Then I remembered that Sleepy Hollow had savory waffle sandwiches and veered back that way. While I became increasingly frazzled waiting in line, Patrick got this serene shot.

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When I finally got to the window and hollered my order of a chicken waffle over the din, the CM mumbled, “We don’t have those. We only have pumpkin. There was a sign,” and flung her hand in the direction of a wall that had been obscured by the line all night. Exasperated, I ordered Patrick a pumpkin waffle and me nothing because I hate pumpkin everything. While I waited another 10 minutes for his order to be made, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in line behind me tried to order a chicken waffle and was similarly disappointed.

I don’t understand why there aren’t more meal options and/or more counter-service places open during MNSSHP. The lines for food were worse than on any normal day at the park, and we were paying extra for the privilege! One of the selling points of MNSSHP is this idea that you’re getting a less-crowded park. To me it felt more mobbed than a busy summer day. Patrick says it’s just that everyone at the party is doing the same thing at the same time (parade, dinner, fireworks, ride Seven Dwarfs, parade, etc.) so it feels more crowded than a regular day.

Patrick volunteered to wait in line at Casey’s Corner for a hot dog while I held down our spot in the Villains’ Soiree reserved area for fireworks. The viewing area is great for seeing the castle projections during HalloWishes and the castle-projection show they do right before it, but a lot of the fireworks are blocked by the castle when you’re that close to it.

What we should have been doing during HalloWishes was riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Or any ride, really. That was Mistake No. 2. As soon as the last ember fell, the crowd in the Hub swarmed SDMT, and by the time we reached it, the wait was up to 40 minutes. Instead we decided to look for the elusive candy spot supposedly located near Gaston’s Tavern. I did not realize that the souvenir party maps they give you are not to scale or for actual wayfinding purposes. After stumbling around in endless circles in the muggy night air, feet sore from a day of hoofin’ it around World Showcase lagoon, I finally gave up and collapsed here:

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On the MNSSHP map, this gate is in Frontierland!

Patrick soldiered on and eventually discovered the candy spot *inside* Pinocchio Village House. We limped back together, only to find they were distributing nothing but Werthers’ apple candies—yecch! I was starting to take this lack of Lurkyloo-edible food personally! In desperation, I all but grabbed one of the CMs by the lapels and begged for directions to a spot serving real candy (i.e., chocolate).

Off we went to Storybook Circus!

As in years past, the one surefire place to get candy without ridiculous lines is the treat trail that runs from Storybook Circus to Tomorrowland. We made a killing! I finally got my chocolate and for one brief, shining moment enjoyed MNSSHP.

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And then…

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We never ride Space Mountain in Florida because it’s so punishingly jerky and bumpy. But there it was, with no line and me all hopped up on candy… it sounded like such a good idea…

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BAD IDEA! How does anyone survive that thing in one piece? Sure, Disneyland’s Space Mountain whips you around the corners, but it’s all so smooth. This one is like being dragged over a cobblestone path in a gunny sack at 28 mph. I’m pretty sure I lost some teeth, and possibly my spleen. As Internet is my witness, I WILL NEVER RIDE THAT SPACE MOUNTAIN AGAIN!

At that point it started to rain, so we don’t have many photos of the rest of our time before the soiree. We got to Haunted Mansion just as the heavens unleashed a downpour and everyone who’d been waiting to view the now-canceled 10:30 parade swarmed the ride. It was one of the longest waits we’ve ever had for the Mansion—in a monsoon in the new outdoor queue, no less—but it’s Halloween… you gotta ride that one!

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Our next refuge from the storm was Small World. Then, after making it onto a total of 3 rides in 3 1/2 hours, it was time for us to check in for the Villains’ Sinister Soiree.

Villains’ Sinister Soiree: A Wicked Takeover of Cinderella Castle

The idea here is that some of the Disney villains have taken over Cinderella Castle and—instead of holing up for a night of debauchery or world-ending spell-casting—opened a small business in a sector with a 70% failure rate: the restaurant industry. For their $99, guests get appetizers and desserts, mingling with characters downstairs, a couple of songs and some crowd interaction by Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother, and tableside visits with a few more characters. Basically it’s a character meal with half as much food for twice the price.

There are two seatings for the Sinister Soiree. I’d heard that the first one felt rushed, and I liked the idea that the second one kept you inside the park after closing time, so that’s the one I picked. Our reservation was for 11:25pm, but we found out that the second seating doesn’t start til 11:45, so we arrived about 10 minutes beforehand.

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It was like a refugee camp inside, with everyone crammed in to escape the rain. Children up way past their bedtimes lay draped across laps, benches and even the floor, while able-bodied young men filled seats as their elders stood.
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Eventually a few of the villain characters came out and forded the sea of humanity for some photo ops.

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Um, Queen of Hearts…? (tap, tap)

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“Off with their heads!”

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“I’ll get you for this, Pan, if it’s the last thing I do!”

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“Uh, dance for me, foxy Esmeralda? …Aw, who’m I kidding? I don’t have a catchphrase! Just these freakishly large yellow hands…”

Time to go upstairs!

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When you get to the top of the stairs, they take your name and lead you to an assigned table piled high with candy, an antipasto plate and souvenir EVERYTHING: menus, autograph cards, cups, and soon even a drink stirrer and glow cube.

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No room for elbows on this table!

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“Lady Tremaine’s Classic Castle Favorites: Dungeon-aged bleu cheese with honeycomb and Meyer lemon, triple cream cheese with raspberry habanero sauce, black diamond cheese fondue, walnut toasted bread, fresh fig and aged salami sausage”

It was so nice to finally be seated and dry and cool and comfortable for the first time all night that I actually ventured to try some of the stuff on the antipasto plate. And it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected—maybe Trader Joe’s quality?

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Waaaaait a minute… This is NOT a Cadillac!

As everyone was being seated, the servers began bringing out the Captain’s Not-So-Poisoned Potion, a fizzy apple drink with foam on top. Even I could drink it, if that gives you an idea how fruit-like it was.

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More from the Spirit Halloween Superstore Dragon Collection

 

One cool thing they give you is this Poison Apple glow cube. It’s such a clever idea, so well executed. Toward the end of the event you could look around the restaurant and see everyone dunking these in ice water to wash them off and take them home.

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At first I thought we were supposed to take this home because it seemed of a piece with the Halloween superstore souvenirs.

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Pre-printed character autographs

 

 

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The first part of the event is just for eating and accidentally breaking your dragon stirrers in a duel while Horatio the organist plays Disney tunes transposed into a minor key. He’s good!

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Unfortunately, Michael Jackson Returned from the Grave was not our host for the evening. Instead, Lady Tremaine, a.k.a. the Wicked Stepmother, came out to banter with the audience and sing a mashup of “Sing Sweet Nightingale” and “Royals.” Patrick, who loves him some Top 40 radio, thought it was really clever. I appreciated the musicianship and all-around chutzpah it must require to be a face character with a straight face.

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Then Lady Tremaine introduced the evening’s villains and they began making the rounds. There’s The Evil Queen, Maleficent, Dr. Facilier, Cruella de Vil, Captain Hook and of course Lady Tremaine. On the DIS they were saying that at least one of them (Maleficent maybe?) can now only be seen at MNSSHP if you pay for this party, which seems like kind of a dirty trick. But they are villains, after all. Villains just trying to make a go of it with their scrappy little mom ‘n’ pop venture in Cinderella Castle!

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“Turn those tables, girls—we gotta make rent!”

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“OK, who ordered the frog legs?”

 

To alleviate the awkwardness we always feel around characters, we decided just to request glamour shots of each one when they got to our table.

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Proprietress

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Chef de Cuisine

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Cocktail Waitress

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Maitre D’

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Bouncer

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Hat rack

 

I’d done enough research to know that I’d only be able to eat one of the four fruit-sullied desserts they give you, so I wasn’t disappointed.  However, I took a chance and asked if I could have another one of the thing I could eat—a tasty chocolate-covered praline—and they brought me four!

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Patrick declared the four items “no worse than any other Disney dessert.”  A ringing endorsement!

 

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The Queen’s Bleeding-Heart Apple: White wine-poached apple with a cherry center

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Maleficent’s Dragon-toasted Confection: Pistachio mousse topped with meringue

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Dr. Facilier’s Chocolate Tarot Card: Dark chocolate-covered pecan praline and flourless chocolate torte

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Cruella de Vil’s Spotted Chocolate Mousse Cake: 101 layers of white chocolate and dark chocolate mousse with a hint of raspberry

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Here’s Patrick training for a career in evil food service

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Facilier to Evil Queen: “Does she look 21 to you?! We could lose our liquor license over this!!!”

 

After about 45 minutes, Lady Tremaine began shooing us out and the staff all but flashed the lights. We took our time, though, cuz what were they gonna do? Turn us into toads?

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Horatio: “Lessee… how do you play ‘Closing Time’ in a minor key?”

I was surprised to realize how much I had enjoyed the event despite my distaste for characters, soirees, price-gouging, etc. I think a lot of it had to do with this being the first time all night that I was actually comfortable and stress-free. But then that makes me think, hey! I shouldn’t have to pay a hundred bucks extra just to enjoy MNSSHP!

Except for the types of characters present, the Villains’ Sinister Soiree follows the same format as the regular character meals offered at Cinderella’s Royal Table. If it cost the same as those, it would be worth it. Or if it cost $99 but included admission to MNSSHP, it would be worth it. As it is, well, maybe if you’re super-into villains…?

I think Patrick felt we’d gotten our money’s worth as soon as we stepped outside to a nearly empty park!

 The Witching Hour at Magic Kingdom

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Patrick absolutely adores the dioramas in the Emporium’s windows, so we lingered there for a bit.

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Looks like they need to dust Pocahontas’ hair!

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“Who the H is she dancing with now? Cuz that sure as H don’t look like Prince Charming!”

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I was a little worried about how we were going to get back to the Grand Floridian Villas, because the monorail had shut down at midnight. But there was a boat waiting at the dock and we had it all to ourselves!
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Stay tuned for more from our trip, including that pre-ordered-lunch test at Be Our Guest, a Fozzie Bear cake, and a birthday party menu tasting in Epcot’s kitchens!

 

 

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