The Disney Parks Blog held its third official Walt Disney World meet-up last night, hosting hundreds of fans in an after-hours special event at the Magic Kingdom dedicated to The Haunted Mansion. When recently announced, the 150 available spots for the meet-up disappeared in less than an hour and those lucky enough to grab a spot were treated to a night filled with special presentations, character greetings, food and drinks, and other entertainment – all on Disney’s dime.
Over the course of three hours, attending guests had a chance to ride the Haunted Mansion, talk with Imagineers, and enjoy a casual evening in Liberty Square and Frontierland free of the usual crowds.
Video: Highlights from the Disney Parks Blog “Trick or Meet-Up”
The meet-up began with all attendees asked to park at Blizzard Beach, where many arrived in costume (as encouraged), waiting for buses to leave shortly after 9pm. With the Magic Kingdom closing at that time, guests attending the meet-up would be the only ones in the park for this special event.
The bus ride took attendees backstage behind the Magic Kingdom, passing by the parade barn where floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade and Boo To You parade were briefly visible, but not illuminated – a sight not often seen by the average Disney guest. Surprisingly, Disney announced no photo restrictions during this backstage drive or the short walk into Frontierland, where the parade route normally steps off. It marked the beginning of a laid back atmosphere that would continue throughout the evening.
With “Trick or Meet-Up” billed as a Haunted Mansion event, it was a surprise that the first stop of the night was inside the Hall of Presidents. On the way in, Walt Disney World photographer Gene Duncan snapped pictures of all who entered.
Inside, Disney Parks Blog social media staff were each dressed in fun Disney-themed costumes, the most original being Gary Buchanan’s larger-than-life turkey leg.
Disney’s Social Media director Leanne Jakubowski briefly introduced the team before bringing out Imagineer Jason Surrell, escorted by Minnie Mouse. Surrell was there to treat meet-up attendees to a short talk about the Haunted Mansion’s history, though he admitted that nothing he said was likely new to the fans in the audience.
But he had plenty of jokes to dish out, as he always does. Watch his full presentation in the video below and be prepared for laughs.
Video: Imagineer Jason Surrell talks Haunted Mansion at the Disney Parks Blog “Trick or Meet-Up”
On the way out of the Hall of Presidents theater, Disney unveiled what would be come an abridged version of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, handing out pre-filled bags of candy with more trick-or-treat stations available throughout the night.
Characters filled the Liberty Square and Frontierland streets, but those wanting a truly unique experience immediately headed over to The Haunted Mansion for limited tours (in groups of 25) of the attraction’s new interactive queue given by Imagineers Eric Goodman and Pete Carsillo.
Watch the full 12-minute tour in the video below.
Video: Show Producer Eric Goodman guides a tour of the Haunted Mansion interactive queue
Neither the talk from Surrell or the tours from Goodman and Carsillo revealed any exceptionally new details regarding the recent Haunted Mansion improvements, but they did hint that more changes were on the way for the attraction. Surrell also noted that the new sculpts created for the interactive queue were “blessed” by famed Disney artist Blaine Gibson, best known for sculpting nearly all of the lifelike Audio-Animatronics heads for the Hall of Presidents.
Throughout the night, unlimited rides on The Haunted Mansion were available, though nothing new or special was added to the attraction for the occasion. But nothing needed to be, as the classic ride (with recent new additions) is why all guests gathered in the first place. On the outside, however, the foreboding Mansion was lit up in the same way it is for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, with the graveyard and pet cemetery bathed in creepy hues of orange, green and blue.
Likewise, in and around the Haunted Mansion, butlers and maids were dressed up in their Not-So-Scary makeup while Madame Carlotta and Renata entertained from the streets and on the Mansion’s front lawn.
Inside the Diamond Horseshoe, Imagineer Jason Surrell spent the night chatting with a constant stream of Disney fans while nearby a Disney artist signed prints of new Haunted Mansion themed artwork created as desktop wallpaper for the Disney Parks Blog. Only a select group of attendees received signed copies of the art, with everyone receiving unsigned posters on the way out of the meet, along with a “Nightmare Before Christmas” Vinylmation.
The Cadaver Dans entertained with a musical performance in the streets while characters including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, and Dr. Facilier took photos with guests.
And plenty of guests were showing off their costumes as well, some even receiving prizes for exhibiting exceptional outfits.
Nearby, a small dessert buffet offered themed treats, including gooey eyeballs and squishy spiders.
As a grand finale, the Headless Horseman galloped through the two lands, concluding the evening’s activities.
The 3-hour “Trick or Meet-Up” came and went quickly, with all attendees leaving with smiles on their faces and gifts in-hand. Following two highly successful meet-ups, the Disney Parks Blog team created another thrilling and highly entertaining evening with this ghoulish gathering, all at no cost to those who attended. And the excitement won’t stop here, as the social media team continues to reach out to fans via Twitter and Facebook, looking ahead to tomorrow’s 40th anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World and beyond. It may be tough to land a spot on one of these meet-ups, but those who pay close attention to Disney’s new and active online presence will continue to have a chance to partake in magical activities available nowhere else.
More photos from the Disney Parks Blog “Trick or Meet-Up” at The Haunted Mansion:
(Photos by Michael Gavin, Ricky Brigante)