Last night 50 of Disney’s baddest bad guys and gals descended upon Walt Disney World for an evening of entertainment called Villains Unleashed.
After Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park closed, the after-hours separately-ticketed event lasted 5 hours, from 8pm until 1am, scattering characters throughout the park in addition to a variety of life stage acts.
It was an improvement over last year’s crowded Unleash the Villains Friday the 13th event, which was included with park admission and filled to capacity, drawing close to 40,000 people into one relatively small area. This time, the entertainment was spread across the park and tickets were limited to a far fewer number.
Even with added options, long lines still formed in front of the rarest of characters, many reaching more than 3 hours long – more than half the event’s duration – causing fans to pick and choose which experiences they most wanted to see. For character hunters, Villains Unleashed was a bit of a nightmare, making it rather difficult to make it into most of the opportunities. But for those simply looking to enjoy a night of unusual Disney entertainment, the event was certainly unique and a whole lot of fun.
It all kicked off with a welcome show hosted by Hades and Megara from “Hercules,” who introduced many of the evening’s villains They glossed over “Star Wars” characters and failed to bring out Barbossa, Constantine, or Maleficent (who did appear later for the fireworks), but the rest were entertaining as they appeared on stage. With a few “Frozen” jabs and other off-color jokes combined with ever-so-slightly risque dancers, it was a great way to commence a night that was clearly designed with older Disney fans in mind.
Video: Full Villains Unleashed Hades Hangout kickoff stage show at Walt Disney World
For the remainder of the evening, this stage was used to feature a dance party with music spun by DJ Igg Nite (DJ Elliot) as well as live music from Bernie Briquette and Brimstone (Mulch, Sweat, and Shears).
Hades also occasionally chimed in with his terrible singing skills covering horrible versions of wedding songs.
Video: Hades sings pop hits with Villains Unleashed band at Walt Disney World
The big new show for the evening was Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse, in which the bag o’ bugs from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” first performed his famous song, after which he introduced a series of sideshow acts including a sword swallower, daring archers, and fire dancers / eaters. The highly entertaining show was the highlight of the night for some (including me), but also left others wondering if it was appropriate for a Disney audience, featuring skimpy outfits and some adult jokes.
Video: Full Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse Show in Villains Unleashed event at Walt Disney World
Video: Oogie Boogie song live in at Walt Disney World
(Note: The full video above has replacement music for the main acts, as YouTube would not allow the show’s music to be included.)
If I may opine for a moment, I applaud Disney for including this show in the Villains Unleashed lineup. It was a perfect addition to a late night event that was definitely aimed at older fans. The Freaky Funhouse offered a taste of Halloween mixed with unusual acts unlike anything seen at Walt Disney World before – a nice change from the usual recycled entertainment that Disney so often produces year after year. I, for one, welcome more “out there” ideas like this, especially when it comes to one-night-only events. And adding a character from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” into a stage show made it that much better.
Look for a closer examination of this adult-targeted show soon on Outside the Magic.
To lead into the Oogie Boogie show, a balloon artist came out to entertain the crowd. While making balloon animals is so often lame, this particular comedian left the audience in stitches with his bizarre brand of humor and sight gags.
Nearby, a special version of the Fantasmic pre-show dubbed the “Night Cralwers” barely entertained the crowd. It was meant to be comedic to warm up the audience but fell extremely flat. The best part was a projected face on the Fantasmic mountain delivering safety information for the show. “Highlights” are in the video below.
Video: Night Crawlers Fantasmic Pre-show for Villains Unleashed at Walt Disney World
Live entertainment continued inside the Brown Derby restaurant, which had a long line to enter throughout the evening. Along with unique food offerings, Disney entertained patrons with a lounge singer performing villainous hits.
Lexie Martin, a guest of the event, longtime Disney fan, and occasional contributor to Inside the Magic really enjoyed the singer, who performed soon-to-be Disney hit “Last Midnight” from “Into the Woods” and “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” from “Hercules.” Martin described the atmosphere as “very chic, like being at a club where the villains happen to hang.” And indeed they did, as characters roamed and sat down with diners to have conversations.
Cruella de Vil joined Martin’s table, engaging in a fashion conversation about runway season. Cruella noted she doesn’t mind a fair bit of fur but wants “Dalmation to make a reappearance.”
And characters were certainly a huge part of Villains Unleashed.
Marvel characters made their first appearance at Walt Disney World as Star-Lord and Gomora from “Guardians of the Galaxy” arrived for the Awesome Mix Tape Dance Party.
Video: Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord & Gamora first ever character appearance at Walt Disney World
Click here for more from the “Guardians” characters.
The rest of the event was filled with an assortment of Villain characters, many fairly common to Walt Disney World but a handful were extremely rare. Dr. Hamsterviel and Gantu from “Lilo & Stitch” were brought out just for the event while Captain Barbossa returned for the first time in quite a while. Also extremely popular were Constantine from “Muppets Most Wanted” (puppeteered and voiced by Matt Vogel, who performed the character for the movie) and Maleficent in her live action Angelina Jolie look-alike form.
Though long lines formed for these rare characters, many others also roamed freely through the park without official queues, allowing guests to simply stumble across them – a much more “magical” way of meeting and greeting.
There was no way to meet all of the characters in the night. In fact, there was no way to even meet half of the characters. Guests definitely had to pick and choose their favorites and hope for one or two rare ones.
Fortunately, the opening kickoff show featured most of the characters so everyone in attendance at least had that opportunity to see them.
Video: Villains Unleashed characters overview
Many guests also showed up dressed as their favorite villains with a mix of DisneyBounding and costumes.
The night ended with a special show, Villainy in the Sky fireworks, hosted by Maleficent who conjured up the blasts.
Full Villainy in the Sky fireworks with Maleficent at Villains Unleashed event, Walt Disney World
It was a stunning show filled with Disney soundtracks and huge fireworks blasts.
Other offerings included free face painting and definitely not free alcoholic drinks with glowing poison apples.
A small selection of logo merchandise was available as well including T-shirts, water bottles, and pins.
On the way out, attendees received an assortment of takeaways including autograph cards and buttons (though there was some confusing at one point in the evening where it seemed like all these freebies were gone when they weren’t).
Overall, Villains Unleashed was a successful and fun evening for those who didn’t expect to see absolutely everything. It was easy to hop around the park and take a quick look at the various villains, even stopping to take a photo with the ones who were roaming freely. The stage shows were highly entertaining, unique, and quite easy to get into. But anyone who had hopes of meeting most (or even many) of the characters and getting pictures with them likely left disappointed, as long lines prevented that from being possible.
Disney dramatically improved over the overcrowded mess that was the Friday the 13th event last year. By adding a high price tag for Villains Unleashed and limiting the number of tickets, the event was much better organized and enjoyable in comparison. But Villains Unleashed was definitely still too crowded and would have been better with a lower capacity and spread over two nights. Those expecting to meet many of the advertised characters almost certainly left feeling cheated. But even without the character meetings, there was more than enough entertainment to fill an evening, well worth the $70 ticket price.
More photos from the Villains Unleashed event at Walt Disney World:
(Photos and video by Ricky Brigante, Daniel Andersson, and Corinne Andersson.)