I love it when something so wholesome as Disney embraces its dark side. It's why I loved Mr. Toad's Wild Ride back before Pooh squashed him in 1998. What other ride at Disney took you on a ride to hell? (And no, it's a small world doesn't count.)
So that's the alluring part of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom. It's not a scary event, per se, but it embraces the spooky side of Halloween to the point that my pair of 5- and 6-year-old children are a little wary, but not terrified.
The event isn't geared toward children specifically, so it's fun for all ages. The elder set seem to be fascinated with the introduction this year of the Pumpkin King Jack Skellington and girlfriend Sally from from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." The line for the meet-and-greet with this pair of characters was perhaps the longest of the evening.
That's one meet-and-greet that my children were not interested in. Nor were they keen on going back on the Haunted Mansion ride they had been convinced to ride a year ago, but that's OK since the Haunted Mansion came to them in the Boo-to-You Halloween parade later.
They instead opted for the dark Space Mountain and came up with a new Disney rule.
"It was my favorite ride, even though it was scary," son Morgan said. "Now each Halloween, We get a choice between Space Mountain or the Haunted Mansion and this year we chose Space Mountain."
"Yeah, because it's fast," daughter Miriam chimed in.
They were more interested in finding their fellow pirates, having dressed up as Jake and Izzy from the Disney Junior show "Jake and the Neverland Pirates." Also, I'll give my daughter extrovert points for having snarled "arrrrrr" to no less than 100 fellow guests around the park. All good practice for International Talk Like a Pirate day this coming Thursday.
She was in fact the only Izzy I spotted at the park, and while she's not one to shy away from Disney Princess garb, it made for an engaging night with the fellow guests.
The fact that Disney lets everyone dress up is refreshing as well. Now you don't have to wait in line for a character meet-and-greet since they're all around you.
Piracy was my kids' thematic charge throughout the night, except we didn't make it to Pirates of the Caribbean. We did make it to Peter Pan, and those two rides' floats in the parade were my children’s' favorite.
In fact, the parade is one of the best things to introduce a little dark side to your kids. The music is a great tuba-thumping soundtrack reminiscent of the Oompa Loompa song from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (The superior 1971 version).
When asked what my son Morgan's favorite part of the parade was, his answer:
"The music...when they say, 'It's really not so scary.' That's my favorite part -- the music of the parade because of the way they say that. It's really nice to my ears."
That's good, since watching it from the safety of the side of Main Street U.S.A. allows the kids to enjoy the series of floats that is sort of a majority lineup of villainy and creepiness. The creepiest thing to me was the length of Dr. Facilier's fingers. They're about 10 inches long each and the castmember playing the bad fella from "The Princess and the Frog" knew how to use them.
The march of the gravediggers, though, is probably the most popular feature of the parade, with their scraping shovels, and of course there's the vanguard of the whole parade, the Headless Horseman, which may be perhaps the scariest cartoon Disney ever produced.
Of course, the final few floats of the parade are more traditionally what one might expect from Disney including the not-so-scary Country Bears and a chicken in a henhouse.
And in true Disney style, there's no better way to stave off any potential nightmares than a giant bicycle-powered Goofy candy machine and the handing out of Disney lollipops to wrap up the parade. Props to the castmember who has to pedal the length of the parade.
Speaking of candy...that's the No. 1 draw to my kids. I've seen some advice boards suggesting for families to have a good time and not miss anything from this event to avoid the candy line temptation.
I say, let your kids lead you and you won't have a bad time. Plus, there's nothing like a hunt for an elusive box of Dots to make the candy line an adventure. To be sure, Dots are kind of like the Wonka Bar with the Golden Ticket.
If it hadn't been for the kids, I might not have enjoyed the fireworks while riding Goofy's Barnstormer roller coaster. I felt like Snoopy's World War I Flying Ace in “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.”
And for kids whose bedtime is normally around 8 p.m., the candy energy coupled with people energy made the 11:30 p.m. exeunt one in which I wasn't carrying one or two sleeping children.
It's a Halloween miracle.
If you go:
WHAT: Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, an after-hours, separate ticket event at Magic Kingdom theme park.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, 17, 20, 24, 27, 29, Oct. 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 27, 29, 31 and Nov. 1.
WHERE: Magic Kingdom, off Interstate 4, southwest of Orlando
COST: Ticket price varies with date. Admission ranges from $59 to $73 ($54 to $68 for ages 3-9). The first six nights of the event are the least expensive.