Disney's 'Villains' event highlights need for infrastructure improvements at Hollywood Studios
Fans are still buzzing about Friday night's "Unleash the Villains" "Limited Time Magic" event at Disney's Hollywood Studios (and Disneyland). Huge crowds pummeled both parks, but we heard the most response from fans who'd attended the Florida version of the event. Here are selected comments from Theme Park Insider readers:
"We attempted to go last night in Orlando (around 8pm), but after sitting in traffic for two hours with no end in sight, we called it off. We were within 1 mile of the entrance to Hollywood Studios for the entire two hours, but barely moved. There was no Disney traffic control or other signs directing traffic to alternate routes."
Some of the Disney villains at the Hades stage show during the Friday the 13th event at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo courtesy Disney
"It was a complete train wreck at DHS. They sold out of all the merch hours before the event even began, it was unbelievably poorly staffed and organized, and the combination of the heat, the size of the crowd, and the stupid alcoholic drinks made it downright dangerous. Not sure how they could have screwed it up any worse. We were incredibly disappointed."
"We were stuck in traffic forever, until we decided to park at a resort and walk the rest of the way. Once we were there the line to see the villains was incredibly long, however we did get some good pictures of them (just not with them) in the viewing areas. The Hades show was fun, but the best part of the night was the Villainy in the Sky fireworks. The coolest fireworks show I've seen on Disney property. The lack of merchandise was a little disappointing, apparently most of it had sold out during the day before the event even began."
"I parked at fantasia mini golf and walked, heard one guest say he was on a WDW bus for 3 hours before he got there. The lines to meet the villains was horrific and if you stayed in it you only got a pic with the villain that was available not the one you waited in line for. Cast members were outstanding! But a better plan needs to be in place for next time. BEST FIREWORKS SHOW DISNEY HAS EVER DONE!"
"Both the Florida State Troopers and Orange County Sheriffs were redirecting traffic and turning cars away once park capacity was quickly reached by 8:30p or so. The costumed characters looked fantastic as did the many guests who appeared in costume - plenty of pictures taken by all. Safe to say even Disney was surprised by the massive crowds for this first ever Disney Villains party."
Here's the "Villainy in the Sky" fireworks show, courtesy one Theme Park Insider reader:
The villains fireworks show impressed not just because of the massive volume of pyro that Disney shot up. Villains often have great music, and Disney cut together an impressive soundtrack for this show. No thin pop tunes or whimsical melodies here. Disney started with great classical music, then worked in some of its classic villains themes, too. It was a master class in musical accompaniment for themed entertainment, and an example of how powerfully Disney can impress an audience when it's on top of its game.
But the complaints about access into the park, limited park capacity and staffing for the event raised some tough questions for Disney. And not just as it looks ahead to other special events in the future, either. Remember, Hollywood Studios is where Disney's planning to build Star Wars land. And Friday night demonstrated that DHS is in no condition to handle an onslaught of new fans. Star Wars could make Friday night's crowd the everyday crowd at DHS. And that should worry Disney fans and managers alike.
If Disney's going to do Star Wars land right, we won't simply see a fresh overlay of existing park facilities. We will need to see some major infrastructure work around Disney's Hollywood Studios, including new access and exit lanes from the park, expanded Disney transportation, and a larger parking lot. Sited properly, new park entrance lanes could free space for an expansion of the park around the existing Star Tours ride (it bumps up against the current entrance lanes from World Drive). The park's going to need that extra space to accommodate a larger capacity.
Were you there Friday night? Let's continue the conversation, in the comments.
Perhaps this is more of a statement on Disney's forecasting ability than anything else. My assumption (and I could be wrong) is that the park would get a massive uplift if/when Star Wars land is built... They will have the time given how long most of these massive construction projects seem to take.
It's amazing how many resorts and attractions sit along East Buena Vista Drive west of Epcot Center Drive. You have The Bonnet Creek Resorts, the cast member entrance to EPCOT, The Caribbean Beach Resort, DHS, the Swan and the Dolphin, the Hess station (only gas station for a few miles) Disney Boardwalk as Yacht and Beach all being served by East Buena Vista Drive.
It's always good to read a post that says "Cast members were outstanding!"
I have a question about the construction of DHS. Maybe Robert could do an in-depth article on it at some point.
In hindsight Universal should have started HHN one week earlier than scheduled and used the 13th to launch the event
My partner got home from work about 7 PM and asked if we should head to the Studios. I told him several of our friends had already posted pics on FaceBook of the traffic jams they were sitting in. As much as I would have liked to go there I did not wish to sit in traffic for hours. And now to see the park reached capacity at 8:30 PM we wouldn't have made it in.
Ha! My wifes comment was used in the article. She is going to love that.
Ms. Forrest writes: "...Disney is going to offer Star Wars and people can choose if they want to do that or go to Potter."
I have been going to star wars weekends since 2000. This last may the 4th was insane and I believe the park was at full capacity early. Not to mention certain weekends like memorial day for star wars weekends pushes it to the max. Besides parking, entry it seems the park itself can barely handle the crowds as the ins and outs around certain areas like by star tours, the muppets can get congested in a heartbeat. I look forward to the new star wars attractions, but full well know I had better be in the park quite early and make it a point to see every major attraction early. Or be prepared for insane lines of close to 2 hours and struggling thru crowds of people in certain locations. Any easy answer? No. None. Redesign at this stage is hard and might be impossible. Making cast members park at epcot is one small solution. But it still won't help overall and unfair to the good workers at that park. Too bad they did not think vertical like universal and had parking garages. That might be the only thing that can save them.
Fireworks show looks good on You Tube, so I'm sure it must have looked great to those watching it live.
We were on holiday from England and timed our visit to coincide with the event... We were treated to a poor view of what looked like an excellent fireworks show from our car after being stuck in traffic for 3 1/2 hours out side down town Disney!!!! Appalling lack of traffic control causing people to drive dangerously... Will never try to attend one of these events again!
A while back someone said Disney is building stuff they want us to like and Universal is building stuff people want.
Husband & I are annual PH & live 10 minutes from DHS. We left our house @ 6:30pm & @ 9:30 finally made it to DHS front gate only to be turned away! We couldn't get out of the traffic & had no where to go. We are in our 50's & 60's & were having great anxiety sitting in this traffic congestion not to mention having cars cut in ahead of you after you've been waiting hours! Disney should do the following things to ensure crowd/traffic control: if they close park @ 7:30pm they should attempt to notify cars farther away with either police/Disney staff & at some point if can go in another direction you do so, they used to have a radio station years ago that you could get updates on park closings & such - they should have that again, the event should have been an add'l cost and/or spread out like MNSSHP so crowd control is in place.
The parking situation, the understaffed toll booths (at least at the World Drive entrance), and the horrible traffic getting in were all a big pain in the ass, and it is all on Disney for under-forecasting the event. But I had so much fun at the event I totally forgot about the ridiculousness of getting in. The fireworks were worth it alone. And really the crowds were centralized around the Sorcerer's Hat for the shows on the Hades Hangout stage and the fireworks, and the areas around Echo Lake that had the character meet and greets. The rest of the park was fairly easy to navigate. We didn't bother trying to get on Rockin Rollercoaster, Toy Story, or Tower of Terror, although ToT did still have Fastpasses available late into the night. But we practically walked onto Star Tours and waited only 15-20 minutes for Great Movie Ride. We knew that night wasn't about getting on the major rides.
I attended the Disneyland event and was not impressed by the locations they chose to showcase the characters. I also must admit that the dance parties that Disney continues to go with do not make me think Disney at all. The event started in Town Square, but no one knew when to expect the villains. Where would they be? Would there be any type of showcase/performance? The cast members were disheartened because they weren't able to provide much information. The location at New Orleans Square did showcase the villains on a stage, but it also made traffic difficult because there was also Fantasmic! right by it...as well as the first day of Haunted Mansion Holiday. My main suggestion would be to do this again next year, but move it to California Adventure, where there's not much of any Halloween activity happening. If it must stay in Disneyland, utilize Small World Mall and Big Thunder Ranch.
OT writes: "A while back someone said Disney is building stuff they want us to like and Universal is building stuff people want."
Ultimately it doesn't matter if you feel Disney is not up to par with Universal in their offerings, OT. Disney knows they can't please everyone. But the attendance numbers speak for themselves. Winning the theme park battle is not about what a majority of TPI users think are the best attractions, and its certainly not about the Golden Ticket awards, to which Disney does not even send representation to the awards ceremony. Its about giving the majority of the public what they want; winning the attendance battle is what really matters. And until Universal overtakes even one of the WDW parks, which I really don't see happening, Disney will always win. Why should Disney drastically change what they're doing if its working? You have the right to say its sad that the majority of the public prefers Disney over Universal. But the public isn't listening. They are still choosing Disney.
This article just makes me think that what Disney really needs to do is build a "Dark Kingdom" centered around villians and thrill rides. Obviously there's a demand for it. And it would pull in some of the crowd that goes to Islands of Adventure or Universal for thrills.
Reading the comments by people who think that Disney does no wrong.
"It isn't all about the rides. Most people say they keep coming back to Disney for the friendliness of the Cast Members, the cleanliness of the parks, the immersive environments, the special events, etc. Universal has nothing on Disney in those aspects."
@ OT: Not sure where which park is "the best" came up in my post. But ... um, okay.
Am I not understanding this? Was this event a huge meet & greet with fireworks?
I had to go back and remind myself that this article was about the good and bad of the Unleash the Villains event and not a WDW vs UOR derogatory rant.
I'm hearing that the park's food vendors also closed early -- which obviously did not help matters. I also heard that Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was pretty quiet that night.
Makes sense that Mickey's Not So Scary was quiet. It seems to be an event that more APs and CMs go to then out-of-towners, and I'm sure a lot of that demo decided to choose Unleash the Villains, being a one night only event versus Mickeys Not So Scary having many nights.
I was also there Friday night. Arrived in the afternoon to ride ToT and RRC prior to crowds showing up. Also managed some shows and dinner at Hollywood and Vine. Lined up at Echo Lake around 7. Stood in line with a very friendly crowd and was able to line-skip to "meet" The Evil Queen (others in line were waiting for the other villain that was switching with the Queen). Headed over to the dance party and was able to work through the crowd to 4th row, center stage. Yes there were a lot of people but we still managed to dance and have a great time. Took a break and got fast passes for TOT. Headed back to front of stage for fireworks. The stage blocked them so everyone stepped backwards toward the park entrance. After fireworks we rode the Tower and then stopped for ice cream at a clearly open food stand (the stand next to the ice cream was also open). Back to the dance party until 1:00. Headed out of the park around 1:30 and got right onto a bus to the Caribbean Beach resort. Bus wasn't crowded, there was no traffic jam by this point. We had a fantastic night!
I don't think this says anything about needed infrastructure improvements at the Disney Hollywood Studios. What this is an example of is poor planning and forecasting on Disney's part.
I think that the infrastructure of the park limits Disney's ability to manage crowds of this size. It's not simply planning. If you don't have the lanes to move the cars, or the space to park them, or the space on the street in the theme park to put the people in those cars, all the planning in the world ain't gonna help you. You're going to hit capacity, and people are going to end up frustrated.
This is not just about bad infrastructure management at DHS. How about having more villain oriented events? A zillion people came out b/c Disney is rotten about trotting out the villains. Ridiculous!!
I agree that this should have been a hard-ticketed event, requiring wrist bands, similar to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, for instance. If you're not wearing a wrist band, you must leave the park.
Yes we were there if you can count a packed car load of kids stuck in traffic. What is worse, Magic Kingdom was closed for a MNSS party and EPCOT became closed due to overflow parking from HS, so there was no park available to visit!!! Waste of park hopper tix!
Dear Disney, you are on a drive to take every last cent out of every one of your guests pockets.
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