Disney's celebrating villains - but some wonder... who's the bad guy?

August 26, 2014, 9:47 AM · Walt Disney World held its latest Villains Unleashed after-hours, hard-ticket party at Disney's Hollywood Studios last Saturday night. After the event, Disney announced this week that it will add an extra helping of villains to the Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom this fall — in the form of a $99 dessert party at Cinderella's Royal Table.

Thousands of guests crowded the Studios for Saturday's event, and the Halloween dessert party likely will sell out, too. But some Disney fans are finding the upcharges for these events to be a bit, well, villainous.

Still, Disney wouldn't be able to upcharge for these events if no one found value in them. Reader Mitchell Botwin offered this report from the Villains Unleashed event:

The event was a lot of fun and was very crowded. The Villainous Greetings were all over the park with 17 different villains. The Wandering Evil were at Hades Hangout, Streets of America, Star Tours and Epic Stunt Theater.

Food and Beverage included The Brown Derby was Club Evil serving Voodoo Wings and one bad apple drinks. Quick service locations had Villainous Hot Dogs with Hades face in the buns and Maleficent Cupcakes.

The big entertainment included:

  • Hades Hangout on the main stage. It kicked off the event introducing the villains and doing a dance party through the night
  • Villainy in the Sky Fireworks show
  • Oogie Boogie's Freaky Funhouse show which included a dance group, sword swallower, archer, and fire eater
  • Fantasmic!, which was the standard show - the pre-show was the henchmen working the crowd
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Tape Dance Party which had Star Lord and Nebula meeting everyone at the party.

Some attractions were open and there were multiple face painting locations. The picture is of the goody bag given as you left the park, with autographs of all the villains, buttons and a card for a movie.

Villains Unleashed handouts
Photo by Mitchell Botwin

During the event, Twitter blew up with people sending and retweeting complains about crowds at the event, overwhelming queues and causing food and merchandise to run out. That, in turn, fueled a long line at guest services as cast members handed out refunds to unhappy guests, no questions asked.

A few observers suggested that some guests were taking advantage of the easy refund policy to enjoy the event, and then get their money back at the end. But, hey, this is an event celebrating villains. Is that sort of two-faced opportunism exactly what a villain would do? Very meta.

Clearly, there's a huge market demand for Disney villains, and plenty of people, such as Mitchell, left the most recent event having had a good time. Disney's trying to take advantage of that enthusiasm, adding a "Villains’ Sinister Soiree" to the Magic Kingdom Halloween party, where Cinderella's wicked stepmother gets her time in the castle. From Disney's press release:

Set within the majestic halls of Cinderella’s Royal Table, this special ticketed event allows guests to meet a menagerie of malevolent special guests while they indulge in decadent desserts and specialty non-alcoholic beverages. Guests also will receive preferred viewing for the 8:15 p.m. performance of Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade, as well as preferred viewing for the Happy HalloWishes Fireworks Spectacular.

The dessert party is $99 per person, in addition to the hard-ticket Halloween party admission, and reservations are available only by phone: +1-407-939-5262.

A double hard ticket? Yep. What do you think: Does this sound like a good value to get a better experience at Disney, or does this sound like a plan that only a villain could love?

Replies (18)

August 26, 2014 at 9:53 AM · I think they're going overboard with the hard-ticket events. I know that it's appreciated by locals and more frequent visitors, but it feels like they're grasping for any dollars they can get without adding new attractions.
August 26, 2014 at 10:11 AM · This "second hard ticket" sounds like it includes the ability to bypass some crowds (as well as get some decent grub). Isn't it really just the same idea as buying an Express Pass or FastLane wristband? Or is it more comparable to what Knott's does with their Scary Farm event by selling admission plus Fright Lane plus the Skeleton Key. Or Universal's Horror Nights Express and RIP Tours? Park admission is just the tip of the iceberg at parks these days. It is the add-ons that really cripple our pocket books (and extend the lines for those of us unwilling to pony up). Maybe we need an expose on the whole industry? Add-on services are becoming quite a racket.
August 26, 2014 at 10:25 AM · We had a good time, but the crowds did limit what you could see at the main stage. If they raise the stage so it can be visible from father back that would be a big plus. We couldn't get into Club Evil as the line was just too long, the same can be said about the special items for the event. The line was long enough that you would kill an hour waiting to get in. People were queuing up to take pictures with villains at 6pm. The costumes were great to see. The big M was the most common costume. We did see 2 wicked withes of the west roaming around.
August 26, 2014 at 10:41 AM · I agree the cost is pretty steep considering you are already paying to get in for the evening. This seems to be the trend with many parks.

However in saying that I still did buy the tickets. We visit from out of State once a year or less. This is not something that we will likely do again, but we are looking forward to the adventure.

I do wish that they would blend in the cost where you buy one or the other type of evening as opposed to the add-ins.

But in the end they are in the business of making money and if you don't want the service you don't have to buy it.

August 26, 2014 at 11:58 AM · "I think they're going overboard with the hard-ticket events. I know that it's appreciated by locals and more frequent visitors, but it feels like they're grasping for any dollars they can get without adding new attractions."


August 26, 2014 at 12:10 PM · I think this event is a bit different. To me it's akin to purchasing a ticket to the Party for the Party for the Senses (EPCOT Food and Wine Festival), and adding the VIP option that gets you early entry, guaranteed seating, table service, and upgraded drink options.

I don't begrudge Disney trying to make the most out of the opportunity. We will be going to the MNSSHP this fall, but don't feel the need to attend this "party within the party" just for a few snacks, character meeting opportunities, and preferred fireworks viewing. $100 per person does seem a bit excessive, but if people are willing to pay for it, I can't blame them. The standard hard ticket for the event is actually very affordable at $62-67, which compared to the $99 single day admission to Magic Kingdom is quite a bargain. Also, what some people don't know is that MNSSHP ticket holders can enter the Magic Kingdom starting at 4 PM, so with the park open until midnight, it's like having a full 8-hour day in the park with the bonus of a parade, characters, and fireworks that only happen on party nights.

August 26, 2014 at 12:52 PM · "Some attractions were open and there were multiple face painting locations."

It sounds more like a party than an after-hours park event. If they wanted to satisfy their customers, they should have kept most rides open. They couldn't accommodate the thousands of attendees with mostly food, merchandising, and shows. With most people on the main drag, no wonder the complaints come fast and furious.

I will say Disney does know how to throw an excellent party. It is a shame that for every special event done right, they have an occasional miss.

It is increasingly a bad omen to charge so exorbitantly for these special events and the horribly overpriced desert buffets. While it might seem reasonably priced like the Halloween events when it offered full access to the park attractions with smaller crowds, the dessert party events and Frozen premium package are outrageous. Oh well. If you pay it, own it.

August 26, 2014 at 1:15 PM · Face painting, dance parties and character meet and greets are not worth the cost for me. There is nothing that you don't normally see in a Disney park.

If they did highly themed scare zone and mazes with special effects like Universals Halloween Horror nights themed to the villains, it would be more legit and look less like a money grab.

August 26, 2014 at 2:02 PM · Absolutely Anon...The key here is that people are willing to pay and see value in these events, and Disney will continue to push the envelope until they cannot sell them out. I'm guessing that many guests view these as once-in-a-lifetime type events or are locals looking to make their 100th trip to the park unique, and are willing to pay just about anything to up the ante of their experience. Look at some of the prices they're charging for the Food and Wine Festival Events this year ($549/person for the V&A signature event!!), it's all about supply and demand, and it's becoming increasingly clear that Disney is pricing its events to try to stem demand. The issue is that they need to live up to the price that they set for these events, which is where some of the criticism comes. If you end up with a large vocal group of guests that doesn't feel like they were treated with the exclusiveness suggested by the price, then they will have to make adjustments. Personally, I think many of the desert packages are obscenely priced, but I don't hear too many complaints about them.
August 26, 2014 at 1:57 PM · Simply put it's good business people, thats it!

You've built and operate the gold mine, now reap the rewards.

August 26, 2014 at 2:04 PM · As a previous commenter said - if you don't want to spend the money then don't buy it.

If you read news headlines at all you know that while the airline industry has become well known for add-on fees, now the hotel industry is following suit with add-on fees becoming commonplace. This really isn't any different. I don't see why the theme park industry shouldn't get in on it if people are willing to spend the dollars.

August 26, 2014 at 2:08 PM · I would never pay for a dessert party. They are just empty calories. I'm not alone in that more people are have a high blood sugar problem. I wouldn't mind paying for a appetizer/dessert party. Some protein helps a lot. And eating something salty helps me enjoy the sweet concoctions. It seems like the dessert parties cost more than eating at a fine table service restaurant. They are pure profit for Disney.

On the other hand, Disney should promote the after-hours food parties in their dining plan. I would not hestitate in signing up for at least one event if I believe I get a good value. Some very popular restaurants run-out of reservations early or only available at 8pm. What if they have additional slots after 9:00pm and billed as an after-dinner evening snack and show? Open seating with an available outdoor patio and a full-appetizer and dessert buffet with complementary signature drinks. I'll make my reservations today.

August 26, 2014 at 2:11 PM · I would never pay for that but as long as they have those that will so be it.
August 26, 2014 at 10:01 PM · If you charge them, they will come.........
August 27, 2014 at 5:35 AM · Just imagine if you are a family of 6..... yowsers. Kerching! :-)
August 27, 2014 at 8:30 AM · I wouldn't pay for a dessert party either. When we were at Disneyland last spring, we found a spot to view Fantasmic! right on the rope behind the sound board about 20-30 minutes before the show started. Our spot was within about 10-15 feet of where dessert party guests were seated. In my view, the only advantage the paying guests had over us was a chair (which honestly would have been nice for our dozing son) and the small tray of desserts. That's not worth $30/person to me unless it was a light meal.

The upcharge I find interesting is the post-show parties that Disney will be holding after Illuminations during the Food and Wine Festival. It seems kinda odd that people would be willing to sit in a restaurant AFTER the park closes for a "last call" style scenario. The events are supposed to have actual food, but to me there's little appeal since by the time Illuminations is over, I just want to get back to the room to sleep, and even if I didn't have a sleepy kid to drag with me, I don't think noshing after a park is closed is terribly interesting.

August 27, 2014 at 11:37 PM · My only complaint is that this "party within the party" includes preferred viewing for the fireworks. Unless you pay for the upcharge, you definitely won't get the best view of the fireworks -- but the fireworks are one of the reasons we bought our ticket in the first place!
September 1, 2014 at 8:41 AM · For the price, I really am starting to question what you really receive... It's bad enough for the Halloween party (which I really love), but with the lines & such, there's no "meet & greet" for more than 1, maybe 2 characters. And as an adult, that really holds no interest for me. The parade & candy is what I really got from it (and $55 buys a lot of candy). I know that for the 100, or 1,000, or 10,000 spots that they have Disney will sell them all, so it will be a success from that standpoint, but as a family, I can't imagine paying that amount for all of us, on top of the NSSHP tickets.

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