The History of Halloween in the Disney Parks

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Disney History, Disney Parks

How did the Disney Parks celebrate Halloween before Oogie Boogie Nights and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party? We’re sharing the history of Halloween at the Disney Parks.

While Halloween at Disney World and Halloweentime at Disneyland may not be months-long events, it wasn’t always that way! The first Disney Parks Halloween celebrations happened in the 1950s at Disneyland Resort, and the 1970s at Walt Disney World — and both looked very different than they do today. We’re taking a deep dive back in time to explore how Halloween was originally celebrated the the Disney Parks.

The History of Halloween in Disney World

Nowadays, Halloween at Disney World begins very early in August, with Halloween merchandise, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and plenty of spooky decorations. But, when Halloween celebrations first began in the 1970s at Disney World, they looked completely different. Let’s take a look back at the history of Halloween in Disney World.

The Beginning of Halloween at Disney World

Long before Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween, Disney World celebrated the spooky season very differently. The first Halloween celebration happened in 1972, when Magic Kingdom promoted “Halloween Weekend” on October 28th and 29th. At the time, each attraction still required an individual ticket or coupon, so the big draw for the weekend was free admission to the Haunted Mansion. The event also included magic shows, character appearances, and screenings of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Halloween Weekend continued in 1973 and 1974, for two nights each year. In 1976 the park hosted a “Saturday Night at the World Halloween Party” that offered extended operating hours and a special theme.

Halloween Hysteria

It wasn’t until October 27th, 1979, that there was a separately ticketed Halloween Hysteria at Magic Kingdom. The event was part of a larger promotion called “World Series of Entertainment” and was a separately ticketed event that brought “famous musical talent” to perform at the park. The event took place from 9 PM until 1:30 AM and included a magic show as well as entertainment from Dr. Hook, The Police, Michael Johnson, and Sealevel, according to Disney Parks Blog.

halloween hysteria disney parks

A ticket to Halloween Hysteria at Magic Kingdom. Photo courtesy of Disney

The event was perhaps more comparable to After Hours at Disney World as opposed to the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party of today. Tickets cost $10, and while it proved to be popular, it wasn’t something that returned year after year. However, there were still Halloween festivities that took place at the Disney World Resort, including smaller events like trick-or-treating in stores that took place in the Walt Disney World Village.

The First Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

In 1995 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party debuted, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel. At the time, it was a one-night event. At the time, Disney World spokesman Greg Albrecht told the Orlando Sentinel, “If it’s successful, we’ll do it again.” By the next month, Albrecht was telling the Sentinel the event would continue the following year.

For the first event, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween tickets cost $16.95 in advance in 1995. By 1997, the event doubled up to two nights and included a special parade. The event continued to expand in all ways, and today takes place over the course of nearly two months, taking place on select nights starting in August through the first night of November. Ticket prices also have changed quite a bit, with pricing for ages 10 and up ranges from $109 to $199, ranging from $99 to $189 for children aged 3 to 9

The History of Halloween in Disneyland

While Halloweentime at Disneyland Resort now kicks off in September, the spooky season was a bit different at Disneyland Resort when it first began in the 1950s. Let’s take a look back at the long and storied history of Halloween at Disneyland Resort.

Parade of the Pumpkins

The first Halloween-themed event at Disneyland took place on October 31st, 1959, called the “Parade of Pumpkins.” Speaking of the event, Matt Moryc of the Walt Disney Archives told Disney Parks Blog, “The first event at Disneyland resembling Halloween took place on October 31, 1959. It was called ‘Parade of the Pumpkins,’ and photographs from the event show children dressed in Halloween costumes while presenting their carved pumpkins to be judged. There are also photos of the kids gathered in Holidayland, preparing to make the trip inside Disneyland to be in a parade.”

As the holiday began to gain cultural traction, Disneyland had to deal with an interesting predicament. Jim Cora, Disney Legend and past Chairman of Disneyland International, shares to Disney Parks Blog, “We have always been hesitant about guests coming to the Parks in costumes. There are security and safety issues with that, you worry about obstructed vision, and trip-and-fall accidents, as well as the potential for confusion about who is a Cast Member in costume and who isn’t. And some of these guest costumes are pretty amazing.”

When the holiday itself gained cultural traction and popularity, Jim Cora recalls discussions about the larger ideas of in-Park Halloween. “We have always been hesitant about guests coming to the Parks in costumes. There are security and safety issues with that, you worry about obstructed vision, and trip-and-fall accidents, as well as the potential for confusion about who is a Cast Member in costume and who isn’t. And some of these guest costumes are pretty amazing.”

Mickey’s Halloween Treat

Disneyland’s guest population is a bit different than Walt Disney World, with many local visitors to the park. Through the 1990s, the park began to do more to celebrate the holidays at large, adding traditions for local families to enjoy. In 1995 and 1996, Mickey’s Halloween Treat debuted at Disneyland Park, and then returned to Disney California Adventure for four years beginning in 2006. The event was also known by other names, including Mickey’s Halloween Party from 2005-2007 and Mickey’s Trick-or-Treat Party from 2008 and 2009.

The event changed through the years, but was a separately ticketed event that encouraged guests to dress in costumes — including the adults. Events including meet and greets, trick-or-treating and, eventually, Halloween overlays for rides like Haunted Mansion Holiday.

Halloween in Disneyland Today

Today, Halloweentime at Disneyland is a resort-wide celebration that includes festive and frightfully fun decorations, classic Disney characters in exciting Halloween costumes, and some villainous ride overlays and experiences. The spooky season kicks off in September, lasting all the way through the very beginning of November. The season includes decorations, special entertainment, and also the ticketed event Oogie Boogie Nights which takes place on select nights during the season.

 

Posts by Morgan Flaherty

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Morgan is the Staff Editor for WDW Magazine. A lifelong Disney fan, her dream day involves just about anything to do with Animal Kingdom. Along with several years of experience writing about Disney, Morgan has also written as a contributing writer for Well + Good, Scary Mommy, Brit + Co, and Baby Chick.
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Authored by
Morgan Flaherty

Morgan is the Staff Editor for WDW Magazine. A lifelong Disney fan, her dream day involves just about anything to do with Animal Kingdom. Along with several years of experience writing about Disney, Morgan has also written as a contributing writer for Well + Good, Scary Mommy, Brit + Co, and Baby Chick.
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