Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Masked Man:

see photos at
a visit to
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

On Tuesday, October 10th, 2006, I went down to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, MNSSHP. I was out of place for the fireworks so missed the whole “front of the castle” thing, but, I rode some Scary and some Not So Scary rides, including the fantastic new Pirates ride; got shots of the parade; collected lots of candy; recruited at least one new member for the internet fan list; and even put together a costume.
Costumes! There were lots of costumes, and a couple of truly exceptional ones. The only people who looked out of place were those who had done nothing, clothing-wise, for the night’s festivities- just looked like people at the wrong address. Most everyone, regardless of age, had at least some article of note, even if only a decorative hat or T-shirt; and many went so far beyond that, to the fully tailored custom made outfit that made it hard to differentiate them from Official Characters. Of course, there were plenty of the off-the-shelf variety too, and that is fine, but when you see the real Tinkerbell or the real Snow White or Alice, walking around, well, that is rather striking.
The highlights were a triple from Tennessee as Snow White, The Huntsman, and the Evil Queen- just fantastic. And many girls, both young and old, as Tink. Surprisingly, many girls-again of all ages- as Captain Jack Sparrow. Many boys of all ages too went that way, but a surprising showing among the females.There were also many little ones as Stitch, the very nice store-bought costume; and there was one whole family of Incredibles. Adorable. They were in front of me at one of my parade viewings, and the little one was really getting into the parade, and at times, was more entertaining. He was waving his arms about as excited babies do, and kept trying to waddle out to meet the characters- Mom had a good grip on the back of his pants and needed it: stretched that waistband they did.
But, let us move through the day in an orderly fashion…
I had earlier confirmed that the ticket for the evening’s Halloween party allowed one to enter the park at 4pm, so I planned my day accordingly. I arrived at the Magic Kingdom (MK) parking lot at about 3:30, and with the cool nights of the recent days, I put on three T-shirts to be prepared. I put my costume materials in the “locker” under the seat of my ECV, loaded my thermos with Pepsi and ice, and headed on over to the Ferry- much easier to do the ferry when on an ECV as opposed to the Monorail, where one time, they forgot to bring up the ramp to let me off.
As I came to the entrance at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC), I spotted three people garnering quite a bit of attention, and once the group around them cleared, I saw why: they were magnificently costumed as Snow White, the Huntsman, and the Evil Queen. These were beautifully made outfits, and at first there was some confusion as to whether they actually worked for Disney or not. They were good enough to pass as such, but it turns out they were simply more guests there for the evening’s festivities, down from Tennessee. I asked and they posed for a picture. I think they were a little hesitant to be bothered with me, for at this point, I was not in costume, planning to don it only at 7pm, the official start of the evening. Or maybe they were simply anxious to get to the ferry.
I then made my way down to the ferry dock, where about another 2 dozen people were waiting, some in costume, some with only a special hat, some with nothing. I shot a couple of kids who paused in their gladiatorial combat long enough for the shot and then I spotted a perfectly marvelous Alice, who again, had what was clearly a finely tailored outfit and looked the part. With her mother’s permission, as with all shots of kids, I took the shot.
The ferry arrived and we all moved on, anxious to get on over to the Magic Kingdom. Due to the low western sun, there was some great lighting to take some shots from a location I had seldom used- the middle of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Space Mountain has long been one of my elusive targets for the shot, and this one is pretty close to it. I also got good shots of The Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, and coming into the dock at the other side, Main Street Station and the Castle. Four very good shots.
Through security and then through the turnstile and get the special wristband applied and the special bag for Trick or Treating later that night. I stuck the bag in my locker and headed on in. As I came around Town Square, they were blowing retreat for the Colors and I had to pause as the band marched across the street.
I continued on down Main Street, thinking only of getting to the newly renovated Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. But as I made my way down Main Street, and again keep in mind that the clear sky and time of day was making for fantastic lighting, I was struck by just how beautiful the castle looked even over the expected disappointment of knowing the special decorations for the 50th Anniversary Celebration were gone. Unlike some previous decorations, those had really added to the castle- worked in harmony with it- and I expected their absence would be sorely noted, but the castle is just so elegantly designed and realized that even without any special “frosting” it stands quite well on its own. I was re-impressed enough to even take time for the “Castle shot”. (And actually, thinking about it, that is the first time I have done that shot. Have done the “Statue and Castle” shot, but not the Main Street Castle shot- Oh wait. I tell a lie- I did it with my Navy buddies on my first visit way back in February ‘73.)
The photographer CM took the shot for me and then we chatted a bit about the “missing” decorations and she was willing to accept the big mirror being gone- hadn’t liked it anyway- but wished they had left the golden spirals about the towers, even without the characters (which is what I thought should have been kept.)
I headed over to Adventureland intending to check out the new Pirates of the Caribbean which I hadn’t seen since its “johhnyfication”, but the line was too long and I couldn’t drive my ECV in and couldn’t stand that long, so passed on by thinking it would be easier accessed after the main crowds were removed at 7.
Given that it was rather crowded this day, and that it has special handicapped loading access, I decided to take a cruise on the Jungle Cruise, not a particular favorite, but a nice way to pass some time while waiting for the official start of the night. While I was waiting for my turn, I spotted a group of young ones disembarking, all dressed up, three as pirates, though two are hidden in the shot. When my turn came, I was loaded first and ended up right next to the driver, which had no particular benefit, other than being able to hear clearly every line of his spiel. He did go off the usual script, but added no particular gems. I did get a few shots that I hadn’t before and I was pleased with those.
After the Jungle Cruise, I again checked out Pirates of the Caribbean, still quite crowded, and, as it was now approaching 7, I went into the men’s room next to it and got into costume. I had stopped at Wal-Mart on the journey down intending to buy a cowboy hat and toy gun and holster and just go as Black Bart to challenge Woody, but the hat I liked came with a mask so I brought that along. And Wal-Mart doesn’t sell toy guns. (Guess you have to settle for a real gun?) Had also bought a mascara pencil- or whatever that is- to make a mustache- all the bad guys have a mustache, and was wearing a beautiful black western shirt given me a few years back and my black dress pants, and black patent leather shoes and my black “Woody” socks. (No one noticed.) I intended to simply be a masked bad guy, but despite the dress shirt and lack of cape everyone immediately identified me as Zorro. I did a bit of verbal sparring with a few other costumed guests, in character- hey ladies. how about I mow those grass skirts and see what grows? (remember, I was a bad guy.)- and wandered about before again checking Pirates, and as it was now free and clear, I headed in. It was virtually walk on.
Pirates of the Caribbean was recently renovated with some new effects and new characters added to more align it with the blockbuster movie that it inspired. The first of the new effects is at the very beginning of the ride, and it actually made me gasp. Right in the path of the river is a waterfall with a ghostly face intoning the familiar warning, “dead men tell no tales…” And then you go right through this. Gasp.From there on in, the ride is more or less the same as always, except that certain anonymous characters have been replaced by a couple we know, and the dialog has been slightly modified to fit the story of the movie. Despite the improvements though, they still tend to have that pile up at the end of the ride, which really is not okay. However, overall, for all intents and purposes, it is a new ride, or a completely revitalized one, and quite wonderfully done. And that dog still hasn’t moved.
I headed over to Big Thunder Mountain, which has handicapped loading on the exit side. As I was waiting for the back row, the CM on the exit platform pulled a family aside and asked them to wait while he sent the current train off. They were a bit confused, clearly having no idea way they had been pulled aside, and I asked them if they were waiting for a handicapped rider. They said no, and I laughed, thinking I had just witnessed someone being pulled out for one of the Dream prizes. I told them, “Don’t worry: it’s good.” Well, it wasn’t a dream prize but it was good. Apparently the CM had been concerned that he had worried the little girl when loading them so was going to give them another run. Their worry vanished and they started talking about how Disney was so special.
After my run on Big Thunder, I decided to check out my favorite, Splash Mountain, and though the sign said 40 minutes, a CM told me that there was no wait. I had my doubts, but went over, and lo and behold, it was virtually walk on. Maybe it was too cool for the masses to risk getting wet? Anyway, I enjoyed a wonderful run as always.
By the time I came out of that it was dark out, very dark, and still quite crowded. People were long since lining up for the parade, and being under orders to shoot it, I checked the time, but seeing it was still about 45 minutes away, I made my way carefully in the dark over towards Haunted Mansion, not something I do that often, but a tip of the hat to the night’s celebration.
As I made my way down the street of Frontierland, I saw a photo op with Jesse outside the saloon, so pulled up and got a shot with her- mainly just to make Alan jealous.
Then onto Haunted Mansion, ten minutes through that, then out to find a spot to watch the parade. I learned that I had already missed the run of the Headless Horseman, but was still in plenty of time for the parade itself. I grabbed a spot near the bridge that leads out of Frontierland to the front of the castle. I was very fortunate in that a family was sitting on the ground at the ropes and I could pull my ECV in right behind them, so had a clear unobstructed view. It also turned out to be rather entertaining as they had a baby- standing/walking type- that was just so excited by it all and kept trying to waddle out to greet the characters. They also assisted getting my candy bag filled when the near-constant candy distributors came racing down the line, tending, being bent over, to only hit those in the front row. They grabbed my bag and shoved it into the flow. After the parade they agreed to pose for me- the entire family costumed as The Incredibles.
After this first run of the Boo to You Parade, I headed over towards the other side of the park, passing behind the castle, taking note of a dancing area, and the Pooh Playground, where 20,000 Leagues used to be, and where Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs were just finishing up a rare photo posing session. I continued on down to Mickey’s Toon Town, passing right into the Trick or Treating line that started there and ran the entire length of the path that runs from the back side of Toon Town to the side of Space Mountain. There were, as best I can recall, about four or five actual distribution points along the way, with each manned by costumed Cast Members. There were also several spots for posing with characters. I bypassed the lines for those. On the lawn to each side of the path, decorative cut-outs of the cards and rose bushes from Alice in Wonderland added to the atmosphere and Space Mountain was lit with varying colored lights, much as the castle often is each night.
Emerging next to Space Mountain, I decided to do… Space Mountain. I was very pleased when the CM at the entrance waved me through on my little ECV (usually have to walk the long ramp in) and was met at the other end by another CM who guided me directly to a ride vehicle. There were no lines.After I got off, the same CM who loaded me was there waiting with my ECV and I asked him if I could go back in for another run. He said yes, and showed me the way, which I already knew from a multi-run several years earlier at Mickey’s Christmas Party. I rode the other side the second run, and went back for a third. As I was taking my seat for the third run, a mother and daughter behind me in the loading order asked with a bit of trepidation if it was that scary. The little girl asked repeatedly, “Is it as steep as the drop on Splash?” They were so busy trying to ask their questions again and again, that they didn’t pause long enough to hear my answers. Knowing I could leave at any moment, and having sized them up a bit, I looked at both of them and then pointed at the little girl and spoke to her: “You are going to love it.” And then pointing to her Mom, continued, “…but she is going to cry.”
This lightened both of them up and as I pulled away, I called out to Mom, “If you get scared, just look at the sky. Trust me.”
When I finished my run, I sat on the couch at the end (isn’t that interesting that they have couches at the end of this ride- as if expecting that some people will need to sit down for a moment after riding…) and waited for them, knowing they were in the train behind me. They came off with ear to ear grins and calling out how great it was- and Mom bragged, “I only had to look at the ceiling once.”
As I headed out the long exit, I saw a man dressed as the Scarecrow, fairly simple but effective, and he greeted me noting that he had seen me getting on. We had run across each other earlier and I had complimented him on his outfit. When I emerged at the other end, I noticed he was joined by his wife and child, another of the many Cap’n Jacks of the night and I asked them to pose.
I was heading over to Buzz Lightyear when I saw… Buzz Lightyear. I couldn’t resist this opportunity, so stopped for a shot with the preeminent Space Ranger.
Then I heard that unmistakable noise and with a sudden wave of disappointment realized I had forgotten, and was out of place for, the fireworks show. It was too late to get over to Main Street so I found the best viewing I could and shot what I could.
I then did Buzz, and got a bad ride vehicle. It wouldn’t hold in place and kept twisting around to balance the load (me) to gravity, so I had to constantly play with the rotation joystick while I was shooting and that is the only reason my score was so low…
After Buzz, I crossed over and stopped in to see Experiment 626 starring in Stitch’s Great Escape. I like that show. And so much better than what it replaced. I was also thrilled later in the evening to notice a giant Stitch balloon figure atop the building.
Then I went over to the circle in front of the castle to get ready for the second run of the parade, again having missed the run of the Headless Horseman. I entered the roped off handicapped viewing area and again there was a family sitting on the ground in front of me- they were with the man in the wheelchair next to me- and the CM told them they would have to move to let me in, but I told them to stay put. They were fine and I had a clear view. I was also at the very end with an open space left as a walkway beside me, so had a very good shooting position. I chatted with these folks while waiting for the parade, which paid off. Turns out the young “Scully” in front of me either didn’t or couldn’t eat chocolate, so along with his and his mom’s helping get my bag filled, they went through Scully’s bag and pulled out all his chocolate and gave it to me. The young Scully seemed very pleased to be able to give candy to someone, which was kinda neat. I in turn, not being able to see too well, gave them my bag and told them to have at it. They went through and found some things they liked and we wrapped up our trade with everyone happy.
One segment that I was particularly struck by was the dancing gravediggers preceding the float of the Haunted Mansion. They had a whole routine, dancing with their shovels, reminiscent of the dancing chimney sweeps on the roof in Mary Poppins. One of the moves had them swinging around with their shovels pressed against the pavement creating a brilliant shower of sparks. The shovels were also used to bang against the ground and create rhythms as in Stomp, or Blue Man Group. A very entertaining presentation.
After the parade, I scooted about a bit, and then came back to the front of the castle as a show was starting featuring the Disney Villains, claiming this night as theirs, and led by The Evil Queen. I was surprised to find my self thinking, as Cruella entered the stage, that she must feel put upon at not having top billing over these other wanna-be’s… then realized what I was thinking. This is a cartoon character. Damn Disney. Makes it so believable.
After the show, I headed back over to Tomorrowland and decided to take a spin on Astro Orbiter. It was just looking so pretty. I took the elevator up and waited my turn, enjoying the view, and the colorful decorations and lights. It was nearing midnight and things were slowing down. In fact, a maintenance man was there hanging around, clearly waiting for the last run to get on with whatever work it was he was there for. As I started the spin and moved up in the sky, and remember one is starting up a bit to begin with, I noticed that this is a scary ride. It spins very fast. In fact, too fast. That is what gets me on this one. It is spinning too fast for a little can stuck on the end of a skinny metal arm up three stories above the ground. So all you scardey-cats- this is the one you can be scared of.
And that indeed was the end of the night, the rides now closed, the masses making their way to the front of the park. Knowing what a madhouse it was at the exit and onto the transportation back to the parking lot, I wandered around, did some shooting, looked at things, just enjoying the place instead of rushing forward to wait in the mob. As I was sitting in front of the ice cream store on the corner of Main Street having a smoke and shooting the street in its colored lights and ghostly images running across the fronts of the buildings, someone came up behind me to read my banner (my wonderful MouseForLess banner made for me by Wendy of the UK). She asked for whom I was the “official photographer” and I told her about the MFL group. She declared that it was one of her companions that I should be talking to. I then joined the group, four witches, evil queens, whatever, and we chatted for quite a while, and only when the security guards were starting to hang about, did we start out. (The security guards start at the back of the park at closing, and stay behind the last people to leave an area, no pressure, but making sure no one goes back deeper into the park.) We stopped on the now deserted Main Street to grab a shot of the ladies and then headed out independently.
I barely missed the ferry but the next one came very quickly, and I was on it and headed back to the TTC and parking. I was back at my van and checked the time, surprised to see it was 1:30.
When I got home, I dumped my bag to check out my booty.

halloween blog. jud. it was like i was right there ,your descriptions are so good. and the photos are great. love your camera. thanks. i look forward to all your posts. happy halloween

I'm the huntsman you mentioned in your blog. I'm sorry if my family and I seemed rushed but we didn't want to miss our dinner seating at Liberty Tree Tavern. This was the second year that we had come in costume though it's the first time my mom dressed up. We remembered from the first time how often we were stopped for autographs and pictures so we knew we had to push hard to get into the park in time. On my website you can find a couple more pictures of me in costume and I intend to put a couple more up sometime soon.
Ok, the comment system seems to have snarfed my website address. It's
Hi Aaron,

No problem, and glad you found the entry! I enjoyed your webpage! Seems you like the girls, eh? You do have to ask for the number though- or at least an e-mail addy!


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