Hi guys, here is a report I wrote from last night's event. Sorry if it's a little wordy, but I like to remember everything. Enjoy.
Disneylands merchandise events have become something that I really look forward to attending, at least when theyre related to my favorite attractions. Ive only been to the former Nightmare events no Pirates, Toad, Indy, et al, but was very excited to see an event for the regular Mansion as opposed to the Holiday version for once. Id not known about the Happy Haunts Event in Florida years ago (which yielded some very nice merchandise) so it was extra special to be able to attend one right here in Anaheim.
The ticket purchasing process was brutal many months before the actual event and with a new twist: only one ticket could be purchased per transaction. As a result, I only ended up with a single ticket before the event completely sold out. Apparently this had been the case with many other guests, as there were a large percentage of solo attendees.
The merchandise selection and subsequent RSP (random selection process) were painless, and I ended up getting every single item I had requested. This told me one of two things: either the edition size of the offerings was too large, or the economy had forced many people to not compete very heavily for the exclusive items. I was even able to win an item that was produced in an edition size of only 40, which was great.
Merchandise pickup was staged at the Grand Californian Hotel and was offered on two days. I waited until the second day, which was the day of the actual event, figuring there was no rush. To my great delight, I was rewarded with absolutely no lines or waiting of any sort. Three cast members all helped me retrieve my purchases, and couldnt have been more gracious. They also kept remarking about how easy I was to deal with why some guests feel the need to become irate over anything during these events is beyond me. Almost 50% of the items I had purchased were not available on September 9th, but would be shipped in November at Disneys expense. This had happened before at the Nightmare events and was no big deal. I made a note to call Disney, however, and change my address to my work address, since its not safe to receive high value shipments at my condo when nobody is home.
Next door to the pickup area was the event store, where one could purchase any leftover merchandise not sold during the RSP. One sample of each item, including those that were not yet available and those that were sold out, was displayed in an excellently themed environment with cobwebs, props and artwork to complete the look. I had left my camera in the car, thinking I would need both hands to carry all the merchandise back, so I could only snap pictures of this area with my cell phone.
Everything looked much better in person than on the website, as it usually does. It was tempting to pick up more items than Id originally requested, but I refrained, thinking of my already-battered budget. However, there was a surprise offering that wasnt in the RSP a new box set of Haunted Mansion music that included a reproduction of the original vinyl album as well as two CDs and two lithographs. Much of the material was formerly available, but it was mentioned that there were some previously unreleased tracks included on one of the CDs, and that was all it took to snag my interest. At an edition size of 999, I wasnt worried about it selling out that evening, but figured I might as well pick it up then while it was convenient.
Despite there being maybe 10 other guests total between these two experiences, there were more than enough cast members. One was stationed every several feet in the corridors, dressed in the attractions costume, and there were at least 10 available for merchandise pickup and then another 10 for the Event Store. Additionally, there were salaried cast members everywhere. Many seemed frazzled from obviously rushing to put the event together, while others were so impressed and excited at the result that they couldnt resist showing other bigwigs around, pointing out how great and wonderful the store setup was or how amazing the new vinyl/CD was. It struck me as a bit unprofessional in front of the public, but the overall mood was quite happy. I spotted Ed Grier, Disneyland Resorts current President, for the first time in person in the hallways of the Hotel. He was sporting his usual nonplussed expression, reminding me of many past captioned photos on fan sites such as this one that spoke of the same phenomenon.
The merchandise I ordered had been pre-sorted into a cloth bag printed with the Mansions 40th Anniversary logo on it, which was a nice touch and much more sturdy than Disneylands regular plastic bags. I dropped everything off in the car and then went into the Park. Disneyland was closing in 17 minutes, but Main Street was left open for an additional hour, so I just hung out in Town Square. Many others were doing the same thing, most likely in anticipation of leaving the Park and then being let right back in with the private party.
We were instructed to wait near the Kennel outside the main entrance starting at 9pm, with admission beginning at 9:30. The crowd size was not large perhaps 200 or 300 at most, which surprised me. There was a 3-piece band playing somber tones under a Monorail beam, which was a nice touch. Eventually, all those that had been lucky enough to get the higher priced packages including the dinner over at DCA were ushered across the Esplanade. With them, the crowd now looked more like 500-1000 attendees still much smaller than Id imagined. Tony Baxter was present in the crowd speaking to guests - hes always a welcome sight to see.
Many guests were dressed in period costumes to resemble the ballroom scene in the Mansion. The best, however, was the gentleman dressed as the man with no trousers and striped boxers in one of the stretching portraits. He was accompanied by two ladies; one of whom was dressed as the lady on the tightrope holding the parasol. Very clever on both counts.
The gates did not open until around 9:45, and I heard a few guests voicing their concern that the event would begin before everybody made their way over to the Mansion. Walking down Main Street, everyone was taking their time. This would be a theme of the whole evening, that nobody was rushed or flustered, adding to the tone of the Mansions theme. Many stopped to take pictures with no guests in them, parking cameras on various trash cans and railings to take advantage of good night photography.
We were directed to enter the area via Frontierland. The entire Rivers of America area was filled with smoke and extra lighting. Again, many were taking pictures from various angles, including myself. Tech Services had done a very nice job of lighting the area and also adding some projections on the ground.
Everyone waited in the queue of the Mansion and surrounding areas, and after about 10 minutes Constance and the Groom stepped out on the balcony of the Mansion and gave a very brief speech, followed by a cake cutting which was done with a hatchet similar to the one Constance holds in the attraction. After this, the pair wandered toward the center of the balcony to watch guests enter, and there was silence, except for the sound of something falling to the ground in the cake area. It was a small giggle moment, as it was obviously awkward and felt unrehearsed. The couple then sauntered toward the back of the balcony and disappeared, only to return a few minutes later and remain stationed in the center watching guests enter the Mansion and occasionally making comments to them.
I rode the attraction and was disappointed that not a single special element had been added for the Event. In past years, there were sometimes added cast members throughout the ride, or in the case of the first Nightmare event, a large scroll in the Attic that showed everybodys name in attendance. Nothing to be seen this time around other than a nice, uncrowded ride through the classic version of the attraction.
Near the exit, a camera crew was set up to interview random guests. Im not sure what the footage was to be used for, but I heard mention of Disney.com. There was a similar setup in the actual queue off to the side in the lawn area, this time with an actress dressed in Mansion costume interviewing folks. There was also a band playing on a raised stage at the attraction entrance. One song I happened to hear was a cryptic version of Its a Small World. Nobody seemed to take notice of this gag which I thought was rather funny.
There were 3-4 stations for distribution of the cake and beverages. I had forgotten my redemption card to get a piece, so I missed out. I was hoping that later on in the evening they would start to allow guests to take whatever was left, but the cast members were strict on this one. The cake looked very nice with red cake and gray frosting, and was pre-cut into slices on small plates. The drinks looked like a choice between fruit punch and lemonade, and could only be had at the same time as the cake.
Once again, as at the hotel areas, there was an overabundance of salaried cast members mixed in with the crowd, most of whom were not actively doing anything other than looking nervous or wanting to be part of the action themselves. Denny Newell, show director of parades, was on hand directing the flow of events, so it was obvious that he had been named director of this event. Denny seems to have garnered quite a roster of responsibilities in recent years with parades, shows, special events, even the implementation of the new Pixie Hollow quite a departure from past years when there were multiple people in charge of Entertainment. I assumed that the layoffs earlier this year may have included some of his counterparts, adding more work to his own routine.
By 10:45, everybody had ridden the attraction and the line was nonexistent. Many were simply lingering in the area, taking advantage of how empty it was, snapping pictures and just enjoying the wonderful ambiance. I hadnt mentioned before, but several cast members from Entertainment were present in excellent Mansion-style ghostly attire, wandering through the crowds as couples, in complete silence. They added a lot to the atmosphere, as did the three men playing the Hitchhiking Ghosts, who were also available for photo taking. Around this time, the band exited and walked towards the Frontierland train station. Im not sure if they were taking a break or they were done for the evening, as I left shortly thereafter.
Le Bat en Rouge was open for business, but there was nothing event-specific in the stores. Still, it was nice to be able to browse the store without regular guests everywhere. This was also a great time to get some night shots of New Orleans Square without many guests. I ran into a very nice couple whom Id met during the Tiki Room 45th merchandise release back in 2007, and it was great to see them again.
Exiting through Adventureland, there were cast members stationed the entire route back to the front exit directing us with their flashlights. Since so few people were leaving at any given time, you pretty much had the Park to yourself at that moment. The entire event had a very quiet and peaceful tone to it, different from the game booth carnival-style atmosphere Id remembered from one of the Nightmare events, but actually more enjoyable in my opinion.
Overall, I thought it was a lot of fun. There were elements where Disneys typical rushed and unplanned behaviors reared their ugly heads, but I think most of us have come to expect that and simply ignore it, looking more toward the unique experiences we have when events such as these take place.
I do think, however, that in the future, Disney should reconsider the rule of only allowing one guest per transaction on the tickets, because while it did permit more people to attend than otherwise would have, it also netted many singles who werent able to get pairs of tickets and share the experience with friends. I, for one had wished I could have brought several different people who would have really enjoyed this as much as I did. I also felt that, while its great to have such a small, intimate event, Disney really didnt need to cut off the ticket sales at quite such a low number. Things never felt overly crowded and I personally think they could have added another 300 guests without affecting the show.
Thanks for reading!