Disney Parks promoted the “Unleash the Villains” night almost a year ago, yet they were thoroughly unprepared for the crowds that descended on both Disneyland and Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World and the front line Cast Members would have to bare the brunt of the storm of anger that ensued once the Villains were unleashed. I guess we should know that taking a villain off his leash would create chaos, right? When the hosts are the leader of hell and his compatriots, one should expect Pain and Panic among the guests.
The day started off like a normal fall day, with exceptionally low crowds. Once 5:00 PM arrived the villains were still leashed, but were already wrecking havoc on parking. There were MANY reports of the horrors of just trying to park one’s car. My wife attempted to bring my children over and we only live 10 minutes away down US 192. They were in the car over an hour and weren’t moving. I told her to let the 14 and 16 year old out and have them walk the rest of the way because it would be much faster. Several people told me the biggest problem was that there was only ONE lane open at the toll booth and only ONE person taking money. Once operations realized that a parking issue was being created, they should have A) Closed the lot and redirected traffic B) Sent reinforcements to open more booths or C) Just opened every lane for people to flow through and not have parking issues. I heard of many cars driving the wrong way down the one-way lanes trying to find empty spots and many cars were parking on grassy areas. The ticketing and security areas actually functioned very well considering the mass of humanity that collected at Hollywood Studios. One advantage of the new Next Gen system is the turnstiles move much faster than the old version.
People began to line up for Villains meets at about 4:00 PM. There were 3, yes 3, meet and greet locations along Echo Lake. It’s the same area that they handle celebrity autographs for Star Wars Weekends. Disney had produced some nice looking backgrounds with extra lighting and many guests enjoyed having their photo made with the attractive setting. People really began forming longer lines around 6:00 PM. No one had any idea what villains would be out or where said villains would meet. Would they meet in groups? Would they meet alone? Would they rotate? Over the next hour Echo Lake, near Dinosaur Gerties, would turn into a veritable sea of hot, irritable humanity. There were thousands of people waiting at 3, yes 3, character locations, all crammed into one tiny area. Those areas would have worked well if it were Pluto, Marie and Mary Poppins, but people were wanting villains and rumors flew about which would visit.
The opening ceremony announcing the villains began at the Sorcerers Hat at 8:00 PM and Pain didn’t make it to the stage, so Megara covered for him. People were later told Pain was stuck in traffic. I think Pain was creating the traffic. We figured the villains would be right over but they were delayed over 20 minutes. One Cast Member told us repeatedly that we were in line for Oogie Boogie and Jafar, in that order. We were told at least 4 times that Oogie would be FIRST. The other lines would be for Shan Yu/Snow Queen and Bowler Hat Guy/Maleficent. We had waited over 3 hours, I know it verges on insanity, to meet Oogie Boogie. It may be our only time to meet the guy, because rumor has it that he’s heading to California. So who arrives first? Jafar! Do you think that all those people lined up for 3 hours to meet a guy that we had just seen at Character Palooza??? The one attendant began trying to move the line in a very militaristic style. It felt like a paratrooper jump or attempting to load or unload at the Transformers attraction at Universal. “Go! Go! Go! Let’s keep this line moving! Next! One photo per family!!!” No one was going to be encouraged to interact with the characters, just a very fast photo to allow the 1.3 million others to do the same.
When Jafar arrived the first couple of people obliged the Cast Member’s orders, but the rest of us decided to quietly and politely just stand. We didn’t wait 3 hours to meet Jafar and we were promised repeated by a Disney Cast Member that we would meet Oogie Boogie. The Cast Member came over to a friend standing next to me and confronted her and reached out like she was going to grab her, but relented wisely. She was literally screaming at us that we had to move, but we just stood there. Another Cast Member, Teresa, came over and allowed two different lines to form within the same queue. VERY smart decision to accommodate the hot, sweaty, irritable guests who had stood in line and were promised a certain character. We were willing to wait another 20-30 minutes to meet Oogie Boogie. Throughout the night, they had to go up and down the line to find people willing to meet Jafar. He often wandered back and forth and did enjoy the booing that he received and played along. Well done Jafar, well done! Oogie Boogie finally arrived to mass cheers. He was cool looking, but kind of looked like a giant dyed burlap sack.
There was a line that began at Min and Bills Dockside Diner and stretched almost to Dinosaur Gerties. We were told that it was the line for the Bowler Hat guy, so we just looked around and took some atmosphere photos. I found it easy to get some nice shots of Goob.
We noticed that the line for Shan Yu was shorter than the other lines and hopped in that line. When we got to the final turn in the queue, we realized that a double line was also formed in this queue. We waited for the correct rotation and met Shan Yu. No screaming or yelling at this location. The CMs were polite and didn’t tell people to rush, but guests were courteous and moved along well.
After meeting Shan Yu, I had an opportunity to meet a few friends of the blog. It’s always great hearing how I get to help others make memories. That’s why this was started! I’m sorry I couldn’t meet at Dinosaur Gerties, but that place was a nut house and I was in line for Shan Yu because the lines started late. Here’s a photo with two little cuties Caitlynn and Alyssa. They asked an autograph, how kewt. I asked if they would like a photo together and mom’s camera wasn’t working, so I handed over mine and told them they would appear on the blog. They were all smiles.
I later learned that two lines had formed for the Bowler Hat Guy and Maleficent and the shorter line was for Goob. Go figure! Maleficent is at every Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Goob never visits Walt Disney World.
We ambled over toward the hat to watch the Villany in the Sky fireworks, which I wrote about the other day. Here’s the photos and video. It was a fantastic firework show and really lifted the spirits of those still waiting in line for those 3, yes 3, meet and greets. The other 7 characters of the 13 that Disney promised were “dancing” near the hat. Well, actually, most were just walking through the crowds. Each would stop for a photo and move along, stop for a photo, you get the picture.
It was insanely crowded near the hat and Echo Lake. Who decided to host the ENTIRE event in one little area with a mass of people? I was told later that management was telling people, “We didn’t expect this kind of crowd.” Really? On February 24, 2012 they had the exact same answer to the night time crowd that descended upon the first 24 hour day in the Magic Kingdom. They announced this event a YEAR in advance and they still weren’t prepared.
They offered several villains that are otherwise rare or had never appeared at Walt Disney World.
They presented a first class fireworks show with a barrage of shells that continued for 8 minutes.
Having Hades as a talking face character was very cool.
DJ Elliot, the stage design, the extra video screen in front of the hat were very well done.
Security and Ticketing outside the park worked very well.
Hollywood Studios fumbled the merchandise AGAIN. How hard is it to print some Tshirts and have them available in MULTIPLE locations. Is it necessary to have one single door to go through to purchase from one or two registers? Disney wants to sell merch because it makes money, but they don’t offer enough when it’s actually good merch. If they are still available, you can order them on Disneystore.com
Security in the area near the characters was non-existent, but fortunately, people behaved pretty well in the lines.
The choice of placing 3 meet and greets within like 100 feet of space with little walk space. When I saw them in the afternoon with no signage for which character would meet where, I said, “This is going to become a madhouse.” When the characters were announced by one Cast Member going up and down the line loudly proclaiming them, a mass of line moving occurred for people positioning for their favorite character. The 3 1/2 hour line for Oogie Boogie was consistent throughout the night because he met every other 30 minutes. Why didn’t they do similar the the Villains Bash after the Tower of Terror 5K and place characters all over the park??? Spread out the characters, spread out the crowd. Place a sign for which character one would meet too and inform guests where they would meet. If 16,000 people wanted to meet Oogie Boogie, they could line up on the Streets of America and meet him at the front gate if need be.
The total lack of food and drink carts. We observed several people being treated from the issues that derived from the heat. There were only a few food places open and they had really long lines. The crowd was probably close to or equivalent to New Year’s Eve crowds, but food and drink was difficult to find. They could have sold 5,000 bottles of water to the people in line for characters alone.
The parking was a nightmare in itself. I spoke to one lady who took a Shades of Green bus and it took her 3 hours to get to the event. By that time she had given up hope of meeting characters and just sat on a curb people watching and waiting for fireworks.
I’m glad they offered the event. I’m glad they offered some rare characters, especially villains. I’m glad they did a fantastic fireworks show. I’m glad that I was lucky enough to be in the right line for Oogie Boogie. But I wish they had spent more time organizing the details of the event. Whatever people are in charge of planning the meet and greets did a poor job and put the front-line Cast Members in a very poor position. Those poor people had the take the brunt of guest’s anger and they were just following directions. Well, except for the lady screaming at people. I think the event shows that Hollywood Studios could easily offer a Villains hard ticket event in the future, if they choose to do so.