When you think of things that go bump in the night you think of ghosts, goblins, and… Disney World? Well for Petey Mongelli that is exactly what he was envisioning when putting together his latest event for horror fans. The father of Spooky Empire, Florida’s biggest and baddest horror convention, brought us Spooky Days in the Park; a weekend of horror inside the gates of Walt Disney World.
If you have ever attended a Spooky Empire convention it’s hard not to notice the array of Disney villains walking around the hoards of zombies, vampires, and other darkly inspired cosplayers. Perhaps it’s due to our location just miles away from the “Happiest place on earth” but this horror convention definitely brings out the villainous side of many Disney fans!
It appears Petey took notice too, as he announced this year’s premiere event at Walt Disney World in Florida; Spooky Days in the Park. The hardcore horror fan put together this event with his wonderful staff which was certainly a one of a kind weekend, and we can only hope that it will be returning next witching season.
The three day event, while small in scale to his twice a year Spooky conventions, still packed a punch. Beginning Friday vendors opened their tables of the unusual, bizarre, and horror themed items for sale in the convention center held within the Coronado Springs resort. Nearly thirty vendors attended, and many of them tweaked their original horror designs to pay homage and tribute to the special weekend hosted at the home of Cinderella’s Castle.
Other vendors saw this as a prime opportunity to showcase their artwork which already merged Disney and the darkness that lays outside the park gates. Disney has always had a bit of darkness; I mean come on, have you ever been on It’s a Small World? It’s terrifying!
In all seriousness, attractions like the Haunted Mansion and Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror definitely depart from the happy-go-lucky characters frolicking throughout the Magic Kingdom, as well as the beautiful yet tamer attractions that appeal to younger audiences.
This brings us to Friday night’s event; The Gala. Being the first Spooky Days in the Park we only had what the website’s description of this event to prepare us for the evening; open bar, villain themed desserts, private and unlimited access to the Tower of Terror, Disney Villain character photo ops, and a live DJ. Not too shabby, even though the price of admission was a bit steep… and no, I don’t mean your soul.
Having reserved the courtyard right outside of the Tower of Terror event coordinators transformed the area into a spooktacular sight with their lighting choices, fog machines, and eerie music. It was definitely a darker side of Disney World, one that I have never seen before which includes my experience at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. With a strongly suggested dress code and the balance of elegance and spooky, it was certainly a feast for the eyes!
While this event wasn’t targeted to every Spooky Empire fan who may have attended Petey’s past conventions, it was a worthwhile investment for those who seek out the darker characters in the Magic Kingdom. It is very rare to get face time with any of the villains who attended the Gala, and with only a crowd of about 60 people you certainly had time for more than your average snap a pic and go.
The characters who were kind enough to grace us with their evil presence included; Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Queen of Hearts, and an extremely rare appearance by Mr. Oogie Boogie himself! Suffice it to say, I had my own little geek out moment when each character stepped out, and the patrons in line with me all shared the same excitement.
If you chose not to participate in the Gala there were other panels you had access to with the general admission entry fee which which included the vendor’s room. While there were not celebrity horror guests, panels more in tune with the theme of Spooky Days in the Park filled the schedule; the most notable being the screening of Foolish Mortals: A Haunted Mansion Documentary.
This documentary directed by James H. Carter II and executive producer Ryan Grulich had its Orlando premiere at Spooky Days in the Park on Friday night and replayed again Saturday afternoon. The piece showcases the creation of the Haunted Mansion attraction as well as the fan culture surrounding the ride. It was touching to see how much this ride means to some people, whether it gave them a second chance to experience a childhood they missed out on, influenced their art career, or just gave them a new passion to be excited about.
Other events throughout the weekend included; a Disney Bounding fashion show, the “Grim Twist” on the Disney Princesses (which is not for the faint of heart,) and a live podcast talking about the creepier side of Disney.
Spooky Days in the Park was an awesome event for the child in all of us who somehow ended up on the darker path of what interests us, which includes Disney villains. While the low attendance rate, especially in comparison to Spooky Empire’s past conventions, might hinder its return next year we will always have the memories from this year’s event.
Be sure to check out the line up for Spooky Empire’s October Convention this October 27-29 in Orland, Florida by clicking here!