There are two big fall hard ticket events at Walt Disney World and Disneyland: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom in Florida and Oogie Boogie Bash at California Adventure. This post compares and contrasts the two to see which is better for characters, parades, entertainment, crowds, and more.
On the one hand, this is a “just for fun” post since both events are essentially sold out for the year. On the other hand, we spot more spirit jerseys on flights between the two Orange Counties, and diehard Disney fans are visiting both coasts with greater frequency. With that in mind, we’re writing this with an eye towards preparing for Fall 2024 trips, and helping you determine whether you should visit Walt Disney World or Disneyland for the Halloween season.
While the comparison seems natural and logical enough from a planning perspective, this post was actually inspired by our many Florida-based friends and acquaintances who have made the trip to California, done Oogie Boogie Bash for the first time, and absolutely loved it. We’ve heard more than a few rave reviews about Oogie Boogie Bash from Walt Disney World-centric fans…but can’t help thinking that those are slightly misguided.
Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely love Oogie Boogie Bash. It’s an incredible event that we’ve done every single year since it began–and several before that when the hard ticket option was Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. And we’ll do it again in 2024, too!
However, I think there’s absolutely a ‘freshness bias’ from a Florida fan perspective. For many, the last major positive change to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was the addition of Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular. That was almost 10 years ago. Before that and since then, not much had changed at MNSSHP in a long, long time. Not even the character meet & greets differ much from year to year.
There’s a fine line between nostalgia and stagnation, and if you’re an annual attendee of MNSSHP, it arguably feels a bit tired. That’s probably doubly true if you had the Party Pass in 2019 and have disproportionately attended the unbearably hot August parties since, as is the case with many superfans. (Raises hand!) After an awesome post-hiatus homecoming, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween is again feeling a bit old.
But that’s the point of view of a blogger, vlogger, or Walt Disney World diehard fan who lives locally. It’s not representative of the average attendee or even the more casual fan who visits infrequently. While everyone obviously has biases, that’s our attempted viewpoint when making this attempt at an objective comparison between Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Oogie Boogie Bash…
Ticket Difficulty: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – Since we’re writing this from the perspective of planning for 2024, we’d be remiss if we didn’t start with the purchase process to appropriately set expectations. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has never sold out a single date within the first month of tickets going on sale. Not once, ever. If you pay moderately close attention and buy your tickets within ~6 weeks of their release, you won’t have any difficulties in buying tickets to MNSSHP.
By contrast, Oogie Boogie Bash was plagued by problems when its tickets went on sale this year. In theory, you could’ve waited in lengthy virtual queues on three separate days (once for APs, once for the general public that was shut down due to technical difficulties and the make-up date for that) and still walked away empty-handed. Not once in the last few years could you have purchased a ticket for Oogie Boogie Bash a week after they went on sale, let alone a month. In all likelihood, the 2024 Oogie Boogie Bash will be just as difficult, as the FOMO beast feeds into itself. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of stress and time required months ahead of time.
Parade: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – Nowhere is it more evident that ‘fatigue’ exists among Florida fans than in their assessment of the parades at the respective Halloween parties. There is truly no contest here, as Mickey’s Boo to You Parade absolutely trounces Frightfully Fun Parade.
Boo to You has more units, floats, and performers. It has more iconic moments and music. Even though it’s significantly longer, it’s a very tight parade that never overstays its welcome or feels like filler. (Glares at ‘A Christmas Fantasy’ Parade.) It is the stronger parade in almost every conceivable way, and honestly, I don’t even see how this is up for debate.
About the only “weakness” of Mickey’s Boo to You Parade is that 90% of it existed a decade or two ago. So for some Walt Disney World fans, it feels tired and overdue for a replacement. To that, I say don’t fix what isn’t broken. How many Walt Disney World fans believe the replacement for HalloWishes is an actual upgrade? In short, be careful what you wish for.
With that said, I don’t believe Frightfully Fun Parade has any real weaknesses. It’s very strong, with menacing moments and ground level performers. It just needs to be longer. This started out as a replacement for Mickey’s Costume Party Cavalcade, and my assumption was always that it’d expand over time, with new units added in subsequent years. That hasn’t happened, but it should. “Borrow” a float or two from ‘A Christmas Fantasy,’ it doesn’t need them all!
Nighttime Spectaculars: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – Magic Kingdom’s hard ticket event is the winner by default here. Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular is the fireworks show presented during MNSSHP and while it’s arguably inferior to HalloWishes in ways, it has a truly impressive Jack Skellington puppet that hosts the show. It also has explosions over Cinderella Castle, which is pretty rad.
It also exists, which is more than can be said for a nighttime spectacular at Oogie Boogie Bash. For its first year, World of Color – Villainous was the nighttime spectacular at OOB. It has not been seen or spoken of again since. Whether this is due to anemic guest satisfaction scores or the logistics of running World of Color and a parade in the same area on a tight turnaround time is anyone’s guess. Although World of Color – Villainous was arguably underwhelming, I doubt even its harshest critics would contend it was addition-by-subtraction bad. Regardless, this is an easy win for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Characters: Oogie Boogie Bash – Now we turn to the easy win for Oogie Boogie Bash. Let’s start with the meet & greets, which offer a wide variety of rare & classic characters from animated movies, plus Pixar Pals and Marvel Super Heroes. There’s a wide assortment of options, and never know who you’re going to find in Carthay Circle. Moreover, the times are fairly manageable with the major exception of the Sanderson Sisters, who often have an hour-plus wait. Everyone else, even Bruno from Encanto and the Kingdom Hearts characters, is typically not too bad.
Then there are the Villains Treat Trails. These are ostensibly a way to collect candy and, mission accomplished on that front, as we gathered a stockpile to give out to trick or treaters on Halloween. Their real highlight is the villains who appear at the end of the trails and provide entertainment and interact with guests. In fact, this is the highlight of Oogie Boogie Bash as a whole, and is the #1 reason why Florida fans rave about Oogie Boogie Bash.
They’re absolutely right about this. See Judge Doom kill a cartoon live on stage or Ernesto de la Cruz kill it singing “Remember Me,” and you will instantly become an OOB aficionado. Words don’t do the Villains Treat Trails justice, and it’s impossible to convey how fun these are to Walt Disney World fans accustomed to normal treat trails. To that point, see our Villains Treat Trail Tips at Oogie Boogie Bash if you need further convincing.
Maybe this is my own bias creeping in, but the character experience at MNSSHP feels almost like a chore at this point. Arrive early for Jack Skellington or the Seven Dwarfs so maybe you’ll “only” wait in a ~90 minute line. Be super strategic about other top characters, or else waste another hour-plus. Etcetera, etcetera. Honestly, even if my perspective here is jaded or colored by burn out–and it very well might be–Oogie Boogie Bash wins here even in an objective landslide. It’s easier, better, and much more satisfying for character fans.
Stage Shows/Entertainment: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – Let’s continue the trend of bouncing from one extreme to another, with one that Magic Kingdom wins handily. Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular is one of the best productions by Disney Live Entertainment anywhere ever.
Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular is an all-time classic, worthy of a highlight reel of the top stage shows at Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, etc. And don’t hate me, but I say this as someone who thinks the movie itself only has a cult following because of serious childhood nostalgia. I try to catch Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular at least twice per MNSSHP, and would pay the price of admission just for this. It’s seriously that good.
This isn’t the only entertainment at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, either. There’s also a bunch of dance parties if you’re into that sort of thing, plus the Cadaver Dans Barbershop Quartet and Rusty Cutlass Pirate Band in Adventureland. I’m only into the latter, but nevertheless, something for everyone. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is also the only event to feature the hijinks and hilarity of the Country Bears–need I even say more?!
Oogie Boogie Bash has Mickey’s Trick and Treat, an interactive stage show with Mickey Mouse and pals “where madcap fun is brewing along with a potion.” I’ll bet a lot of OBB attendees have never even heard of that, let alone seen it, which is likely because it’s held in the Disney Junior Dance Party space. This stage show is actually surprisingly good and could become a cult classic with a bit of tweaking, but it’s clearly aimed at small children–to the point that it’s almost awkward to go in there without them.
There’s also Villains Grove at Oogie Boogie Bash, which is an overlay of Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. This is walk-through world of Disney villains, transformed with lighting, projections, sounds, and special effects to create a haunting, dreamlike (or nightmare-like?) environment. It’s very impressionistic and atmospheric–a Disneyfied twist on Halloween mazes found elsewhere. It’s a neat novelty and fun for photos, but draws shockingly long lines for what it is, and isn’t that good.
Atmosphere: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – Simply by virtue of being in the castle park instead of the second gate, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party wins this. There’s just something about seeing Main Street transformed for Halloween, with an extra layer of lighting and music on top of the pumpkins and daily decor. The same was true for the California event when it was held at Disneyland.
Beyond that, the other lands have a better vibe during MNSSHP. There’s music, projections, and lighting effects throughout the park, and those open-concept lands simply ‘work’ better than San Fransokyo or Avengers Campus celebrating Halloween. Cars Land and Buena Vista Street are the biggest exceptions, but they celebrate Haul-O-Ween and BatFest (I don’t know what it’s actually called) on a daily basis throughout September and October.
Crowds: Oogie Boogie Bash – It’s exceeding difficult for the average attendee of either of these parties to do everything in a single night. Chances are, you won’t be able to meet every single character, see the parade, stage shows, and other entertainment–never mind doing rides in addition to the party-specific stuff. But which is more challenging? Where are crowds worse?
There’s a version of this where the answer is “it depends.” Someone out there might have very specific priorities that make Oogie Boogie Bash the worse of the two events for crowds. As with ghosts and leprechauns, I also believe in unicorns. But those people are absolutely the outliers. For the vast majority of attendees, Oogie Boogie Bash is going to be the less crowded and laid back experience.
On average, lines for characters are shorter, the Treat Trails make up-close encounters with villains a breeze, it’s easier to see the parade, ride wait times are minimal, and there are no areas of the park that have anywhere near the level of congestion as Main Street at Magic Kingdom between the first and last parade. Disneyland is just generally lower stress and lower stakes, and that extends to Oogie Boogie Bash. (Well, except for scoring tickets in the first place!)
Bigger Picture: Disneyland – There’s no real comparison. Here’s a partial list of the Halloween offerings at Disneyland:
Halloween Screams Fireworks
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Cars Land Haul-O-Ween
Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
Plaza de la Familia/Musical Celebration of Coco
You can also meet Mickey & Friends in spooky character costumes on both Main Street at Disneyland and Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure, while Jack Skellington and Sally appear in New Orleans Square with a line that’s typically much shorter than MNSSHP. All of those characters appear on a daily basis–everything above is included with regular admission at Disneyland Resort.
By contrast, Walt Disney World offers the Main Street Pumpkin Festival (also at Disneyland) and…uh…does the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival count? (There isn’t a single pumpkin item on those menus.) There are also some paid offerings, like Minnie’s Halloween Dine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and I guess there are pumpkins at Disney Springs, but outside of Main Street in Magic Kingdom, you could easily go an entire trip in September or October without realizing that Walt Disney World is “celebrating” Halloween.
Not so at Disneyland. If you want a festive fall getaway with a big emphasis on spook season, Disneyland is the hands down winner. See our Ultimate Guide to Halloween at Disneyland for a comprehensive list of everything the parks, resort hotels, and Downtown Disney offer.
Ultimately, our ‘verdict’ would be that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is the superior event for first-timers or Disney fans who get to the parks on an infrequent basis. In isolation, MNSSHP offers more than OBB on a pound for pound basis thanks to the fireworks, stage show, atmospheric entertainment, and bigger & better parade. Even though the character component is miles better at Oogie Boogie Bash, that’s simply not enough to bridge the gap unless you’re a regular attendee, really into villains, or your evening will revolve around characters.
However, we stated at the top that this was not just for fun, but also for planning purposes. Realistically, very few people are going to be deciding between Walt Disney World and Disneyland for a Halloween 2024 trip solely on the basis of the hard ticket events. Once you zoom out, it’s difficult to see how Walt Disney World wins. For one thing, some of the stuff “missing” from Oogie Boogie Bash is included with admission next door at Disneyland.
For another thing, Disneyland doesn’t have Florida weather ever, but especially not during September and October. Although unstated, I’d be willing to bet a lot of our Florida friends factored the lack of triple-digit weather into their appraisals of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party vs. Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party. You know what? They’re right!
Have you attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Oogie Boogie Bash? Which did you think had the better atmosphere, characters, parade, entertainment, etc? Would you rather do Disneyland or Walt Disney World during the Halloween season? Do you disagree with any of our advice and assessments? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!