Beginning this summer at Walt Disney World, the new Villains After Hours event will occur in Magic Kingdom. In this post, we’ll share the entertainment lineup, dates for the hard ticket party, and offer some thoughts, including how this compares to Villains Unleashed, a one-off special event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios a few years ago. (All but one of the photos in this post are from that event–I finally have an excuse to post them!)
First, the basics. Disney Villains After Hours will be held on select nights from June 6 through August 8, 2019. The event will offer a villains theme, with exclusive entertainment including an all-new stage show, food & beverage, merchandise, and more.
Disney Villains After Hours is being marketed as a summer twist on the normal After Hours at Magic Kingdom event. To us, it sounds more like a cross between After Hours and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, arguably bearing more in common with the latter. Given its summer timing, it’s probably occurring because it’s simply too early (even by Walt Disney World standards) to start an event with “Halloween” in the name in June…
For those who are unfamiliar with the ‘After Hours’ component, it’s a limited capacity event promising low wait times at over 20 attractions and experiences in Magic Kingdom (it’s also offered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom).
Disney After Hours started a couple years ago and has grown in popularity since. The event allows entry at 7 p.m., which gives time to watch Happily Ever After before doing attractions. Unlimited ice cream, popcorn, and bottled beverages are also included in the cost of the event.
Rides open during Disney After Hours include Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more. Typically, wait times peak at 30 minutes for the most popular attractions, with many attractions being walk-ons during the party.
As for the unique offerings that Disney Villains After Hours brings to the table, here’s what we know so far based upon Disney’s official announcement…
There will be an all-new Disney Villains stage show called “Villains Unite the Night” featuring Hades and Meg from Hercules as they set the castle stage ablaze.
This will also include appearances by Jafar, The Queen, Dr. Facilier, Maleficent, and other villains.
Another intriguing piece of entertainment is that the Maleficent the Dragon float from Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom will be “let loose” for the first time at night.
This Steampunk style float will breath fire as it creeps through the park in a one-of-a-kind experience for party guests. It’ll be interesting to what degree this float is actually free roaming. Probably not much at all, especially given the whole “breathing fire” thing and the incident last year.
As with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, there will be a couple of attraction overlays. For the Disney Villains After Hours event, there will be villains-inspired additions to Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain.
Note that these are two of the three attractions that had Halloween overlays last year, with a different slate of attractions rumored to be receiving Halloween overlays. This makes sense now, as it would be a way to differentiate the two events.
Finally, there will be a variety of “wickedly good” special food & beverage offerings, including tasty desserts, drinks, and dishes inspired by The Queen, Cruella de Vil, Maleficent, Hades, Dr. Facilier, Emperor Zurg, and more.
Along with this, there will be new logo merchandise for Disney Villains After Hours, as well as items from a curated collection of the best Disney Villains merchandise available.
Disney Villains After Hours tickets cost $139 in advance or $144 on the event night (plus tax). Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club Members can save $30 per ticket. Tickets for Disney Villains After Hours event nights will go on sale April 29, 2019.
Alright, now for some commentary. My first thought upon seeing this announcement is that it’s very reminiscent of Villains Unleashed, an event that took place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios a few years ago. That one-night event featured a stage show hosted by Hades, included appearances by 50 villains (many rare), Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse Show, and the Villainy in the Sky Fireworks.
Depending upon who you ask, it was either an unmitigated disaster (pretty much everyone but me) or one of the zaniest and most envelope-pushing things (my take) Walt Disney World has done in recent memory. While billed as a one-night event, it was a test to see if themed nights like this would work, with other concepts planned for the future.
Before the night was even over, it was abundantly clear that Villains Unleashed was a train wreck, and definitely a one-and-done.
I distinctly remember watching Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse Show and thinking, “this is excellent, but I can’t believe they’re doing it!” as a constant stream of families fled towards the exits (that’s not an understatement).
It turns out that having a risqué stage show was the least of the problems for Villains Unleashed. While there were a ton of meet & greets, those offerings have a very low hourly capacity, and most guests who bought tickets were huge character fans.
Imagine an event where every single character meet & greet has lines on par with the Seven Dwarfs or Jack Skellington during the holiday parties, and you have a rough idea of how this went. Suffice to say, the Guest Relations line at the end of the night was quite long.
I wasn’t there to meet any characters, so that didn’t bother me–in fact, it helped. Crowds throughout the park were non-existent because most other guests were in those lines.
Personally, I found the production values on all of the entertainment to be top notch. While I can recognize that they went a bit too far with Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse Show, I enjoyed it.
Irrespective of individual experiences, I think it’s pretty undeniable that there were some good ideas behind Villains Unleashed.
Unfortunately, those ‘good idea nuggets’ were buried under an avalanche of poor planning, event execution, capacity issues, and pushing the envelope of what’s appropriate at a park with “Disney’s” in the name.
My suspicion and hope is that Walt Disney World’s entertainment and events teams learned from what worked and didn’t with Villains Unleashed. Ideally, they are cherry-picking the best ideas from that for Disney Villains After Hours and pairing it with shades of the Halloween Party and regular After Hours events. Basically, I would expect the material at Disney Villains After Hours to be totally fresh, but with a familiar tone and vibe.
As for whether Disney After Hours is worth the money, or is another hard ticket cash grab remains to be seen. The price is definitely steep, but so too are the normal After Hours and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets. The former was going to happen during this timeframe regardless, so if anything, Walt Disney World putting in the effort to enhance that ‘paid EMH’ event with new entertainment seems like a small victory. The proliferation of these events throughout the year at Magic Kingdom, and the corresponding decrease in daily operating hours, does remain very concerning.
Are you excited for Disney Villains After Hours? Will you be attending the event? Do you agree or disagree with our perspective on this? Did you attend Villains Unleashed? Any questions we can help you answer? 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!