Photo Report: 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has made its triumphant return to Magic Kingdom for 2022! This reviews and recaps our experience in photo report form, with photos of Walt Disney World’s fan-favorite “fall” hard ticket event, a run-through of our evening, and other anecdotal thoughts from attending MNSSHP.

If you’re looking for step-by-step strategy for the event, consult our Guide to the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party instead. Basically, this is a trip report…but for just the Halloween Party. Similar to our recent rope drop and Early Entry reports, and speaking of which, we’ll have more recaps soon covering crowds at Magic Kingdom on party and non-party days.

The MNSSHP we attended was sold out, which makes complete sense. Everyone knows early August is the heart and soul of spooky season! Nothing makes me want to don a thick costume, elaborate hat, and face paint like the prospect of summer storm season coupled with high heat and humidity in Central Florida…

Half-joking aside, Halloween is probably the sole buttress preventing ‘Christmas in July’ from becoming an earnest thing at Walt Disney World, so I retract my tongue-in-cheek criticism. (If only we could get Christmas weather in July. I’d gladly take that reprieve from 100 degree ‘feels like’ temperatures at 10 am!)

Wanting to take advantage of the ridiculously low crowds in Magic Kingdom on party days, we were already in the park prior to the start of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Nevertheless, we ventured out just before 4 pm to have a look at the crowd awaiting entry…

Actually not too bad of a crowd at ~3:45 pm.

While there’s always an initial rush of guests at 4 pm, many people don’t know they can enter Magic Kingdom early. This has changed in recent years as Walt Disney World better advertises the perk, presumably to help justify the price increases.

The majority of guests still arrive around 7 pm, so you’re definitely going to encounter lower crowds when entering the park by showing up before that.

Of course, you’ll have to deal with sunshine, heat, and the potential for an afternoon thunderstorm–not alluring prospects for those donning elaborate costumes. So there’s that downside.

The bigger upside to arriving early is extending your time in Magic Kingdom, and this includes accomplishing things you might want to do during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Getting a meal out of the way, buying seasonal snacks, or lining up for characters.

Speaking of which, Sally and Jack Skellington is the big character meet & greet and the only one that starts prior to the party. The line forms in Town Square Theater at 4 pm, with the characters coming out between then and 5 pm. The line at this time is about the longest it’ll be–between 2 and 3 hours, typically. But it’s also before MNSSHP officially starts, so at least you aren’t wasting party time, I guess?

We opted against doing this. You might call this a public service, as we very thoughtfully wanted to reduce the line length by 2-3 minutes by removing ourselves from the equation. It definitely was not because ~3 hours is an absolutely absurd amount of time to wait to say hello to people dressed as skeletons.

Since we re-entered Magic Kingdom through the normal turnstiles for day guests, we still needed to check into Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party from inside the park. We opted to do this early to avoid issues, concerned that staffing shortages might lead to longer lines than normal.

These fears were entirely unfounded.

This was the most frictionless check-in process we’ve ever experienced for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Not only was there no line whatsoever, but there were more than enough Cast Members scanning tickets, distributing wristbands, and handing out candy bags. This wasn’t simply good luck on our part–we checked out other stations at various times between 4 pm and 6 pm and it was smooth sailing everywhere.

As for staffing shortages, there was no issue. Dork that I am, this is always front-of-mind at Walt Disney World given the issues it has been causing the last couple of years. While still a problem elsewhere, the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party we attended was well-staffed.

In particular, there were a lot of College Program participants, who are easy to spot with the energy, exuberance…and name tags with universities on them. Joking aside, the last year should settle any “debates” about the impact of the College Program on Walt Disney World. It has been an unequivocal positive.

Most of what we did between 4 and 6 pm is uninteresting.

We took a couple spins on the PeopleMover, taking advantage of no line for that, reviewed the park map and ate an early dinner.

We also did as many of the Magic Shots as were available prior to the official start of the party at 7 pm. This is always hit or miss, with some photographers doing the exclusive shots at 4 pm, others at 6 pm, and most at 7 pm. Then the are the ones who aren’t out until a random time, like 7:17 pm.

All of these photos are covered in Every PhotoPass Magic Shot at the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, so we won’t be rehashing those images here.

By around 6:30 pm, we had hit as many of these as we could during the daylight hours, and decided to queue up for our first meet & greet of the evening.

One of our biggest disappointments about the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is that there isn’t a single new meet & greet. We had hoped that seven fewer dwarfs in Storybook Circus meant that there would be 7 new characters elsewhere–a more than fair tradeoff, in our view. It did not mean that, though.

I really don’t get why Walt Disney World doesn’t switch things up with the characters at the Halloween and Christmas Party. A good chunk of guests are repeat visitors, and it’s not like the first-timers are going to care that Cheshire Cat is meeting instead of Elvis Stitch or the Rescue Rangers appear in place of Aladdin and Genie.

Disneyland really gets this right with Oogie Boogie Bash, and one way that nascent Halloween event already is a lot of fun despite the deck being stacked against it.

But I digress.

We opted for the duck and mouse meet & greet inside the play area for Dumbo. This is one change for the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, as previously these characters appeared out in the water play area (with the water turned off, sadly).

This is our go-to MNSSHP starter meet & greet when there aren’t better alternatives for one simple reason: it’s two for the price of one. You get Daisy and Donald Duck, and then Minnie Mouse immediately thereafter without a second wait.

This offers more bang for your buck, and is also a nice hedge in case photos from the first one don’t turn out as expected, are oddly composed, etc.

I’m still learning to imitate the behavior of humans and pose in “natural” ways.

So far I’ve got the casual one hand in pocket look down, but still need to work on the face. My mental monologue of “don’t blink don’t blink don’t blink” is pretty clear here. Looks like I just chugged a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew Game Fuel.

Pirate Goofy was next up.

His line was still relatively short–we waited under 15 minutes. While it can be even shorter later at night when Storybook Circus clears out, the lighting for this is hit or miss and sometimes dependent on the PhotoPass photographer’s flash. I prefer to play it safe and do this one during daytime.

Following that, we headed to Fantasyland to knock out more PhotoPass Magic Shots.

Drizella and Anastasia were roaming around this area, antagonizing guests near the Sword in the Stone. They drew quite the crowd of onlookers and a lot of hilarity ensued.

From there, it was on to Frontierland to see the Country Bears. It was a similar situation there, as the bears were “tightrope (tape) walking” and engaging in hijinks with guests.

More of all this please, Disney. Dedicated meet & greets are great and absolutely have a place at these events. So too do these spontaneous, atmospheric encounters–they give such a great vibe and allow guests and characters to play. Seriously, Walt Disney World could really benefit from more playfulness.

Sarah’s “Spooky” Swinging Teddi Barra coin purse was a big hit with Big Al. I don’t think anyone else knew who or what was going on with it.

Even if you’re unsophisticated and don’t appreciate the high-brow humor of the Country Bears, they’re a good option for character photos during MNSSHP. Since most people don’t know who they are (typical uncultured Americans, amirite?!), it’s easy to snag selfies or family photos with them all in a matter of minutes.

Following that, we took a bunch more PhotoPass shots in Liberty Square before heading to Cinderella Castle to snag parade spots and for the first performance of Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular.

I figured this was going to be pure chaos given the popularity of this show, but it wasn’t half bad.

Seeing the Sanderson Sisters for the first time since 2019 was a treat.

The crowd went absolutely wild when they first appeared, and the show started off fantastic. One thing that’s sometimes overlooked when it comes to this spectacular stage show is the audience’s energy. The performers and the diehards in the crowd definitely feed off of one another.

I know this isn’t going to win me any friends, but I’m not a fan of Hocus Pocus.

Although I was the “right” age when it was released in theaters, I never saw it (or even knew about it) until like ~5 years ago. In my defense, all of my time in the early 90s was dedicated to learning about dinosaurs and Terminators. Those were far more pressing threats than witches. (Remember, Michigan was in chaos at this time and RoboCop was MIA.)

Don’t get me wrong, we watch Hocus Pocus annually. But much in the same way that we watch Hallmark movies at Christmas.

(Actually, I should speak only for myself here. Sarah sincerely loves Hocus Pocus and has childhood nostalgia for it.)

Anyway, I mention all of this not to be a hater or get all of the Hocus Pocus diehards to hate me, but so that it carries more weight when I praise the stage show.

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular is just flat-out awesome. From the production value to the script to the caliber of the performers, the show is top notch.

Like the movie itself, Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular is a good example of Disney capturing lightning in a bottle.

It also has one of those qualities about it that’s difficult to articulate, but just makes it really enjoyable to watch…and rewatch again and again. There’s just a certain undeniable appeal–it’s a vibe. A mix of charm and mild edge, both of which are undoubtedly carried by the three main characters.

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular pushes the envelope in Magic Kingdom with some wink and nod references, while still remaining family friendly. It feels like there are things this show gets away with that wouldn’t otherwise be “okay” in a Magic Kingdom show, but are fine because there’s a certain charm and odd breed of humor to it.

The nefarious vibe of the background performers and other Disney villains is countered perfectly by the comedic stylings of the Sanderson sisters. That dynamic trio is the unequivocal highlight of the show, and the chemistry they have is incredible. There’s enough of a plot to make it feel like more than a montage show.

At least, that’s how I remember the full Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular–and how it started out here. This particular performance was cut short during Oogie Boogie’s segment, a little over halfway through the show due to weather.

The rain not only cancelled the rest of the show, but sent people scrambling. In the process, we were able to “upgrade” our location for the parade, and figured we’d give it a bit before bailing.

While Sarah saved our spots, I pulled one of my classic moves and set my camera directly in puddles of water.

It’s probably appropriate to add a don’t try this at home (or Walt Disney World) warning. There’s probably a reason I used to be on a first-name basis with the guy at the Nikon service center.

The rain situation was frustrating.

There was enough precipitation to keep things in limbo and people anxiously awaiting status updates. It wasn’t obvious whether entertainment would be shown or cancelled until the absolute last minute. It was as if Jupiter (the Roman god, not the planet) was taunting us.

It was enough to properly soak your shorts, but an insufficient downpour to send people packing.

Shortly before the first Boo to You was set to step off, it did start raining harder. Fortunately, we hadn’t been camped out there for long, so not much time was wasted.

Main Street was relatively empty at this point, so we took some time walking around, enjoying the atmosphere and taking photos.

One of my favorite things about both the Halloween and Christmas parties is the lighting, music, and overall mood on Main Street. Now that Walt Disney World has invested in proper projection mapping for MSUSA, I’d love to see that utilized during these parties. (Tokyo Disneyland does this nightly during Halloween and Christmas, and it’s fantastic.)

After that, we spent a lot of time wandering around, checking out wait times for meet & greets, seeing what was busy and what wasn’t, and creeping on dance parties. Not exactly exciting stuff, but it’s important for us to keep apprised of this sort of stuff for posts about MNSSHP strategy.

One noteworthy update on that front is that there are fewer meet & greets than in prior years. On the plus side, all of the attraction overlays, including Pirates of the Caribbean, have returned for the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

The biggest change to speak of is that Elvis Stitch now meets near Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and there are a couple of 50th Anniversary photo ops inside the former Stitch’s Great Escape. I’m not sure I’d call these an equal replacement to the meet & greets, if that’s the intent.

Regardless, this Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride photo op is fantastic. Definitely the highlight of these cut-outs.

Another new for ’22 addition to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is the lighting package for Space Mountain.

This is a nice touch, and another that I hope is expanded upon in the future. The futuristic Halloween background music is fun, and it’d be cool to see these lights dance to the music.

After wandering for a bit longer, we returned to the area directly in front of Cinderella Castle for the Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular Fireworks. We were able to snag this spot about 10 minutes before the show.

This is not a good location for the pyro. You’re too close to the castle, which ends up blocking your view of the pyro launched from directly behind the park. The low level perimeter bursts are visible, but aren’t as impressive.

If it’s your first time, you’ll probably want to stand farther back. Trust me on this one.

We watched Not-So-Spooky Spectacular about a dozen times in the last year it was shown, from just about every perspective in the park. See our Guide to Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular for recommendations based on our experiences (the first half is a review, so scroll a little over halfway down for fireworks viewing recommendations).

Having seen the show many times before, we had the luxury of choosing an objectively “okay” spot overall. With that said, it’s exceptional for a very specific view: an up-close look at the Jack Skellington puppet.

If this is your priority–and the puppet is so cool that maybe it should be–the idea spot is going to be around the “S” on the compass rose. That’s where I stood for all of these photos (wide views @14mm on tripod-mounted camera; close-up @85mm handheld) and it was about perfect for my purposes.

After that, a bit more wandering around before returning to Town Square at the absolute last minute for the second Boo to You parade.

I wasn’t able to get my ideal spot, but that would’ve been the case no matter when we arrived, as Disney had this entire area (that can hold dozens of guests) reserved for one (1) of their own photographers and two (2) influencers.

That was mildly annoying on principle, but didn’t really matter in practice. I have thousands of Boo to You photos from 2019 that I still haven’t gotten around to editing.

Many of them are better than these…they just don’t have that crucial “50” medallion in the background, so I guess I’ll have to save them until next year. (Ditto Christmas parade photos and the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights…hopefully!)

There was…

Bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwwwwwwaaaaaak.

…on the saddle and…

Bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwwwwwwaaaaaak.

…all around. And a great big puddle of…

Bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwak bwwwwwwaaaaaak.

…on the ground.

Two classic jams for the price of one! Now you’ll have those spectacular songs stuck in your head for the rest of your day, too. You’re welcome!!!

As always, photographing Boo to You is about the most humbling experience a photographer can have. I’ve shot this parade dozens of times in the last decade-plus, upgrading my camera gear during that time, and my keeper rate is still around 5%. This parade remains the most challenging Disney photography scenario. It’s fun but frustrating.

This year, I was shooting with one Nikon mirrorless camera and one Nikon DSLR. Here are a few that I’ve gotten around to editing:

Boo to You is one of the rare situations where gear really does make a difference in getting the shot. Improvements in autofocus accuracy and speed have made it easier to shoot, but that’s relative.

You’re still going to walk away with mostly out-of-focus garbage. And even when you do nail a shot, there’s a good chance that a performer will be blinking or have their back turned to you. (Meanwhile, all of your out of focus or poorly composed shots will feature performers hamming it up for the camera or with the perfect poses. Happens every time.)

The final Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular starts at midnight, which gives you a “bonus” 20 minutes at the end of the party. This is a nice way to extend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but even this final showing is crowded.

Unfortunately, this was delayed and then presented in altered form. It was really more a smile and wave (or glare and scare?) introduction of each villain. A nice touch when the full version can’t run due to weather, but a far cry from the full thing.

After the final Hocus Pocus, we lingered around Tomorrowland and Main Street for as long as possible. One component of this was scrambling to get the last of our missing Magic Shots from PhotoPass photographers, many of whom were either closing up for the evening or had long times.

Magic Kingdom was still pretty busy until about 12:45 a.m. With a slow trickle of guests still exiting meet & greets long after the party ended, security is in no rush to push people towards the exit.

By 1:05 am, Main Street was finally clear of guests.

I was actually surprised by how lax security was at clearing the park. They allowed us and other photographers to continue shooting after 1 am, which isn’t common.

We were the last guests left on Main Street and I managed to capture photos with no one in them. For me, this “bonus” hour-plus is as much a chance to capture photos with unique lighting as it is a chance to embrace the ominous party ambiance.

I love the background music, fog effects, lighting, and Magic Kingdom’s dramatically different of a vibe. As someone who likes the experience of “being there” as much as any of the substantive offerings of the theme parks, this is my favorite part of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Again, your mileage may vary.

As we left Magic Kingdom at 1:15 am, I noticed the line spilling out of City Hall. Suddenly the lax attitude of security being slow to clear Main Street made much more sense. Although we didn’t survey those standing in line, it’s safe to assume they were either requesting refunds due to rain-cancelled entertainment or offering compliments to the chef on the hot dog burger at Cosmic Ray’s.

Both explanations would check out. Throughout the evening, we talked to or overheard many guests disappointed by the weather. We shared that sentiment to varying degrees. (There was one dude who was absolutely irate and yelling that Cast Members didn’t do more to “deal with” the rain…definitely didn’t agree with his rant. Also not entirely sure what he meant…should CMs have threatened the clouds???)

A couple of our friends requested–and received–party tickets for different dates due to the weather. Their primary purpose for attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was entertainment, so that makes sense. Only one parade was presented and Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular didn’t do a single full show.

We did not seek any guest recovery. Despite the circumstances, we actually had a really good time by going with the flow and not being behold to the ‘cornerstone’ entertainment offerings. Normally, we’d be camped out on Main Street for hours on end to see the first stage show through the second parade, but not this time due to a combination of the weather, my backlog of photos, and reader requests for PhotoPass Magic Shots. (Had we been there solely for the entertainment, we might’ve sought to reschedule our tickets, too.)

Ultimately, we both had a great time at the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. It was good to have the event back after a 2-year hiatus, and this is far superior to Boo Bash from our perspective. Despite the weather and significant price increase, MNSSHP is still worth it to us.

Admittedly, a big part of that was the satisfaction of revisiting an event for which we hold a lot of nostalgia and memories. Doing Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party over and over and over in late 2019 was an absolute blast, and were among our best experiences before the closure. Odd as it might sound, revisiting those memories felt like restoring normalcy and reclaiming something we had lost. Obviously, that last part is highly personal (so YMMV), but it was a big deal for us. Beyond that, the atmosphere, fireworks, parade, and photos made the event enjoyable enough to justify the cost for us.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. For where to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it. For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World yet this year? What did you think of the crowds, weather, lines, or anything else? Think MNSSHP is was worth the higher ticket price? Thoughts on the Boo to You Parade, Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular Fireworks, Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, or any other entertainment? Any other tips, likes or dislikes? 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!

35 Responses to “Photo Report: 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party”
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