Villains After Hours at Magic Kingdom is a Walt Disney World hard ticket event with lower crowds, short waits, and special Halloween-inspired entertainment. In this review, we’ll share party photos, what’s new for 2020, info on what we did, and whether it’s worth the money. (Updated May 9, 2020.)
UPDATE: Here’s a look at the remaining Villains After Hours dates as listed on DisneyWorld.com:
Thursday, May 14, 2020 – No Longer Available
Friday, May 22, 2020 – No Longer Available
Friday, May 29, 2020 – No Longer Available
Friday, June 5, 2020 – No Longer Available
Friday, June 12, 2020 – No Longer Available
Friday, June 19, 2020 – No Longer Available
Friday, June 26, 2020 – No Longer Available
Monday, June 29, 2020 – No Longer Available
Monday, July 6, 2020
Friday, July 10, 2020
Additionally, the “Temporary Closure & Operational Update” bulletin on Disneyworld.com has now been updated yet to reflect that “Guests who have purchased tickets for Disney After Hours, Disney Villains After Hours, Disney Early Morning Magic and Disney H2O Glow Nights from March 16, 2020 through the end of the actual closure period will be automatically refunded.”
There’s some ambiguity to this, so called Walt Disney World to see whether tickets are “sold out” (air quotes) or if the event is cancelled. Per two different phone reps, these dates of Villains After Hours will occur if Magic Kingdom is open for the select June 2020 dates. Their statements were almost word-for-word identical, so this is likely the company line, rather than the phone reps speculating.
However, editorializing a bit, we don’t think this is totally transparent…
It is our belief that this is occurring in tandem with Walt Disney World Delaying Reservations Until July 1, 2020 because there is the internal expectation that the parks & resorts will not be operating until July at the earliest. (As discussed in that post, this doesn’t preclude the possibility that Magic Kingdom will begin phased operations at some point in June…just that things won’t be fully back up and running by then.)
Villains After Hours is already an incredibly limited capacity event, so there would be no need to further cap ticket sales. More likely, this is being done to avoid the hassle of issuing more refunds on tickets sold for June dates that Walt Disney World knows will not occur. This is completely speculation on our part and runs counter to Walt Disney World’s stated position, but Disney has been fairly opaque since the closure began…
For those curious about the event in case those July 2020 dates do somehow end up happening (or perhaps thinking about it for 2021), Villains After Hours is like a mix of the normal Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. It still has a definite Halloween vibe, but without any proximity to spook season.
The 2020 Disney Villains After Hours party takes place from 10 pm until 1 am nightly, and tickets can be purchased in advance for $145 per adult or child (plus tax) or day-of for $155 per adult or child (plus tax). Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can buy discounted advance purchase tickets for $30 off.
For this event, I ended up paying $116.09 for my discount ticket, as compared to $133.13 for an after-tax 1-day ticket to Magic Kingdom for the same date. Of course, there are some key differences, but it’s nonetheless an interesting comparison.
Disney After Hours events offer 3 hours of time when crowds are low (plus another 3 hours of early admission with regular Magic Kingdom day guests), which means low wait times on 24 Magic Kingdom attractions, including all headliners. On a normal day this time of year (assuming no hard ticket events are scheduled), Magic Kingdom is open for around 14 hours this time of year.
Another difference is that Disney After Hours offers unlimited refreshments, soda, and ice cream. The final difference, and one unique to Disney Villains After Hours, is special entertainment unique to the event. That’s mainly the Villains Unite the Night stage show and Villains’ Cursed Caravan Parade, the latter of which is somewhat new for 2020–it’s in addition to the Maleficent float from Festival of Fantasy rolling down the parade route at night.
Disney Villains After Hours definitely has a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party meets After Hours vibe, and the marketing really plays up the villainous entertainment. However, the villains theme is probably emphasized because there’s guest demand–people love villains.
With that said, the emphasis should be on the short wait times and low crowds. You can get a ton done during this event–perhaps more than during a full day in Magic Kingdom. In short, the entertainment is a nice value-add, but it shouldn’t be main the reason to purchase Villains After Hours party tickets.
With that said, let’s start with the entertainment and special offerings, as Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom is otherwise nothing new. Both Villains Unite the Night and Villains’ Cursed Caravan Parade are good, but they’re nowhere on par with Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular or a full parade. These are enhancements, not the heart of the event as their counterparts are at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Villains’ Cursed Caravan is new for the 2020 Disney Villains After Hours parties. Previously, this was simply the Maleficent float and a few performers from Festival of Fantasy running down the parade route twice nightly. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool.
For 2020, there’s an entire character procession with Ursula, Gaston, Oogie Boogie, Cruella DeVil, Captain Hook, Lady Tremaine, Drizella, Anastasia, Queen of Hearts, and other characters. Some are in cars, some walk the parade route, others are presented in different ways (Gaston is on horseback). It should be noted that this is not a fully-fledged parade. It’s more a procession of characters, with the Maleficent float still being the highlight. All in all, the Villains’ Cursed Caravan is a nice enhancement to the event.
The more substantial entertainment offering is Villains United the Night. The plot is some nonsense about the five planets aligning as part of a prophecy that Hades–and subsequently Jafar, the Queen, Dr. Facilier, and Maleficent–each believe foretells of them ruling the universe. In the end, the true prophecy is one of friendship (or something like that), which I suppose is heartwarming in an evil sorta way.
The story is not why I enjoyed Villains Unite the Night. Rather, there’s some cool choreography, eye-catching projections, and a healthy amount of pyro and other visual effects. It ended up being a fun challenge to photograph, so I enjoyed that component of Villains Unite the Night quite a bit. Your mileage may vary if you’re actually there for the story.
There are two showings of Villains Unite the Night and the Villains’ Cursed Caravan Parade each. As is often the case, the earlier showings/runnings will be more crowded than the later ones, but neither should be particularly packed. It’s not like the Halloween or Christmas Parties. We recommend viewing the later showings of both, in succession. With that approach, you can extend your evening by about 15-30 minutes just watching these two things plus the ‘farewell’ at the Main Street USA Train Station.
That might not seem like much, but time is money at this event, and each minute has a cost. Moreover, it makes the ‘strategy’ for Villains After Hours pretty easy. Do rides during the official event, and then do the entertainment once the rides are closed. You should be able to jump into line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train towards the end of the night and be out in front of Cinderella Castle just in time to catch the beginning of the show.
In addition to the entertainment, there are also attraction overlays on Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain. These are very similar to overlays that debuted last year for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. You’ll want to save both of these attractions for towards the end of the night; there’s a lot of rubbernecking guest curiosity about the overlays, leading to wait time spikes early on.
Space Mountain consists of turning off the lights on the roller coaster and adding some ominous music plus dialogue snippets from villains. It’s not terrible, but it’s also nothing to seek out. Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain isn’t really conducive to audio additions, and until Walt Disney World springs for screens in the ride (a la Ghost Galaxy and Hyperspace Mountain at Disneyland), these are always going to fall flat.
Pirates of the Caribbean adds 3 live actors to the attraction; two are giving foreboding warnings in the queue, while Barbossa lurks overhead on a bridge during the ride. If you’ve experience Pirates of the Caribbean hundreds of times, this is an “interesting” new twist.
If it’s your first time on the ride, it’s a weird distraction that doesn’t mesh with the Audio Animatronics eliminates that crucial suspension of disbelief. I’m going to guess/hope most guests aren’t experiencing Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time during Villains After Hours, so I’m going to give Disney some points for effort.
Finally, there’s event exclusive food, beverage, and merchandise available for purchase.
I’m not entirely sure why any non-blogger guest would buy snacks when there are free ones, but “you do you” as the kids say. If you want a sweet treat, the Not-So-Poison Apple Cupcake is a personal favorite.
Circling back, the other question with regard to the value proposition of Villains After Hours is whether 6 hours (3 with low crowds, 3 with low to moderate crowds) is better than 14 hours (or so) in Magic Kingdom. Even if you used an efficient itinerary for Magic Kingdom during those normal operating hours, I think the answer to that is yes.
While we don’t expect June through August to be particularly bad in terms of crowds at Magic Kingdom, it’s not uncrowded either. You’re essentially looking at ‘moderate’ season this time of year, dropping off as August approaches.
I attended the Villains After Hours event with Josh from easyWDW.com, a known Dino-Rama advocate. He wanted to spend the entire time seeing if he could break his previous record of consecutive rides on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, whereas I wanted to loop the TTA PeopleMover as many times as possible. We compromised and did the following, in this order:
Minnie & Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater*
Enchanted Tales with Belle*
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin*
Happily Ever After*
“it’s a small world”*
Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Mad Tea Party
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Tomorrowland Transit Authority
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Pirates of the Caribbean
Peter Pan’s Flight (x3)
I can’t recall the last time I did that many rides at Magic Kingdom in a single day. We could’ve ended with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on a normal night, but it was having technical difficulties. Everything with an asterisk is before 10 p.m., and everything after 10 p.m. was between a walk-on and 5 minute wait.
We could’ve been more efficient then if we also weren’t taking photos of merchandise, random lighting effects, and so on. We also had to stop so Josh could get his face painted. He wanted both the Jungle Tiger and the Dark Raven, which I thought would be excessive, but it turned out great. He basically looked like a fancy tiger at a masquerade ball–$50 very well spent.
Our biggest enemy was time (rather than wait times), so we focused on attractions with shorter ride times, with the one exception being the Peoplemover, since we needed to catch our breath in the middle of the evening. This is the exact opposite of what I’d do in normal circumstances, but I think it makes more sense for the After Hours events.
With a solid rope drop strategy you can certainly get a lot done, so maybe I could surpass this in a full day if I really gave it my all. In reality, I’d probably just give up by midday and focus on things with minimal waits (and air-conditioning), doing Carousel of Progress, Country Bear Jamboree, and the Tiki Room repeatedly. On second thought, this full day itinerary sounds delightful.
The other thing that it’s important not to overlook is the reality of Florida weather. Even at rope drop, humidity can be oppressive and the midday sun can be draining. At night, the sun is down and it feels better. Between that, the lower crowds, and a mild breeze, Villains After Hours was a downright pleasant experience.
In fact, this is the most pleasant time I’ve had in Magic Kingdom in a long time–perhaps since the last DVC party we attended. The event had a relaxed, low stress and pressure vibe, and just enough extras to give it a “special” vibe. It ended up being a pretty awesome evening, and I stayed until the very end–the first time in a while I’ve seen this:
I’m not sure the last time I could write such positive words about a visit to Magic Kingdom. Disney Villains After Hours was an objectively better experience than the (over-crowded) Halloween and Christmas parties we attended last year–and I absolutely love those holiday events!
Sure, evenings in the park are always nicer than the daytime hours, but the practical reality is that evening Extra Magic Hours have become way too busy and regular late nights are likewise packed. It’s not the same experience it was even a few years ago.
On that note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that not too long ago, Magic Kingdom closed at midnight in the summer and those same nights the park had Extra Magic Hours until 3 a.m. (Evening Extra Magic Hours used to be 3 hours long).
This was during the Great Recession when attendance was lower than it is now, so daytime crowds were comparatively light. Now, attendance is significantly higher (by several millions of guests per year), and regular park hours have been reduced by several hours per day. More people crammed into fewer hours, which does not compute.
These upcharge events would disappear if guests said, ‘enough is enough‘ and didn’t attend. That’s exactly what happened with the Pirates and Princess Parties a decade ago. More recently, we’ve seen Walt Disney World drop other upcharges when sales didn’t meet expectations.
The obvious problem with this is that you or I can’t dictate the change on an individual level. You’re voting with your wallet one way or the other. I’d love for Walt Disney World to deliver an exceptional, free-of-charge evening Extra Magic Hours experience to all on-site guests as was the case in the recent past; I’d certainly prefer it to dropping $100+ on this.
However, as long as consumer confidence is strong and guests are spending freely, your options are basically to partake and have an fun experience or hold out and miss out on what’s become the best way to experience Magic Kingdom. Try explaining the concept of ‘principled nonviolent theme park resistance’ to your kids as the reason they can’t have fun. 😉
Ultimately, that’s my basis for recommending Villains After Hours to first-timers to Walt Disney World with limited vacation time. This is the best experience you’re going to have at Magic Kingdom. It’s undoubtedly expensive, but this is a quasi-VIP experience without having to be accompanied by a tour guide or having to pay even more money.
On top of that, Villains After Hours occurs at night, so the “best experience” line here is true in terms of weather, crowds, wait times and (as a result of all three) just general pleasantness. You’re likely to enjoy Villains After Hours a great deal, especially as compared to a normal day in the park.
If you’re an Annual Passholder, are a repeat visitor, taking a longer vacation, or fit into some category other than the above, Villains After Hours is a much tougher sell in terms of value for money. That’s mostly because you’re looking at paying the full/discounted price (or close to it) of this ticket on top of your existing admission. I think it’s fairly undeniable that you’d likewise have a better time at this event than by trying to contort your schedule to make your time in Magic Kingdom this pleasant (or close to it), but the tickets aren’t cheap.
Overall, if you arbitrarily set aside the cost or just want to splurge, it’s hard to argue with Villains After Hours. So long as Walt Disney World doesn’t get greedy and increase the attendance cap for 2020 (as we’ve seen with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party), it should continue to be an excellent event. Even then, demand for these is way lower than for the Halloween and Christmas Parties, so that’s unlikely to be a problem (most dates didn’t sell out last year, anyway).
In fact, Villains After Hours is now the most enjoyable way to experience Magic Kingdom, and there’s certainly something to be said for nighttime in Walt Disney World’s flagship park while it’s pretty much devoid of people. I personally prefer the Halloween and Christmas parties for their entertainment and atmosphere, but I don’t care about doing attractions as much. Villains After Hours takes a dash of those events and provides a pure ‘value add’ above the normal Magic Kingdom After Hours.
Have you attended Villains After Hours? What did you think of the event? Would you attend, or is it too pricey? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!