Villains After Hours at Magic Kingdom is a Walt Disney World hard ticket event that runs from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. and promises lower crowds and special entertainment at this quasi-Halloween party. In this review, we’ll share photos from our experience at Villains After Hours and offer feedback about whether it’s worth the money.
At present, Disney Villains After Hours is scheduled to occur June 20 & 27; July 1, 11, 18, 25; and August 1 & 8, 2019. It has also been held each of the last two Thursdays. Admission can be purchased in advance for $139 per adult or child (plus tax) or day-of for $144 per adult or child (plus tax). Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can buy advance purchase tickets for $109 per adult or child (plus tax).
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 (which we’ll discuss below), but it’s nonetheless an interesting comparison. I attended the event last night, leaving Magic Kingdom after 2 a.m. and basically pulling an all-nighter to edit some photos and collect my thoughts about the event. Reminds me of being back in college, except with a far more important and useful assignment today…
The first difference is that the 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. Here, that’s mainly the Villains Unite the Night stage show, the Maleficent float from Festival of Fantasy rolling down the parade route at night, plus special atmospheric touches.
Let’s start with the entertainment and special offerings, as Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom is otherwise nothing new, so most of you are probably interested in what’s unique to this incarnation of the event. (Above is a park map with everything listed so I don’t have to type it all out.)
When Villains After Hours was first announced, my initial response was, “oh, a way to run Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party even earlier, but without calling it ‘Halloween’ so as to not catch the ire of people already upset that Halloween is starting in mid-August.” (Mid-August!)
While Villains After Hours definitely has a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party meets After Hours vibe, it’s definitely much more of the latter than the former. In fact, my initial cynicism was probably misplaced–if anything, the villains theme was chosen because there’s guest demand, and it’s a ‘safe’ option as compared to pirates or princesses.
Personally, I wish those two were chosen instead of villains and a revival of the Pirates and Princess Party were introduced. That event flopped hard over a decade ago, but it was also a very different time when up-charges were not the norm. You could say it was “ahead of its time” in that regard–I think it’d be a smash hit today, as the parade, fireworks, and atmospheric offerings were spectacular. (And due to it being a flop that barely sold tickets, wait times were also non-existent.)
Back to Villains After Hours, the entertainment is a nice value-add, but it’s probably not (or at least it shouldn’t be) the reason to purchase Villains After Hours tickets. I enjoyed both Villains Unite the Night and nighttime Maleficent, 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.
The plot of Villains Unite the Night 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 plot 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 three showings of Villains Unite the Night: 11 p.m., midnight, and 1 a.m. Maleficent runs at 10:40 p.m., 11:45 p.m., and 1:20 a.m. This is where, in my opinion, the added value of Villains After Hours comes into play…
The event officially ends at 1 a.m., just as any other After Hours party. However, both pieces of entertainment run after the official end time, meaning you can extend your evening by over 30 minutes just watching these two things plus the ‘farewell’ at the Main Street USA Train Station.
That might not seem like much, but with each 30 minutes of the official event time being valued at ~$20-25 (depending upon when you bought your tickets and discount status), that’s a nice bonus. It also means that Magic Kingdom is slower to clear, allowing you more time to linger afterwards.
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 at 12:45 a.m. 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. (It’s not good, but it’s definitely superior to the Halloween version last year.)
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. It’s one of those bizarre things I think we’ll fondly look back on in a decade or two.
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. 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.
You’ll notice that we did not do Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Our plan was to do this immediately after our first ride on Peter Pan’s Flight right at 12:45 a.m., but the line was filling the extended queue. We observed several people jumping out of line, grumbling about waiting “X minutes for nothing.”
I’m guessing the ride was having technical difficulties, but I didn’t confirm that. Instead, we did Peter Pan’s Flight twice more. On a normal night, you should be able to do Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at least once at the end of the evening with nearly no wait.
Since our biggest enemy here was time (rather than wait times), we opted to focus 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 actually 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 Walt Disney’s Enchanted 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 in June, July, and August. Even at rope drop, humidity can be oppressive this time of year. To be sure, it’s still bad at night, but at least 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 June, July, or August visit to Magic Kingdom. Even though I love/prefer them, Villains After Hours was an objectively better experience than the (over-crowded) Halloween and Christmas parties we attended last year.
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 (especially on weekends) 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 all of this comes at the expense of the regular guest experience at Magic Kingdom. 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).
Moreover, 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.
The reality is that these upcharge events would disappear if guests said, ‘enough is enough’ and didn’t attend. Not to fixate on the Pirates and Princess Parties too much, but that’s exactly what happened there. More recently, we’ve seen Walt Disney World drop other upcharges prematurely 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. During the summer months, 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. This 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!