Ghosts on Main Street, U.S.A.? Pumpkin Men in Frontierland? Starting Sept. 26, Disneyland Paris celebrates the spooky season with the annual Disney’s Halloween Festival.
As the days turn crisp and a chilly wind creeps through Marne-la-Vallée, there is an anticipatory thrill in the air as Disneyland Paris gears up for the not-so-spooky Halloween event.
Who is the driving force behind this much-anticipated seasonal favorite? Disneyland Paris resort’s Osvaldo del Mistero—the man responsible for the Festival of Pirates and Princesses, Timon’s Matadance, Frozen 2: An Enchanted Journey—served as a Disney ambassador in 2011-2012 before landing his dream role as producer in 2018, and through that role he has indulged his love for Halloween with the now-iconic event.
“What I love about Halloween is that it’s a celebration,” he says. “The fall is just beginning and there are still a lot of sunny days ahead of us to have fun. The colors of this season are very warm and have such an immersive quality. As soon as you step into Disneyland park, you can immediately notice the change. It’s a unique opportunity to rediscover the park under a different light.”
Disneyland Paris’ version isn’t the uniquely American Halloween experience, though. Instead, del Mistero says the festival draws its inspiration from many cultures and traditions.
“Our Halloween Festival is like a patchwork. It’s obviously in reference to the Anglo-Saxon festival, but we also definitely wanted to add a Disney touch. For instance, when strolling down Main Street, U.S.A., ghosts can be seen along the street and in buildings. They represent inhabitants of times past who come back to visit the park as ghosts – iconic characters like the mayor, the ice cream man or the three Barbershop singers.
“In Frontierland, the theme is meant to recall fall. The pumpkin men are our mascots this season, and Fuente del Oro Restaurante pays homage to Mexican culture and the Disney/Pixar movie ‘Coco.’ Depending on where you are in the park, Halloween is celebrated in a different way.”
Although the American tradition of trick-or-treating is not part of the event, del Mistero says much of the celebration is based around surprises. “When thinking about Halloween, we tend to think about children wearing costumes and going from door to door to collect candies. There’s a very fun ‘hide and seek’ element in this tradition, and we thought we could develop this idea and make it entertaining for our guests. So, we imagined that the day could unfold with many surprises along the way.”
And that’s where Disney characters dressed in dazzling costumes come in during the Halloween Festival, with starring roles at organized and pop-up “Selfie Spots” that give guests the opportunity to take socially distanced photos with favorite friends and fiends.
“As of Sept. 26, we will welcome a large number of Disney characters, including Mickey and friends, in their most iconic Halloween outfits,” del Mistero says. “Disney villains will also be featured, notably the Queen of Hearts and the terrifying Jafar. Next to Sleeping Beauty Castle, you might run into Maleficent or Ursula.”
The must-have photo will be found in Fantasyland, where the selfie spot “Meet Mickey Mouse” features Mickey and his friends, set against an elaborate haunted house backdrop.
“At ‘Meet Mickey Mouse,’ we decided to focus on a traditional version of Halloween, with orange and pumpkin tones which perfectly complement our storytelling,” del Mistero explains. “Costumes are also very important. They immerse guests in the spirit of Halloween. The beautiful stage located in the standby line wasn’t used to its full potential, so we tried to use it differently. We’re using it as a character meet-and-greet with Mickey and Friends, and the set fully reflects the theme of this season. In the same way, at Studio Theater, we realized that we could create a particularly immersive Selfie Spot experience.”
Beginning on Oct. 1, guests can also take part in exclusive selfie opportunities with Disney villains at the Studio Theater in the Walt Disney Studios Park. “Throughout the day, up to eight Disney villains will be present for the very first time. Our guests will have the opportunity to meet in the same location several Disney characters, some of which only come out for Halloween. It’s truly a unique opportunity!”
The Studio Theater atmosphere is very different as Disney villains take to the stage, and del Mistero describes the process of creating something new and surprising. “We found great music to go along with this encounter, the lighting of the room was changed, screens and projections were added. When we thought about staging, we wanted to play with the frightening feeling conjured up by Disney villains, while making sure it would not be deterring either. We were looking to do something colorful and happy, even with experiences that are meant to be somewhat scary. The result is a successful mix between darkness and light, which perfectly characterizes Disney villains.
“Our guests have to be ready for anything and everything to happen –Disney villains may appear at any given time, anywhere. We had so much fun playing with this and creating an even more interactive experience than in previous years.”
Like all Disney parks around the world, this year sees an enhanced focus on health and safety. “As soon as Disneyland Paris reopened, we innovated and changed our approach to entertainment. This also applies to this festival, which was adjusted in keeping with the current health and safety situation,” del Mistero says.
Bringing this much-loved annual event to the park isn’t just a dream come true for del Mistero, it’s also a chance to branch out creatively, overcome challenges presented by the current global situation, and allow the show to go on.
“Halloween is a lot more flexible [than a holiday such as Christmas]. We get to work on new and fun things, which enables us to expand our creativity. It’s so great to be able to come up with new experiences. From Selfie Spots to exclusive products with our Food and Beverage partners, Disneyland Paris offers a 360-degree experience. Everything is made to immerse our guests in the spirit of Halloween. Now, we’re just waiting for you!”