Spectacular Fireworks Show and Star-Lord Appearance Couldn’t Save Villains Unleashed

Hi everyone!

Jeff and I attended Unleash the Villains yesterday. Knowing what happened at the event last year, I kept my expectations low and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, much of the event didn’t even rise to the low bar I set. At nearly $70 per ticket, there should have been a lot less crowds. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the event.

Before I share some photos and my thoughts, I wanted to add a couple of things. One, I would be surprised if Disney didn’t make this an event similar to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in the future, an edgier Halloween event to go up against Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. And two, I wish they would just go ahead and have villains meals like they did for Star Wars. Many years ago, there used to be a villains dinner at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. It was fun and popular! It would allow guests to meet villains without the craziness and mess that was Villains Unleashed.

On to the photos and thoughts!

A Frozen themed sign outside Disney’s Hollywood Studios said the park was closing at 7:00 p.m. for day guests.

Villains Unleashed signage mixed with Frozen Summer Fun.

We picked up our maps, which ended up being quite the rare commodity. Apparenly these ran out before the event even started! I’ve never seen that before. Even during the 25th Anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there were a lot of maps and buttons left at the end. Guests were being told to look at the app instead, but not everyone has a smart phone.

Here is a look at the map. It mentions merchandise, we never went to look for the offerings. We were told that some of the items disappeared quickly.

Each guest received a lanyard that was a PhotoPass card. While I like having a nice souvenir, I almost lost it twice. Wristbands are easier to keep track of.

Jeff secured a spot that included a great view of the stage. I didn’t feel comfortable standing for that long in a crowd, so I stood back a bit. This was an hour and ten minutes prior to the event kickoff. At this point, there weren’t many guests here and I was hoping that meant lighter crowds overall.

Since it wasn’t busy yet, I took a walk down Sunset Blvd. In a very short time, the crowds just streamed in. By the time I walked up and down Sunset, I had to choose a new spot to stand. I picked this area near Min and Bill’s because I had a good view of the stage, but eventually it was too packed and I lost my view.

I walked onto Hollywood Blvd., where the crowds seemed to span the entire street. I watched the show on the large screen that has been used for Frozen Summer Fun.

Jeff was able to share some screen captures of the show. It looked great from the screen, although longer than I expected as they counted down the 50 villains. Hades hosted the event, which included Megara, Pain and Panic. As with most of the issues that plagued Villains Unleashed, Disney could have benefitted here by cutting the guest admittance in half to allow the bulk of the guests to enjoy it on stage.

Here is our video of Hades joking about taking over the Frozen stage for the night, telling guests to “Let it Go”.

Here is the full introduction of the 50 villains in the Hades Hangout.

It was hard to tell just by the opening show how the crowds would disperse. I still thought that with so many villains, dance parties and shows (including a showing of Fantasmic), that lines for characters wouldn’t all be bad. The one character that I would have really wanted to meet was Constantine. If I had realized how packed the park would be, I may have gotten in line early for him before the event started.

Unfortunately, we decided to head to Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse Show. If anything, this should have been left to the end, so that we could get in line for at least one character. We just missed the 8:30 show, and waited for the 9:30. The whole time expended on Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse Show was an hour and a half, which is 90 minutes I’d really like back. To be fair, a friend did come up to us after the 8:30 show and told us to keep our expectations low (the word “dud” was used). And on the way to Oogie Boogie’s, I noticed that the line for The Witch had gotten very long. I did a quick count and it was well over 100 guests. That was the moment I knew we might not meet many characters.

There were 4 shows of Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse.

When we arrived, guests were told that the event might be too intense for children. There was no explanation given at all on this, to know what to expect. The opening act included a giant balloon and was entertaining for families and children. After that, there was a lot of darkness, sword and fire swallowing, some sexual suggestiveness and such.

The Oogie Boogie opening and ending of the show was fine, but the rest featured club style music, and was more freaky than fun for those in our party. The performers were talented, but I didn’t enjoy the performances as a whole. It was a very long 30 minutes.

Here is the intro and the ending of the show with Oogie Boogie.

We were told by friends and acquaintances to skip the Fantasmic pre-show, nobody had anything positive to say about it.

Next, we headed to the Awesome Mix Tape Dance Party featuring Star-Lord and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy. This was better than nearly anything else at the event. The crowd here was lighter than in other areas, and the music was more my speed.

The dance party was inside Disney Junior with a DJ playing songs from my childhood.

The one downside to having Star-Lord and Gamora in this setting is that it is hard to hear anything at all. But the characters looked absolutely fantastic and guests could take photos with them.

Here is a look at Star-Lord and Gamora in our video:

Our plan was to head to Streets of America and meet some characters. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the Oogie Boogie Freaky Funhouse Show would keep us from being able to enter most lines. We had learned before 9:00 p.m. that both the Maleficent and Constantine lines were closed. I wasn’t expecting that to happen so quickly. It isn’t unusual to have lines at events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, but there aren’t usually long lines for every character. While Jack and Sally can command a line of a few hours, other characters like Lotso might be just a few minutes (and then anything in between). The fact that several characters had their lines close with 4 hours remaining in the event was very discouraging.

Dr. Hamsterviel was out at the Streets of America, and his line was shorter than most. A friend did see him in 15 minutes. We looked at the line and didn’t want to wait the 20 or so minutes it might have taken. Captain Gantu was also near here, and his line closed by 10:30 p.m. That caused one of the biggest issues I saw at the event, with guests not happy to be turned away so early. There were managers nearby, and they ended up hearing an earful from many guests. Actually, Disney has done a great job with long lines before at the Limited Time Magic events, I’m not sure why they didn’t keep the flow of guests moving quicker through the lines. It would have allowed more guests to meet more characters.

Captain Gantu meeting guests.

The Evil Queen had quite a long line as well.

Jafar.

There were roaming characters. We met a couple of them, Gideon and Stromboli. The crowds could get very dense around the roaming characters, especially Gaston. It was either have thick crowds or have a character (such as Frollo) move very quickly through the crowds. It was hard to keep up with him.

Jeff mentioned to me today that our photos really make it look like we had a great time. I was pretty much defeated at this point, but Jeff wanted a photo of me with Stromboli.

I had hoped to meet Constantine and I didn’t, but we learned that there was a window we could see him through. It made me wish even more that I’d arrived early and waited in line. I do know the line moved very slowly, with some guests having several minutes with him.

Jeff put together a terrific video montage of characters from the event.

This balloon didn’t have a wait.

Lines for food and drinks were long, and I had heard the special villain hot dog buns disappeared quickly (not that I was looking for them). We did splurge on one item, a Maleficent cupcake, before the fireworks. The lines at Sunset Market Ranch were not bad at that time, but it seemed to take forever to get the cupcake. While I was waiting for it, the guest to my left side asked if he could see one for a photo. They brought it out to him, he took the photo and then they brought it back while I was waiting for one. (sigh). I spoke up, and a minute or so later, it appeared again. The Maleficent cupcake was filled with blackberry and topped with a blackberry buttercream. It was good – Jeff liked it more than I did, but I am not as big on jelly/jam type fillings in cupcakes.

There was something called Club Evil which we hear was very good, at The Hollywood Brown Derby. We wish we’d gone, but it looked very busy around The Brown Derby (due to drinks being sold).

Jeff and I took different spots for the Villainy in the Sky Fireworks Spectacular. This was the highlight of the evening. Jeff was near the stage, and has a video of the fireworks with Maleficent summoning them. I was behind Min and Bill’s.

Here is the video:

Not long before the fireworks, a guest we were talking to was telling us how disappointed she was with the event. She was pinning everything on the fireworks, since nothing else had panned out for her. Fortunately, the fireworks were maybe the best that Jeff and I have ever seen in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I am still perplexed at why they were at 12:45 p.m. Having them earlier would have meant two different guest exits instead of one, and some of those guests who received a refund might have felt they received more bang-for-the-buck had they seen the show (many guests left earlier).

On our way out of the park, we received Villains Unleashed autograph cards and goody bags. The goody bags included a Ghirardelli chocolate too, but that isn’t pictured. 🙂 What I hadn’t known at the time was that Disney kept “running out” of the goody bags in the 3 hours before we left. They seemed to have plenty at 1:30 a.m., but some of our friends didn’t receive one at all – and they left at different times during the night, beginning at 10:30 p.m. Several of our friends did not receive a map or goody bag.

Overall, Villains Unleashed was mostly a bust for me. We were in the parks for 6 1/2 hours or so, and I feel like I spent most of the time just wandering around, not meeting characters. I feel lucky we got maps and goody bags, because some of our friends received neither. Unlike Frozen Summer Fun, the event felt disorganized and rushed – even though Frozen Summer Fun was put together in a hurry. I didn’t feel like Villains Unleashed was worth $70, we could have watched the fireworks from outside the park (as many of our friends left and ended up doing). I knew that there were a lot of complaints at Guest Relations. When we left around 1:30 a.m., a manager had a stack of Guest Communication Services business cards with the email address in his hand. What I hadn’t heard yet was that some guests were given refunds. While many guests mentioned their disappointment in the event to us, I didn’t realize how pervasive the complaints were on Twitter until we arrived home.

My views and articles about Disney tend to be very positive, but it is discouraging to see so many guests spend their hard earned money for an event that couldn’t offer as much as it promised. Cutting the attendance would have made it better for all. The average guest should have been able to have an enjoyable time without having to plot out everything in advance, just like going to any other hard ticket event. While Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party tips can help ahead of time, guests can still have a great time without any previous knowledge of the event. I am not in any hurry to go back to a Villains Unleashed style event.