This past Saturday, August 23rd, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was host to the long-awaited “Villains Unleashed” hard-ticket event. The event was created after the success of the test event titled “Unleash the Villains” that was held in 2013 as part of Limited Time Magic. The test event was a bit of a mess, with a traffic disaster in the parking lot and out on the roads leading to the park, multi-hour lines for meet-and-greets, and a park filled with way-too-many people. We believed that when this event became a “hard-ticket party”, the ability to limit the number of guests in the park and tickets sold would allow Disney to cap attendance and make sure that everyone had a good time. This did not happen.
Let’s start with the good…
The entertainment line-up for Saturday’s Villains Unleashed event was large and impressive. However, it ended up not being nearly enough for the crowd that was allowed in. As with all of the major problems with the event, it just comes down to too many people being there. Regardless…
The opening show for the event was amazing. All 50 villains were introduced by Hades and Megara at Hades’ Hangout, many of which were accompanied by pyro and special effects. If the rest of the event wasn’t so frustrating, this show alone might be worth the price of admission:
The Fantasmic! pre-show with the “Nightcrawlers” turned out to be a huge let-down. It was pretty much the usual Fantasmic! pre-show with some villains trivia & different music:
Ooogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse Show was a huge departure from your average Disney entertainment offering. Oogie was accompanied by several sideshow acts, all of which were very talented:
Villainy in the Sky fireworks were again the highlight of the event, this year introduced by the live-action Maleficent character:
Some other positives:
- The event credentials were a lanyard. This is brilliant. While it certainly doesn’t have the permanence of a wristband as you can easily take it off and on, it’s more comfortable and a very nice keepsake that is easily displayable.
- Giving guests the character autograph cards as a parting gift was insanely brilliant. No character attendants had to try to police the cards, instead, there were dedicated cast members distributing them as exit gifts.
- The Guardians of the Galaxy dance party was great. The atmosphere was fun and most guests who wanted to meet Star Lord and Gamora were able to do so. This was well-handled.
Now, on to the rest…
Merchandise… One merchandise location is a horrible idea. It has worked in the past at some events, but more often than not, makes for a lot of unhappy guests. Also, this being a hard-ticket event, things are a little different. Guests paid for 5 hours of party, with the 5PM allowance of party guests into the park, they got around 8 hours in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. 2.5 hours of your party time should not be spent in a line that gives Disney more of your money. I understand there was a demand, but if they had broken the stock between at least 2 stores, people would have been distributed and been able to do more with their event time.
What’s even worse, is not having enough of the event-exclusive merchandise. Disney knew what the event capacity was, so why enough merchandise was not created to provide items to at least most of the crowd is beyond me. I can think of many non-ticketed Disney Parks events I attended where plenty of merchandise was made to accommodate everyone, or at least last a few hours before selling out. Certainly, I can’t recall many events where most shirt sizes were gone so quickly. Shirts usually don’t sell out; pins and other assorted items usually move much quicker. Part of the lure for any of these hard-ticket events is event-exclusive merchandise. This benefit for attendees is meaningless if you have to wait hours in line to purchase anything, only to find out that there was not nearly enough of anything for most guests to buy.
Also, if they knew there weren’t enough shirts, then there should have been a purchase limit. Pins were, as always, limited to 2 per person, and they lasted through most of the evening. Most of the shirt sizes and all of the water bottles were gone by around 9:00PM, officially one hour into the event. Before anyone claims I’m using this article to complain about not getting something I wanted, I wear a XXL shirt and that was one of three sizes of the shirt that was still available late into the evening. I also managed to acquire the event pin, but considering that at least 8 other men’s and women’s sizes and the water bottle sold out long before the night ended, I think it’s fair to say they did not nearly have enough of a majority of the event merchandise. This is “bad show”.
The dining options were also a cruel joke. Specialty cocktails were created, but so few locations had them that there were 30-45 minute lines at the drink spots for most of the evening. These were heavily publicized in the guide and in articles leading up to the event, so underestimating the demand for these seems a bit unreasonable. Club Evil at the Brown Derby also had long lines, and very little capacity despite tremendous publicity. Doesn’t Disney understand that people read their blog or the guide maps? Sure, locations with some normal food offerings were doing fine, but any location with specialty items was swamped and ran out of their specialty items early in the evening. The much-discussed Villains hot dog buns were nowhere to be found by 10PM. How do you run out of generic hot dog buns with a face on them? Surely these were not complicated to make and there was no excuse to have such a short supply.
The greatest offense was the meet-and-greet situation. When I attend a “hard ticket event”, I understand some things will have a longer wait than others and may even have queues closed much earlier than the end of the event. However, though there was a long list of meet and greet locations, none had a wait time within reason, which is insane. At Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party, Jack Skellington and Sally generally have a line that is over an hour long, but there are always several meet and greets with 5-15 minute waits that you can seek out.
Every line at this event was a mess. Most people we spoke to were able to accomplish 1-2 of these meet-and-greets. If you tried to meet either Constantine or Maleficent, that was probably about all you saw at the entire event. Maleficent and Constantine’s queues were both over 3 hours for most of the night and both lines were closed early. There just simply was not enough ride, show, and meet and greet capacity in the park to properly distribute guests. The attraction line-up was small, but even so, there wasn’t enough unique to the party to steer people to different places. The Magic Kingdom is just better fit for these events and there’s enough space and enough offerings to make the parties manageable, even on the busiest nights.
By the time the night was over, “no questions asked” refunds were being distributed. The line at guest relations after the event was so long that they had to hand out business cards and try to have guests simply contact a guest relations representative after the event at a later time. Disney was well aware that the event was a disaster and thankfully was more than willing to correct it for many guests.
As nice as this is, it doesn’t make it right that Disney sold as many tickets as they did. The event was over-sold and was not enjoyable for most who attended. 5,000-10,000 fewer guests would have provided a much better experience for everyone. Sure, Disney would have made less money, but if this is a test for something they want to hold multiple nights each year, guests would have more opportunities to go if one event sold out anyway. Now, the event will probably be deemed a failure and never be held again, instead of becoming a staple for the park.
I felt that my reviews on this site are often positive, but I can’t think of any way that this event was worth the price of admission. “Bad show” is nothing compared to the words that should be used to describe how cheated myself and many other guests felt at the end of this event. We paid a significant amount for a party, and instead of a fun party all we got was the opportunity to wait in long lines or be told that what we were promised was not available. The only “villains” are whoever decided to sell this many tickets to this event, and they should probably be “unleashed” from their jobs.
Photos by Joe Hogarty & John Corigliano, Video by John Corigliano