A few days before the Disney Halloween Parties on 29 and 31 October, Thierry Magne, the event designer, gives us a sneak preview as he oversees the final preparations…
Thierry, I think the Disney Halloween parties are something you know well.
It’s true. This is my second year doing it. And before that, I designed the Terrorific Nights at Walt Disney Studios Park.
What do the preparations involve?
The amount of organisation is incredible! We began setting up the various installations in the Park last week, and we’ve been working every night since then. We’ll keep making final checks and adjustments, right up to the last minute. Our teams start at 11.30 p.m. and work through to 4 or 5 a.m. The nights are long, but it’s in a good cause. This year, more than ever, we were able to design the parties of our dreams!
What is the “spirit” of this year’s events?
It’s a really family-friendly Halloween, with an autumnal twist. Unlike last year, when things ended with a dance party, we wanted to offer a genuinely “Disney” experience from start to finish. Plus a lot of new features, particularly in terms of shows.
At the same time, we designed some separate little zones that are a bit more frightening. This is also what guests are looking for when they come to this type of event. These experiences will be slightly different from Terrorific Nights, with an interactive element that adults and young adults will surely enjoy.
You mention the shows, which promise to be exceptional. Can you give us a little taster?
I’ll start with The Unenchanted Ball of the Disney Villains. This show will be performed several times on the Castle Stage, right up until the final minutes of the party. In the story, the Evil Queen gets bored and asks her Mirror to organise a ball for her. So the Mirror invites some other Disney villains to help whip up an unforgettable evening. It’s a musical show, with song and dance as I’ve never seen it before, even for a Halloween season. At rehearsals, the artists, dancers and singers I speak to all tell me how aware they are of being a part of such an important show, both for the party itself and for Disneyland Paris in general, and how they’re giving it their absolute all. And I’m really happy because I know the fans will love the sheer originality of this show directed by Christine Mellet and Arnaud Feredj. They’ll see all their favourite characters, but in a surprising way. The scenography has over 300 candles and includes pyrotechnics. The resources we’ve used could be the same as for a season-long production.
What about the music, which plays a central role in the show?
The entire soundtrack is based on well-known songs that we have rearranged for the occasion. The instrumentals were recorded with a symphony orchestra in Prague. For example, there is “Friends on the Other Side”, Dr. Facilier’s song in The Princess and the Frog, or “I Put a Spell on You” from the film Hocus Pocus and sung here by the Evil Queen. This new arrangement has given us a soundtrack that is stylistically consistent and perfectly matched to our story. It’s very jazzy, very funny. For the dance scenes, we called on Delphine Lemaître, who choreographed the 30th anniversary show Un Monde Qui S’Illumine. She is an extremely talented individual, with a reputation for highly original creations. I think the audience is in for a pleasant surprise!
The other highlight of the party will be at Videopolis.
It’s called Yzma’s Evil Plans. Created by our Directors Aurélien Berda and Natalia Beliaeva, this party has a totally different atmosphere. Inspired by the more outrageous, offbeat aspects of the Disney animated film, The Emperor’s New Groove, they came up with a completely wacky TV show in which Yzma once again tries to dethrone Kuzco and take his place. To do this, Kronk will bring artists from around the world to help him find new ways to make the emperor disappear. The show lasts almost 25 minutes, as we wanted to give proper space to these top-quality cabaret numbers that line the story. There will also be plenty of hysterical surprises, starting with the introduction to the show. And that’s all I’m telling you for now!
From the Evil Queen to Yzma, it’s a pretty unique opportunity to meet Disney characters we don’t see all that often.
That was precisely our goal. We know there will be many Disney fans who’ll get a kick from seeing them. For our part, it was particularly exciting to draw inspiration from their stories to create new ones, with many surprises. We wanted our guests to be able to see and do a whole raft of things throughout these unique parties: to see new and exclusive shows, to enjoy the attractions in an unusual setting, to meet Disney Characters in surprising places, etc.
Can you tell us more about what to expect in terms of meeting Disney Characters?
The Evil Queen will be very present at the parties. When not on the Castle Stage, she will appear several times on the roof of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs attraction, not far from the window where she generally draws the curtains while brewing a potion or casting a spell. It’s an unusual location, but totally fitting. Director Emanuel Lenormand imagined these moments to be a bit like the Selfie Points that we launched when we reopened our resort. But they are also a chance to tell real stories with real atmospheres each time she appears. It’s like a mini-show. Likewise, the Queen of Hearts, who will rise out of one of the towers of Alice’s Curious Labyrinth Castle; Crochet and Mouche, who will appear on a promontory at the entrance of Pirates of the Caribbean; Jack Sparrow on the terrace of Captain Jack’s – Restaurant des Pirates; and Boba Fett and Darth Vader on the terrace of Starport.
And there will be plenty of opportunities to approach other Disney Villains, such as Oogie Boogie (who makes it tricky to find him…) or even Jafar.
And to see even more characters, there’s Mickey’s Halloween Celebration cavalcade!
Exactly! For this, we designed scenery for Central Plaza that is slightly different from that seen during the day, with a new colourful ambiance inspired by night and autumn. There is only one per party, so don’t miss it!
This is a great program for the whole family!
Exactly. But that’s not all! There will be a special children’s area at Cottonwood Creek Ranch with Minnie’s Pumpkin Party, an animation featuring Minnie, Daisy, Dingo, dancers, and a master of ceremonies. The idea is that the whole family can dance in front of this stage throughout the party. They will also have big ghost-shaped balloons to play with. There will be plenty of fun, welcoming activities so that youngsters can enjoy the party too.
But you’ve also thought about the grownups!
Quite right. We relaunched The Pirates’ Scary Island, which was such a hit in a previous edition, especially for teens and adults. The zombie pirates of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales will once again invade the Adventureland caves, which are revisited with ambient effects, smoke and colours… Don’t be shocked if you hear the screams!
Between Fort Comstock and Phantom Manor, Thunder Mesa will again become the ghost town at the end of the attraction. It’s as if the inhabitants were coming back to life – as ghosts – for the duration of the party. Among them are Miss Lil’, the mayor, the manor’s caretaker, Melanie Ravenswood, the sheriff, the sheriff’s prisoner, the undertaker – ready to take your measurements! – and a bounty hunter keen to check you’re not the fugitive he’s looking for! All in all, there will be about twenty characters. And there will be some spine-chilling surprises. I love it! In a sense, we are taking the themes from Terrorific Nights, but adapted to the story of Thunder Mesa.
Then it will be time for Midnight: On the Other Side. In this story, the Sleeping Beauty Castle will put its magic to one side, just for the night, and give us a glimpse of its darker side. This will be a type of “open book” about the sum of our collective fears. To better immerse the guests in this universe, we will create a highly suggestive soundscape that makes maximum use of the multichannel effects on Central Plaza. The spirits of Main Street’s former inhabitants will fly away, as if leaving the Castle, and invade our normally peaceful avenue. Between midnight and 2 a.m., the atmosphere completely changes. All these Victorian ghosts will emerge from the fog to try and seize the reckless guests who dare to venture there… Our Ambassadors, Carmen and Quentin, will even join them in this final scene.
But the youngsters need not fear: the arcades will be open, so they can walk up the street in peace!
In any event, keep your eyes peeled. This is truly a night of surprises, which can spring up at any time! So be ready for anything!
How are parties of this scale organised?
The design of these parties starts a long way upstream, based on guest feedback from previous years. This was the starting block for the overall concept, which I drafted in June. I then started working with the various Directors, giving a scene or a zone to each. Taking my concept as a starting point, they had carte blanche to design the show they wanted. It’s a genuine team effort. And none of it could happen without the talent and unflagging efforts of the Cast Members from the Shows Division, not forgetting Floriane Fajoux, our Production Manager. For example, it was our internal talents who we had make Kuzco’s throne for the Videopolis show. It’s crazy! It weighs 350 kg and moves around on stage. It could be the Arc de Triomphe, it’s that huge! Costuming, scenography, technical operations, staging – we really have an incredible team. All in all, it took between 300 and 400 people to create this event.
What is your best – or most frightening – Halloween memory?
I love Halloween at Disneyland Paris – this way of giving people a fright within a Disney setting. Whether they come with family or friends, everyone has a good time. And I admit that what I love most is continually finding new ideas to surprise people!
The end of one of the Terrorific Nights at Walt Disney Studios Park is one that sticks in my mind. We had gathered a lot of zombies in Studio 1, and the guests could not leave the party without confronting them. But what they didn’t know was that two other zombies were also waiting for them in the Place des Frères Lumière. Leaving Studio 1, when they thought they were out of the woods, and when they least expected it, they came face to face – again! – with some zombies. You can imagine the screams and the laughter! It worked so well that a crowd started to gather in the square just to see the shocked reaction of the people leaving Studio 1! Everyone was in hysterics! That’s exactly what I love to create. And that’s what I’ve tried to do at these Disney Halloween parties, in a different way each time.
It’s such a pleasure. This year, after organising the finale to the 30th anniversary where Mickey lights up the Eiffel Tower, the drone show for the Avengers Campus opening ceremony, and now these two unique parties, I think I’m incredibly lucky and that I have the best job in the world!