Every year like clockwork, the Halloween season welcomes horror fans from around the globe as they descend on Universal Studios Florida for the theme park’s premiere Halloween Horror Nights event.
Promising a host of immersive frights with each coming year, Halloween Horror Nights ever-changing lineup features haunted houses based on a variety of films, television shows and even music artists, alongside a host of original stories creepily and carefully crafted by the Universal creative team.
With no doubt a huge market for these horrifyingly exciting events, the question that some often ponder is whether Universal’s biggest competitor, Walt Disney World, could one day follow suit…
What could a Walt Disney World Horror Nights look like?
Known for making magic and bringing smiles to the faces of its nearly 60 million annual visitors, it’s hard to imagine Walt Disney World's wonder-filled environment transforming into something nightmarish.
Although, not too difficult when you consider that Disney has actually already embarked on such a unique endeavour in the past within their Hong Kong park.
In both 2016 and 2017, guests celebrating the Halloween season at Hong Kong Disneyland had the opportunity to explore Disney’s The Nightmare Experiment, an enchantingly eerie walk-through attraction that put a wicked twist on everyone’s favourite Disney characters.
With a focus on storytelling rather than jump scares (though there were certainly some of those present as well) The Nightmare Experiment took the stories of characters such as Dr Facillier and The Mad Hatter and dropped guests right in the centre of an immersive pop-up experience that had the potential to change the way you looked at these characters forever.
So, could something like this ever make its way over to Walt Disney World?
If Disney wanted to create an event that serves as a direct competitor to Halloween Horror Nights, it would certainly make for an interesting addition to the Walt Disney World parks.
Streets lined with your favourite Disney villains in an atmosphere that evokes all kinds of terror could certainly lead parks fans to see Walt Disney World in an all-new light. Combine this with houses that play host to some horrifying reimaginings of fan favourite stories and Walt Disney World would be near unrecognisable from its daytime counterpart.
However, if Disney were to ever consider creating a horror event, it’s more likely that it would be somewhat toned down in comparison.
It would make the most sense to keep separate areas to maintain Disney’s family-friendly reputation, perhaps available during an event akin to the likes of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Guests over a certain age could be granted access to houses, while the rest of the event could remain suitable for all guests with a general focus on fun rather than fear.
Instead of scare zones, roaming street-mosphere characters in spooky attire could wander the streets of the park, each boasting their own spooky backstory inspired by the event’s overarching theme.
One villain could dominate the event, having taken over the Walt Disney World park with a plan to cause chaos all around. For the sake of synergy, this theme could then bleed into the stories of the houses, making for an unmissable experience for all who decide to attend this event.
It’s easy to speculate the likely criticisms that would befall Disney should they ever decide to host an event of this calibre. Both marketed as and considered to be the most family-friendly travel destination on the planet, Walt Disney World would likely anger some fans if they were to lean too heavily into the horror side of their Halloween celebrations.
Walt Disney World's current Halloween offering, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party serves as the perfect celebration of the season for all ages and horrors that are too intense for a large portion of their clientele would certainly clash with the Disney brand, although there are certainly ways that these elements could still be incorporated.
While it’s unlikely that Walt Disney World will ever make the leap over to a more horror-filled horror event, there would certainly be a portion of Disney fans who would love to see Disney’s stories brought to life through a horror lens. With a host of villains to pull from, Disney’s magic of storytelling would likely see some incredibly creative stories play out, although, it’s fair to say that Disney is likely to stick with their colourful parades and trick ‘r treating trails for now.
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