On Friday night, yes Friday the 13th, we headed over to Hollywood Studios for a special Limited Time Magic event. It was called Unleash the Villains, and it featured some of the most famous — and rarely seen in the parks — bad guys, including Hades from “Hercules,” Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty,” Jafar from “Aladdin” and the Wicked Queen from “Snow White.”
Little-known fact: Disney fans love villains.
I’ve never seen anything like this event in my Disney-going life. The party was slated to kick off at 8:30. We arrived around 7 and already the line of cars down Buena Vista Drive waiting to get into the Studios’ parking lot stretched on and on. We ducked into Boardwalk and used the self-parking and walked over. That one split-second decision ended up saving us hours. As the night went on, the line of cars to get in got longer and longer. I’ve heard reports that some people waited up to three hours JUST TO PARK.
Seeing the crowd inside the park, I’m not surprised. I saw someone tweet that it was like Times Square on New Year’s Eve and I think that’s a pretty good description.
As we made our way down Hollywood Blvd., the crowds were already spilling out of the area in front of the stage under Mickey’s hat.
The stage under the hat was the centerpiece of the celebration and the site of the Hades’ dance party. After seeing that crowd, we knew we wouldn’t be entering that fray for awhile. Little did we know the crowds would only get more intense.
There were several character greeting areas set up around Echo Lake. When we walked by, on our way to a nearly no-wait Star Tours (hooray for distracted crowds!), we already saw a ton of people in line, more than 90 minutes before the meetings were scheduled to begin. Thank God E follows our “no line longer than 15 minutes” philosophy. She had no interest in camping out. But we did sneak her in for a quick pic with the cool sign.
And that’s as close to greeting the characters as we got. After Star Tours, we made our way back across the crowd to grab dinner (well, wait in a giant line then battle for a free table) before taking E’s very first ride on Tower of Terror. It seemed particularly fitting on Friday the 13th. She was nervous for the ride but excited to try it … even if it did mean having me carry her through the entire line experience.
During the ride, I would have bet money that she’d never ride it again. She never cried but she was screaming her head off the entire time, and not in the fun Thunder Mountain kind of way. But within a couple minutes of getting off she said, “I don’t want to ride it again tonight but I’ll ride it the next time we come back.” Brave girl. I forgot how scary it can be. I predict after another time, it’ll be her favorite ride.
After ToT, we decided to go check out those character lines. OH.MY.CROWD. Seriously, I’ve never seen anything like it. The line wrapped the entire way around Echo Lake. We’r talking thousands of people in line. Here, I’ll save you the three-plus hours people spent in line:
Those characters were subbed out at times with other villains, but I don’t care if it was Heisenberg himself, no one is worth waiting that long for (OK, fine, I’d wait that long to meet Bryan Cranston).
We decided we’d had enough of the crowds. We wanted to make one quick pass through the dance floor area because on the Limited Time Magic Star Wars Day (May the Fourth), a lot of the characters were out milling around there. And that’s how it was again.
E was really overwhelmed by the crowd and the darkness though, and not even her beloved Hook could convince her to get up close and personal with any of the characters. So, even though we knew the special fireworks would be amazing, we decided it was time to head out. As we left the park at 9:45 or so, the line to get into the park was still hundreds deep. On our walk back to Boardwalk, we passed so many people heading that way, and when we finally got to our car, we couldn’t believe the miles and miles that BV Drive was still backed up. Unbelievable. We really lucked out in terms of not getting stuck in any major crowds.
Frankly? I was ODed on Disney. It was all too much. The last thing I wanted to do Saturday morning was to head into a different kind of Disney fray — Disney on Ice. But I already had the tickets and plans to meet Michelle and L for our third annual trip to Disney on Ice together.
Two little princesses were pretty excited to be there again.
Because we were coming right from piano lessons, we were rushing around and I was feeling frantic. We also knew that we’d have to leave early because we had a birthday party for E’s BFF to get to. I just wasn’t feeling very Disney-ey (totes a word).
Then the music came up. The songs started. Tinker Bell skated across the ice, sprinkling pixie dust. And that magic feeling kicked in. THIS was the real Disney. Songs you know and love. Characters you’ve known practically your whole life. And your 5-year-old sitting next to you, excitedly “ooohing” and “Mommy, look at THAT”ing over every new thing.
It was just what Doc ordered. See, he was there to write the prescription himself.
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to my happy place I go.
So I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the show.
Know what’s difficult? Taking pictures of an ice skating show. Between the bright lights on the ice, the spinning dancers and the fast movement, I’m just not properly equipped to take good show pictures.
But you’ll just have to take my word for it — the show was fantastic. This is the fourth year in a row I’ve seen the show (disclosure: this year, like the past two years, I received free tickets to attend the show in exchange for hosting a giveaway) and every year, it gets better.
I’m really sad we had to miss the big finale because judging by all the tweets I saw, it was spectacular. Even though I’ve seen the show so many times, it’s different every year. This year’s theme was “Princesses and Heroes,” and it featured the princesses and their princes, including Aladdin and Jasmine; Ariel and Eric; Belle and Beast; Aurora and Philip; Tiana and Naveen; and Rapunzel and Flynn.
I purposely didn’t say anything to E. before the show that her two favorite princesses were missing but I should have known she’d notice.
As we were leaving, I asked her if she liked it.
“Yes! It was awesome. But Mommy, I really wish Merida and Mulan would have been in it. Know why? They’re princesses AND heroes. They SHOULD have been in it. And Princess Leia, too.”
Amen, my girl. So, Feld Entertainment, thank you again for the opportunity to attend another fabulous show but I truly hope you’ll take my girl’s words to heart. Just because a princess’s sole focus isn’t on getting the guy doesn’t mean she’s not a real princess. Real princesses have heart and guts … and don’t just dream that someday their prince will come.
And they’re not brats who refuse to listen to their parents. On that note, I was glad to see Ariel’s more responsible (and less famous) sisters step into the spotlight for a change.
I’m hoping next year’s theme finds a way to incorporate the other characteristics that make girls strong. Besides, how cool would it be to see Mulan, Merida and Leia teaming up to take down some beast? Now that’s girl power.
Disclosure: I was provided four free tickets to the Disney on Ice show in Orlando but received no other compensation. As the saying goes, all opinions are mine (and my 5-year-old’s). She’d also want me to add that she thinks her annual snowcone cups are worth the $12 because she uses the cup every day for a year afterwards.
What do you think makes a princess a princess? Who’s your favorite Princess/Hero/Warrior? Would you have stood in line for the villains?