NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
SNEAK PREVIEW EVENT
HAUNTED MANSION HOLIDAY
October 3, 2001
By Cindy Stephens
OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING
I arrived at Disneyland around park opening at 10am. Registration was in the esplanade to the right of the entrance gates. A queue was set up to feed into the tables where registration was handled.
My day started on a very happy note. As I walked up to a lead CM at the head of the queue, I happened to notice her pin lanyard, and one pin in particular that I couldn't believe she had. It was a pin of Skippy from Alien Encounter at WDW! I've only been on the attraction once, and I loved the pre-show but didn't care for the ride itself, but I fell in love with Skippy, as I'm sure did many others before me. I came home with a Skippy plush but figured I'd never find a pin. I expressed my happiness at seeing the pin on her lanyard and asked if I could trade for it, and she said of course. She mentioned that she'd seen it backstage as one of the available trading pins and thought it was pretty unique so she put it on her lanyard. She said she didn't know who it was until someone else told her. I happily traded one of my better duplicate pins for Skippy - a great pin deserves a great pin in exchange. What a great way to start the day.
I was directed to one of the tables, where they pulled my registration papers. I ended up getting my husband's registration as well, so he didn't have to go through registration later.
The welcome packet consisted of the following:
1. welcome letter from Cynthia Harriss
Dear Special Guest,
On behalf of the Disneyland Resort, I would like to welcome you to the "Nightmare Before Christmas Enchanted Evening" Sneak Preview Event.
We hope that your night is filled with spooktacular fun and nightmarish fright! As a Guest of this chilling evening, you are among the very first to experience our new Haunted Mansion Holiday attraction. For your added enjoyment, we have also arranged a panel discussion featuring some of the incredibly talented creators of Tim Burton's film, "Nightmare Before Christmas".
Our 999 Happy Haunts join me in wishing you a dreafully wonderful evening and magical holiday season!
2. event itinerary - There were a few changes from the previously announced itinerary contained in the packets people received with their RSP forms. Merchandise pickup had previously been scheduled to start at 4pm, but the pickup time was moved up so pickup was from noon to 10:30pm.
3. list of discussion panelists
Mike Belzer - animator
Steve Davison - Disneyland Resort entertainment show development (also responsible for Believe: There's Magic in the Stars)
Rick Heinrichs - visual consultant
Eric Leighton - animation supervisor
Chris Sarandon - voice of Jack Skellington (and known for movies like "The Princess Bride")
Henry Selick - director of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas
Glenn Shadix - voice of the mayor (also known as the exorcist from "Beetlejuice")
Frank Thompson - panel discussion moderator and author of "The Art of Nightmare Before Christmas"
As many people are aware, Tim Burton and Danny Elfman were scheduled to appear at the panel but both cancelled shortly before the event. Both were shown in separate pre-recorded videos answering questions about the genesis and development of the film and the adaptation to the Haunted Mansion attraction.
4. flyer offering Downtown Disney meal discounts
Downtown Disney Discounts...
Exclusively for Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Evening
Upon presentation of your Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Evening credential, the following Downtown Disney restaurants have graciously offered a 20% discount off food and beverage, excluding alcohol (tax and gratuity not included). These discounts are just for you! We encourage you to visit and enjoy Downtown Disney during your visit at The Disneyland Resort valid October 3, 2001 only.
Catal Restaurant & Uva Bar
Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria
House of Blues
Y Arriba Y Arriba
La Brea Bakery
Ralph Brennan?s Jazz Kitchen
5. event survey - questionnaire about the event, to be returned at the end of the evening
6. invoice with list of items purchased by the attendee
In the original registration packet sent to homes, each attendee was sent a brochure and order form for merchandise available at the preview event. Since many of the items were limited editions, a random selection process ("RSP") was used. Attendees noted those items that they wished to purchase, and once all the forms were received by Disney, if more people wanted a particular item than there were items available, a random drawing was used to decide which people could purchase the item.
I was pleased to see that out of the items my husband and I had requested, we got everything except for one item, which was a duplicate, so that was ok.
7. secondary shopping list
Attendees were given a second chance to purchase additional merchandise still available. There were only four choices: the event logo pin, the black leather jacket, sweatshirts and t-shirts. Attendees could request up to the maximum amount of each item, and then drew a slip of paper from a black cauldron. The slip of paper had a random number, and once all secondary shopping lists had been turned in, the lowest number would get the order filled first and so forth. Secondary shopping lists had to be submitted by 7pm, and the merchandise would be available for pickup at the Rocket Rods entrance after 9:30pm. According to the original itinerary, there was supposed to be a sale at 5pm of all the merchandise that had not already been spoken for through RSP, but there was no mention of the sale in the revised itinerary. Also, since secondary shopping lists had a 7pm deadline, and the seating for the panel discussion started at 7pm, there would have been no time for the "leftover" sale until much later in the evening. I don't know whether any such sale existed.
Also included in the welcome package were a wristband and a badge (green for regular guests, red for dinner included guests). The front of the badge has the Haunted Mansion Holiday logo (with Jack dressed as Sandy Claws holding the mansion in one hand and a bag of "goodies" next to him) with the written words Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas Enchanted (crossed out) Haunted Evening, Wednesday, October 3, 2001, Disneyland. The back of the badge has the evening's original itinerary and some general "legalese".
After finishing with registration (which didn't take very long), I went into Disneyland. The event only included admission into Disneyland after 5pm, so entrance prior to that time required regular admission media. Regular merchandise for the Haunted Mansion Holiday was supposed to be released at Port D'Orleans (the cooking shop, next to the Pirates shop at the exit of Pirates of the Carribean), so I headed that way to check it out. I was disappointed that they didn't have an attraction CD yet, but they did have gray t-shirts and sweatshirts, plush of various Nightmare characters (including a reversible Oogie Boogie and a clown whose face you can take off...), ornaments and pins. They had apparently run out of pins and people were in line to put their names on the waiting list, and while I thought the pins were cute (at least the pictures I'd seen of them), I didn't care enough to stand in a line to put my name down. If they have some at a future date, I figured I'd get some then. I picked up a gray t-shirt with Jack as Sandy Claws standing on the lawn of the mansion as he tips his Christmas hat. An orange banner below reads "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas", under which is written "Haunted Mansion Holiday" in the same black and orange coloring used for Jack, and under that is written "Disneyland 2001" in white. I also picked up a scroll in a plastic bank-tube container. The scroll contains the revised version of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" that is heard in the Haunted Mansion Holiday attraction.
After heading to Main Street to get a locker for my purchases, I headed over to the Rocket Rods at about 11:30 for merchandise pickup, which started at 12:00. I figured the earlier I got in line, the faster I'd be done. I was the fifth person in line, and entrance was through the Rocket Rods main entrance (the one with the glass doors), through a queue along which for viewing were the various merchandise items being sold, and then into the main "Circlevision" room. Numerous tables were set up where CMs retrieved the appropriate merchandise. Disney had offered the option of free shipping of the merchandise if people didn't want to wait in line to pick it up. At pickup, the merchandise came in Disneyland Resort plastic shopping bags.
One of the items for sale was not available for pickup at that time. For those who purchased the Haunted Mansion Doombuggy sculpture, the following note was attached:
Congratulations on your purchase of the Limited Edition Haunted Mansion Doombuggy sculpture featuring Jack, Sally & Zero.
Due to recent world events, this item?s production had been delayed. Your sculpture will be shipped free of charge to your address directly from the vendor in 7 - 8 weeks.
After getting my merchandise and checking that everything was there and in good condition, I was done by 12:15 and headed to Main Street again to put these items away in the locker. After that, it was time for lunch.
After seeing the discount being offered at Downtown Disney restaurants, I knew exactly where I was having lunch - at my favorite DTD restaurant, Catal Restaurant and Uva Bar. I discovered that menus on weekdays and weekends are different. On weekends (which is when I usually go), both the upstairs restaurant and the downstairs uva bar are open. On weekdays for lunch, only the downstairs is open, with a menu that combines some items from the restaurant and some items from the uva bar. Unfortunately, my favorite dish from the uva bar (spicy ahi tuna tartare) wasn't on the lunch menu, so I ordered other things instead. After a relaxing lunch (and leftovers to boot), I headed to my favorite spot in the lobby of the Bonita Tower of the Disneyland Hotel to read for a bit and relax.
Later in the afternoon, I headed back to Disneyland via the monorail and eventually made my way to the Fantasyland Theatre to wait in line for the evening's show. There were separate lines for people with green badges and people with red badges. While in line, I heard two run-throughs/rehearsals of the show, and from what I heard, it sounded like it was going to be fun. My husband joined me at about 5:00, with a friend joining us a little bit after that. They both then went foraging for dinner and came back with food to eat while in line. I had my lunch leftovers, which were plenty.
ONE ENCHANTED EVENING
At about 7pm, we were allowed into the theatre. CMs had made the announcement that the bottom section was reserved for attendees with red badges and people with green badges could sit in the bleacher sections. We ended up sitting in the first row, center, of the bleacher section, so we were pleased about that. As we entered the theatre, there was a special treat - each person was given a popcorn ball/round rice krispies treat on a stick, with the ball in the image of Jack's head. Two almond-shaped chocolates were used for Jack's eyes and drizzles of chocolate were used to form his nose and his mouth. A black ribbon was tied just below the head, with a plastic black spider clipped around the stick. I saw many people eating their treats, but I couldn't bear to eat mine - it was so incredibly cool. While we were waiting for the show, there were also snacks available - coffee, punch and several kinds of cookies.
The show started with some narration and then a number by the Nightmare cast, including Sally and Jack, who later introduced Cynthia Harriss. (The backdrop of the stage had the familiar sillouette of Halloweentown on the left (where the live band sat) and the even more familiar curled hilltop on the right. In the middle was a full moon which doubled as the projection screen.) During her talk, Cynthia introduced the videos of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman as well as the panel moderator, Frank Thompson, who then introduced the panelists themselves. The discussion focussed on each person's involvement in the creation and development of the film and then Steve Davison talked about the process of adapting the film to the existing attraction, with the operative phrase being "when holidays collide". Included in his talk were projected sketches of the changes to the mansion, giving some of us our first clue as to what to expect. After the panel, there was a closing number from Jack as Sandy Claws, and all the Nightmare characters left the stage in 2 doom buggies.
After the show, the people with green badges were asked to proceed to the mansion for our ride while the people with red badges took a train ride to their dinner at Blue Bayou, I believe.
The ride itself was magnificent. It wasn't just a simple overlay but almost a re-invention of the attraction. (For anyone familiar with the transformation of "It's a Small World" to "Small World Holiday", this change is much more complete, I think.) I won't give away any spoilers as it's completely worth discovering the ride for yourself, but the mansion has been completely transformed, inside and out. There are so many clever touches, and I know I'll be only one of many who will be going on this ride repeatedly in the next three months to try to see everything there is to see. And yes, Jack himself makes a spectacular appearance or two.
After the ride, we headed back to the Rocket Rods entrance to see if I got any of my second chance merchandise. As would be expected, the wait was much longer than earlier in the day, but the line still moved fairly swiftly. After picking up my second chance items, it was time to head to Main Street to retrieve our belongings from the locker and head home.
At the exit gate, CMs were on hand to cut off the wristband and hand out the last gift, which was a deck of Nightmare-themed tarot cards. They'll make sense once you've been on the ride.
I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed myself. While there have been problems with merchandise distribution in the past two events (Pirates and Divas), I thought everything went fine this time. What a great kickoff to a wonderful new attraction!
To read about the 2004 Haunted Mansion Holiday event, go here.
To read about the 2003 Haunted Mansion Holiday event, go here.
To read about the 2002 Haunted Mansion Holiday event, go here.
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