If you follow me on social media, you’ll know I recently spent a few days at Disneyland Paris for Halloween. This is something I have dreamed of for many years, and that my dear friend LT made possible by her supreme organisation skills. All I had to do was turn up with my bag and passport, and I was whisked away to the happiest place on earth.
Of course, I was there at the spookiest time of year. The park was closed to those without Halloween soirée tickets that evening and only the best dressed and spookiest people descended to the parks to celebrate the best season of them all. As darkness fell over the park, it took a new form in my mind and I realised that there really is a lot for a death geek to love at Disneyland with or without the Halloween festivities.
I remember there being other content elsewhere online about actual deaths at Disney, or what happens if you die at Disney, but this is not what I am here for. What I want to bring to the forefront is how death shapes some of the Disney magic and is woven into the stories there.
One of the first things I saw on my visit were the huge Coco figurines and colourful decorations which I adore. Coco is wonderful because it brings the Mexican festival together with colour and happiness and hope. I also love it because my dog Patrick is very reminiscent of Dante in the film, and the skeletal characters (the dead who are still remembered and celebrated by the living) are just adorable.
These decorations had taken over a chunk of Frontierland, and looked incredible in the sun while also providing amazing autumnal brightness for the duller days. At nightime they lit up, with some carrying lanterns decorated with little skulls. I think this is a brilliant way of not only showing how different cultures celebrate death or the dead, but also brings death to the masses without being sombre or macabre. At least not to those who don’t mind a skeleton or several!
The haunted mansion remains my firm favourite in all the attractions at Disneyland. It has changed a lot since I was last there five years ago and I won’t spoil anything but it’s been updated in a marvellous way. Sadly, our first attempt at this ride was hindered by technical gremlins and we walked into the mansion fully lit up which seemed a little off and creepier than it is with mood lighting. We were then led away through a tunnel and up some stairs which were very industrial looking and added to the eeriness. Once outside, we took the time to wander the little graveyard outside the mansion with its numerous grave stones and sculptural tombs. Luckily, on Halloween day we took to the ride twice and each time I noticed different things which I loved.
While the Haunted Mansion is perhaps not for the easily scared or squeamish, it does fulfill the classic haunted house trope of a ride that has existed for decades and shall most likely prevail for many decades more. We do seem to love a good jump scare, and we also love a sad tale with a creepy side. The Haunted Mansion is creepy but is also beautiful, the characters in the story are tragic and the eternal movement of the ride (it neither stops for you to get on nor off) is an added unsettling factor. I love the fact you can visit the above graveyard before or after and it ticks all the deathy boxes for me.
A similar theme is brought to life by the animatronics of the Pirates of the Caribbean rife with its cursed pirates and unfavourable fates of some of the characters. Pirates is an immensely enjoyable ride, with a calm and peaceful (yet once again eery and unsettling) start which leads to a lot of adventure including once again diving underground to a graveyard full of the undead. The infamous skull rock sits outside the ride which you can walk through and experience the caves within.
You would expect nothing less than an overwhelming theme of death on a pirate ride, and Pirates does not disappoint. It’s an old ride but it’s animatronics seem to stare into you in your boat and come to life before you. This is very close to being my favourite ride, with its campy horror and creepy characters aplenty.
Finally, experiencing Halloween at Disney was perfect. There really is something for everyone, with cute ghosts and pumpkins for the kids and zombies in the parade in the evening. The French really impressed me with their outfits, with a Corpse Bride and Darth Maul absolutely stealing the spotlight in the queue for the Star Tours ride (even if Darth Maul couldn’t get their 3D glasses over their horns). I adored the Halloween snacks, especially the coffin biscuit filled with Nutella. Unfortunately I came home with some kind of virus which has wiped me ever since but it was so very worth it.