Countdown to Halloween: Where in the World is Chris Franklin? Pt. 1
ABOUT OUR GUEST
How awesome is this? When I invited Chris Franklin to contribute to the countdown, he offered to report on his recent vacation to Florida where he encountered all kinds of spooky Halloween characters and events. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this for the blog, Chris! I bet its readers will appreciate it, also.
Chris is a illustrator, graphic designer and podcaster who co-hosts many shows on the Fire and Water Podcast Network, including Super Mates, where every fall he and his wife Cindy feature classic-themed horror films and comics during their “House of Franklin-Stein” event.
When the air turns cool, and the brisk wind blows about the falling red and orange leaves…it’s time to pack up and go to Florida. Not for the weather, but to visit both Walt Disney World and Universal Studios resorts! My family and I have been frequenting the area every two years or so since 2012, and needless to say we were bitten by whatever bug it is that makes folks obsessed with these theme parks. Honestly, if I could, I’d never leave. The “happiest place on Earth” slogan truly applies to me. As hectic as the pace can be to try and do everything we want in a week’s time, I find the whole thing relaxing and joyous.
And since we were going down during the Halloween season, we had the added benefit of checking out the spookier side of the parks as well. More Halloween is ALWAYS a huge bonus for me. In addition to Disney and Universal, we added Legoland to our itinerary for the first time, because my 10-year old daughter is Lego OBSESSED. She and I visited the land of bricks, while my wife and 16-year old son shopped at Disney Springs.
Legoland was no slouch in the Halloween department, decorating the entire park for their “Bricktober” event, which included “Brick or Treat” (sense a theme here?). Lego’s versions of the classic monsters were everywhere, from graphics to live characters. We even got to see the Lego Mummy perform in a cool stage show that was kind of cross between Night of the Living Dead and STOMP. If you wanted to dress up as a Lego monster, there was a costume shop full of “Lord Vampyre”, Mummy and Witch costumes and masks, in both child and adult sizes. Actual Lego builds of the monsters abounded in different scales, with the creeps invading the large architectural displays of famous buildings and monuments in the center of the park. While we weren’t looking, apparently Dracula took over the White House, but nowadays, who’d notice? In addition to the classic movie monsters, even the Headless Horseman was seen galloping through the huge dioramas.
Speaking of the Headless Horseman, unfortunately the most famous resident of Sleepy Hollow was a no-show this year at Disney World and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Rains coming in from Hurricane Michael put a bit of damper on the elaborate Halloween Parade, but the show went on, even if the Horseman and his steed sat this night out. We had seen the Headless Hessian before a few years back, so we weren’t too devastated by this. The parade was still a lot of fun, even if the Haunted Mansion portion didn’t have the elaborate choreography of the ballroom dancers and sparking shovel gravediggers, due again to the rainy streets. The Hitchhiking Ghosts were still present in the flesh (?), as were the Disney villains, with Maleficent, Jafar and the Evil Queen riding on a float impressively towered over by Chernabog from Fantasia.
The rest of the park was wonderfully themed with pumpkins and iconography of the Disney characters in disguise. And many of the partygoers, including my family, were also in on the costumed fun. My daughter and I themed together as Mr. Incredible and Violet, while my wife Cindy went as Belle (in her blue dress) and my son rocked a hip version of Peter Pan who traded his tights in for torn skinny jeans. The Party is an additional ticket, but if you lament the usually long lines for rides, this spooky soiree is just for you. Wait times are heavily reduced. The longest we waited for any ride was about 25 minutes, and the shortest was 5 minutes, for the normally packed Splash Mountain. We did wait longer for the Hocus Pocus Villains Spelltacular, only to have it officially cancelled due to the rain. However, the Sanderson Sisters and a bevy of villains still came out and put on a dead-on version of the movie’s “I Put A Spell On You” complete with a bit of fireworks at the end, so the wait was worth it.
Many of the attractions had Halloween overlays this year, including Space Mountain (which ran with no lights and a different soundtrack) and Mad Hatter’s Mad Tea Party (with a different light show and music). Pirates of the Caribbean added live actors to the fun, as riders were told to watch out for Gunpowder Pete. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a more spooky, undead pirate, but Pete was still fun to find. And of course, anyone reading this would want to ride through The Haunted Mansion. The Ghost Hosts were extra ghoulish, with dead pallor make-up and cobwebs strung all over them. A pithy butler stood outside the exit to provide photo opportunities and sardonic comments as you walked out the iron gates.