How is the most haunting night of the year brought to life? As Disney’s Halloween Party makes its great comeback on 31 October next, that is the question we asked Julien Baptist Guillot, Events and Commercial Products Creative Leader at Disneyland Paris, and Thierry Magne, Events Designer, to better understand how they prepare for this unmissable event.
When Thierry and Julien Baptist were asked how long it takes to produce Disney’s Halloween Party, one thing that of course came up were the unprecedented events that have taken place over the last few months. “This year has been a challenge in every way, both operationally and technically, as well as artistically,” explains Thierry. “Initial discussions with the Marketing teams usually take place ten months before the event, but this year, given the circumstances, we had to make changes and be flexible to bring this iconic party to life.”
“First, I meet with the Marketing teams to discuss with them which approach we would like to take for the event, based on what our guests – who love this iconic party – want and their feedback,” explains Julien Baptist. Having previously worked as an event designer, he was responsible for developing the programme for Disney’s Halloween Party for quite a few years running alongside Emanuel Lenormand, the Show Director, before joining the Disneyland Paris Sales teams a few months ago. “My role is to decide what great story will be told at this special event and, this year, we have decided to put the Disney Villains in the spotlight. No, we shouldn’t follow their example during the rest of the year, but if there is one time when you can unleash your inner villain, it’s Halloween night!”
Once the story for the evening has been decided on, it is Thierry, the Events Designer, who then suggests a concept that is in line with the story invented by Julien Baptist. “I then share my vision with the Show teams. In total, an event like this is the work of some 400 people, 300 of which for the artistic side of things alone. There are also around fifty people who work on the technical aspects, around ten or so who are dedicated to producing the event and, of course, all the Cast Members present on the ground on the day -without whom it could not take place- and who handle the many operational challenges of an event of this size.” Having joined the company in 1992 to help with the opening ceremony of Disneyland Paris, Thierry has devoted his career to events at the resort and worked briefly as part of the Show teams, where he was mainly involved in the musical production, Beauty and the Beast, at Videopolis Theater in 1994-1995. As a designer, some of the major events he has to his name are Electroland and the opening of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
With fog, eerie music and Halloween decorations, guests will be able to wander around in a frightfully-fun atmosphere the entire evening. “Guests also come to get a bit of a scare,” says Julien Baptist. “This year, the experience has been made even better in terms of the atmosphere, particularly in Adventureland. But I’ll not reveal anything else. I’ll let you come to experience it – if you dare!” There are also a number of Selfie Spots with Disney Villains in store for guests and the Show teams have come up with two new exclusive shows for the occasion, Skeletoon Party with Goofy and his son Max, directed by Arnaud Feredj and Reveal your Inner Villain!, which directors, Louisa Kriouche and Aurélien Berda, are working on. “Guests must have the opportunity to express themselves, to be more than just members of the audience, to be almost performers in the event, for example by coming in costume,” explains Julien Baptist. There will also be lots of interaction with the return of The Captain Hook Pirate Academy, directed by Christine Mellet, and which is only put on during Disney’s Halloween Party.
In order to offer different types of experiences throughout the evening and aimed at all categories of guests, with their friends or family, Thierry has created a stage at the bottom of Sleeping Beauty Castle, for the brand new exclusive show with the Disney Villains, Reveal your Inner Villain!, before being transformed to host the Grand Finale: the Electro night. The stage has been fitted with equipment that is still rarely seen in this part of the park and will offer many special effects as well as fireworks.
“Disney’s Halloween Party’s strength lies in how the Show and Events teams work together,” explains Julien Baptist. “Thierry has managed to bring together many directors and Patrick Aigouy, the producer of the event, and his teams are doing a great job. There is a genuine desire to draw on everyone’s energy, creativity and talents. It is a real pleasure to see the commitment of all these teams and that everyone is coming together to make this night a success.”