Chimney Sweep

Disney’s new ‘After Darkish’ events supply super-fans an unique expertise

When parents with tired toddlers pushed through the turnstiles at Disneyland after sunset on February 7th, an equally enthusiastic crowd of eager guests lined up to board.

That chilly Thursday night, Disneyland hosted Sweethearts Nite, the newest of its late-night parties on Disneyland After Dark. At these regular events, a limited number of ticket buyers willing to pay $ 95-109 can enjoy exclusive use of the park and most of its rides for four hours.

But the rides aren’t the only attraction. Each of the themed events – Sweethearts Nite was the third in the series since January 2018 – features up-close Disney character encounters, special photo opportunities, live concerts, unique food and gift items for sale, and custom lighting and other features that most parking visitors will never see it.

Diana Griffith was one of the well-heeled ticket buyers who met friends in the park for Sweethearts Nite. The retired CPA, who grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in Arizona, visits Disneyland and its sister park Disney California Adventure three to ten days a month with her annual pass. She doesn’t mind paying for the after dark parties as they offer an experience that is unique from a day visit.

“I love the surprises they put into these events,” said Griffith, who is also a longtime member of Club 33 for Disneyland members only. There is always something new to see and do. “

Since their inception, the after-hours parties have consistently sold out within weeks of being announced. The next event on March 7th, “90s Night”, sold out in January. This spring there is also “Heroes Assemble”, a two-day superhero event on April 30th and May 1st at the adjoining Disney California Adventure Park. Tickets will go on sale on February 19th for annual pass holders and on February 21st for the general public.

Disneyland After Dark was created last year as a throwback to a program the Anaheim theme park launched in the late 1950s called “Date Night.” Adults could arrive after the park’s opening hours, purchase a special pair ticket book, and enjoy rides and special entertainment, said Andrae Gill, spokeswoman for the Disneyland Resort.

The name “Disneyland After Dark” was borrowed from the name of an episode of the TV episode “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Colors” from April 15, 1962, in which the former mousepad Annette Funicello took the audience on a tour through the park after work .

Most Disney visitors are content with visiting the theme parks for day visits. But the real Disney fans buy annual tickets, join the official Disney fan club D23, collect limited goods and grab tickets for special occasions.

“It’s an expensive hobby, but there’s no place like it,” said Laura Posey, who flew out of the Bay Area with her husband Aaron Goldsmid and 3-year-old son on the morning of February 7 on Whirlwind Date Night at Disneyland After Dark .

Silicon Valley employees Posey and Goldsmid had booked an overnight stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and booked a babysitter for their son so they could dress in glitzy retro clothes for their date night in the park.

“We work in the tech industry and we work very hard and long hours. So this is our escape,” she said. “My husband is not a relaxer, but he loves the rides.”

A couple poses for a photo titled “Aladdin” during Sweethearts Nite on January 7th, one of the After Dark special ticket parties at Disneyland Resort.

(Pam Collar / San Diego Union-Tribune)

After Dark ticket holders can enter the park at 6 p.m. and mingle with the crowd of the day until the park is closed for the day. Only then do the specialty foods, custom lighting, and costumed Disney characters appear.

Gill declined to say how many tickets it is selling for the After Dark events, but it is meant to ensure that guests don’t wait long in line and can get to any special events of the evening during the four-hour window.

Upon entering the park, After Dark guests will receive a printed brochure listing all open attractions, evening entertainment and special photo locations, as well as unique foods and gifts for sale.

Hundreds of guests lined up at Sweethearts Nite to be the first to buy a $ 18 plastic popcorn bucket from Minnie Mouse. Hundreds more were seen waiting for the opportunity to pose like scattered toys in front of a one-night-only backdrop for “Toy Story”.

A couple at the Disneyland After Dark Sweethearts Nite party on February 7th posed for a photo against the backdrop of a “toy story”.

(Pam Collar / San Diego Union-Tribune)

In Fantasyland, guests could go straight to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, a ride usually known for its slow line. And in New Orleans Square, the guests tried the evening specialties: Burning Love Valentine churros and chocolate-coated strawberry fritters.

One of the highlights of the event was the Royal Princess Ball in the courtyard near It’s a Small World. A live band played while Cinderella, Tiana, and other princesses whirled around in the courtyard, first with their princes and then with park goers who were quickly invited to join in.

Many ticket buyers, like Posey and Goldsmid, like to dress in costumes for the events. Ticket holders strolling through the park on Sweethearts Nite included Mary Poppins and her chimney sweep Bert, Woody and Jessie from Toy Story, Princess Leia and Chewbacca, and Belle and her prince “Beast”.

Park goers dance at the Royal Princess Ball with costumed Disney Princesses and Princes, right, during the Disneyland After Dark Sweethearts Nite party on February 7th.

(Pam Collar / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Mark and Maria Petrello from Long Beach came dressed as Star Wars siblings Luke and Leia. They wore the same costumes for the two-day Disneyland After Dark Star Wars events last spring and enjoyed the evening so much that they plan to host at least two of the parties this year.

“It’s fun to dress up and it’s great to walk around without the crowds,” Maria said. “Everyone is in a good mood. It’s something special. “

Griffith doesn’t dress up for the After Dark parties, but she said she never gets tired of going back to Disneyland again and again as it’s the only park where Walt Disney himself walked the sidewalks and in the apartment above the fire station Main Street stayed.

It’s such a wonderful place, ”she said. “I don’t think there is anyone, past or present, who brought more smiles into the world than Walt Disney.”

This spring’s two-day Heroes Assemble Party is the first after dark party to be hosted at Disney California Adventure. There will be encounters with Marvel superheroes including Black Panther and Captain Marvel, a scavenger hunt, comic art show, and Marvel-themed foods like the kebab that the heroes consumed in the post-credits scene on The Avengers . Tickets are $ 109.

pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com. Twitter: @pamkragen

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