We head out to Cruella’s Halloween Hide-A-Way, a new “Enchanting Extra” up-charge event as part of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. It takes place at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant at Magic Kingdom from 9:30pm through 12:30am on event nights.
With the success of Tony’s Most Merriest Town Square Party after it debuted during the Christmas Party season last November, it’s not particularly surprising that we see a spooky version for this year’s Halloween Parties. Nobody may have been more surprised than me that I reviewed the Christmas version positively after attending last year. There were a few primary reasons for that determination. Principally, I was impressed by the ease and peacefulness of the overall experience, particularly with the guarantee of a prime parade viewing location around the Flag Pole. Second, the atmosphere inside Tony’s was festive and pleasant for the wintertime holiday, with thoughtful cast members, plenty of room to spread out, easy access to the buffet and bar, and several hilarious encounters with Tony, the proprietor of the restaurant.
At least on paper, the details of Cruella’s Halloween Hide-A-Way are virtually indistinguishable from the Christmas event. I’ve highlighted some key points:
Cruella’s Hide-A-Way takes place from 9:30pm to 12:30am during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, so it will take time away from the rest of the Party festivities, in addition to costing $99 more per person, in addition to however much you’re paying to attend Not-So-Scary. There are no discounts for kids, potentially to dissuade families with youngsters from attending. At check-in, you may also be warned that there may not be enough tables for your party to sit together, meaning Disney is willing to oversell the event. We’ll see that come to fruition momentarily when there’s “literally” no hot food available at the buffet to begin the evening. The reserved viewing is for the second Boo to You parade of the evening, which is incorrectly listed at 11pm on the website. The parade actually steps off in Frontierland at 11:15pm and doesn’t arrive in the Town Square area, where the reserved viewing area is located, until about 11:35pm. On the first night, they were running behind, and the first float didn’t arrive in Town Square until 11:48pm.
Check-in for the Cruella’s Halloween Hide-A-Way begins at 9pm. At 9:20pm, a considerable number of people had already congregated as close to the main entrance to the restaurant as humanly possible. Obviously, the longer you wait here, the more time you’re spending away from the Party, which you probably spent about $90/person to attend. We headed into the restaurant at exactly 9:30pm.
While reserved viewing for the parade is included, there is no reserved area for the new Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular Fireworks.
Projections are a big part of the new show and there’s actually a Jack Skellington puppet involved that you’ll need to be much closer to the Castle in order to see. Since the Fireworks are scheduled for 10:15pm, and Cruella’s starts at 9:30pm, you’ll have a half hour at the most before you’re going to want to head out to find a fireworks spot. In past years, I’ve been happy to watch the pyrotechnics from further back, where it’s far less crowded, but with the increased number of perimeter bursts, and the fact that the projections are a big part of the story, you’ll likely want to be closer. This means that you’ll probably want to leave Cruella’s earlier and it will also take you longer to get back after the show. If you’re attending Cruella’s, you’ll probably want to be on your way to a fireworks spot at 9:50pm, which gives you a maximum of 20 minutes with the food and drink before being back on the road.
During the Christmas event, the reserved viewing area around the Flag Pole was policed incredibly well by cast members.
That’s my favorite parade spot looking down towards the Castle.
And the whole area around the Flag Pole, as seen here during the Christmas Party, is reserved. Unfortunately, the reserved viewing was very poorly enforced during Cruella’s Halloween Hide-A-Way. Fortunately, I was off to the side, but members of another group had to explain to several dozen people over the course of an hour that wristbands were required to enter the area. Other guests sat on the curb in front of the reserved area and weren’t told by cast members until just before the parade stepped off that they weren’t allowed to sit there, after they had been happily seated thinking that they had found prime spots for more than 20 minutes. By the time they were jettisoned, they were going to be stuck with some of the worst spots elsewhere as just about every other area had filled in long before. After the Parade began, dozens more people snuck into the reserved area as the floats approached us. The Tony’s Party events also eliminate the availability of some of the best parade viewing locations for those who aren’t willing to pay the $99/person premium on top of already paying to attend the Party.
But Cruella’s Halloween Hide-A-Way does guarantee a spot in the reserved section just like it advertises, even if everyone in there didn’t pay for the same privilege. Hopefully Disney will improve that situation at future events. There should be a dedicated cast member in the reserved section informing guests who aren’t eligible what the situation is in a more helpful manner than giving them the boot a minute before the parade steps off.
The event is hosted by Cruella, who conducts meet and greets intermittently throughout the evening inside the restaurant. The wait was typically about ten minutes to meet her.
Cruella is also a roaming character in Fantasyland during the Halloween Party, when she mingles intermittently from 7pm to 8pm, and again from 9:30pm through 12am. Because she roams freely, she’s probably the second or third easiest character to meet at the Party for any ordinary guest. Cruella’s Halloween Hide-A-Way would then hold more value if it was hosted by someone….other than Cruella – perhaps a character who you can’t ordinarily meet, like Hades or Maleficent. Or even a character who is harder to meet at the Party. Imagine if it was hosted by Jack and Sally, a pair who command 2+ hour waits all night. But the Cruella meet during the Tony’s event isn’t saving you much time compared to simply running into her in Fantasyland by accident.
Tony’s Most Merriest Christmas Party was the first “all-you-can-drink” event available to regular guests. Cruella offers a similar lineup of wine, beer, and cider, in addition to canned soft drinks.
Specially, you’ll find the following, accompanied by the retail store price:
- Moncalvina Moscato d’Asti – $20/bottle
- Folonari Pinot Grigio – $6/bottle
- Maschio Prosecco – $15/bottle
- Ruffino Chianti – $8/bottle
- Allegrini Valpolicella – $20/bottle
- Angry Orchard Rose – $9/6-pack
- Peroni Beer – $9/6-pack
On Tony’s regular menu, only two of the wines are ordinarily available. The Moncalvina Moscato d’Asti is $10/glass, or $40/bottle, and the Allegrini Valpolicella is $11/glass, or $44/bottle. A 16-ounce Peroni would ordinarily set you back $8/glass.
As is typical of these events, the bar is where you can theoretically do some damage versus what you’d ordinarily pay at another Disney venue. Potentially without much effort, you could put back a glass of wine before the fireworks, two before the parade, and then at least one more after, for a “value” of around $40. You’re much less in luck if you opt out of alcohol or you may be able to eke out a little more value if you drink by the bottle instead of the glass. Not that I would personally know anything about that. When alcohol is such a big component of the event, it doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense that there’s no discount for kids.
On the first night, Disney had installed a temporary bar in just about the worst possible location, just inside the entrance to the restaurant on the right. The line blocked access to the buffet areas from the various rooms and because it was the first and most obvious bar that people saw, long lines developed. Just around the corner to the left, in the solarium, there’s two more bar setups that should see far fewer people. You could walk right up here all night, versus having to wait a couple of minutes and be in dozens of people’s way at the other.
There are two separate buffet areas, the first of which consists of bread, cheese, meat, and accompaniments. My assumption is that the bread is up for grabs, but it’s pushed so far back into the center of the buffet area that it may just be a decoration. The difficulty in accessing the carbs is a shame, because bread is typically the only thing safe to eat at Tony’s.
Things didn’t exactly get started on the right paw, with the sight of what I’m assuming is a bowl of Blue Cheese accompanied by a gigantic spoon. The ranch salad dressing from the container to its right is dripping down onto the cheese, and on the opposite side, the feathered boa is getting mixed in along with the slop.
On the opposite side, we have what looks to more certainly be Blue Cheese, accompanied inexplicably with two small strawberry halves, and a little bit of ranch salad dressing spillage for good measure to the left.
Speaking of ranch, my life was basically ruined when I found out that Baby Carrots are just slices of larger carrots. So much for enjoying the veal of the root vegetable world.
The small bowl of what I’m assuming is Swiss Cheese was, at least, out of reach of the ranch.
Your standard assortment of cubed Cheddar, Swiss, Colby Jack, and Pepper Jack Cheeses are also available.
Parmesan and more fruit.
Parmesan without fruit.
An assortment of Cured Meats is available in an awkward location, raised in the air towards the back of the buffet area. It looks like there’s a couple types of Salami along with Mortadella back there.
I doubt they ever had to replace this bowl of Peppers.
And potentially whatever this is – a Roasted Eggplant Something or Other, perhaps?
A Sun-dried Tomato Spread with a peppery kick.
A Giardiniera of sorts.
Raw peppers, in August, in Florida, at midnight, during Mickey’s Not So Scary, seems like a hard sell.
Overall, it’s your typical assortment of Disney’s lower-end cheeses and meats, mixed with some Italian twists that you probably aren’t interested in trying. At the start of the event, most people are going to immediately line up for the single hot food buffet line just inside the entrance, but I’d probably head over here in the center of the restaurant for whatever looks most appetizing. With the fireworks scheduled shortly after the event gets underway, you can use the first 20 to 30 minutes as an appetizer course. We’re also in no hurry to get to the hot food. Trust me on this.
Hot food was the weakest link at Tony’s Most Merriest and it’s a mixed bag, at best, at Cruella’s Hide-A-Way.
You might even want to actively hide away from what Disney is officially calling “Goblin Bites.”
Fortunately, beef + marinara + cheese skewered on toothpicks can only taste so bad, and even if these were over-seasoned, over-cooked mush, they remained vaguely edible.
It took quite a bit of effort to get these buffet pictures as there was rarely any food available at the buffet to open the event. I actually wasn’t able to get my hands on any hot food from 9:30pm to 10pm, at which point we left for the fireworks, because of the long lines and empty serving dishes.
The reheated frozen food from Tony’s Most Merriest, as pictured above, wasn’t an improvement, but there was at least plenty of it and it was presented in a somewhat attractive manner.
For your sake, I did persevere, here with Arancini Three Ways – Braised Beef, Truffled Mushroom, and Fresh Mozzarella.
As far as Super Bowl buffets at your friend’s house after drinking 19 Busch Lights go, these were pretty good too. It’s hard to go wrong with fried rice and cheese balls and by the time there were actually some on the buffet for me to take, I was hungry enough that they tasted good.
They had even more trouble keeping the pizzas in stock than the various deep-fried bites, with an incredible amount of grease underneath some overturned slices and the “fresh” arrival of a new pie.
As far as quick, cheap buffet food goes, you could certainly do worse, at least if you were at CiCi’s on an off-night. Earlier in the evening, they were trying to do pizzas topped with olives, peppers, and a variety of other toppings, but that quickly devolved into cheese and pepperoni.
Next up, we have the “Witches’ Cauldron – Mini Kettle of Gooey and Creamy Spinach Dip with Ciabatta Crostini.” This may have been fresher earlier in the evening, when you would have had to beat someone with a stick in order to get one, but by 11pm, the Dip was a cold, congealed amalgamation of sour cream, cheese(?), and what I’m guess is an inedible piece of garlic skin taking up the majority of each cup. I may or may not have chipped a tooth on the rock hard Crostini.
This is what the dish looked like at 12:10am.
This is “Fried Mozzarella – Hand-breaded Fresh Mozzarella served with Marinara Sauce.”
It may or may not be interesting that a handful of items come with some sort of thematically-appropriate name, while others just describe the item. Obviously, it wouldn’t be appropriate to say that the Arancini are filled with Dried Dalmatian and slathered in dog blood, but these could be…well, maybe Fried Mozzarella is better. Anyway, this was basically more of the same – both the Arancini and Meatballs are also served with the same Marinara. But as far as late-night buffet food goes, they tasted just fine. At least after you’ve run around Magic Kingdom for five hours, had a couple Peroni, and questioned why you do this to yourself.
Disney appeared to accept some of our feedback from last year; there was a cast member at the end of the buffet line actively finishing Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce, Hazelnuts, Crispy Capicola, Parmesan, and Fresh Sage. It was virtually impossible to get one of these earlier in the evening, as maybe 16 can be prepared at a time for 100+ people, but at the end of the night, I appreciated getting one of the last couple available. Loading up on these, when possible, is easily your best bet on the buffet. It’s a shame that there aren’t two or three fresh pastas on the buffet, which would probably go a long way to filling people up quicker and not cost a whole lot more money for the struggling Walt Disney Company.
An assortment of desserts are also available – I apologize for the image quality as I still had my camera set for taking parade pictures rather than desserts:
Kanine Crunchies: Sliced Shortbread and Pumpkin Buttercream.
Cruella Brownie Bites.
Red Velvet Cheesecake – Red Velvet Cake Base, Cheesecake, Whipped Cream, Dehydrated Strawberries, and Chocolate Sauce.
Cannolis [sic] – Ricotta Filling topped with White and Red Drizzle.
Dalmation [sic] Chocolate-dipped Strawberries.
The fact that they can’t spell dalmatian should tell you something about what we’re up to here.
Cruella’s Shoe Push Pop.
Joffrey’s Coffee and a variety of Twinings Teas are also available.
The dessert selection is adequate ,and if your focus is on sweets, then you may be more satisfied than if you’re trying to make dinner out of the hot and cold buffet selections.
Disney also offers a Dessert Party during Mickey’s Not So Scary:
Plaza Viewing is $69 for adults and $41 for kids, while Tomorrowland Terrace Viewing is $84 for adults and $50 for kids. While I haven’t had an opportunity to experience the event this year, the fireworks viewing is a tougher sell, as the Party fireworks are not typically difficult to see. With the focus on the projections, and improved perimeter fireworks for this year’s show, a closer view is more desirable, but spending a minimum of 70 bucks a head, on top of the Party cost, is a rough proposition.
Interestingly, while there is no alcohol included at the Dessert Parties, kids still see a hefty discount of $28 on Plaza Viewing and $34 on Terrace Viewing. If your group consists of a couple kids, and you’re not interested in the booze at all, then the Dessert Parties may make more sense. But I can’t imagine too many people are getting $84 a person worth of value out of spending 90 minutes at Tomorrowland Terrace eating desserts, followed by a faraway, off-center view of the fireworks. Those Dessert Parties don’t offer reserved parade viewing.
Overall, Cruella’s Halloween Hide-A-Way failed us for the exact opposite reasons that Tony’s Most Merriest succeeded. Part of it was probably the atmosphere. Italy in Christmas works a little better than Italy at Halloween. Outside of some feather boas in the food and the same two centerpieces on the tables, decorations were slim, and the red and green cloth underneath the pumpkins and flowerpots are actually from the Christmas version of the event.
Tony’s Most Merriest also offered an exclusive meet and greet with the hilarious Tony, who may be the only person in the world who can confirm that the restaurant is exactly as bad as I say that it is. Cruella is one of the easiest characters to meet during the Halloween Party, so the fact that she’s largely cackling throughout the event isn’t a substantial bonus. If Maleficent, Dr. Facilier, Hades, or other rare characters were present, then there would be far greater value in attending. On the other hand, if spending quality time with Cruella is a priority, then you’ll find more value in attending.
Our parade experience suffered with the poor policing of the area. Fortunately, a cast member finally removed everyone who hadn’t paid $99 plus tax for the privilege of standing there, but until that happened, people were constantly trying to sneak under the ropes without any official intervention.
The cold meat and cheeses, along with the desserts, remain your best bets on the buffet. While the hot food disappointed at the Christmas event, it was, at a minimum, easily accessible, and offered in large quantities without any waits. This time around, the buffet was a circus with at least half of the items missing in their entirety during the first 45+ minutes of the event.
Cruella’s Halloween Hide-A-Way is a three-hour event with plenty of opportunities to pop in for a drink or a snack. Alcohol can’t be taken outside of the restaurant and last call is 12:15am. The value that you can extract from the event depends entirely on how much time you spend there. Between 9:30pm and 12:30am, you’re probably spending a half hour watching the Hocus Pocus show, likely from 12am to 12:30am, in addition to a half hour for the fireworks, and 45 minutes to an hour-plus for the parade. That’s at least two-thirds of the Cruella event time, ignoring anything else that you might want to do during that period.
Basically, our experience at the Christmas version of the event was entirely pleasant, while our experience at the Halloween version was entirely unpleasant, save for the half hour from 12am to 12:30am, when we would have preferred to have been watching the Hocus Pocus show, but felt like we needed to return to the event to actually get something to eat.
You may do better, but it’s a tough sell for anyone who isn’t planning on sitting there and slamming some drinks for a couple hours. Those attending a second Halloween Party will probably have the easiest time. You can enjoy the event and the reserved parade viewing without feeling like you need to leave early for a close fireworks spot or spend 30+ minutes at Hocus Pocus.
I ended the Tony’s Most Merriest version of this review saying that I would pay the $99 to attend a second event during the holiday season. There’s no way I’d go back to the Halloween version.