We're All Mad Hereby Andrew Rich, staff writer
"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"
― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
Following its successful predecessors GlowFest and ElecTRONica, Mad T Party is the third nighttime dance party in the newly renamed Hollywood Land area of Disney California Adventure. It's styled as a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole, with Alice in Wonderland-esque decor, lighting, games, music, and of course, refreshments. Although there are few overt mentions of Tim Burton's 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland film, the overall feel of the party definitely brings Burton's particular sense of design to mind.
An excited crowd enjoys DJ White Rabbit's dance music. Photo by Michelle Orrantia.
I experienced the Mad T Party on the official opening night last month, on June 15 as well as on the following evening, but the party had been in a public soft-open for two to three weeks and had already achieved a high level of popularity among park-goers and Southern California locals by then.
"Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"
The previous dance parties in this area, GlowFest and ElecTRONica, proved quite popular—and I'm sure the extra revenue from refreshment sales didn't hurt. With TRON:Legacy now nearly a year out of theaters and the DVD already off the new-release shelves, it was clear (to Disney) that while the concept of an evening dance party in Hollywood Land was a good one, the theme needed an update. Some fans thought otherwise, though; I saw several young people in T-shirts with the slogan "I ♥ TRON but this will do for now".
Lots of dancing happening during the DJ sets. Photo by Andrew Rich.
"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar.
Anyone who enjoys loud music, louder fashion, strobe lights, and dancing will love Mad T Party. The band plays a good mix of well-known rock/dance/pop songs, and DJ White Rabbit mixes it up with electronic dance music straight out of the clubs. There's no additional fee or cover charge (beyond DCA park admission) for entering the party, though refreshments are sold separately, as are game tokens for the Mad Arcade.
The smaller stage used for daytime performances is set up as an "ultralounge", with comfortable chairs and benches for relaxing while taking in the show. Photo by Andrew Rich.
If you like physical arcade games (such as Skee-Ball, Whack-A-Mole), you'll love the Mad Arcade, which features classic games with a Wonderland twist.
"Cheshire Cat's Smile Smash" is one of several unique games found in the Mad Arcade. Photo by Michelle Orrantia.
"Queen's Croquet," a Wonderland take on Skee-ball. Photo by Andrew Rich.
Merchandise collectors and those looking for unique (and strong) drinks will also find much to enjoy here.
One of a number of merchandise booths at Mad T Party, this one sells the "Glow With the Show" ears (visible at the center). Photo by Andrew Rich.
"You ought to have finished," said the King. "When did you begin?"
Mad T Party kicks off in the early evening, usually at 7:00 p.m. and happens every night during the high season (like right now). When things slow down a bit after Labor Day, expect to see it scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights, like its predecessors. According to Mad T Party's show director, Robin Trowbridge, the party is expected to run "for a while," so it's probably safe to assume the party will go on for at least a year.
The Mad Arcade opens its doors well before dark. Photo by Josh Stern.
The House of Cards stage setting looks great after dark. Photo by Andrew Rich.
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
The main entrance to Mad T Party is in Hollywood Land, on the side street between Shmoozies and MuppetVision. You really can't miss it; just look for the giant rabbit hole. As the party kicks off, the entrance fills with mist, which adds both an air of mystery and a slip hazard on the slick concrete.
Mad T Party entrance inside Hollywood Land at DCA. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
"No Hat • No Smile • No Service". Photo by Mark Hahn.
If you want to join the party just as it's starting, you'll also need a password; but never fear, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum can't keep it a secret.
One of these guys will tell you the password you need to enter. Photo by Mark Hahn.
A Mad T Party cast member leads the way through the mist into the party. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
The party extends through the backlot area of Hollywood Land to stage 12. This building housed Flynn's Arcade during ElecTRONica, and is now the home of the Mad Arcade. In front of the Mad Arcade is the House of Cards stage.
Detail of the side of the House of Cards stage. Photo by Andrew Rich.
"How I wonder what you're at!"
For a relatively small area of DCA's Hollywood Land, Mad T Party offers quite a lot of entertainment. First off, the band takes the stage hourly for pop/dance/rock music sets lasting 15 to 20 minutes. Each band member is named and styled after a different Alice in Wonderland character; the band is naturally led by the Mad Hatter, who is the lead singer. Other members include the Dormouse (the guitarist), the March Hare (the bass player), the Caterpillar (the keyboardist), and Cheshire Cat (the drummer). And don't forget about Alice, who typically joins the band onstage after their first song.
Alice and the Mad Hatter singing with the Mad T Party band. Photo by Andrew Rich.
"Dormouse," the Mad T Party band's guitarist, performs on the main stage. Photo by Andrew Rich.
Alice and the Mad T Party band cover No Doubt's "Just A Girl". Unlike Gwen Stefani, however, Alice does not do push-ups. YouTube video by jonagurcia.
Much like Billy Hill & the Hillbillies, Laughing Stock, the Dapper Dans, and other Disney performing groups, the Mad T Party band may feature many different members from night to night. MousePad member PlayGirlBunny, a Mad T Party regular, reports seeing four different Hatters, three Alices, and several other musicians appearing in various combinations. Of course, if you ask cast members, they'll tell you there's "only one Hatter"—just like there's only one Mickey Mouse.
Card Dancers show their stuff. Photo by Josh Stern.
In between band sets, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum emcee at the House of Cards stage, introducing the Card Dancers and the "WHO ARE YOU?" performance artist. These are all well worth seeing; MousePlanet reader Michelle said of the latter, "He was my favorite! Fun and funny to watch!"
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum play emcee on the House of Cards stage. Photo by Michelle Orrantia.
Are they doing the Robot? I'm not sure. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum "perform" on stage. Photo by Andrew Rich.
"WHO ARE YOU" perform with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum on the House of Cards stage. Photo by Andrew Rich.
The "WHO ARE YOU" performance is also visible on a huge screen above the stage. Photo by Andrew Rich.
Wandering among the crowd during these performances is a stilt walker in an amazing pink flamingo costume. This performer got raves from MousePlanet reader Isis, who wrote, "I really loved the flamingo riders! I kept going over to watch them while listening to the DJ. The way they moved the flamingo heads was almost freakishly realistic (in a Wonderland kind of way)."
The flamingo stilt walker quickly draws a crowd. Photo by Mark Hahn.
Up close, you can see a lot of detail on the flamingo stilt walker costume. Photo by Josh Stern.
Electronic dance club music during the band breaks comes from DJ White Rabbit—again, on any given night, one of several professional DJs might be filling that role, dressed in the signature light-up rabbit ears. One regular DJ, Jason Jass, posted several of his Mad T Party dance mixes on his blog. If you purchased Disney's new "Glow with the Show" ears (or received them at one of the Annual Passholder preview events), be sure to bring them to Mad T Party, as the ears flash colors in time with the music and performances.
DJ White Rabbit on the 1s and 2s. Photo by Andrew Rich.
A stylized teapot on the main stage makes a fine DJ booth for DJ White Rabbit. Photo by Andrew Rich.
"I suppose I ought to eat or drink something or other; but the great question is, what?"
The "T-Time Drink Me's" beverage menu shows beer, mixed drinks, soft drinks and "Wonderful Underland Cotton Candy Lemonade". Photo by Andrew Rich.
Two themed bars serve a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The Drink Me bar is near the Studio Store (formerly Rizzo's Prop Shop) and the House of Cards bar is between Monsters, Inc. and the Mad Arcade. The "Wonderful Underland Cotton Candy Lemonade" at $3.00 is the signature non-alcoholic beverage of Mad T Party, and is available in a collectible "hat" cup.
MousePlanet reader Michelle Orrantia with one of the signature beverages. Photo by Michelle Orrantia.
I didn't see the snack truck usually seen in the area when I visited, but it's possible it may have been moved for the press event and opening night - or I just missed it. If it's back now, please let us know.
Two of the glowing speciality alcoholic drinks available from the Drink Me and House of Cards bars. Photo by Andrew Rich.
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
According to MousePlanet readers Isis and her husband Andrew, who are in their mid-30s, they had a chance to spend an hour in Mad T Party, went to check out Cars Land, and then came back to the party for another half hour or so. Isis enjoyed the Mad T Party band. "I thought the Mad Hatter was awesome and was highly amused/entertained by their costuming," Isis said. "I thought they were talented, but the choice of songs was a little weird when mixed with the DJ's music options." She loved the WHO ARE YOU performer, commenting that it was "very trippy." Andrew enjoyed the Mad Arcade games and appreciated the Wonderland theming of the games, but wished there was more to play.
The House of Cards stage is a little less electric during the early evening hours. Photo by Josh Stern.
When considering Mad T Party as its own event, without comparing it to ElecTRONica or GlowFest, Isis said, "I like Mad T Party, (but) there does seem to be a lot crammed into a small space. The walkways kept disappearing (no one pays attention to tape on the ground). It did seem a little over cramped that first official night, but that is a good sign! It was hard to move around, which in the end was the cause of us leaving."
Another group of MousePlanet readers, Josh and his friends Brett and Melissa, in their early 20s, hung out in Mad T Party for around three hours. Josh really enjoyed how each band member portrayed a different character from the film, but felt the Card Dancers were "a little too hip-hopish." He tried the Mad Long Island Iced T Party specialty drink and reported that it was "an enjoyable drink, a little on the sweet side, but with 2 of them, definitely got a good buzz to enjoy the evening."
The Mad Arcade sign on Stage 12. Photo by Andrew Rich.
Along with pretty much everyone else, Josh and his friends were amazed by the flamingo stilt walker. Overall, Josh feels Mad T Party is definitely worth spending an evening, but loved GlowFest and thinks the dance party events have slowly gone downhill since then.
MousePlanet reader Michelle and her boyfriend Joe are in their early 30s, and visited Mad T Party for the second time on June 16 (and have returned since) and spent two or three hours there. Michelle thought the band was "still finding its feet ... I feel like the singers hold back on the crowd." She enjoyed watching the Card Dancers but was disappointed that they remain on the House of Cards stage and don't dance with the guests. Michelle's favorite element was the "WHO ARE YOU," about which she says "Fun and funny to watch!" She noted that Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are now more part of the party than they were during the soft-opening period, and remembers that during her first visit they didn't see Dee and Dum at all but were told to find them in front of the rabbit hole.
Michelle tried one of the non-alcoholic signature beverages in the Hatter souvenir cup and reports that it was "good, not too sweet" and she was asked several times where she got the cup. She found out later that the bartenders would mix flavors in the souvenir cup and would have tried that if she'd known. Joe tried the Mad Long Island Iced T Party and enjoyed it, especially with the glow cube. They didn't play any of the Mad Arcade games but did buy some tokens to save.
Mad Arcade game tokens. Collect them all! Photo by Michelle Orrantia.
Comparing Mad T Party to its predecessors, Michelle thought her favorite was probably GlowFest because of its location. "Guest had to physically walk through GlowFest to get to ToT, which had many accidently join in on the fun. With Tron and the Mad T Party, guests have to want to check it out and find their way," Michelle said. "Those not seeking out the Mad T Party might not even know what it is about being off in the corner." Overall, though, she enjoyed Mad T Party, saying "it has a little bit of everything; live band, DJ, dancers, drinks," but she does wish there were specialty food items.
"Sentence first—verdict afterwards."
Mad T Party is a whole lot of fun. It's a great way to end a day at the revitalized Disney California Adventure, it's loaded with Wonderland-inspired details and is very well-executed. I plan on spending a lot of time there during its run. Won't you join me in a trip down the rabbit hole?
Special thanks to MousePlanet readers Isis, Josh and Michelle.
Great article! I didn't know about the souvenir cups; I might have to grab one of those. Love how you included all of the quotes from the story :-)
Great thorough article. I'd have to say GlowFest is still my favorite, mostly because of the Bollywood dancers, but all three have their niche and are enjoyable.
Thanks! It wasn't completely clear whether the souvenir cup is included with the non-alcoholic drinks or if it costs extra - if anyone knows, please let me know and I'll update the article. I'm very thankful for those readers who responded to my Twitter call for email interviews; the article wouldn't have been nearly as thorough without them.
I didn't get to spend much time in GlowFest or ElecTRONica - the latter is something I especially regret - so it's definitely in my plans to hit Mad T Party on every trip for a while.
Thanks for the review! We keep hoping that Disney will bring back the food trucks from GlowFest (Louks truck... Mmmmmm!). We've visited MTP regularly since the soft opening, but better food options would bring us back more often and keep us at the party longer.
The mad hatter souvenir cup with drink included was around $5 with AP discount from what I recall ... Nice coverage in your article
I've set up a public Twitter list of DJs who perform as DJ White Rabbit at Mad T Party. So far the list includes Missy B, David Bullock, Michael Paul, Adam Auburn and Wendy Walker. I don't have a Twitter handle for Jason Jass, and I don't know of any besides those six.