Villains Grove A+ in Disney Magic

by Todd Pickering, contributing writer

Lighting designers are king in this attraction. Photo by Todd Pickering.

Disney Imagineers take center stage in what might be the most creative and immersive endeavor in the parks. For Oogie Boogie Bash, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is transformed into Villains Grove. The lines are long all night to get in. It is a walk through so remember that it moves pretty quickly. If you can go during the last parade we found the queue to be the shortest of the evening. Another tip is to walk slowly to truly get all the moods and feels these sights and sounds offer. We experienced people trekking as if it were a race and missing some great special effects.

Lighting is so important for mood for any film, stage play and especially Disney parks. Just listen to how Tennessee Williams describes the opening of his play "A Streetcar Named Desire";

"It is first dark of an evening early in May. The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost a turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay."

The lushness and mood that he evokes gives so much for a lighting designer to work with. Sometimes these descriptions were written into the acting editions after the play had its debut. At Oogie Boogie Bash you may feel as if the story (or play if you will) has been left only visually to the lighting designers. The sound design is also incredible. There are only a handful of literal props or set pieces as the intent here is to elicit a mood and a feeling rather than a story. I will do my best to describe these feelings and there of course are photographs to give one an idea of what to expect but it truly must be experienced to get the full effect. The little ones might not enjoy this as much as the older kids but it truly is not to be missed.

Candelabra and mist along with spooky whispers greet guests upon entering. Photo by Todd Pickering.

The candelabra and whispers of "Guilty" and "Shame" seem to bring about images of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." As there is no story a lot of this is left up to interpretation. The trees have little specks of lights floating all about and you must look quick to see some of them seem to transform into a little will o' the wisp just to quickly disappear. It is almost pointless to point it out to your pals as they disappear before you can utter a word.

This is not the yellow brick road you are following. Photo by Todd Pickering.

As you come around the corner you get to the most literal of all the sections of Villains Grove and you are unmistakenly in Wonderland. Walt Disney always had a problem with this 70th Anniversary film, "Alice in Wonderland," as it didn't have a narrative he was happy with. Nonsense. Not "Nonsense" that this was not the case but rather "nonsense" that this film was based on a nonsensical collection of stories! And what perfect subject matter for this area. One can hear the Queen of Hearts complaining about her roses as they transform from white to red and then back again. The rocks are a perfect canvas for a bunch of wee lights to magically transform into the Cheshire Cat. We noticed many people walking right by this spot and missing the effect altogether. It repeats rather quickly so it is worth it to stop and smell the roses…or rather stop and see the cat…?

The Cheshire Cat is the character most completely done solely as a lighting effect. Photo by Todd Pickering.

Next we head into a "Lion King" section that has a lot of hot colors and a bit more militant music with the shadows of the marching hyenas as another instance of characters done solely as a lighting effect. The end of the trail seems to evoke the forest after the rain that made us think of the rain scene from "Bambi" but we did not hear that song. The giant log at the end of the trail transforms into beautiful blooms that crawl of over it and fills it with bright and vibrant colors.

Exiting through the mist is the best photo op of this entire journey. Photo by Amber Knight.

The last bit truly feels like a "light at the end of the tunnel" moment. The mist is as thick as pea soup and watching the shadows of the heroes fade into the night is resplendent. There is hope and something better lies ahead. We've escaped the evil to triumphantly return. The best photo opportunity of the evening but with the crowds you must be patient to get that perfect snap. Well worth the wait.