Halloween Time at Disney California Adventure: 2017 Recap

Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, CA

So... the unique circumstances of my travel schedule this year plus the late-by-one-week-relative-to-previous-years start of Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort meant that I never really had time to truly document the autumn holiday decorations en masse this year.  Instead, I had to cobble together a few visits to photograph the various scenes, and by the time I was in a position to edit them, I was in the thick of visiting dozens of haunts all around Southern California.

All of that which is to say... we never covered the expansion of Halloween Time this year from Disneyland Park over to Disney California Adventure.  But given the fantastic Halloween overlays that came to Disneyland's sister park, we'd be remiss to exclude them entirely.  So even if this is belated, today, we're going to take a look at the Halloween attractions and aesthetics featured at DCA this year.  Buckle up.  We've got over a hundred photos detailing most of the fantastic decorations and attractions!

Buena Vista Street

The Halloween spirit was immediately noticeable this year right from the front gates.  A Nightmare Before Christmas' Oogie Boogie served as host to all who strolled through the Streamline Moderne admission gates, streching out over the turnstile canopy with a dramatic facade.  Little touches, like a jack-o-lantern replacing the "O" in "C A L I F O R N I A," made for a cute effect.

Once inside, a bevvy of bats and purple banners and bunting marked the spooky tone of Buena Vista Street, all leading up to an eerie Carthay Circle, where the Carthay Circle Restaurant tower literally had bats coming out of the belfry, and a dramatic Headless Horseman statue stood in the middle of the circular planter behind the Storytellers Statue. 

Nightfall really brought Buena Vista Street to life, as the area was transformed into a purple-hued wonder, with thousands of cool toned twinkle lights castling quite a Halloween glow upon the area.  There was even a nightly lighting ceremony of sorts to change the ambiance, conducted around dusk each evening.  It made for quite a sight!

Hollywood Land Gets Monsters After Dark

Hollywood Land didn't specifically have any overlay for the land, but it did feature a Halloween flavor for the recently revamped Guardians of the Galaxy Ride.  Normally "Mission: Breakout!," at 5pm each day, this former Tower of Terror transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark.  Serving as a sequel to the Mission: Breakout! attraction, guests followed along as Rocket, Starlord, and the gang went back into the Collector's Fortress to save a left-behind Baby Groot before all the savage creatures released by the breakout could get them.  Call it Guardians of the Galaxy - Heavy Metal Edition.  This experience was a thrilling and stupidly fun alternate that had guests waiting for hours to have a ride.  It speaks to the versatility of the ride system, and after all the hoopla over a most obnoxious looking building (which I still maintain to be the case), the actual ride experience did turn out to be an improvement over the old Tower of Terror.  Also, at night, the lighting package for the building occasionally gave way to something a little more sinister looking and turbulent.   

How fitting for Halloween... monstrous on the outside, but fun on the inside!  And a bit of [eye] candy [on the building] after dark!

Coco at Paradise Pier

Paradise Pier celebrated the Halloween season with a preview of the upcoming Pixar film, Coco.  I'm personally not sure if this will be a one-time thing to cross-promote the film, or if the Día de los Muertos environment will return in the future as California Adventure's version of celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead.  But it made for a lively backdrop and a balance to the Día de los Muertos at Zocalo Park across the way in Disneyland's Frontierland.  And though this was exclusively movie-geared, the actual displays were pretty charming and carried a similar amount of educational value, explaining the significance of the holiday.

"Haul-O-Ween" at Cars Land

The most sensational Halloween Time overlay came in Cars Land, which celebrated "Haul-O-Ween" with a bevvy of visual gags and puns that provided an autumn version of their popular "Carsmas" overlay.  All up and down Radiator Springs, the various tenants unfurled their spookiest Halloween decorations.  The Cozy Cone had the "Brakes Motel," while Fillmore's had little ghostly boos around.  Flo's V8 Cafe was taken over by spiders, while Ramone's had a Día de los Muertos "sugarcar" aesthetic and an ofrenda inside to the late Doc Hudson (spoilers!--pun intended). 

The rides had Halloween changes too.  Mater's transformed his junkyard into a Graveyard JamBOOree, while over at Luigi's, the cars swayed and danced to a Honkin' Haul-O-Ween.  Radiator Springs Racers itself was in a normal configuration, but at night, the warm tones of Ornament Valley turned into rainbow spectrum of colorful rocks with an eerie, emanating vibe!

Indeed, Haul-O-Ween was a huge hit, showcasing the charm and silly wit the Imagineers have shown repeatedly capable of throughout the park.  This and Carsmas provide Cars Land with a huge back-to-back holiday haymaker that should continue to attract crowds for a while!

California Adventure provided the stage for the largest Halloween expansion across the Disneyland Resort since Halloween Time was incorporated as a promotional event.  With two lands receiving full overlays and Halloween touches seen in other parts of the park, fall at DCA proved to be a new and popular and renewed source of interest and attraction.  And that is all in line with the Disney parks strategy for the next upcoming years--stack California Adventure with a lot more amenities and enticements to bring crowds over, so that once Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens, and Disneyland is overrun with hordes of eager Star Wars fans, DCA can serve as an effective and fulfilling overflow.

Of course, it will take more than just overlays and seasonal events to solve that overall dilemma.  Capacity will have to increase too, which means future expansion.  But even that appears to be in the works, based on recent Disney comments on items such as expanding the Marvel presence in California Adventure and the Pixar Pier transformation (which, as misguided as it is, technically represents an attempt at capacity increase).

But back to Halloween Time coming to California Adventure.  I absolutely loved what the park brought in its first foray into embracing the Halloween spirit.  The charm and cuteness of all the decorations was refreshing and exciting, and I certainly can't wait for this to return next year!

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.