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Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Buckle up and keep your hands, arms, feet and legs inside the vehicle! This next month and a half is going to be a wild ride.

I can't exactly remember when it hit me to do this, but honestly, this type of project is so up my alley that I could not wait to get started.

By profession, I am in the theme park design and themed entertainment industry. Disneyland has been my favorite place for as long as I can remember and growing up, I was obsessed with learning as much as I could about how everything was made originally and how it all works now. I got to work at Disneyland and Walt Disney World throughout my years in my undergrad college and now I work for a company that designs theme parks as well as tours, exhibits, and events and needless to say, I absolutely love working in this field.

Several months after we got Damian's diagnosis and we began our campaign, I dropped my work-from-home hours to part-time, but I still love the few hours I spend a week helping pretty awesome projects go from big ideas to becoming tangible places.

And that's what we're going to do this month.

My Big Idea

Two Halloweens ago, a wonderful lady in our community put on a bake sale and it was SUPER successful, raising over $1,000 in a day! I've been wanting to replicate that event ever since and I had the thought that making a fun experience in addition to a bake sale, that lasted multiple days, could be really marketable and a really great way to help our campaign - AND it would be super fun!

I have always wanted to decorate my own house for Halloween!! My favorite places to go trick-or-treating as a child (or "trunk-or-treating") were places that have some kind of walkthrough experience. I love when people go all out with their decorations - with the contradictory caveat that I absolutely hate scary stuff. The blood and gore, the maniacal laugh sounds, the grotesque monsters – no thank you, I can't do it. Besides, there are already a few streets here in our city that do the scary stuff very very intensely. There's not, however, a place I have found that goes all out in a little-kid-friendly way.

So that's what I am going to do.


Damian's "Not-So-Haunted" House (& Bake Sale)!

My plan is to turn our garage into a very "NOT scary but still Halloween-y" walkthrough experience! We will have a bake sale outside (where people can learn about Damian and our campaign) and I'm hoping we can even get a character performer or two to take fun photos with in the front yard (I happen to know someone who would make a GREAT Captain America ;) ).

I think if we sold it as an experience that catered to the youngest audience, we could potentially have a lot of first-timer Haunted House goers come through it! But just because it wouldn't be scary (mostly for my sake because I hate scary), doesn't mean we couldn't do something super super cool. This is my job, after all.

Yes, of course I have drawn more pictures :)

Inside Damian's "Not-So-Haunted" House

The overarching concept is that this would be a cute version of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, with all the ghosts replaced with classic Disney characters. "Hidden Pumpkin Mickeys" will be placed throughout the walkthrough that kids can keep an eye out for. And I want to include little nods to some of the most iconic parts of the Disneyland ride.

First Hall

Children (with their parents) will enter the "house" into a portrait gallery, where we will have a stretching portrait and a bust of Mickey whose eyes seem to follow you as you walk past it.

At the end of the hall, a huge organ will play music, with the pipes blowing little puffs of air with every note (the "air" will be shaped like Mickey Mouse heads!)

Second Hall

After the organ, guests make a U-turn to go down the second hall: a little blacklight tunnel with fun and cute Jack-o-Lanterns seeming to pop off the wall. At the end of the tunnel will hang a beaded curtain, and when they go through it, they enter my favorite "room" of the house. In the Disneyland ride, Madame Leota would be speaking from inside her crystal ball - so here, we have Madame Minnie who talks to you about a "sweet surprise" she sees in your future: all you have to do is knock on a special door covered in (what else?) polka dots.

In the back of our garage, we have a door that goes to our kitchen, so we will turn that door into the polka dot "trick-or-treat" door and add some fake doors on either side of it with bright colors and patterns as a reference to the Corridor of Doors in the Haunted Mansion.

Final Hall

It wouldn't be a "not-so-haunted" house without some friendly ghosts, so we will use the most classic (and in my opinion, most realistic) Pepper's Ghost Effect to make Mickey, Pluto, and Goofy appear in the final hallway at the end of the walkthrough experience. Guests will then exit through our garage's side door to go outside to the side yard.

Halloween Party Photo Op

A celebratory finish to the experience, the side yard will have a fun and colorful backdrop with flat Disney characters (dressed in their Halloween costumes) spread out, so guests can take a photo with them! I'll have on a nearby table little signs or props that kids can pose with too, as well as a coloring page they can take home that includes a little sidebar with info about Damian and a QR code.

You can see in the photo above that on the right is a gate - I'll have one of those doors propped open to lead guests back to the front yard where they started.

What do you think????

If it sounds like a lot of work, you're right. But we are at the start of September, and as it turns out, I have some friends in the industry who have already been helping me out. I think this is going to be the best big project we have done yet!! I have been VERY excited and have been scouring Facebook Marketplace for the past couple weeks for free stuff that might be helpful. My best score so far? Check this out:

Isn't it BEAUTIFUL?? And absolutely perfect for Damian's "Not-So-Haunted" House!

I can hardly believe we got this for free - it is so grand, I think we need to name it! Any suggestions?

Well, as much of a win as this organ was, there is LOTS still to do, so I better hop to it! Get ready for ALL the Halloween / Imagineering content coming your way on social media (especially Instagram)!!

Later this week or next I'm hoping to announce a way you can help us during all the holiday madness that is just around the corner! I've gotten a bunch of requests for it, so I'll be very excited to announce it soon! Stay tuned!!

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Mary Kiefer Kwaterski
Mary Kiefer Kwaterski
Sep 04, 2023

WoW!! What vision!!! 👏🤸🏽💜🙏


Sep 04, 2023

Granaldo! 😄

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