Greetings, you may call me….keeper for I am the keeper of tales. Most of our adventures this month have centered in our favorite dark and creepy place Halloween Horror Nights. For me it’s like getting a brand new theme park every year for a month. The scares are fun but for me it’s always been the stories, themes and journeys that this new world unleashes every year. Like the Phoenix HHN rises from its own ashes and re-invents itself in every incarnation. Like it or not Universal now is the top dog and with that there is almost a responsibility to be leaders in innovations in the haunt game. Like all of you I saw last year as we entered a “new era” of HHN—a loving goodbye to our past while FEARs’s lantern shone the way towards our future.
I chuckled on opening weekend this year when I read an Orlando Sentinel article which interviewed a spokesman from UO who talked about the new era beginning and saying goodbye to the past, then the article went on to talk about chainsaws, Bill and Ted and the New Yorkshire gang getting a house. Yes, strictly speaking, last year started the new era so I suppose Saws and Steam get a pass but it seemed odd things to touch on when one of the messages you are putting out is new new new!!
Their spokesperson was right though—this IS a pivotal year although it’s not for what he mentioned. I feel that we will look back on this year as the year that we took a quantum leap into our future. We actually saw the beginnings last year when Brian Brushwood alternated between two different shows. It had limited success because we had seen much of the material before but think about that concept from an operation aspect. Same operating costs as presenting the same show all night, but it creates the perception of more value for the guests. It creates another attraction for guests that want to see it all, another option if the lines are long at the houses. I think we are seeing this concept tested out this year in three very unique variations.
Variation 1 —- the evolution of 7
A scare zone that morphs as the night goes on. It’s a personal favorite for a galaxy of reasons but let’s forget about if you like it or not—think beyond that. It’s like finding extra detail in a house or a theme park ride after dozens of visits but it happens in only 2 or 3 visits. A slow creeping change so you see one thing as you enter and another as you leave. Imagine this carried to it’s natural conclusion…a changing house!! The no-brainer would be a vampire house that changes as the night goes on. “Vampires Dusk” from 6-8:30 and “Vampires Dusk: after hours” from 9-closing. It’s like getting a 9th house with no additional costs. The concept is staggering.
Variation 2—- the scripts of Death Drums
Taking the Brushwood concept to the next level we have THREE different shows that take place during the night. Even easier than the first variation…..all it takes is putting pen to paper and knocking out another script. At the core HHN is live theater and as such is dependant on its performers to succeed. By having different scripts available it really takes advantage of the talent and helps showcase their skills. We see this in the park during the holidays with the Barney and Blues Brothers shows. How about a BeetleJuice show where they sing Halloween flavored songs….or a show where the performers vary the songs so no two shows are alike? Shows are the most obvious place for this but if you combined a new script with an evolving house you can see the lines blurring between these variations. Some missed opportunities that have been discussed on the boards like the anniversary of Poe’s death and Columbus Day happening during the event would be other examples of how this concept could add an additional layer of entertainment to the mix.
Variation 3—the motion of Night Maze
And it’s so frickin obvious that it took 20 years to try. And I’m not talking about that nonsense in Run where people blocked your path. No playing around with subtleties here the scarezone literally changes WHILE YOU’RE IN IT! So simple and basic and yes we can quibble about implementation here if we get into specifics but remember we’re talking concepts now. A maze that changes while you are in it…or even a show that can drum its way to a different location to bring entertainment to different areas of the park. This is an evolution of Theme Park 101—roving characters, something that sadly left HHN when the crowds moved in. In the past you could either move the guests or the entertainment but again we are taking the next step—moving the environment. Now I don’t want to sound like a “fanboy” here but please I don’t want to understate how profoundly DIFFERENT that is from everything we’ve seen till now–moving the environment. To me that’s another staggering concept that when implanted into a house design could truly revolutionize the event.
So that’s it kids….no reviews, no best scarezone competition, no counting how many times I’ve toured a house, how many pins I can collect or how bad or good Bill & Ted are this year. It’s a new era…its change, evolution, re-birth, and layers and layers of wonderful variations. How HHN evolves will be written in our experiences this month. It’s all about choices and non-choices. I’m excited and optimistic for the future…what the heck; we do have Luck on our side 😉
View a collection of pictures from this year’s event
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Every Day’s An Adventure