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Oh the horror
Parks start the countdown to Halloween 2022
Also in this edition (at the bottom): There is a spike in rider interactivity. And I join the Season Pass Podcast hosts to talk about the latest crop of attractions.
Yeesh. It’s not even Memorial Day Weekend, and many parks are already promoting their Halloween events.
I’ve been covering this beat for so long, I can remember when parks would pretty much call it a season on or soon after Labor Day. But, following the lead of Knott’s Berry Farm, which pioneered the concept of a theme park Halloween event in 1973, virtually every major U.S. park (as well as many smaller parks and parks around the world) now remains open in the fall “shoulder season” and capitalizes on the spooky holiday.
The formula more or less remains the same at the events: In the weeks leading up to Halloween, parks incorporate haunted houses and outdoor scare zones with copious jump scares along with holiday-centric shows and entertainment. It’s become such an integral part of their business, parks have been expanding the events and starting them earlier in the year. They also seem to be vying with one another to get the jump on announcing their Halloween events.
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Case in point: Universal Orlando, which operates the largest and most spectacular park spook-a-thon, revealed that the 2022 version of its Halloween Horror Nights will kick off on September 2 and run a record 43 nights. It also recently announced that the theme of the first of its ten haunted houses will be “Universal Monsters: Legends Collide” and will feature The Mummy, The Wolf Man, and Dracula. The park resort says that the classic characters will be battling one another, although it’s likely that guests will get caught in the crossfire. Here’s hoping the houses will bring back a design aesthetic used in previous HHN mazes devoted to the Universal monsters and present them in glorious black and white.
Sister park Universal Studios Hollywood will get in on the mayhem as well with its own Halloween Horror Nights, which will start on September 8 and offer eight houses. It will also invite wary guests to encounter “Universal Monsters: Legends Collide,” and its version will include a special soundtrack composed by rock guitarist, Slash (a legend and character in his own right).
The parks often pay homage to the studio’s beloved monsters throughout the year. Epic Universe, Universal Orlando’s third theme park, will reportedly include an entire land devoted to The Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the rest of the gory gang. After halting construction because of the pandemic, Universal resumed work on the highly anticipated park earlier this year.
Mickey mitigates the chills
Befitting their pirates and princesses vibe, the Disney parks take a decidedly different tack with their fall events. You won’t find any PG-13 depictions of bloody entrails at Disney World or Disneyland.
Instead, the Florida park resort will present the toned-down Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which returns to the Magic Kingdom after taking a pandemic hiatus. The separate-ticket nighttime event (which can run as high as $199 per person; that seems kinda scary) will start August 12, beating all of the other parks to the punch. It will include Mickey's “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade, the fireworks and projection presentation, “Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular,” the show, “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular” (do kids today even know the “Hocus Pocus” movie and characters?), select attractions with minimal wait times, and more.
Disneyland Resort announced that it will have its own separate-ticket nighttime event, Oogie Boogie Bash, at Disney California Adventure. Other Halloween features at Mickey’s original theme park home will include Haunted Mansion Holiday, the annual, limited-time makeover of the E-Ticket attraction that features characters from “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” and runs from the fall straight through to New Year’s Day; Guardians of the Galaxy - Monsters After Dark, a limited-time reboot of the drop tower ride; and the nighttime castle show, “Halloween Screams.”
Are you looking forward to Halloween events at theme parks? Which ones? What have been some of your favorite haunts?
Maurer Rides, the innovative company that designed Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster, the roller coaster atop Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras ship, is developing other concepts for interactive coasters. Check out my Funworld column, “The Art of Attractions.”
My Arthur's About Theme Parks Substack promotion tour stops by the The Season Pass podcast (aka “the essential theme park podcast”). Hosts Doug, Brent, and Robert talk with me about the late, great Doug Trumbull, the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, VelociCoaster, and more. It’s so great to have new episodes of the show available. You can find it wherever you get your podcasts or listen online. Be sure to check out The Season Pass archives for incredible episodes featuring industry legends such as Tony Baxter and Nolan Bushnell.