To learn more about the Fear that is coming to Halloween Horror Nights 20, today I spoke with Universal Orlando’s TJ Mannarino, director of art & design for entertainment, Patrick Braillard, show director of entertainment, and Mike Aiello, show director of entertainment.
With this year marking twenty years of Halloween time scares for Universal Orlando, I wanted to not only know more about Halloween Horror Nights XX, but also how the event will be changing in the future as “a new age of darkness” rolls in.
Halloween Horror Nights 20 includes eight original haunted houses and six scare zones, each packed with ideas and characters emerging directly from the creative minds at Universal Orlando. No third-party properties are found as the focus of this year’s houses or scare zones.
Braillard explained, “Halloween Horror Nights itself is a strong enough tradition. […] We wanted everything to be in house. […] We didn’t need to go shopping for anyone’s intellectual property.” Aiello added that this year’s event is all part of “furthering the Horror Nights brand,” noting that the event started with all-original content 20 years ago, so it’s fitting to return to that notion in order to prepare for the future.
This year is being set up as a “thank you to the fans of Horror Nights,” said Aiello, “so they can come to this event and really see where this event has come from and also at the same time show them where it’s going.” It will also “pave the way for Horror Nights 21, 22, 23…”
A Mix of Horror and Comedy
This year’s event promises more fears, scares, and gore then ever before, including “some that are insanely intense,” according to Aiello,” but they won’t totally be without comedy. As with past years, one house will feature a more light-hearted tone, though the designers refused to specify which one. The only detail they’d reveal is that it’s “not the one you’re thinking of.”
Some of the most popular houses that have resulted in “sequel” houses in the past will be saying their goodbyes at Halloween Horror Nights 20. They may return in the future, but right now the event’s designers are looking to pave the way for new recurring ideas and characters for the future.
So which characters will make a return at Halloween Horror Nights 2010? Aiello emphasized that “no creature is off limits.” Not only will we see icons from the past, but also characters from within past haunted houses and scare zones – and they won’t always be where you think they should. Characters formerly in houses will be in the streets and vice-versa. We could see anything ranging from classic Universal monsters to previously-licensed familiar faces to the Body Collectors to the Treaks and Foons.
And what of this year’s icon character, Fear? We’ll see much more of him in the coming weeks. According to his creators, he’s bigger than the icons from the past that he controls and his gruesome face only begins to show us what Fear is all about. “They will see it, they will feel it, they will taste it,” Aiello remarked, though couldn’t exactly explain what Fear tastes like. I’m not sure I want to know.
Battling Long Lines
To help entertain guests with the event’s notorious long lines, new mobile technology will be rolled out, building upon trivia games from the past. Guests will be able to receive text messages from characters and interact while waiting to enter various haunted houses.
Interactivity continues into the LegendaryTruth haunted house, which has been under development for a couple of years, though didn’t find its way into the house until now. TJ Mannarino explained that this house is an “opportunity to be not only a part of the event, but to become the event” and that “possible in-park scenarios” may be on the way.
Mannarino emphasized the importance of visiting Halloween Horror Nights on non-peak nights to get the most enjoyable and relatively wait-free experience. But if a peak night visit is necessary, RIP tours will be once again available, providing guided access to skip all the haunted house and show lines.
Beyond cell phones, plenty of new technology will be added to the haunted houses, though the designers declined to dish on the specifics. We’ll likely see some ghostly apparitions in the LegendaryTruth house, perhaps by way of the Musion effect used to bring Harry, Ron, and Hermione to life in the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction at Islands of Adventure… but that’s just my speculation.
What was revealed is that this year’s event will be the first time Halloween Horror Nights will feature open flames inside a haunted house. (Hades, anyone?)
The popular Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure show returns for its 19th year with Mike Aiello directing once again, though this will be the last time he is at the helm, as he plans to pursue further Horror Nights roles in the future. For this year’s event, the story somehow revolves around the two lead characters being replaced… though ultimately they’ll find a way to stick around.
Not returning for Halloween Horror Nights 20 is the Rocky Horror Picture Show tribute, but the Horror Nights gurus don’t rule out the possibility of it coming back in future years.