Last night I was treated, along with other media outlets, to a “media preview” event for Halloween Horror Nights 23. In years past, this would typically take place over in Cafe la Bamba and cover most of the cool things you’d get to see if you were to take one of the Unmasking the Horror tours. This year was a little different. Gone are the days of Cafe la Bamba. We’ve easily outgrown that building, plus let’s be honest, the A/C is horrible in there. So the event was held in Sound Stage 33. I’d never been in 33, I’ve always seen the building with it’s movie theater style marquee taunting me while I wait hours in line for a haunted house. Finally! I can die a happy man. Okay, maybe I took it a bit far, but as a theme park fan, going in new buildings at the park that others haven’t is a huge deal.
Naturally, I’m near the front of the line (go me!) and they let us in the building. Talk about sensory overload. They’ve got a “station” setup for literally every house and show at the event complete with props. In the middle of the room was a very decorated and over the top snack area with all sorts of HHN23 themed treats, yum! On the left, they had an assortment of smells from the past and present haunted mazes. Be careful, some may remember Psychoscareapy and know exactly what I’m talking about. On the right, they had a giant stage with some of The Walking Dead street props and a projector. The remaining side was being used for scareactor transformations, always a fun sight.
We wandered and took pictures of everything. I had only equipped myself with my phone and video camera. Unfortunately for me, I live a good distance from the park so I was way behind getting those things uploaded in a timely fashion. (Sorry Guys!) However, I did tweet out a ton of pics. So if you missed them, be sure to follow me on twitter @hhnrumors! My buddy NickC over at HorrorNights.be always takes awesome pics, so be sure to check his pics out too.
Brittany from Universal Orlando’s awesome media team took the stage and welcomed/thanked us for coming. She introduced Mike Aiello as the creative director for HHN23, but what do titles mean anyway. You could tell Mike was pumped for this years event. I’ve seen him speak a handful of times now and he really does a good job of translating his excitement into an awesome speech. But you know how you can sort of read a person after hearing them talk for some time and tell if they are really into something or if they are just going through the paces? I don’t think for a second he lowered his enthusiasm. I’ll admit that going into this event I was a little on the fence about the use of so many IPs. However, by the time Mike started talking about the Cabin in the Wood’s house, I was sold. It was very obvious how committed and passionate he is for this event. Strangely enough, there were fireworks outside when he was done talking. Although they weren’t for his talk, it really did seem fitting.
When Mike was done talking, Brittany attempted to take the stage and that’s when Mike started talking again. This time he was talking about streets. There have been a lot of talks on the forums about the streets this year, mostly negative. On my way in to 33, I passed a tank. A FREAKING TANK! I don’t think there will be any issues with streets this year. Seriously, they have a tank. So Mike wrapped it up and we were free to chat with the rest of the Art & Design team.
Still stuck on seeing a tank, I wander on over and asked TJ about it. He got a huge grin on his face like he’d been waiting for someone to ask about it all day. After all, one doesn’t just get a tank. He explained the process. They called and called anyone they could think of that might not only have a tank, but also be willing to let them borrow/buy/rent it. The owners of the tanks either wouldn’t return the call, share their tank, or explained the difficulty in transporting such an item. I mean, you don’t go to Wal-Mart and buy a tank, I’m sure these people had a heck of a time getting it in the first place. They were stuck. There simply isn’t any possible way to do the downtown Atlanta scene without it. So what do they do? They built a full size replica and man it looks good.
I started to ask TJ about guest initiated scares and he instantly directed me over to David Hughes. TJ even went as far as calling David the king of the guest initiated scares, so obviously I’m in the right place. For those unfamiliar with guest initiated scares, in the recent years they have started adding big shiny red buttons in the houses that trigger events throughout the house. After all, who doesn’t want to press a big red button? David was quick to point out that they have returned and wouldn’t reveal exact locations but that there were possibly two in The Walking Dead, more on that later. He brought up a good point though, a good guest initiated scare would require a full scene. A scene dedicated to that big red button. The hypothetical button could do anything, the entire room triggered by one push. Guests just clamoring to push that button, but what happens when no one pushes that button? Your best scare is now dead space and you’ve confused a bunch of people. A very valid point. He said the fix was to also run them on timers. Problem solved.
Another awesome tidbit from David. There is an Easter egg put on by the core HHN team. Be on the look out for a stuffed raven in every house! I’m happy to see they are having fun with this. It’s the little things that count. He said some are very obvious, others not so much.
Now it’s time, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. An exclusive look at The Walking Dead house complete with full cast. Sadly for you, it’s going to be in part two of this post which will come in the near future.