Theme Park Announcements
In the blink of an eye, Midsummer Scream 2017 is in the books. The convention brought Halloween to Long Beach in July, and as expected, some of the major highlights were the announcements made by the theme park “Big Four” and their haunted attractions.
Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights
Since 2006, Halloween Horror Nights has become synonymous with the SoCal haunt scene, and as such, their panel was packed to the gills with rabid haunt-goers. Creative Director John Murdy and Art Director Chris Williams took fans behind the scenes of two brand new mazes for 2017, The Shining and Ash vs. Evil Dead, before announcing the return of R.I.P. Tours for this year’s event. For the first time in three years, guests will be able to purchase loaded packages that offer valet parking, unlimited Front of Line access to mazes, dinner and drinks, and a guided walking tour.
Murdy and Williams also gave Midsummer Screamers a sneak peek at 2017’s new, still-unnamed scare-zones. The park’s entrance area will see a traditional Halloween-themed scarezone, complete with a pumpkin-headed chainsaw brigade and a familiar-looking green witch, while the trek from the lower lot to the backlot will feature mutated gas workers, complete with melted-on gas masks. From there, the backlot’s metro sets will reflect an “urban hell” theme, featuring goat-like executioners, earthen demons and more.
Knott’s Scary Farm
Entering their 45th year of Haunt, guests eagerly awaited what Knott’s Scary Farm had in store in the way of exclusive announcements. Entertainment Supervisor Jeff Tucker was on-hand to reveal select details of the 2017 event, including a combined Fright Lane/Fast Lane ticket that will allow for priority access to both mazes and rides. Tucker then handed things over to Scenic Designer Jon Cooke to announce a brand-new version of the haunt’s long-standing Trick or Treat maze, Trick or Treat: Lights Out. Where before, the maze was classically beautiful in its Victorian Gothic style, this new version will be darker, grungier and more sadistic, to say nothing of the interactive flashlight technology that will color guests’ experiences. This technology, tested out at ScareLA in 2015, will flicker, change colors and even die completely at the most inopportune times in order to maximize scares.
Finally, Tucker introduced Cassandra Peterson (better known as Elvira). First appearing at 1984’s Haunt, Elvira has performed at countless iterations since, but Peterson was in attendance to announce personally that 2017 would be the last for the Mistress of the Dark.
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Accompanied by their cadre of mischievous icons, including The Captain and The Ringmaster, the creative forces behind Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor announced a few new additions for 2017. Before diving into creative updates, the crew announced some additions largely geared towards a more hard-partying audience than most other haunts, including a Barrel Tasting Room, the Meat Locker (a 9-degree, vodka-serving ice bar), as well as secret bars inside several of the mazes themselves.
On the topic of mazes, 2017 is a year of shake-ups, even for returning experiences. Deadrise will feature a brand new path, Intrepid will be re-imagined and Soulmate will be more intense than ever. But the biggest announcement to come from this panel was a brand-new maze, dubbed Feast. Featuring a cannibalistic butcher named Chef, Feast will bring the number of on-ship mazes to four, a record high for the event.
Six Flags Magic Mountain’s “Fright Fest”
Rounding out the major theme park haunts was Six Flags’ Fright Fest. Publicist Connie Lujan, Creative Supervisor Mark Wing, Manager of Entertainment and Events Pam Bugbee, Director of Entertainment Scott Sterner, and Fright Fest makeup artist Scott Ramp were joined by longtime Fright Fest regular “Peaches” to announce what Six Flags has lined up for 2017.
The event, which will run for a record 21 nights this haunt season, will see a host of returning mazes, including the massive Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising, and longtime favorite Toyz of Terror 3D. Joining these regulars, however, will be the all-new Dead End. Details were sparse regarding the new maze, save for its location on Exile Hill and a possible relation to Fright Fest’s iconic Willoughby family. In addition to the haunts that Fright Fest will bring, guests will also be able to take VIP “Hidden Haunts” tours, featuring real-life tales from the history of the park.
In regards to scarezones, returning for 2017 will be the Suicide Squad scarezone, featuring signature Squad members like Katana, Killer Croc, and of course, The Joker and Harley Quinn, while a brand new zone will make its debut: Damned ‘N Disguise. Various projections, effects and even characters will transform from “safe” to “damned” before the eyes of guests in this ambitious new area.
With fresh takes on old favorites, combined with ongoing creative innovation, the “Big Four” theme parks continue to bring the thrill of the haunt to the masses, ensuring the screams of midsummer extend all the way through fall.