Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights celebrate some dark milestones this year.
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the event, “We have more masks than we have ever had before,” said Charles gray, Senior Director of Entertainment Creative Development at Universal Orlando Resort.
Working from a building behind the scenes, Universal’s sculpting team created 95 new masks from scratch, about 35% more than in 2019. (Universal also recreated 46 other masks from scratch. old mussels from previous years.)
They turned the clay into something terrifying, like a creature with several pairs of eyes and a pair of jaws that would make an alligator jealous. The scary look is also that of the whole body. The sculptors of Universal designed a bodysuit with creepy claws and a torso with even more eyes and teeth.
“Technology and printing have improved the game over the past few years,” said Gray. “We can print things on bodysuits that we couldn’t do before. “
What’s also impressive is that some creepy people wear COVID-19 safety face covers under their masks.
“We’re in Florida so we’re covered in sweat when we’re done,” Gray said. But, “Safety first.”
Like almost everything at theme parks last year, COVID-19 has ruined Universal’s plans. Instead of the full-fledged, large-scale Halloween production that Universal was known for, the park downsized and managed just two haunted houses in 2020.
Gray said it suddenly gave them time to think.
Planning for any HHN is a huge undertaking. Haunted Houses are elaborate enough to make you feel like you’re in the middle of a horror movie. Planning for the event typically takes 15 months. So when an HHN is underway, the team is already planning the next year.
In 2020, “It gave us the opportunity to dive deep and think further into the future,” said Gray.
For this year’s 30th anniversary, HHN is offering 10 Haunted Houses, five Fear Zones, and two shows.
For HHN fan Barry shorts, he appreciates Universal’s return to old characters and houses from the past returning for the 30.
“Anniversary years have always been special for HHN. I think this one, they really went all out. So many original homes really dive into the HHN tradition, ”said Short, editor of frisson.com and co-host of the ThrillGeek Theme Park podcast. “HHN is the premier Halloween event. Some would say in the world. Some would say in the United States.
Universal doesn’t comment on attendance figures, but Gray said people were waiting outside the doors on opening night. Universal owner Comcast is expected to release the latest quarterly results later this month, where executives will likely discuss theme park finances and big money generators.
HHN has been busy, said Short, who has attended about 10 nights so far this year.
“Considering that there are no international guests, it’s very impressive. I think this shows pent-up demand after no (large-scale) event last year. Everyone was so excited for this year, ”said Short.
Short felt safe during the pandemic, he said. He wears a mask inside haunted houses which in most places have plexiglass barriers installed to separate visitors from spooky ones. The fear areas are on the outside, which also makes Short feel more comfortable, he said.
Thirty years later, Universal is a pro when it comes to HHN. That’s not to say that Universal is constantly changing haunted houses and fear zones to find a way to get it right, even though the countdown to Halloween has already started.
Are there enough strobe lights? Is a scaractor scarier outside or inside the haunted house? (For an adjustment, Universal glued a character outside before the sun went down, then moved him overnight to the “Welcome to Scarey” haunted house.)
“We’re still tweaking here and there… So opening night is different from last night,” Gray said jokingly. “I’m sure the production teams are like, ‘Stop spending our money! “
“It’s little things that we do throughout the event. To those who come night after night, they will see these little differences as they go by.
HHN runs until October 31.