We had the privilege of attending this year’s opening night media party, and we had a great time. For those hardcore HHN fans, we have transcribed the Q&A session here for your reading pleasure. Grab some popcorn and get ready to get some great information on this year’s event.
Q: Besides the Academy of Villains [show], was there anything else affected by the hurricane, anything else that needs fixing up?
A: You know, we have minor cosmetic damage across the property. I think what’s wonderful about it is that storms pass and we [still] get the opportunity to give the guests the great event that we have. I think that honestly we, you know, all of our thoughts and prayers are definitely with everybody, but it’s also an opportunity to provide an escape for them, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes in a soundstage. So they can have A/C. (all laugh) If you want to see something uplifting, it’s amazing to see how all of the team members here at Universal came to help each other out personally with whatever they were effected by the storm, and then come together and get this event up and running, so [it’s an] amazing family to be a part of.
Q: If guests could choose only half of the houses, which ones would you suggest for them to go to?
A: The closest ones to them. (all laugh)
Counter Q: It’s like picking your favorite child, do each of you have your favorite house?
A: Yes, they are my children and I love them all equally. That’s the political answer, too, but I usually do have a favorite house, but it doesn’t occur until the end of the event, you know. I have favorite scenes, favorite houses, favorite moments as we go through, but I don’t have one yet for this year, cause I haven’t really seen everything yet, you know. I have to go through night after night and then really meet my kids and get to know them better. What’s also good about the event is that your favorite house is gonna be different than your favorite house is gonna be different than your favorite house.
We have got such a great slate of properties and original storytelling this year that everybody is gonna get something out of the event.
Whether something truly terrifying or really entertaining, it’s gonna happen, and I think that that’s one of the great hallmarks. Up to a point at the end of the event, yeah, we’re gonna have favorites, but as of right now, level playing field. Everything is game.
Q: Earlier you said the event itself is the icon essentially this year. Fans love their icons. Can you elaborate on that statement?
A: I think that Halloween Horror Nights is the festival itself. It gives us an opportunity to place an umbrella over the IPs and over the original content, the scarezones, the shows. It shows that Halloween Horror Nights in and of itself is bigger than anything we would bring or put into the park. Halloween Horror Nights is an institution. We are on our 27th year and it’s only going to grow from here. And so I think that it is iconic of us to be able to take on that mantle. You know, years ago we had festival of the dead that ran as a parade through the park, and I think that calling upon that as kind of an homage is also part of what makes this year iconic in nature. It also gives the opportunity, here in the scarezones, is to create apex predators in each zone. Instead of having this one icon, we have got Sam hanging out in Trick R Treat, we got alien scientists out in Invasion, we have got our bone reaper that hangs out in festival of the deadliest so, it opens up the ability to get these main predators in each area.
Q: What kind of steps did it take for you to secure the rights to have The Shining be part of the Halloween Horror Nights family?
A: Most of it had to do with begging, pleading, crying, chanting, and some phone calls. It was a long process. Much like other mazes that we brought in the past, whether it be American Werewolf in London, Exorcist, Halloween; those are things that as fans, we have been seeking for years, and things just happened to work out this year that we were able to work with our partners and were able to secure that. It’s actually a very fortunate thing and we are all very excited for you guys to go and do that [house].
Q: The Shining is very psychological, so what was your biggest challenge in trying to convert that into a house that we could experience?
A: That is an awesome question, and that’s what we asked ourselves on day 1. Stanley Kubrick takes this huge Overlook Hotel, but he is doing it from a claustrophobic view when you watch it, and I think that’s what we decided to tackle first; the idea of expanse, but also feeling claustrophobic. So we checked the boxes, moments that you want to see, which I think are very important, but also our design team did an amazing job of giving you tight corridors while at the same time giving height. Sometimes height can imply more of a massive structure, so there’s alot of implication that really sells in the house. Kudos to our design team who did an amazing job with that. Thematically when you walk through the maze, you are observing as that individual who is going through the process of having The Shining and being attacked by the Overlook, which is something that Kubrick does such an amazing job of, that you go along Jack’s path.
Jack’s course that he has throughout the film, you are going through that entire process as you travel from the beginning to the end of the maze.
Q: So you got the Blumhouse, and you’re showing a sneak peek of the upcoming Insidious. You’ve got Jigsaw. Has it gotten easier working with other studios that have active upcoming properties as far as this is what we are going to do, this is how we are going to have your upcoming project without spoiling anything. Like working with Walking dead previously, you have been working with Horror Story throughout the seasons, has it been easier to work with these studios in bringing these things to life?
A: I think there is a level of trust that has been harbored. I can easily say that there is a hard earned trust. There is an established trust now that they know where to take care of their kids, you know what I mean?
We take alot of care in trying to represent the best we can their properties and I think there is a growing trust between us and those studios.
Plus it’s really fun, cause sometimes we see scripts before everybody else, and we see screenings before anybody else, and it’s really really fun.
Q: As a first timer from Atlanta, have you ever been told you went a little bit too far, and what do you have to say about that?
A: Everything is subjective, right? You’d be surprised. Sometimes something would go on like “oh I hope this isn’t going overboard” but everybody ends up loving it. You never know, life and art is subjective, so you never know what’s gonna come your way. There’s also the opportunity for us if there’s something we want to have work, it might be physically impossible because we might not know how to do it yet, but we will figure it out.
If we care enough we will go down that path and we will figure it out.
I think between us we put everything on the table. We absolutely have conversations and then we edit from there, but we always put everything on the table. So I think if we say “that’s too far” then that’s WAY too far (all laugh)
Q: With all of the work that goes into the detail and stuff on the scarezones and the houses, are there any easter eggs that you would want us, the fans, to keep an eye out for?
A: For the scarezones, Trick R Treat in Central Park, when you pass through and first look, it may appear that is sort of the party at the beginning of the film and the neighborhood where the trick or treating is happening, but if you really pay attention to all of the detail, the little easter eggs that are dropped in, you will see this fever dream of the story of Trick R Treat. It is all laid out for you, all of the pieces of the story is there. I’ll bring up Dead Waters because it’s based off the scarezone from that street, if you saw the shack in the street scarezone, you would have noticed alot of the decor, we have taken very specific care in selecting different pieces from that. So if you have photos from that year, you may be able to find some of those pieces existing in the house also. I have mentioned this morning, one of my favorite authors is an easter egg represented in the house as a zombie.
Q: How many people do you expect to come through this year? We like to give information to our followers and subscribers about how to make an experience better, so are there specific days or dates that we can share with them that might be a little less crowded? Any tidbits that you would have for people as they are walking the park as far as making the most of their experience or how they should spend their time?
A: Okay, number 1) Alot (all laugh) Number 2) We are doing more nights than ever before, so there’s alot of different choices. And number 3) Don’t pass up the opportunity to go to the bathroom. And wear comfortable shoes. Alot of times we walk through and there is somebody dressed gorgeous and they got their toes sticking out of their expensive shoes.
I’m like “Man, come and sweat in tennis shoes,” you know? Just be comfortable. Just come to hike around, have a good time, and party.
When I was asked tips on how to avoid the scares, you can’t. There’s nowhere that’s safe except bathrooms. We are not legally allowed……yet.
Q: Eli Roth directed one of the commercials for this year and I was wondering, can we expect him to have more involvement in the future in terms of IPs?
A: What I can say is that Halloween Horror Nights is an ever changing event. There is always going to be changes in attractions, whether people want them or not. Because of that, we are never gonna stop looking for people to work with, or groups of people to work with, or companies to work with, licensed piece of art or installments to be able to partner with in order to create to greatest event that we can possibly can for our guests, year in and year out. You dropped his name as far as the commercial is concerned. Wasn’t that a great commercial? And did you see the director’s cut, too? That was awesome. It was fantastic, and I think what that also does is it also points out the fact that Horror Nights 2017 is a party. It is a festival. You have no choice but to enjoy yourselves as somebody who, when people gets scared around you, everybody laughs. That is the first thing that happens when anybody gets scared, they scream and either they laugh or somebody else laughs. It’s a wonderful thing, it’s a positive thing. I also think that, with Eli Roth if you watch the director’s cut version, from all of us, my favorite thing to see, like we were talking earlier about Halloween Horror Nights itself being so iconic, is to have Eli Roth say, you know, here is a master of horror films who is a fan of Horror Nights himself. Whoooo, that was amazing. I was so happy when I saw that.
Q: How often do you guys monitor, randomly walk through and just kind of make sure that your vision is still being undertaken?
A: All night long. Every night. Every house, every street zone, we are constantly roaming. We also have performance coordinators with us assisting us so we are constantly walking through the entire event. And we practice what we preach, we all go by and wear our comfy shoes right when the event starts that we wear out by the end.
Q: Since this is the last year for Bill and Ted, what are you doing to send it off in style? I’m also curious to hear why is this the last year for Bill and Ted and for next year, will there be anything else replacing it?
A: Okay, I’m gonna work backwards here. C) Can’t talk about it. C) Are we doing anything special? Yes. You’re gonna have to go see the show. And then A) Why is it the last year for Bill and Ted? I think that to my answer earlier is that we are an ever changing event and it is subjective for sure.
People are gonna have a different opinion and it’s going to become a debate topic over whether or not Bill and Ted should stay with 28 and 29 and 30, but I think that if we are doing, I think we give our guests a huge disservice if we don’t constantly evolve and elevate this event and change it year in, year out.
I think that’s what you’re seeing; different parts come and go. I think it’s a great opportunity for guests to experience a different, new, and revitalized event.