If you’re anything like us, you’ve been counting down the days until haunts open since November 1st. With at least one haunt opening this weekend, and many more opening in the next couple of weeks, we can be sure that haunt owners, creative directors, and other haunt employees all over the country have been working frantically to put the final touches on this year’s events. Here’s a rundown of some of this week’s highlights:
♦ Disneyland and the Magic Kindgom at Walt Disney World are in full Halloween mode with “Halloween Time,” featuring Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland and Mickey’s Halloween Party at both parks.
♦ Halloween Horror Nights Orlando hosted a media preview event this week. Check out Horror Night Nightmare’s extensive photo coverage of the event on Facebook.
♦ Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood gave a behind-the-scenes tour of its new Silent Hill maze. Watch Theme Park Adventure’s video of the tour on YouTube.
♦ Knott’s Scary Farm has posted some more construction photos, including a look at the detailed sets going into Pinocchio Unstrung. Check them out here.
♦Comikaze Expo is taking place this weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Get some exercise by running from hordes of zombies at the Zombie Apocalypse.
Scare Zone kicks off the 2012 haunt season by visiting Disneyland’s Halloween Time this weekend and Halloween Horror Nights next weekend. Be sure to check back often for our timely reviews and tips on all the Southern California events this year!
Today we wish Disneyland’s original Haunted Mansion a Happy 43rd Birth… errr Death day. The Haunted Mansion showcases the darker side of Disney’s imagination with an attraction that has made getting scared so much fun. Sadly, this would be the last attraction which Walt personally oversaw the designs for and he didn’t live to see the Haunted Mansion come to life, but many believe that his ghost resides among the 999 ghost inside, who are always celebrating a swinging wake.
While not considered to be particularly scary (for most adults), the Haunted Mansion has endured over 40 years and offers a unique mix of Gothic horror, frighting fantasy, and creepy fun. As children, this attraction left many lasting impressions on us and we’re sure many others. We simply found it to be “delightfully frightening”. In spite of being scared, we also had fun as our Doombuggy floated through the dark hallways filled with stretching doors and creaky old crypts, past musical seances, through the ballroom’s swinging wake, into the attic and finally out into the graveyard filled with “grim grinning ghost”. This is probably the one attraction responsible for making us here at Scare Zone (and many of you) addicted to haunts.
The influence from the Haunted Mansion can also be found in many haunted attractions across the world today. Whether it be the changing portraits, the ghostly holograms, or the singing ghosts; during haunt season, you can find various haunts that recreate these scenes to pay homage to the venerable attraction.
We can can go on and on about our love for this classic attraction but to learn more about the Haunted Mansion’s legacy and it’s various reincarnations around the world visit our friends at DoomBuggies.com . They have every single inch of the Mansion’s grounds covered and uncovered.
We recently visited the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and had the opportunity to experience all three of their haunted attractions: The Haunted Castle, Ghost Blasters, and Fright Walk. Dark rides and year-round haunts are hard to come by, so finding them in one location is a real treat. In addition, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk has a famous haunted legacy as it was the set for the classic 80s horror movie The Lost Boys. We didn’t spot any vampires lurking around, but it was daytime, so who knows what freaks come out at night.
The Haunted Castle
Upon arrival at the Boardwalk, guests can see the large front facade of the Haunted Castle towering into the sky. This classic dark ride was revamped last year, and it now offers a new level of modern effects, fun, and scares. The ride’s vehicles look like a mix of a hearse and a Doombuggy from Disney’s Haunted Mansion attractions. The entire ride takes place in the lower levels underneath the Boardwalk, so the haunted journey begins with the vehicle spinning backwards and then quickly descending down a steep spiral track into the heart of the castle. Once inside, you encounter ghostly royalty, their undead servants, demonic pets, and vengeful monsters.
We were surprised at the level of detail in this ride, which comes to close to anything you’d find at Disneyland (we actually think it looks better than the recently added Winnie the Pooh and Buzz Lightyear rides). In addition to the effects and settings, the layout of the ride tells a linear story that gets darker as the ride goes on. There were some real surprise scares, but the ride isn’t about making guests freak out; it’s a “fun” adventure through a unique haunted world.
The ghosts need to be evicted out of the old mansion, but they ain’t leaving willingly—so who you gonna call? Call yourself, as you and a fellow passenger are armed with a blaster gun and will have to shoot your way through the ghost-infested mansion.
This ride has a very cartoonish look with a lot of black light illuminating the vibrant set pieces. There are some fun special effects with a few surprising startles. The good thing about this ride is that it’s just as fun without the shooting game. In fact, the ghost blasting can distract riders from being able to focus on the ride around them. Nonetheless, if you get an all-day ride pass, it’s worth a couple whirls!
This is a year-round walk-through haunted house. The attraction is akin to a dark funhouse with numerous animatronic props and sensor-triggered scare effects. We thought that there were a couple of interesting animatronic props and found some of the very dark passages suspenseful to walk through, but we were disappointed that there were no real scareactors inside, even though the warning signs say otherwise. Perhaps it’s difficult to keep the house staffed on a year-round basis, so they have to rely heavily on all the props. However, since it was haunt season, we expected to have at least one real-life monster scare us.
The Fright Walk would benefit from a makeover like the Haunted Castle received. They should also create a story theme for the haunted house so it doesn’t feel like a tour of an animatronic haunt museum. Perhaps this would be a good lair for The Lost Boys! If you’re a Haunt Stalker visiting the Boardwalk, this attraction is worth checking out once, but it doesn’t effect anything more than a few startling scares.
Our readers know how much we love Halloween–and especially haunts. But you may not know how much we also love Disneyland. And how we sometimes fantasize about a true Halloween event at the Happiest Place on Earth.
Sure, Disneyland in California already has a Halloween event: Halloween Time. The park is decked out in orange flower arrangements, jack-o-lanterns, and purple lights. There’s even a Dia De Los Muertos display in Frontierland. The event’s main attractions are Haunted Mansion Holiday (a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay) and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy.
There’s a separate ticketed event for the kiddies: Mickey’s Halloween Party, which includes the (previously free, now not so much) Halloween fireworks.
But is Disneyland missing something? Something scary?
Imagine what Disneyland could pull off if they really wanted to create a fully immersive, fully themed scary haunt.
We don’t have to imagine it. They already have a scary Halloween event–in Hong Kong.
Starting in late September, Hong Kong Disneyland rolls out the Halloween events, including the “Glow in the Park” Halloween parade, “Nightmare in the Sky” pyrotechnics show behind Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and the Inferno Dance Party, plus all the usual Halloween decorations and special treats.
But what makes Hong Kong Disneyland stand out is its inclusion of scary walk-through attractions with live scare-actors.
Hong Kong Disneyland: Walk-Through Attractons
The Main Street Haunted Hotel (Main Street)
The Main Street Haunted Hotel is described as follows: “the scary Victoria Maxwell has filled her hotel with all-new traps to capture new and returning victims. Along with hoards of undead hotel occupants, Guests should expect spine tingling scares everywhere they look.”
Featuring a specially created storyline, elaborate sets and scenes, guests will find themselves lost on this frightful journey through an outpost built on a burial ground. Along with creative technology, brave adventurers should expect to experience some hair-raising illusions while finding their way out.
Alien Invasion (Featured in 2009)
The (Alien Intelligence) Agency has reported that a gigantic spaceship has landed inside Hong Kong Disneyland with signs of alien life detected onboard.
Ghost Town (Main Street)
“Ghosts from a forgotten era will roam aimlessly up and down the street, haunting all who pass by.” (Of course, that would never work in Disneyland Anaheim, considering the original “Ghost Town” is just a few miles up the 91 freeway, at Knott’s Scary Farm.)
Tribal Burial Ground (Adventureland)
Under the evil power of Maleficent, Adventureland will be transformed into a treacherous Tribal Burial Ground at night where demented zombies, deadly explorers, bedeviled tribal warriors and gatekeepers greet their guests unexpectedly.
Could It Work In California?
Hong Kong Disneyland’s Halloween event is still young, and with only a few really scary attractions, it’s certainly not a full-fledged theme park haunt, at least not by American standards. There are a few reasons why a similar event will probably never come to Disneyland in California, and the most obvious is the fact that there is already a LOT of Halloween competition. Knott’s Berry Farm, the progenitor of the haunted attraction concept, is only a few miles away. There’s also Halloween Horror Nights and the Queen Mary’s event. Plus, smaller Halloween attractions are also nearby: Sinister Pointe, the Empty Grave, Coffin Creek, Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, and the list goes on.
Disneyland in California also seems to have found its clever niche in the haunt market: the family-friendly Halloween event. With haunts getting more and more extreme every year, Mickey’s Halloween Party is a popular–and lucrative–seasonal offering that brings in the tourists and forces annual passholders to open their wallets for the separate ticket. And even if you don’t want to pay extra for the Halloween Party, you can experience Halloween Time at the regular ticket price. Right now, Ghost Galaxy (originating from Hong Kong Disneyland, naturally) is the only “scary” attraction in the park.
While a haunt might not work in Disneyland, we think there could be a possibility for mazes or even scare zone-like areas at Disney California Adventure (DCA). If you look at the success DCA has had with Glow Fest and ElecTRONica in the Hollywood section of the park, we could definitely imagine a “scarier” Halloween offering taking over that area in the fall. The park already has the spaces that could host a couple of mazes (the old Millionaire theater and the Hollywood & Dine building). Plus, the streets are laid out perfectly for a scare zone-type atmosphere. They could keep the bars and the DJs.
We–as devoted, tight-fisted annual passholders–might even open our wallets up for such an event.
Last week, Scare Zone made the trip out to Anaheim to visit Disneyland and experience their Halloween Time offerings. As always, it was a magical adventure.
Halloween Time really offers only one attraction (Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy) plus a whole bevy of Halloween decorations and special treats for sale. Haunted Mansion Holiday is also open and definitely has the Halloween theme going, but because it’s open until January, we don’t consider it specific to Halloween Time. However, we’ll include it in our trip report. (We did not experience Mickey’s Halloween Party, so you won’t find anything about that here.)
We visited after work last Thursday, since it was one of the only weekdays in October that Disneyland was open past 8 pm. (With all the other haunts we’ve been attending, we just didn’t have the time to go on a weekend.) The park was pretty full but not overwhelmingly crowded, with wait times for Haunted Mansion at about 30 minutes and Ghost Galaxy at 50 minutes. We started with Haunted Mansion Holiday.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
The attraction is pretty much the same as in previous years, with a few different details (such as an added effect across the moon in the Doombuggy loading area and a cool new Leota effect). There’s also a strong scent of gingerbread in the ballroom scene, and the gingerbread house is another winner this year. This is really one of our all-time favorite attractions at any theme park (anywhere), and it never disappoints. The holiday overlay is marvelous, and we hope that it comes back year after year.
Again, the same as last year. We had heard rumors earlier in the year that they might be adding some new effects, but that didn’t happen. We also wish they’d consider theming the queue to make it a bit more sinister (and also doing away with FastPass, but that’s a different discussion altogether). Nevertheless, it’s still a great attraction with some really cool effects (and a very good soundtrack). Last year, we visited during the day only, so experiencing the lighting effects on the outside was new for us this year. And it’s really pretty impressive.
As always, the decorations throughout the park are fun and evoke the spirit of Halloween. There’s just something so magical about Disneyland at nighttime, and Halloween Time only adds to that. Disneyland is truly the master and the standard by which all other theme parks are judged. We look forward to visiting again soon.
MiceChat has posted a great photo update and commentary on many of the Halloween offerings going on in Southern California right now. They’ve got photos from Disneyland, Knott’s, Six Flags, and the Empty Grave. Plus a list of other ongoing haunts in the area.
It also seems that down the road in Disneyland, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy is having a few “Event Horizon” issues with exploding flashbulbs in the on-ride photo section and a temperamental lift hill. Hopefully the spirits step back and will let Haunt Stalkers ride in peace instead of pieces.
During this weekend Halloween Timehas begun at Disneyland. Check out this video of Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxywhich is a great horror filled roller coaster ride for the season.
The Disneyland Resort offical press release describes ’Ghost Galaxy’ as:
For Halloween fun at Disneyland, guests will enjoy Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy in Tomorrowland. The experience begins as a typical Space Mountain adventure, but suddenly launches voyagers into a haunted section of the universe. Ghosts appear out of the starry darkness and swirling galaxies of Space Mountain, reaching out as if to grab guests as they speed through space. The exhilarating drops and curves of the journey are punctuated by piercing screams, creepy sound effects and haunting music.