OutFoxed: Exploring the Effects of the Disney-Fox Acquisition

The Simpsons predicted it nearly twenty years ago, but it’s now a reality. Last week Comcast (parent company to NBC Universal) conceded victory to The Walt Disney Company for the acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox. This bidding war has been closely followed over the months, however, the war has ended and to the victor go the spoils. Today, shareholders approved the acquisition. While the broadcast channel, news, and sports will be absorbed by NewsCorp, most of the Cable/TV, Hulu, and cinema IPs will now be owned by Mickey Mouse including American Horror StoryX-MenFamily Guy, Alien, Halloween, and Deadpool, several cable/satellite channels, and more. While Disney theme park enthusiasts and MCU fanboys and girls out there are, by in large, celebrating this news, there is a lot more at stake that may alter the landscape of cinema and theme parks. Furthermore, the recent AT&T-TimeWarner and Disney-Fox deals may affect the rate at which independent filmmakers can secure distribution for their films or sell/option screenplays to producers. The world of media and entertainment is rapidly changing, but all these changes may not be for the betterment of society.

It’s not everyday that a major news story falls within my niche area of expertise on media conglomerates with major investments in themed entertainment and cinema, but this is definitely one that does. During graduate school at the preeminent University of South Florida, I studied the convergence of cinema and theme parks. This empirical study (available on Amazon) analyzed the relationship between motion pictures and theme parks/attractions as it pertained to the media holdings companies that make decisions that affect both their theme park and cinema divisions. A predictable model for creative design was produced for companies that have investments in both, are the licenser, or the licensee. Although my areas of expertise on theme park and cinema studies can be pulled on often when talking about one and/or the other, this story gets to the heart of my thesis because we are dealing with not only two, but three companies. Three? Yes. Disney and Fox are obvious, but NBC Universal may also be effected since it licenses Marvel (X-Men and Fantastic 4) and Fox (American Horror Story, Simpsons, and more) IPs for its parks. Spiderman belongs to Sony, but we won’t get that deep into this issue. With lots of IPs moving ownership and with a mostly vertically integrated company absorbing a more horizontally integrated company, there are positive and negative effects that concern producers, screenwriters, attraction designers, and others in motion picture, “television,” live entertainment, and theme parks. And not only those of us who work in showbusiness (live themed/family entertainment, here), but the fans too.

Corporate monopoly is the enemy of creativity and variety. This deal, which is one of the biggest film/media deals ever, has far reaching effects upon the industry. Some may even argue that it has danger written all over it. If there wasn’t already a rigid oligopoly amongst the studio/distribution companies, there will be now. The lion’s share of the cinematic marketplace is now controlled by Disney, TimeWarner (Warner Bros.), and Comcast (Universal), with Sony (Columbia) and Viacom (Paramount) bringing up the rear. Five. That’s right. Five companies essentially determine the future of the industry, and control the majority of the motion pictures released in theaters and the content on cable television (and the streaming services that access it). It’s a mirror image of the 1940s. Instead of The Big Five and The Little Three, we have The BIG Three and the Little Two. In the mid-20th century when the U.S. government cited anti-trust issues with the vertically structured Hollywood entertainment business model, the forced the studios to divest themselves of movie theatres, longterm talent contracts, and more in order to level the playing field for competition and creativity to thrive. The decision to end the process of being vertically integrated is known as The Paramount Decision (U.S. vs Paramount Pictures, 1948). From the big screen to the small screen, from screen to theme park, you will notice the effects of this merger. When one company controls the majority of any marketplace, it usually spells disaster for the consumer; furthermore, it means that there will be a primary gatekeeper in future artists getting his or her work out there.

Let’s explore The Paramount Decision [(U.S. V. PARAMOUNT PICTURES, INC., 334 U.S. 131 (1948)] a little more. Firstly, prior to the Paramount Decision, the motion picture industry was controlled by a few companies. Secondly, the studio owned the facilities, production companies, staff (under long-term contracts), the films themselves, distribution channels, and the movie theaters. When the studios were growing so large that they began infringing upon the free marketplace, the US Government forced the (then) eight major/minor studio players to end the practice of block booking (meaning, films would now be sold on an individual basis), divest themselves of their respective theatre chains (sell them off), and modify the practice of long-term employee contracts (though, this would continue until the 1960s). This marked the beginning of the end of the Studio System, AKA Hollywood’s decentralization. There are many similarities between the situation in the late 1940s and today. In fact, it’s a little worse today because the industry is mostly controlled by five (instead of eight) companies, and these companies have heavy investments in streaming and television programming.

Essentially, the number of gatekeepers is shrinking. The streaming service landscape is also changing because Disney’s acquisition of Fox means that Disney now has the controlling share of the streaming giant Hulu. It’s entirely probable that independent production companies and filmmakers will find it more difficult to get their content out to the public on a well-known platform. Fortunately, Amazon still allows for self-publication but Disney’s control of Hulu will probably see fewer indie films added in the future. The media conglomerates are growing so large that if you’re not in their circle, it will be increasingly difficult to secure a distribution deal for theatrical or streaming. For many, it will feel like there are only 2-3 primary companies controlling the majority of programming on TV and a few more companies controlling a large portion of the movies that get released in movie theaters. Independent filmmakers will have to hustle and work exponentially smarter to navigate the film marketplace. It may get to the point that theatrical releases are no longer realistic or viable for small to medium sized companies because of the stiff competition for the few massive media giants pumping out blockbuster after blockbuster. Conventions like the American Film Market and companies like Distribber will become even more important for indie filmmakers.

The problem with the current state of capitalism in the United States isn’t worries of monopolies but oligopolies (monopolistic practices between a few firms that essentially control a market). Certainly the state of the film industry already lends itself to an oligopoly because of the few companies; but the buyout of 21st Century Fox by The Walt Disney Company greatly increases this issue of a blatant oligopoly. If a monopolist (in many other industries) did what Disney has done, neither the public nor the government would stand for it; but because it’s Disney, and because it’s the film industry, most of the general public is unaware of the negative consequences of such a buyout and therefore only focus on the X-Men being added to the MCU and the trademark trumpet fanfare preceding the opening title sequence of the Star Wars movies once again. Technically speaking, oligopolies are not illegal nor is monopolistic competition; however, this can be a slippery slope towards stifling creativity or making it increasingly difficult to break into any given industry as a newly emerging competitor. Incidentally, monopolistic competition causes the variety or level of differentiation of similar products (i.e. moves and TV shows) to become less heterogeneous and nearly come across as homogenous.

When a strong oligopoly exists within a specialized industry (for our purposes, media & entertainment), one of the side effects is a concept known as parallel exclusion. This concept can be described as the collective efforts of the few industry leaders who essentially act as the main gatekeepers to prevent or make it difficult for would-be newcomers to enter the arena. Parallel exclusion is nothing new, and has been in the news as recently as the last 2-3 decades within the airline and credit card industries. Throughout the eighties and nineties, Visa and MasterCard essentially blacklisted any bank that set out to do business with AmEx. Thankfully, the U.S. Justice Department stepped in when the manner in which the exclusionary rules were written crossed legal, fair trade boundaries. There were similar issues within the airline industry as well. When a few companies control the content or services in the marketplace, antitrust issues are raised

Although we are not technically facing a monopoly with the Disney-Fox acquisition, we are looking at an abuse of power that may lead to anticompetitive conduct. If nothing else, the consumer should be worried about having fewer options for programming. Not that the number of programs or movies will shrink, but there will be little difference between what is released under the Disney banner and the Fox name (if it’s still even called that). In a deal like this, it’s the consumer who gets the short end of the stick. Examples of this may be found in future Simpsons and Family Guy episodes. One of the consistently running lines of jokes are at the expense of The Walt Disney Company. Jabs at Disney can also be found in Deadpool. It will not surprise me that the humor of Simpsons, Family Guy, and Deadpool will change to no longer include jokes at the expense of the hand that now feeds them. If, through contract negotiations, shows and movies like these moved to a different company, then the humor that we have come to know and love may largely be unaffected. As it stands, we will likely see fewer (if any at all) Disney jokes in the aforementioned. These are just examples of the larger problem a few companies controlling the majority of media and entertainment content. The consumer would be wise to the possibility of a lack of competition between brands thus mitigating innovation, variety, and creativity. Innovation is often the product of healthy competition in a free marketplace just as necessity is the mother of invention.

Because the Walt Disney Company is primarily focussed on producing the biggest movies possible (after all, they made the majority of the highest grossing films last year and this), the mid-budget dramas and comedies that used to thrive in Hollywood–you know, the ones that cause you to cry and laugh–could dwindle in number–there now may be little room for them to make their respective ways into theaters with Disney controlling a significant percentage of the industry. Of course, Disney is not alone. With the recent acquisition of TimeWarner by AT&T, both Disney and AT&T are now at the top of the food chain, followed closely by Comcast and then the rest of the media companies who are small in comparison. What we are essentially talking about here are entertainment corporate monoliths, the likes of which, have never been seen before. There is one key difference in the Disney-Fox and AT&T-TimeWarner deals, and one that gives AT&T a slight advantage over Disney and deeper pockets. Disney does not own the hardware in the ground that serves as the conduit for your internet service provider (or ISP) but AT&T does. Not only does AT&T control a huge share of the media/entertainment marketplace, but it also owns a significant share of the technology that brings entertainment content to your home and mobile devices including cable, satellite services, and wireless services. Issues of net neutrality are more important now than ever because the pool of competition is shrinking in number but growing in sheer size.

Cinema and TV are not the only arms of the media and entertainment industry that will feel the effects. Major theme parks, the cash cows of media conglomerates, will change as well. How exactly is this deal going to effect the theme park industry? The short answer is, it is too early to tell; however, we can explore this topic nevertheless. If you’ve been to Universal Orlando resort, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that Marvel and the X-Men have an entire island AND the Simpsons is a land in and of itself. While I am not aware of the license agreement details with both IPs, I can tell you that typically if the ownership of an IP changes hands during the lifetime of license agreement, the agreement is grandfathered in for the length of time that is left in the contract. There are sometimes caveats to that. Often a company that holds the license (for purposes of our example)–a license that belongs to someone different than the original licenser–for a theme park attraction, the licensee cannot make any significant modifications to the look, add to the established attractions, or allow the image to fall into disrepair. If significant changes are made to the look or if the attraction falls into disrepair or if additions are made under the old agreement without consent from the new licenser, the agreement could be nullified. There is a lot more to copyright and IP law than what I’ve outlined, but I wanted to hit some main points on this issue but keep it as simplified as possible. Universal Parks may have to rebrand existing Marvel and Fox attractions as another IP within its library or license an IP from Paramount, MGM, Sony, or another media conglomerate. Presently, the licensing agreement between Universal and now Disney-Fox (Marvel, etc), should stand for now. Regarding the addition of new IPs as replacements, fortunately, DreamWorks and Nintendo give NBC-Universal plenty of latitude for creativity.

Suffice it to say, it is reasonable to conclude that Universal Parks will have to eventually remove the Marvel and Fox properties from the parks because not being able to significantly modify or add to the offerings will become too burdensome. Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights will likely also see some changes in the future because it may become more difficult to license Fox properties for houses and scare zones as Universal and Disney are direct competitors in themed entertainment. This includes American Horror Story, Alien, Predator, and Halloween. In terms of how Disney parks will benefit after this deal, the theme park division will save money on Pandora: the World of Avatar because it will no longer need to be licensed from Fox because Disney now owns the Avatar movies. Eventually, a significant Marvel presence will be felt at Disney World and any loose ends in the ownership of Star Wars will be nullified because Disney now owns the original trilogy, and not just the distribution rights. The ability to enjoy shadow casts of the iconic cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show may also be effected because it is not unrealistic to think that Disney may crack down on RHPS troops around the country or make the licensing fees so high that many troops may not be able to afford to continue with the live performances. These weekly or monthly performances of troops around the country are an important part of the visual and performing arts. Speaking of which, if you’re in the Orlando area, checkout the Rich Weirdos at Universal Studios CityWalk and if you’re in Tampa, checkout Hell on Heels at the Villagio Cinema and Bar.

While the full effects of the recent mega media deals won’t be felt for a while, it is important to be aware of how acquisitions can effect cinema, TV, theme parks, and independent filmmakers. Corporate oligopoly is a slippery slope that can lead to anticompetitive conduct, fewer options, and become the enemy of creativity and variety.

Review of Halloween Horror Nights XXVII at Universal Orlando

“Here’s Johnny!” Experience some of your favorite horror films and television shows as Halloween Horror Nights 27 (HHN27) at Universal Studios Florida showcases the iconic and contemporary in one terrifyingly fantastic celebration of the macabre. Be sure to catch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure‘s final tour as they riff pop culture and relive some of the best moments in the popular comedy show for the last time. This year’s houses include a selection of movie-based houses and original concepts; furthermore, be sure to visit the scare zones as well! The movie or TV-based houses are: The Shining as the big headliner this year, American Horror Story (Asylum, Coven,  & Roanoke), Saw, The Horrors of Blumhouse, and Ash v. Evil Dead; the original IPs are: The FallenDead WaterScarecrow: the Reaping, & Hive. You’ll also find scare zones featuring familiar elements and scenes from The Purge and Trick’r Treat in the lineup as well as a nod to classic alien films from the 1930s-50s. From several park guests, the general consensus was that this year was solid, offered precisely what most were looking for and successfully brought nightmares to life.

For the full review, please visit Thrillz!

You Don’t Stand a Chance: Universal Orlando’s “Halloween Horror Nights 26” review

hhn26logoA dynamic range of houses and horrifying encounters! Of all the Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) over the last few years, this year could likely be my favorite. From the houses based on familiar IPs to the original concepts, there is something for everyone as HHN turns 26. Even the wildly popular and iconic Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure was refreshingly funny this year. Although HHN has the reputation for being an event at which it’s nearly impossible to experience all the houses and the Bill and Ted Show in one evening, I’ve concluded that if you arrive at open and remain until 2am that you CAN make it to all the experiences on a typical crowd night. Unfortunately, my friends and I lacked three houses to complete them all since we arrived at 9pm; but two of those three were not ones that I was planning on experiencing anyway. Since I pay for annual passes to Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens, and SeaWorld, I do not opt for the frequent fear pass that Universal Orlando img_6981offers for multiple visits to the celebration of the macabre, so I try to do as much as I can in one night. And this year, I am quite pleased with what I was able to accomplish during my time at one of the areas two best Halloween events (the other being Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay). If you haven’t been to HHN (or HOS) this year, there is still a couple of weeks to visit Universal Orlando or Busch Gardens and experience some outstanding scares, irreverently funny shows, and special times with friends.

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stage19One of my favorite parts of the seasonal Halloween events at the theme parks is experiencing the transformation from daytime operations to Halloween. From the music to the lighting, the very atmosphere of the park sets the mood to be scared. Another personal favorite experience at HHN specifically is witnessing the uncanny (that which should remain hidden but reveals itself) by venturing behind the scenes of the park and entering sound stages that used to house television productions and former attractions. The two most nostalgic and uncanny memories from last night is walking through American Horror Story in Stage 19 and Krampus. If you’re a long-time visitor to Universal Orlando or simply a theme park enthusiast, you might recognize why Stage 19 would be nostalgic. Stages 18 and 19 are where Nick was made! Soundstages 18 and 19, along with 17 as part of the Universal Studios Florida studios tour and 21 leased occasionally, were the home of Nickelodeon Studios in the 1980s-90s (minimally in the early 2000s). I love the juxtaposition between the classic Nick shows that were produced there against the present haunted houses. The Krampus haunted house is located in the former Alfred Hitchcock soundstage that was part of the Hitchcock: the Art of Making Movies attraction until 2002. I had not been in that stage since before the iconic opening day attraction closed its doors to make way for Shrek 4D. While walking through Krampus, I couldn’t help by wonder if we were standing where the Bates House, Motel, or infamous shower used to be.

img_7009-1The first house that my friends Derek, Adrianne, and I experienced was Krampus. With only a 30min wait, it was definitely a great way to begin the evening since the parking garage was a complete cluster (not one parking attendant was to be found in the garages). Located within the former Hitchcock Stage, Krampus is an impressive translation from screen to live experience. Since my research area and peer-reviewed publications are on the topic of experiential storytelling and film/theme park convergence, this is an element to which I pay particular attention. Doesn’t mean that I don’t concurrently enjoy the entertainment value of the house, but I am always looking around to see if I can get a glimpse of the magic behind the experience. Since we are four weeks into HHN, there’s a good bet that many of you have experienced the house, but I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who have not. Upon entering the soundstage, the skies grow dark, the wind howls, and the snow blows across your face as you enter the stately home from the movie Krampus. Each and every room depicts an event from the movie. From the sinister jack-in-the-box to the demented gingerbread men, you will encounter nearly all the creatures from the movie. And yes, Krampus himself makes appearances here and there. Probably the most surprising effect in the house was the smell of gingerbread when walking through the kitchen–truly felt like an immersive experience. Just like I loved the contrast between horror and holiday cheer in the movie, I equally loved the juxtaposition of a house all decorated for the “most wonderful time of the year” located within a brilliant Halloween event.

img_6994-1After experiencing Universal’s ‘nightmare’ before Christmas, we were left with deciding what to do next. Since we wanted to hit the 12:00 Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, we needed to choose something in the mean time. It was at that time, that we began to experience some light rain. With the queue for American Horror Story down to a 60-minute wait time–all indoors, we could easily hit that house and then the show. On the way to the house, we stoped for a pretzel and churro (salty and sweet). I was excited that the AHS house was located in the old Nickelodeon soundstage. What makes the AHS house unique, is the fact that it’s really three houses in one. The seasons of the series that the house covers is “Murder House,” “Freak Show,” and “Hotel.” Instead of combining elements from each of them into one house, Universal Creative made the decision to separate them. I was impressed with the character performers selected to bring such characters to life. Those selected to play Kathy Bates and Lady Gaga’s respective characters were ‘dead’ ringers for the leading ladies. If you’re scared of clowns, this house is definitely not for you because you are going to encounter Twisty on more than one occasion. There are a few entire scenes from the show that are recreated for the house. John Hammond would be proud of this house because in bringing the three seasons to life, Universal “spared no expense.” I am definitely looking forward to the next AHS house as I image that Universal will bring it back next year. Perhaps we will get “Asylum” and “Coven” (arguably the favorite of most of the fans of the series) in the next house for HHN 27, and the most recent “Roanoke” combined with whatever season 7 is or HHN 28.

img_7007Following two exceptional haunted houses, it was time for some laughs! One of the highlights of my HHN experience every year is the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure because it often does a great job of commenting on pop-culture, parodying crowd favorite movies and tv shows, and socio-political satire. Not for the kids that are at HHN, this show is about as offensive and irreverent as they come–it’s brilliant! Usually, anyway. Honestly, I did not care for last year’s show at all. Knowing that the last couple of years have seen the show go downhill in terms of the cleverness of the writing, I did not have high expectations; however, I knew I would laugh and sometimes that’s all that matters. To my pleasant surprise, the show this year was outstanding (most of it anyway). The first 2/3 of the show were filled with witty jokes, facetious behavior, and brilliant one-liners. The overall plot was to figure out Rylo-Ken’s (a parody of Kylo Ren from The Force Awakens) plan to take over the world. Over the course of the more than 30-minute show, the audience encounters pop-culture icons such as Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones), Chewbacca Mom, a Pokemon GO trainer, 11 (Stranger Things), and even Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Of course, no Bill and Ted show would be complete without throwing shade on and jabs at Disney World. There is even a joke at the end (a hand gesture) that only true fans of the Disney Parks would get. Unlike previous years, this year’s show had a coherent plot until the showdown consisting of an “Ultimate Versus” that was pretty much just a cluster of most of the cameos from the show in a Captain America: Civil War tarmac battle that resembles a reimagined Super Smash Bros. meets Mortal Kombat battle scene. I find shows that push the envelope–even if right off the counter–in the theme park settings to be some of my favorites. Shows like these are typically open to adding and striking jokes as pop-culture shifts its focus. You’ll find some political jabs that came out of news from just a couple weeks ago in the show. Strong writing is important even in an irreverent comedy. This year’s Bill and Ted contains mostly solid writing and slapstick antics sure to entertain! Other than reworking the showdown, the img_7008only element of the show I would change would be the pre-show funny videos taken directly from YouTube. Yes, some of them are funny; but they are also videos that many in the audience have already seen. I think a better idea would be to have a camera operator follow some of the preparations during construction and rehearsal and cut together a gag or outtake reel. That would be funny and something that you couldn’t get online.

tombNext, it was time to go on an expedition to uncover some dark secrets that ancient civilizations kept in Tomb of the Ancients. An original IP for Universal Orlando this year, Tomb was probably the most impressive house as far as production design. While many, if not most, guests are at HHN for the film/tv IP houses–and to a great extent, so am I–I really enjoy and look forward to the original concepts designed by Universal Creative’s HHN teams. There are themes and elements taken from ancient civilizations an cultures such as Egyptian, Mayan, Incan, Cambodian, and more. After analyzing all the houses I experienced, I am left with the conclusion that Tomb was the most immersive out of all the houses. While walking through Tomb, I made a very interesting observation. It’s an observation that only those who have been to both HHN and HOS could pick up on. Since Busch Gardens cannot compete with Universal on production design, over all, they learned how to perfect the ‘scare.’ One of the methods for scaring guests is false walls, windows, mirror, etc that drop with a loud bang and a scare-actor jumps out. In film terms, this is the classic jump scare. Not having experience every original IP house HHN has done in the past, I cannot say for sure that this concept is new, but I definitely noticed it this time. Just like Busch probably borrows ideas from Universal, this is a great example of how Universal has borrowed from the Busch’s HOS houses.

exorcistLeaving archeological excavations, it was time to head to Maryland. To the home of Regan MacNeil. That’s right. The Exorcist. It is the first time HHN had themed a house based on the iconic cult horror classic. Spinning head, pea soup, Holy Water and all. You’ll come face-to-face with one of the most terrifying horror films of all time. Universal has always done a remarkable job with the forced perspective of its facades. It really feels like walking off the street into the MacNeil house. One of the most interesting aspects to the production design of this house is the practical ceiling. In most haunted houses, the illusion can be ruined by simply looking up and staring at the trusses and air ducts above in the soundstage. Not true with The Exorcist. Through much of the house, if you look up, you’ll see a practical ceiling. This adds to the claustrophobic feel of the house. Other than spending time in at the excavation site, foyer, living room, and other common areas, the majority of the house takes place within Regan’s room (much like with the movie itself). The park guests walk through multiple rooms depicting, in sequence, the events of Regan’s possession and exorcism by the priest. There aren’t too many jump scares in this house. Regan pops out at you each time you walk from one room to the next. But, what’s great about this house is how real it felt. Universal did an excellent job recreating the most notable scenes from the movie and translating it into a live experience.

ghosttownWho would’ve known that the MacNeils lived next door to a ghost town. Another HHN original IP is Ghost Town. Taking a classic haunted house approach, Ghost Town puts park guest in the middle of an old gold mining ghost town that looks as though it stepped right off the screen of an old-timy western. Kind of reminded me of the western sequence from Hollywood Studios‘ The Great Movie Ride. Instead of a bank robbery, you encounter sinister apparitions of gold miners, bar maids, and there’s even a hangin’. Although this house takes a more traditional approach to scaring park guests, it’s not for the timid as there are a great many disturbing images and experiences in this house. Unlike the other houses this year (at least the ones that I experienced personally), this house comes complete with scare-actors in the rafters above. After you are startled by a ranch hand grabbing at you from above, your senses will be greatly heightened because you have to not only worry about what’s around the next corner but what is also lurking above.

img_7021-1The final house I was able to experience this weekend was Halloween II. HHN offered the Halloween I house two years ago, and much like how the sequel (film) picks up right where Halloween I left off, this house picks up right where the previous one left guests. No real surprises in this house. It is pretty well straight forward and includes all that is expected of a house paying tribute to the iconic Michael Myers. From the closet to the hospital, Michael is everywhere. Sometimes everywhere a little too much. There are definitely times that he appears in two separate places in the same room which impacts the believability of the scares. Pretty sure I saw two Michaels standing close to one another at some point. The quality of the house is on par with most of HHN’s houses, and put you right in the middle of the hospital. Much like with the Exorcist house, this one also walks you through and depicts the various kills in the movie. My favorite part of the house comes at the very end, but I won’t spoil it for those who have not been through it.

img_7019Beyond the houses and Bill and Ted show, HHN also offers guests the opportunity to walk through various scare zones. These are areas that typically contain themed scare-actors, music, and minimal production design. Most of the ambiance is created through lights and sound. And of course fog! Conspicuously missing from the scare zones this year is The Purge. Earlier in the summer following the Pulse massacre, it was announced that The Purge was going to be removed from the HHN offerings as either a house or scare zone. The massacre at Pulse had a profound affect upon HHN. One of the observations I made about this year is the lack of death and violence. For the most part, there was very little murder, dismemberment, and seldom a showing of the glorification of violence. Compared past years, this year was quite tame. Although there could be multiple reasons for the mitigation of violent acts, it is most likely related to the tragedy that affects not only the community but team members at Universal Orlando. Just goes to show that there is not need for explicit violence in order to create an outstanding celebration of the macabre during the Halloween season.

img_6989Not having experienced The Walking DeadLunatics Playground 3D, or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I am unable to provide any feedback on or analysis of those houses; but, friends of mine that have experienced them tell me that they are excellent as well. Although Texas Chainsaw has been part of HHN in the past, this year is difference because it is based on the original 1974 Tobe Hooper film instead of the 2003 remake produced by Michael Bay. With the wild success of Netflix’ Stranger Things, it would not surprise me if we see that as a scare zone or haunted house next year. Twenty-six years in, HHN is still going strong. Still debating on whether to attend HHN or HOS this year? Debate no more because both events are fantastic. Want to experience your favorite horror movies and TV shows? Then HHN 26 is your destination. You’ll definitely enjoy all that is offered to the guests this Halloween Season.

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