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The latest in themed entertainment industry news…

Knott’s Scary Farm Reveals All Programming for 2016 During Season Passholder Event

This past week, Knott’s Berry Farm hosted a special event for its Season Passholders, lifting the veil and shedding light on every aspect of Scary Farm 2016 that fans can look forward to experiencing very soon!

Hosted by the always-exuberant Jeff Tucker, the Knott’s Scary Farm event was pure spectacle from beginning to end, starting with the massive Charles M. Schulz Theatre filling with fog before monsters of all shapes and sizes crept into the audience, snarling and lunging at excited guests and members of the media. A soundtrack of Scary Farm music from years and mazes past played loudly as some 2,000 fans – some who had waited more than 10 hours to be first in line – spilled into the theatre. Once everyone was in, lightning flashed, thunder boomed, and the show began.

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Frightful Attraction Design for Theme Park Audiences Brings Industry Legends to Midsummer Scream

Men in Black Alien Attack

Think about it: when you go to a theme park and get onto a ride, the response that comes next is usually either laughing or screaming. One of the most common elements used in theme park design is that of fright, or intensity. Very often, the formula for a theme park ride story is something normal suddenly taking an unexpected turn for the worst, resulting in chaos before there is any light-hearted resolution; its classic theme park attraction design 101.

When theme parks host annual Halloween events, many of them have temporary scare zones and haunted houses – also known as “mazes” – that guests walk through and experience. Whether they’re themed to a specific brand or intellectual property, or created from scratch with an original storyline, seasonal haunted attractions are created to scare the snot out of anyone daring enough to venture in. On the flip-side, when a theme park opts to spend millions of dollars on an attraction that is based on a frightening or supernatural-based story, designers are tasked with a very delicate balancing act – what is “scary enough” versus taking the experience too far, making it too intense for a large number of visitors.

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Hall of Shadows to Feature Full Scare Zone, Roaming Monsters, and 9 Haunted Attraction Previews at Midsummer Scream

MidsummerScreamLogoOne of the most exciting and unique components of Midsummer Scream – California’s premier Halloween, haunt and horror festival – will be its Hall of Shadows dark zone, featuring roaming monsters, entertainment, and 9 terrifying mini haunted attraction experiences.

Hall of Shadows will occupy more than one third of the Halloween festival’s 90,000 square-foot show floor this year, giving thousands of fans the opportunity to preview home and professional haunts each day, included with their admission to Midsummer Scream. In addition to the haunted attractions, those brave enough to venture into Hall of Shadows will experience a full-blown scare zone, Toxicity, high-energy performances by the Decayed Brigade slider team three times each day, and many terrifying monsters lurking in the fog, waiting to pounce!

FULL SCARE ZONE

Created by Larry Bones and his crew at Bone Yard Effects, Toxicity is an immersive experience set within the walls of a genetics lab that has suffered a toxic explosion that will leave guests screaming as they are attacked by twisted, mutated scientists from all sides. Bone Yard Effects creates the makeup applications and prosthetics each year for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Toxicity Creature Design

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Museum of Paranormal History to Materialize at Midsummer Scream

ghostMidsummer Scream, California’s premier Halloween, haunt and horror festival announces the Museum of Paranormal History, a unique collective of vendors, experts, authors, and local tour guides specializing in all things supernatural.

The Museum of Paranormal History will feature more than a dozen exhibitors on the show floor including Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum which will be showcasing their vintage Ouija boards, ParaXplorer Project, Dearly Departed Tours, Haunted Vegas Tours, Planet Paranormal known for their wide variety of fantastic radio talk shows, Orange County Ghosts and Legends tour and paranormal investigation group, and the Winchester Mystery House which will be featured in a major presentation on Sunday July 31 and will have actual pieces from the famous Northern California mansion on display – some for sale – at their booth. To ensure nothing gets out of hand, members of the Southland Ghostbusters cosplay group will be present throughout the weekend.

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Winchester Mystery House Coming to Midsummer Scream

Winchester Mystery HouseMidsummer Scream, Southern California’s premier Halloween, haunt and horror festival to be held July 30 – 31 at the Long Beach Convention Center, has unleashed a steady stream of announcements, from world-class theme park presentations to professional makeup demonstrations, and a massive show floor filled with artisans and vendors of the macabre. The most famous haunted house in California has now been added to the festival’s lineup; a storied mansion so legendary that its name is revered by fans and ghost hunters around the world… Winchester.

The Winchester Mystery House will be hosting an unprecedented 60-minute presentation and panel discussion on Sunday July 31 featuring rare photographs, never-before-seen footage and ghost stories from the sprawling 160-room Victorian mansion in the San Francisco Bay Area. WINCHESTER: California’s Original Haunted House will feature Walter Magnuson, General Manager Winchester Mystery House; Tim O’Day, Director of Communications for Winchester Mystery House; and Peter Overstreet, event producer of Winchester Mystery House’s all-new Halloween Candlelight Tours.

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Walking Dead Attraction a Solid Move for Universal Studios Hollywood

TWD attraction at USH - dateEarlier this week, Universal Studios Hollywood confirmed what fans have been speculating for a while – that a year-round attraction based on AMC’s blockbuster series The Walking Dead is close to opening at the Southern California theme park.

This is a major boon for haunt and horror fans in the region who lamented over the closure of Universal’s House of Horrors in summer 2014. House of Horrors was a year-round walk-through haunted attraction that featured such notable silver screen heavies as the Mummy, Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Norman Bates, and more. It’s closure and demolition was part of the unprecedented property-wide makeover that Universal Studios Hollywood is still undergoing in large to make way for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened last month.

For the past five years, The Walking Dead has been a featured intellectual property at Universal Studios Hollywood during its annual Halloween Horror Nights event, taking on every form from sprawling scare zone to intense mazes reflecting whichever season ended that spring. Over time, two very defined groups of fans have found their voice – those who are totally into The Walking Dead, and those who have had more than enough of it at Halloween Horror Nights. The latter group becomes more and more vocal online each season that Universal announces that The Walking Dead will be returning. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the show, and I’ve already figured that it’ll be part of HHN for at least a year after the show finally ends.

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Oingo Boingo Dance Party Announced as Headliner for Midsummer Scream’s Noche de los Muertos Bash

Oingo-Boingo-Dance-Party-MSSLet’s have a party, there’s a full moon in the sky! Midsummer Scream is thrilled to announce Oingo Boingo Dance Party will headline its Noche de los Muertos (Night of the Dead) celebration and costume contest at the Long Beach Convention Center Saturday evening July 30th, 2016.

Oingo Boingo Dance Party is comprised of former Oingo Boingo members Johnny Vatos, Steve Bartek, John Avila, Sam “Sluggo” Phipps, Carl Graves and Doug Lacy, along with a host of other wildly-talented musicians that keep the legacy of the iconic band alive and thriving for fans of multiple generations.

Known for their unique sound which includes explosive percussion, electrifying guitar riffs and a full horns section, Oingo Boingo’s extensive song catalogue includes Only a Lad, Little Girls, Weird Science, No One Lives Forever, and the venerable Dead Man’s Party. The band hosted Halloween shows in Irvine each year at the height of its popularity, with thousands of “Tender Lumplings” – the given nickname for their adoring fans – showing up in costumes and skeletal makeup, as the underlying thematic style of the group commonly centered around Dia de los Muertos.

“Oingo Boingo was synonymous with Halloween here in Southern California in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” said Rick West, Creative Director of Midsummer Scream. “What better way to launch our event than a concert featuring these legendary performers doing what they do best as Oingo Boingo Dance Party? To me, bringing these musicians and the haunt and horror community together under one roof is a no-brainer. They’re going to bring the house down!”

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Bone Yard Effects Bringing Alice in Terrorland and a Host of Horrific Creatures to Midsummer Scream

alice in terrorland logoVeteran special effects makeup artist Larry Bones and his world-class team of artists from Bone Yard Effects will turn a host of volunteers into savage creatures that will roam the show floor and Hall of Shadows during this summer’s Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival held July 30 – 31 at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Bones, whose film credits include Congo, Outbreak and Shallow Hal, will oversee the transformation of dozens of volunteers throughout the weekend to populate the entire Midsummer Scream venue, from the ominous Hall of Shadows to the vendor/exhibitor show floor and beyond. For the past 10 years, Larry has overseen the makeup needs for Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights.

“We are thrilled to have Larry as a creative partner,” said Claire Dunlap, Associate Producer of Midsummer Scream. “The enthusiasm he’s had for our event since the onset is infectious. At launch Larry committed his full support for which we are ecstatic. Having Bone Yard Effects with FX Faces at the helm of our most anticipated portion of the show floor creates excitement for our organization and the thousands of guest who’ll get to admire – and be terrorized by – his amazing talents. Larry is providing all that his creative genius has to offer and it is a win-win for everyone involved.”

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Knott’s Berry Farm Raises Over $130,000 in Fight Against Breast Cancer

2016 Knott's for the Cure Check Presentation

A huge kudos to the Berry Farm team for its 2016 Knott’s for the Cure effort, benefiting Susan G. Komen Orange County in the fight against breast cancer. This year, Knott’s Berry Farm raised $130,588 between January and March through its extensive campaign in Buena Park. Each year, the SoCal theme park does a heck of a job promoting breast cancer awareness – from selling pink-colored tickets and merchandise, to lighting up some of its iconic attractions in “breast cancer awareness pink”. Knott’s has done a stand-up job at not only calling attention to this cause – which we’re all responsible to shed light on – but putting their money where their mouth is and raising a lot of cash for the Susan G. Komen foundation.

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What an Excellent Day – The Exorcist Maze is Finally Coming to Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights

Exorcist at USH-HHN 2016Fans of Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights will tell you, John Murdy (Creative Director, HHN Hollywood) and Chris Williams (Art Director, HHN Hollywood) have wanted to land The Exorcist for a long time as an HHN maze property. At the same time, whenever the subject has been brought up in public, fans return the desire with enthusiastic cheers and applause. This week, that unholy wish has been granted, as Universal announced The Exorcist for both its California and Florida events.

In an interview I did with Chris Williams, he noted that the one IP he’s always wanted to have as a maze at Horror Nights is The Exorcist.

“I began entertaining that thought five or six years ago. I’m a very spiritual person,” explained Williams. “The more I thought about it, I would love to make it so scary on Saturday night, that you might find yourself sitting in church on Sunday morning!”

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