Knott’s Scary Farm Impresses on First Night 2013

It’s hard to believe, but the gates have swung open at Knott’s Scary Farm for their 41st Annual Halloween Haunt event in Buena Park! As is customary, Theme Park Adventure was on hand, to capture images and yes, a First Night video, of the event to share with Halloween fans around the world! This year’s Haunt at Knott’s featured some tremendous new mazes as well as monsters that were more than ready to plunge fangs-first into the fog! This is not a review – those come soon enough – but more of our overall impression of Halloween Haunt 2013 as a whole…

IMG_2119_BWThis is Theme Park Adventure’s 19th year covering Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Scary Farm. You’d think after a while, attending and shooting opening night each season would become routine; perhaps even a bit mundane. However, as I walked through Knott’s just a day before it all began, I couldn’t help but feel excited – true fan excitement – when looking at the plethora of decorations and props strewn across all areas of the park. I fell in love with Halloween Haunt in the 1980s, and have continued to adore the event ever since, focusing the attention of TPA on it since 1994. We cover Knott’s with such fervor each season because we really care about Haunt and the people behind it. That said, as any hard core fans, when we like something a whole lot, we let that be known. And when we don’t like something a whole lot – we aren’t shy about sharing our thoughts, either. Our maze-by-maze reviews will be coming in the near future, and that is when we will divulge our opinions about each attraction.

IMG_1943I love the electricity in the air that is almost palpable at Warehouse P in the hours leading up to the beginning of Halloween Haunt each season. Warehouse P is in the backstage area of Knott’s Berry Farm, and is ground zero for Haunt operations such as Make-up and Wardrobe throughout the season. This is where the Haunt family gathers and transforms into hideous beasts and spiteful demons each evening. When it comes to opening night, there is no place we’d rather be than in the trenches, shooting imagery of the Haunt family preparing for the big moment. That is something I dearly love – the energy and level of excitement is awesome! Watching the make-up artists do their thing with such speed and agility is always impressive to me; they are fantastic and deserve high accolades. The artists that Knott’s employs to bring their army of undead to “life” are talented, and often go unrecognized when it comes to media reviews and coverage of the event. With that in mind, this year’s First Night video features a few opening shots of the artists first, before we add their creations into the mix. It’s brief, but intentional – we respect and pay tribute to the men and women of the Scary Farm’s Make-up team!

IMG_2037A DJ, hearse procession and small opening ceremony took place at dusk at the main entrance to Knott’s Berry Farm. While it was all very nice and fun, for me personally, the real story was brewing a hundred feet away in Ghost Town, as the biggest fans of Knott’s Scary Farm were already lined up after their Pre-Scare Dinner to be the first to experience Halloween Haunt 2013. As soon as we were able, that is where we took the TPA cameras immediately, to catch the fan-monster interaction and witness the true beginning of the Scary Farm’s run!

The Green Witch and Tricksters are still central characters to the Halloween Haunt storyline. While we personally aren’t that excited by the focus on them, we understand it and are pretty sure they’ll continue to be as long as Haunt features the Trick Or Treat maze, where this group of characters originate from. On opening night, only the Green Witch’s voice taunted guests and instructed her minion to terrorize them; it was fairly anti-climactic after last year’s really neat Witch appearance prior to opening. Thankfully, the moment was brief and the enthusiastic first group of fans was allowed to run into the fog of Calico as terrifying creatures sprang and gave chase! That very first moment of Haunt each year is as “magical” as it gets for this Halloween fan; I love it and love shooting it each season!

IMG_2306Knott’s Scary Farm is very strong this year, with a very solid showing literally right out of the gate. The talent is fired up (we were really impressed by opening night’s Endgames team – they were badass), the park looks fantastic, and the mazes have never been higher quality than they are now. The front of line Fright Lane with Skeleton Key upcharge incentive seems to be working nicely with fans, who get to “unlock” a bonus room in several of the Haunt’s mazes this season. We experienced several of the Skeleton Key rooms on opening night, although front of line access wasn’t necessarily needed. An irony that we did observe – on slow nights, those buying the Skeleton Key/Fright Lane ticket wait longer than the steady stream of guests walking into the mazes, since the bonus rooms are story/show beats and require a short wait per group.

As of this writing, we have not experienced Mirror Mirror as of yet. The queue for this maze is simply too long (and no, we did not have front of line passes on opening night to use). Even on slow nights, there will be a line for this, because of the nature of the attraction. You cannot have pulsed attractions like this without huge wait times; Knott’s knows this – or should – and in our opinion, this should not have been part of the general maze line-up this year. As much as I personally hate up-charge attractions, I feel that one of the ways to alleviate the wait time for Mirror Mirror would have been to deem it a “Skeleton Key Exclusive”. You know… “Unlock the mystery of Mirror Mirror only at Knott’s Halloween Haunt!” Something like Mirror Mirror (a traditional mirror maze with some monsters thrown in for good measure) simply cannot handle the 30,000+ people that attend the Scary Farm on most nights; there’s no way. Our advice to everyone – go immediately to Mirror Mirror when the event begins. Otherwise, you will be spending a large chunk of time waiting to experience this maze later in the evening.

Theme Park Adventure did experience Trapped. However, we have agreed to not review or comment on it until after the event is over. Other media has already aired their opinions and thoughts; we are honoring our agreement with Knott’s (don’t know what other media agreed or didn’t agree to) and so, please know that we cannot and will not comment on it until our post-Haunt review this year.

IMG_2316Overall, the talent park-wide at Knott’s Scary Farm on opening night was fantastic. It felt right. It felt like Halloween Haunt. Some years, Knott’s take a few nights to start firing on all cylinders; not the case this season. It likely has to do with haunters being more engaged and sophisticated these days by preparing and staying enthused year-round, and it definitely is a result of Scare School, which each maze team goes through prior to the beginning of the event. Kudos to every single monster we encountered on opening night – great job, all the way around!

During opening night, we did not see any shows. We are so busy shooting footage elsewhere for our First Night videos that we do not have time to check out the entertainment; that will come sooner than later for us and we’ll be writing about what we saw and think!

Enough ramble; if you’ve made it this far without skipping ahead to our amazing photo gallery of First Night 2013, you deserve a skull badge! Knott’s Scary Farm is a MUST-SEE event this year, and is the strongest it’s been in years. Huge props to everyone working Haunt, from management and designers to monsters, Line Control, Marketing, and Human Resources – a massive undertaking that is now off and running for the 41st time – and it’s never looked better! See you in the fog!

Did you visit Knott’s Scary Farm 2013? Questions? Comments? Sound off below!

– Rick West

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