Missed Opportunities

Universal Studios Orlando is a theme park that rarely hosts movie and TV productions; Universal Studios Hollywood is a movie studio that also has a theme park. With this in mind, I don’t understand why Universal Studios Hollywood doesn’t take more advantage of one of their most significant assets: the backlot.

I’d love to have a scare zone or maze that takes place in the backlot streets. How cool would it be to walk through Back to the Future‘s clock tower square with downed helicopters, fires, and explosions, a big epic zombie movie on a scale never seen before at one of these haunted events? Instead, we get the same path through the same set of backlot sections every year. There is only so many ways you can redress the Bates motel or theme the War of the Worlds plane crash. And while we’re at it, stop it with the f’n scare actors with chainsaws right as you get off the tram. If Hollywood’s Horror Nights had a list of bad and overdone cliches, this would be up there.

Why isn’t The Wizarding World of Harry Potter open during the event? At first, I thought this might be a J.K. Rowling-imposed restriction, but Diagon Alley in Orlando is open during their Horror Nights event. How cool would it be to roam through Hogsmeade in eerie lighting and dense fog, dark wizard actors roaming around? They did this kind of production when I attended the premiere of Diagon Alley in Orlando and it was a very cool experience. Think about how much money they are losing out in Butterbeer sales! Also, the ride is quite scary and fitting of the event.

While the Simpsons land and ride is open during the event (and one of the only places to get hard alcohol during HHN so it’s packed with long lines), there is a giant missed opportunity here. There are nearly 30 seasons filled with fun iconic scenes to draw upon, yet all we get is the Treehouse of Horror theme music playing over the loudspeakers. Imagine if they did a Treehouse of Horror maze that put us into the most iconic episodes? They wouldn’t even have to be scary – it could just be a fun walk through. And if that’s not possible with the upcoming Fox merger, why not do what Disney does with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and have photo ops with the classic characters in Halloween costumes. I’d love a photo with Bart dressed as The Bartman! And while we’re at it, I know The Simpsons Ride uses very old technology, but really how hard would it be to do a Treehouse of Horror re-theme of the ride film for the Halloween season? It seems to me that Universal is really missing out here, as Disney has had great success with the Nightmare Before Christmas re-theme of Haunted Mansion and the Monsters After Dark re-theme of Mission Breakout.

Maybe they don’t want to involve The Simpsons or Harry Potter because they are concerned with the event attracting younger guests (although no one gave Universal Studios Japan that message). To that, I will note that this year, I saw a significantly younger audience. I saw a lot of teenagers, some younger kids, and some adults even had their toddlers (talk about bad parenting!). You could say this is the result of Halloween events just being on the rise, but I think it’s probably due to the inclusion of Stranger Things, which has a huge younger fanbase.

Another big thing missing from Hollywood’s Horror Nights as compared to Florida is the abundance of cool food and drinks. Sure, we both got the Stranger Things-inspired Waffle offerings, but it’s just not fair that Orlando gets fun things like Pizza Fries and unique drinks when we are just subjected to the same huge Simpsons donut at every freaking food cart and that one set of food trucks on the lower lot. There is a whole subgroup of Disneyland fanatics who just go to explore the new seasonal food offerings and I think Universal is really missing out on additional revenue by not offering more Horror Nights-only unique food and drink offerings.

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