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HHN 22: Employee Preview (9/19/2012)

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I had my first EP last night. I didn’t expect to go - I got admission like an hour before the event was scheduled to start. As such, I had no pre-conceived notions.

Yes, the crowds and crowding were absolutely horrible. However, as someone rightly reminded me – no rides, only a couple of restaurants, pretty much no stores, and just a handful of bars (which made each individual line a nightmare). There were some absolutely terrifying clusterfudges I ran into. And yet, with nothing else to soak up the crowds, I guess that would be pretty well expected. The aforementioned will be open and operational as of tomorrow.

I didn’t really expect a lot from the rehearsal, but as others have said, there was some really good energy from the actors, even given the terrible conditions they had to work in. And I frankly had a huge amount of fun interacting with actors and fans I’ve encountered from previous years.

I know several people who have gone many times, and did say the event was much worse than other years; again, I have no basis for comparison, but I would give credence to their concerns. But while I guess I’m being a Pollyanna again, this didn’t significantly impact my high hopes for the event we are to see. Other than the “Single Circle around the Park” (total pain in my bum), I don’t think I ran into anything that couldn’t be tweaked up (or majorly repaired) over the next couple of weeks. And that seems to happen every year anyway. Okay, sometimes they tweak down :P, but that’s the exception.

And yes, I think Gothic is absolutely beautiful.

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So I was lucky enough to attend my first EP eventhough this is my 9th HHN. I'll try to leave this as spoiler free as possible, but i'm sure a couple may slip here and there. We were lucky enough to be the few to "test" the express passes and employees working express, so I was able to see all the houses but skipped the shows as I had to be working by 7 AM this morning. Remember, this was an EP and felt that way..things will certainly change.

First, we arrived at the gates right at 7 to find the typical clusterf*** trying to go through security. This year seemed even slower than others and I would say it took us a solid 20-30 minutes before we were through the detectors. The outside contracted security staff clearly showed no urgency. I went through and beeped- despite the only piece of metal on me was the clasp on my leather belt. This was causing basically everyone to get "wanded."

THE HOUSES:

House of Horrors- This house felt unfinished, plain and simple. The scareactors have little to work with and the costumes kind've all ended up looking the same. The dead exposure black and white style just seemed inconsistent. My least favorite house of the night by far. The "hallway" is very uneventful and quite frankly, just kind've annoying if you are over 5'10.

Alice Cooper: Welcome to my Nightmare- I had very little expectations of this house coming into it, but I have to say I left with a big smile. The sets are well done, scareactors were on points, and this house seems like it was consistently have the shortest waits throughout the event. The final room is awesome and the strobes set up for some really cool scares. I see it being a sleeper hit of the year.

Penn and Teller Nuk(d) Veges- Never been a big fan of 3d houses. So its tough for me to like this one. It was just kind've decent all around the board. My 2nd least favorite house of the night. I can see where they may have a Penn & Teller cameo appearance in the finale...

AMCs The Walking Dead- Never really watched the series, but this was really a good house. I imagine for Walking Dead fans, this will be an all time HHN favorite. Probably the best set design and layout I have ever seen in the Earthquake queue.

Dead End- I was absolutely blown away by this house. In my opinion, this is the best set design I have seen since Ghost Town in '04 or Screamhouse in '02. Not only are the set designs great, the scares and scareactors are just as good. There was one room where I counted 4 separate scares on my group alone, 4! The house just kept seem to keep going and going.. By far my favorite house of the night and can't wait to see where it will rank in my top 10 by the end of the year.

Gothic- Just as I expected, very very good sets in this house. Some also very neat creative ideas. I was unimpressed by the gargoyle costumes and the house just felt empty to me. I can see this house getting better as the event goes on, but I can't ever see it being great for scares. Good, but felt like something was missing.

Silent Hill- Probably my most anticipated house of the night and I was let down. The movie is not good, but has some stunning visuals that I pictured for a fantatic house. I barely saw any ash falling and the darkness siren needs to be much more omnipotent (I think I heard it twice for about 5 seconds). I can see it getting better throughout the event, but I just feel like they missed such a great opportunity here.

THE STREETS- This was a huge failure. Only the female chainsaw gang felt like a horde. The rest was just like monsters you would see scattered around basically just walking by you. For this idea to be executed properly, they really needed to flood the streets with actors. Seemed like there was only 6 or so guys in each herd.

My house rankings for EP night:

1-Dead End

2-The Walking Dead

3-Alice Cooper

4-Gothic

5-Silent Hill

6-Penn and Tell

7-House of Horrors

Edited by HHN Vet
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You pretty well summed up my feelings, only I didn't see P&T or Dead End. I loved Gothic and would have it where you have Dead End.

Great review.

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So if we all said last night was amazing would everyone be happy? I dunno about you guys but when I go to a rehersal its usually ones for what the final product is. I understand we tend to read in whatever tone we give things and weskers caps and quotations doesn't help. I just see the actual event being much different than what I experienced last night and I dare someone to tell me to stay home cause I didn't like the long lines. How immature of a response is that? If lines were long with a fraction of the guest imagine at full capacity! I even stated it may be due to no rides being open.

All I can do is give my first hand opinion from being there. And it seems us who were there share the similar conclusion. That's not a coincidence.

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After reading these reviews and comments, I just have to wonder if you guys really understand how lucky you are to even be able to go to an event of this scale. For the price, the quality and variety you get is so far beyond what people can even hope to get in other parts of the country.

Was it a bad EP? Sounds like it. But as others were mentioned, the park was not running at full capacity, and this was a test evening. If 60-75 minute lines is too much for you, then that tells me you have not gone to other haunts. Try paying 20-30 bucks per person for just a single, non-themed, ten minute house with a 60-120 minute wait, combined with little to no other activities, and see how bad this looks after that. Basing the outcome of the entire event from a single night that isn't even fully operational just feels a bit premature to me.

I'm by no means saying your opinions aren't valid or worthwhile, I'm just asking you to have a little perspective here. Even if there was nothing on the streets, you're still getting a lot more than a lot of other people.

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Last night was the 4th employee preview that I've attended so I knew what to expect out of it. Working at Universal, I'm used to dress rehearsals and ironing out the details of things. I expect clusterf***'s and chaos. With that said, I'm in agreeance that last night was the worst employee preview that I've attended. Unlike a few others here, it had nothing to do with wait times but more to do with how situations were handled and the way information was distributed.

For example, I started my night at House of Horrors, a house which was set to open at 7:30. Around 7:50 when the house still wasn't opened I kindly asked the greeter when she should expect the house to open and if she had any information about what was going on. She just looked at me and said, "I don't know, I don't have a radio." and went back to chatting up someone else. To me, that was a totally unacceptable way to handle the situation. Personally, I would never say that to a guest employee or not. Later on during the night at the soundstage houses there came a point where all three went down for a fire drill. I was in line for Dead End at the time and when I asked when it was possible that it might open again I was told, "I don't know. Not tonight." And again, was promptly ignored. To me it seemed like there were a lot more difficulties than previous EP's and that the staff were either nonexistent or simply didn't know any information. It also seemed to me that a lot of (if not all...) of the houses and streets were half-staffed. It's been confusing to me reading reviews about the houses because my experience of all of them was that there were a lot of dead areas where there clearly should have been actors.

As far as houses go, I'll have to wait until after opening weekend to give any sort of review on them. The sets are beautiful though and surprisingly, I had the most fun inside the Penn and Teller house which was completely unexpected.

The streets I had no expectations for, it was more of a curiosity on how things would play out. With the amount of people there were last night it was often difficult to separate actual crowd from scareactor and, a lot of places were too dark to really see anyone. I did love the amount of fog though. There were a few places I had trouble seeing in front of me which was fun for me. The "one way road" throughout the park is a bit annoying, as I couldn't quickly cut through areas like I'm used to, but that's to be expected too with all the construction.

Overall, at the end of the day it was what it was. A dress rehearsal. I don't know for sure if they were actually running at half-staff throughout the park, but it appeared to me they were. If that was the case, I'm excited for the next two days to see how things improve. And of course, with shops/restaurants/rides open it will help a lot with crowd control. For me personally, the event has a lot of potential to be fantastic but honestly it comes down to the actors for me. If I were to give any hopes for the next few days it's that I see more scareactors!

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That seems incredibly unfair and short sited based on a PREVIEW meant for employess. The whole point of last night was to find what does and does not work.with the event and fix it before the GP see it. I'm not reading the reviews because I don't want to know till I go. But anything can happen. Bars can be moved, Street experience will be fully staffed in the actual event, and houses can be tweaked.

If fact, I don't form a full opinon on the event till I've experienced it twice. So, once I've been Friday and Saturday, I will review it. But Cmon... the event sucks based on a rehersal? That's jumping the gun a bit don't you think?

I fully agree with you here....EP is not fully indicative of what the event will be like. It is unfortunate if the preview did not go smoothly, but better that it happens then, then officially. Things can be changed and ironed out, and as someone posted in another topic, even from the media preview to EP they have corrected some house issues. I like to go opening weekend and get my initial impression, but the final "how I felt about the event" does not hold ground until I have been a few times. There can be bad timing, tech issues, and just plain bad luck. I usually give 2 reviews one for opening thoughts, and another after full consideration. Nobody with an understanding of the event should jump to conclusions. That being said, hopefully the issues that happened will be rectified and improved upon and we will end up with a good event. One thing is for sure, there is no way Universal will put on an entirely terrible event. Just my 22 cents :)

Edited by Mr.Grim
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Was it a cluster? Yes, but where you all see failure and disappointment, I see a whole sh*tton of potential. Only got one scare (it was from Dead End, in case you were wondering) the entire night from the five houses we did (skipped out on TWD and SH), but I tried to see through that to see where things could improve. And honestly it all came down to learning your timing. Once the SA in HOH learn when their flashes go off and they can position themselves accordingly, that house is going to be terrifying. Most of the rest of the actors just need to get their movements in sync with their foot pedals or their partner and they'll be golden.

As for specific houses, Dead End is really giving off a Legendary Truth 2.0 feeling to me, which is nothing but a great thing. The set design in P&T is incredibly rich and filled with great gags. From that standpoint alone the house is a success for me. Gothic is gorgeous, but the costumes don't seem to have much going on from the waist down, which is really jarring.

As for the scarezones, I'd like to see a few more walkers around in SF, but I think the roaming zones are going to work extremely well, especially on nights with less people. However, it wouldn't be a bad idea to cast a few more for each group on peak nights to help flesh out the ranks. But seriously, WTF is up with the grim reapers just chilling everywhere? Kinda strange, to say the least, and not in a good way.

Bill and Ted's this year went a tad too long for me, and there were a couple bits that I just found completely unfunny (one bit needs to be re-recorded with a better voice, or just cut entirely), but overall I like the general idea of the plot, and am a big fan of the more fast-paced and random-ness of the sketches. As for the ending, it is most definitely the most random thing I've ever seen a Bill and Ted show do, and I absolutely love it. This year's not going to be for everyone, but I thought it was well done.

So yeah, overall, was it an absolutely horrible EP? Most definitely. No one seemed to know what was going on, and all of the new ops that were hired seem pretty much COMPLETELY clueless on how things worked. With all of that said, do I think it will be a good event? Honestly, that's mostly up to the actors at this point, but I have no doubt that they'll be able to pull it off. And hopefully, with some gusto.

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I expect that the bar issue will be tackled today and tomorrow. I heard production assistants talking about how people were waiting 40 minutes for drinks. That will definitely have to change.

My other large complaint is crowd flow. They're going to HAVE to do something. I know it'll be fine the first few nights when it has lighter crowds and more to absorb them, but it'll be bad on peak nights. They're going to have to open up alternatives or deal with complaints.

Edited by Jakemeister
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*sigh*

For what my opinion is worth on this.

Typically, Employee Previews do not run attractions and limit food/beverage carts. That includes the bars, which is what causes the massive lines for liquor on those particular nights. Yes, that greatly impacts the wait time of the houses themselves. Complaining about lines on EP night is moot, though. Some people saw B&T and 6 of the 7 houses. If you felt 30 minutes was too long to wait, and would rather go through one house 14 times, that's your own deranged prerogative.

Now, it's my opinion that it's inexcusable to "allow" Universal until the middle of October to fix an event. The great majority of attendees only attend one night. Sometimes, that one night is opening or the second weekend. If logistical issues are creating a crap event when those people attend at opening, then I think it's totally fair to call the event a crap event. Look at Broadway; they get official reviews on opening night. If a show is bad on opening night, chances are good it won't last long. HHN is a theatrical event, so I think it should be treated the same way.

If, in order to have a good event opening night, Universal needs to do multiple Employee Previews, actually train their scareactors on safe, effective ways to scare, and revisit how they organize the park, then THAT'S what they should do. But allowing them to "fix" the event as it goes along only encourages these sorts of disasters.

In general, the flaws I'm reading about this year, cannot be fixed quickly (if at all). Not enough people in the streets r house? Well, it's unlikely for them to add more scareactors to each horde. If they do, it would likely only be two-five each because they don't make many extra costumes. They have Firecrew and ABUs, but they are needed to fill the spots of full-timers who aren't there. So, don't expect many people than what's there. Employee Preview night is an official rehearsal for scareactors. They are REQUIRED TO BE THERE. This "half-casts" rumor about last night doesn't fly with me, because (from what I've seen) if you're going to miss a rehearsal they fire you outright.

The issue with the Street Experience seems to be lack of originality (obvious), and the hordes being too spread out. The first can't be fixed, the second part "can" if they simply limit the amount of space the hordes have to operate in each location. Or... they can "park" the hordes, assigning them to a fixed location like a traditional zone. But that's unlikely because of how they've been marketing the heck out of this.

Blocking off the cut-through is a horrible decision, despite the logical reasons for it. That is something that, because of the pace of construction, can't be fixed though.

So, flaws:

Lines - None issue. Deal with it.

Number of Scareactors - Unlikely, to be fixed

Spread-out streets - Maybe, but will they?

Navigating the park - Can't be fixed

"Ineffective" house designs - Can't be fixed

Streets too dark - Can be fixed, but will it?

Broken Effects - Hopefully, will be fixed

Scareactor Performance - Can improve

Typically, an EP, despite its roughness, is fairly close to what the event will ultimately be. Last year was a rough opening, but the only real changes (aside from improved performance, which is a given) were giving the Minions saws and moving the photo-op. The issues we are seeing this year don't seem to be as easily fixed.

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One major factor I faced scaring last night in the streets was the cluster of people around the bars. These "dead zones," you mentioned were definitely not being helped out at all by clusters of people blocking scare actors from safely traveling from one side of the area to the other. I hope to see the traffic flow go more smoothly on opening night which will hopefully give you a better street experience.

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I never saw it, I'm assuming it was set up later in the night (after 10), but I read that it was showing Frankenstein at one point.

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I expect that the bar issue will be tackled today and tomorrow. I heard production assistants talking about how people were waiting 40 minutes for drinks. That will definitely have to change.

This is DEFINATELY an EP issue only. I've gone 8 years now and have NEVER had to wait more than 5min for a drink...including nights had that lines up to 180min (Saw). My friends might have had to wait for up to 15min at the "good bars" by MIB and across from Twisters since they drink mix drinks and I stick to just beer. Add to the fact that each drink probably costs about $2, the bartender probably serves close to 100 an hour so maybe $0.25 from each goes to their pay, and they're making about $6-$8 profit per drink. The beer carts probably sell 200+ beers per hour depending on how long it takes to check IDs and for the drunks to dig out the money. (I'm assuming the really high insurance/liability insurance costs and liquor licenses are already paid for the year as a regular business cost).

It's a cash cow and they'll add a million carts if the demand is there.

Besides, everybody there was co-workers and potential supervisors...kinds surprised they even serve alcohol at it. Ha ha ha.

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Was the lagoon operational last night? I don't think anyone has mentioned it yet, one way or the other.

From what I saw posted on Twitter last night, yes, it was. :)

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I guess Friday & Saturday will be the true tests of how this is going to go. I remember last year on a Thursday there were no scare actors out in the 7, Night maze or the canyon of dark souls scare zones until almost 10:30 that night. The Houses were even missing a few scare actors in spots that everyone knew they were in before. People were saying how they had wasted their money and were not coming back, Then that Friday the scare actors were on full force and it was an amazing night.

This is a huge event and they are trying some new things this year, I'm going to give HHN the benefit of the doubt that they are going to work out the kinks from last night and/or that they just didn't prepare properly because it was EP and not a main event night.

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They didn't have any of the line carts set up, so I know for a fact that will make a difference and I don't believe Finns or Chez Alcatraz were open. Once more that will make a difference. I also think that if they don't have the space in all the streets for bars this year they will push it more in restaurants.

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From what I saw posted on Twitter last night, yes, it was. :)

I posted a picture from the Alice Cooper show in the pictures thread.

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Easily the worst employee preview of the last 5 years.

We waited almost an hour to even get into the park and then were greeted by 60 to 75 minute wait times for houses, the streets were completely underwhelming, while the crowds were completely overwhelming. We were home by 10pm.

Didn't see a single house, this "no safe zone" street experience...yeah, about that.

Unless a shit ton changes, this year is going to go down as a completely unorganized mess. All I can say is, make paying guests wait almost an hour to even get into the park and see what kind of hell they raise.

Seems like your guys Preview night is much more crowded than ours. :o I thought preview night was the least busiest day for HHN?

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And how can you judge an event when you only did 4 of 7 houses? Get over yourself wesker

Having been to multiple employee previews over the years, thats how i can judge it. So I don't need to get over myself. If you read carefully, I said as of last night, the event sucked. And like others have pointed out, when 90% of us are all saying the same thing... that should probably be a pretty good indication that it was bad. Don't get all pissy with me or any of the others just because we're not bowing down & worshipping the event as the greatest thing on the planet. There is a reason for us to give our honest opinions of what we experienced- that is so the event & those involved can improve.

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Stick to reviews, not personal insults and attacks. Just had to remove a few posts that added nothing whatsoever to this discussion.

First and final warning from me before I start handing out warning points.

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So when we got in we went to HOH, didn't know that the houses would open at different times. We stood in line at HoH for an hour and the que line wasn't done and they house was not open yet. We said screw it and hit AC. House was ok to me, not fantastic, but ok. I def did not like the varsity guy banging on the barrell, it was TOO loud! Attempted P&T but the fire alarm was going off...Walked around the park a little trying to catch the zones. Went to attempt Silent Hill but the line was hella long. We were given an Express Pass and used it for TWD, at that point the wait time was 60 minutes. I love the video they have playing. House was great, you could actually see in it, but there is so much to look at you really don't get to see it all. We hit up HoH after this, they girl said 15-20 minutes which was about accurate. I loved this house. The simplicity made it easier for me to focus on the monsters. I loved the last room of this house too! Went over to catch Silent Hill and were given another Express Pass. Pyramid Head's costume was AMAZING!!! But the smell in the house was disgusting, it reminded me of barbeque sauce. After that we went to Gothic. I loved this house too. The camera man in the house actually got a pic of me being scared by a Gargoyle. We didn't get to do Dead End the line was getting longer and longer.

As far of zones, I was displeased. We saw the beasts, a brief of the vampires bc they were moving to the next zone (def did not like how they were rushed to move along the path) saw the traditionals 2 times in the same area (not too happy with re-used costumes) and the chainsaws. One girl was awesome! Got a view of the Warriors when they were moving zones, but that was it. The zombies were pretty awesome, they scared the crap out of the same person like 6 times. I did not like all the OPEN area thohey really need to fill it up more. There was nothing between Shrek & Despicable Me.

Also got a glimpse of the water show which was nice. I was told every 30 minutes it would go off.

All in all I had fun, I will be back out tomorrow night and I am looking forward to the changes.

Edited: to add about the bbq sauce and fix spelling :)

Edited by lindseyloo
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