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Opinion: Then vs Now

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Before I start letting it all out there, I just want to go on the record and state that I have the utmost respect for Universal Creative, it's directors, and Universal as a company. It's a hard job toput on such an amazing event that takes a team and a lot of other factors. I am not one of those bitter "the old days were the best" kind of people and I go every year to the event and I love it. I will continue to go. Having said that, this post is about the change of overall quality since the departure of James Michael-Roddy as Head Creative Director. 

I personally feel that Mike Aiello isn't the guy for this job. Since the year he took control of the event and when Roddy moved over to Disney, HHN has seen major changes. Some good some bad. I feel that there is a huge difference between being a fan and being an innovator. Murdy out in Hollywood is a "fan" and by fan I mean that he isn't capable of creating fresh ideas. He loves so many horror properties and just wants to replicate them. He does nothing on a deeper level. That is why, again in my opinion, that Hollywood is never as strong as Orlando and the reason Hollywood often repeats their scarezones and houses on a yearly basis. For Aiello, I believe he is a "fan" as well. It wasn't until he took control that we saw a spike in IP houses. I have no problem with IP's as they can often be great and draw a large number of crowds. I know that a lot of this is probably out of Aiello's hands because Marketing has a pretty large say. The problem I have is that for the first time in HHN history we are starting to see repeats of these houses and scarezones. American Werewolf in London was great but to have the exact same house done within only a couple years felt very stale. I'll skip Walking Dead because we al know that was all strictly marketing's call. But The Purge? There isn't much you can do to change it or make it fresh. The lack of ideas are starting to pile up. 2 years of a Purge scarezone withing a few years, a Purge house (because Scream fell through), and now Purge represented in another house. Really? 

The Scarezones have become more like mini-shows since Aiello took over. Especially this year. It seems like the actors are instructed to put on a show instead of actually trying to scare people. They even have stages to do shows. It's cool and all but if you can't blend the scares with the shows than it's pointless. Everything has become a photo-op and show. This year it seems that almost all of the scarezones are photo-ops with shows. I do love it when the scareactors won't pose for pics. Every zone this year has a "show" and it's way overused. Use that energy on maybe actually scaring people.

The Music. Since the departure of Roddy, the music has gone from an eerie sountrack to an upbeat party soundtrack. Heck, even last year I saw on some boards that people were complaining about it and magically within the first few weeks the soundtrack at the event had changed to be a little more creepy. I feel like Aiello treats the event as a party and not a horror event. Also, every year before Aiello took over, the music was different. Now the past 3 years I have heard the same carnival song. It worked for 25 and 26 but this year? What the hell. It was playing near Blumhouse. Gone are the eerie scores from Midnight Syndicate or Nox Arcana. The atomosFEAR has changed drastically. Everything is just lacking. 

The Facades have drastically changed. This year is probably the year with the least. A cutout for HIVE. No real facade for The Shining. No facade for SAW. The list goes on and on. When Roddy ran the event, the entrances were grand and exciting. Some of this carried over into HHN 21, the year after he left, but it eventually transformed into the Aiello standard. 

I don't want to keep going on and on so I'll end it with the most over talked about topic. The Icons and story. Since Aiello took control there hasn't been a memorable icon or story for us hardcore fans. Everything is just thrown together with a loose tie or no tie-in at all. Again, the difference between fan and innovator. When Kenny Babel and James Michael-Roddy ran the show things were original and actually had a layer of fear and creative stories and icons. They would even make amazing queue and archway videos. Fear may have sucked as an icon but at least he had a cool story that tied other icons together along with a video to explain it. This year, it's like they wanted to do some festival theme but never followed through with it. It makes little sense.

Year by year Orlando becomes more and more like Hollywood's event. 25 was a step in the right direction of creative and innovative. The perfect blend of new and old. 27 has been three steps back. I think Aiello is a great guy and loves horror. I just don't think he's the right guy for the job. The event has become less scary and more like a party. A party I will continue to go to and enjoy but I am definitely ready for somebody fresh to take over. Somebody that knows what Horror Nights is really all about. 

Thoughts?

Edited by HHN Explorer
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I agree on some points.

 

I miss Michael Roddy, too.  He gave us unforgettable icons, music that created a scary atmosphere at HHN, and memorable facades.  I also think he was responsible for revealing the backstories to the fans to keep us excited.  And of course he gave us Terra Cruentas.  He didn't so much leave as he was forced to leave, though.

 

While the party atmosphere may be Mike's doing (and I don't like it anymore than you do), I don't think he is to blame for the IP overload or repeated themes.  I think that is the bean counters at Comcast.  They decided it made no financial sense that expensive IP contracts were used at one park and not both.  The two parks had to "synergize".  Today there is more overlap than ever.  Hollywood had been rehashing IP endless times - without lessening crowds - so why not have Orlando do it?  Multi-year contracts let you amortize the cost.  So why not sign a five year deal with AMC for TWD?  

 

Comcast owned 51% of Universal as of 2011.  They owned 100% of Universal as of March 2013.  I remember warning that 2012 was a turning point - out of nowhere both coasts had three overlapping IP houses for no apparent reason (unlike in 2007 when they shared overarching themes).  And ever since, it's been shared IP after shared IP.   

 

I totally agree on the scarezones.  They have become mostly photo ops with no scare attempts anymore.  We usually get one really beautiful zone in San Francisco area that's neat to look at, but nothing happens.  Un-credited clown zone every year in Springfield is just a lazy thing to do.  However, I do love the mini-shows they do.  I'm thinking back to the Shadybrook zone, specifically.  Personally, I'd give up all scarezones for a 10th house (original of course).  

 

I had the same feeling about Murdy's lack of originality, but he did give us El Cucuy and La Llorona - two very good originals in Hollywood.  Even Clownz was far from a generic clown theme.  However, that was only three original houses across ten years.  Could he churn out 6 fresh good ideas per year?  That remains to be seen, and I'm sure he will never attempt that.

 

And I disagree about the facades.  I don't know what happened with Hive.  Was a Conjuring facade in place and then torn down?  Was it pending build when the theme changed and the budget for the facade was used to retheme the house?  I'm betting the latter.  But the facades for Ash and the other originals are great - no denying that.  I mean - Dead waters...   There have been a lot of great facades since Roddy.

 

While I think the originals lately have been hyper-detailed, some of my favorite originals were from the Roddy days - I miss the comedy houses like Leave it to Cleaver, Zombiegeddon, Home for the Holidays, and man - H.R. Bloodngutz.  It's only the originals that give me any reason to fly from L.A. every year; otherwise, Hollywood and Orlando are interchangeable if all they do is IP.  As I mentioned in my review, this year was saved by originals.

 

To me at least, it's obvious how much the team loves the originals.  They have been putting so much effort into them in the past few years, and it shows.  Four top notch originals this year.  Halfway feels like we're back in 2011.

 

 

 

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On 10/4/2017 at 6:58 PM, zombieman said:

I agree on some points.

 

I miss Michael Roddy, too.  He gave us unforgettable icons, music that created a scary atmosphere at HHN, and memorable facades.  I also think he was responsible for revealing the backstories to the fans to keep us excited.  And of course he gave us Terra Cruentas.  He didn't so much leave as he was forced to leave, though.

 

While the party atmosphere may be Mike's doing (and I don't like it anymore than you do), I don't think he is to blame for the IP overload or repeated themes.  I think that is the bean counters at Comcast.  They decided it made no financial sense that expensive IP contracts were used at one park and not both.  The two parks had to "synergize".  Today there is more overlap than ever.  Hollywood had been rehashing IP endless times - without lessening crowds - so why not have Orlando do it?  Multi-year contracts let you amortize the cost.  So why not sign a five year deal with AMC for TWD?  

 

Comcast owned 51% of Universal as of 2011.  They owned 100% of Universal as of March 2013.  I remember warning that 2012 was a turning point - out of nowhere both coasts had three overlapping IP houses for no apparent reason (unlike in 2007 when they shared overarching themes).  And ever since, it's been shared IP after shared IP.   

 

I totally agree on the scarezones.  They have become mostly photo ops with no scare attempts anymore.  We usually get one really beautiful zone in San Francisco area that's neat to look at, but nothing happens.  Un-credited clown zone every year in Springfield is just a lazy thing to do.  However, I do love the mini-shows they do.  I'm thinking back to the Shadybrook zone, specifically.  Personally, I'd give up all scarezones for a 10th house (original of course).  

 

I had the same feeling about Murdy's lack of originality, but he did give us El Cucuy and La Llorona - two very good originals in Hollywood.  Even Clownz was far from a generic clown theme.  However, that was only three original houses across ten years.  Could he churn out 6 fresh good ideas per year?  That remains to be seen, and I'm sure he will never attempt that.

 

And I disagree about the facades.  I don't know what happened with Hive.  Was a Conjuring facade in place and then torn down?  Was it pending build when the theme changed and the budget for the facade was used to retheme the house?  I'm betting the latter.  But the facades for Ash and the other originals are great - no denying that.  I mean - Dead waters...   There have been a lot of great facades since Roddy.

 

While I think the originals lately have been hyper-detailed, some of my favorite originals were from the Roddy days - I miss the comedy houses like Leave it to Cleaver, Zombiegeddon, Home for the Holidays, and man - H.R. Bloodngutz.  It's only the originals that give me any reason to fly from L.A. every year; otherwise, Hollywood and Orlando are interchangeable if all they do is IP.  As I mentioned in my review, this year was saved by originals.

 

To me at least, it's obvious how much the team loves the originals.  They have been putting so much effort into them in the past few years, and it shows.  Four top notch originals this year.  Halfway feels like we're back in 2011.

 

 

 

I didn't realize Roddy was forced out. Care to share? What you can of course.

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17 minutes ago, HHN Explorer said:

I didn't realize Roddy was forced out. Care to share? What you can of course.

If you dig deep you can find it.  I'd rather not in case any of it was fake news.

The year after he left he did the "Blood Relations" Fright Feast show for Howl O Scream, before going to Disney.

He amassed a HUGE amount of HHN memorabilia and he sold a good deal of it a few years ago.  Sadly, I did not get any.

But much of the original concept artwork for Jack that are on sale on Ebay were his.

 

Personally, I couldn't go from directing horror events to Disney.  I couldn't write a show without killing off characters...

 

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On 10/4/2017 at 6:58 PM, zombieman said:

I agree on some points.

 

I miss Michael Roddy, too.  He gave us unforgettable icons, music that created a scary atmosphere at HHN, and memorable facades.  I also think he was responsible for revealing the backstories to the fans to keep us excited.  And of course he gave us Terra Cruentas.  He didn't so much leave as he was forced to leave, though.

 

While the party atmosphere may be Mike's doing (and I don't like it anymore than you do), I don't think he is to blame for the IP overload or repeated themes.  I think that is the bean counters at Comcast.  They decided it made no financial sense that expensive IP contracts were used at one park and not both.  The two parks had to "synergize".  Today there is more overlap than ever.  Hollywood had been rehashing IP endless times - without lessening crowds - so why not have Orlando do it?  Multi-year contracts let you amortize the cost.  So why not sign a five year deal with AMC for TWD?  

 

Comcast owned 51% of Universal as of 2011.  They owned 100% of Universal as of March 2013.  I remember warning that 2012 was a turning point - out of nowhere both coasts had three overlapping IP houses for no apparent reason (unlike in 2007 when they shared overarching themes).  And ever since, it's been shared IP after shared IP.   

 

I totally agree on the scarezones.  They have become mostly photo ops with no scare attempts anymore.  We usually get one really beautiful zone in San Francisco area that's neat to look at, but nothing happens.  Un-credited clown zone every year in Springfield is just a lazy thing to do.  However, I do love the mini-shows they do.  I'm thinking back to the Shadybrook zone, specifically.  Personally, I'd give up all scarezones for a 10th house (original of course).  

 

I had the same feeling about Murdy's lack of originality, but he did give us El Cucuy and La Llorona - two very good originals in Hollywood.  Even Clownz was far from a generic clown theme.  However, that was only three original houses across ten years.  Could he churn out 6 fresh good ideas per year?  That remains to be seen, and I'm sure he will never attempt that.

 

And I disagree about the facades.  I don't know what happened with Hive.  Was a Conjuring facade in place and then torn down?  Was it pending build when the theme changed and the budget for the facade was used to retheme the house?  I'm betting the latter.  But the facades for Ash and the other originals are great - no denying that.  I mean - Dead waters...   There have been a lot of great facades since Roddy.

 

While I think the originals lately have been hyper-detailed, some of my favorite originals were from the Roddy days - I miss the comedy houses like Leave it to Cleaver, Zombiegeddon, Home for the Holidays, and man - H.R. Bloodngutz.  It's only the originals that give me any reason to fly from L.A. every year; otherwise, Hollywood and Orlando are interchangeable if all they do is IP.  As I mentioned in my review, this year was saved by originals.

 

To me at least, it's obvious how much the team loves the originals.  They have been putting so much effort into them in the past few years, and it shows.  Four top notch originals this year.  Halfway feels like we're back in 2011.

 

 

 

That's pretty much how I feel. As much as I hate Comcast's direction, and think Roddy's departure strongly impacted the event's intangibles, I certainly don't think A&D has taken a single step back when it comes to the original houses themselves. I also disagree with the OP's statement that the Shining facade sucks--the hedge maze is pretty damn iconic.

Edited by OhHaiInternet95
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Im very new to HHN.  Did not get the opportunity to go "back in the day" so, my opinions are based on the new.
I'll get to experience HHN27 in a couple of weeks. 

From reviews and videos and youtube stuff, it seems that it is an accurate review to say that the zones have become selfie zones.  The Invasion! area looks great, on paper, but in reality there is nothing scary about it or Trick R Treat, for that matter.  But, I get those.  Yes, I would like to see the whole park as scary as possible, but I can handle a little old school light horror, too.  I even would love to see a Simpsons based scarezone at some point.


But, the Titans of Terror?  Really?  You think a couple of twin girls are scary?  They get what like 30 seconds of screen time in that movie and are not even really explained very well.  Pablo with the book on his face?  They really missed the mark on this zone.  I really liked Chance's scare zone last year.  Yes, it was a selfie zone, but at least it was cohesive.  They missed out on so many characters they could have put out there.  You mean, there isnt even one Jack with an axe?  

Why isnt Bone Daddy the icon?   Why is the zone so.....strip club in nature?   It doesnt even seem to be a good zone.  

Purge?  Again?  Why, because it is cheap and simple?     Clowns with chain saws.  Now, this is good.  This is what I expect.  Wrong part of the park.

The admonishment that this event is not for children under 13 is getting less and less of a truth.  Ive gone back and watched some older videos and man those are some dark events.  If they keep going this direction it will be an all ages event within 3 years.

 

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4 hours ago, Ueeediot said:

there is nothing scary about it or Trick R Treat, for that matter.

But the Trick R Treat zone is gorgeous as hell, and really true to the nature of the film (which isn't super scary either).

 

4 hours ago, Ueeediot said:

They really missed the mark on this zone

Agreed. Altars of Horror is kind of garbage, but the actors are doing their best with it.

 

4 hours ago, Ueeediot said:

Why isnt Bone Daddy the icon?   Why is the zone so.....strip club in nature?   It doesnt even seem to be a good zone.

Agreed that Bone IS the icon, despite what they say. IDK why they're so against saying it. He even narrates the opening scare-a-monies. But, hold your opinion on this zone until you see it in person. It's a lot better live, especially after dark.

 

4 hours ago, Ueeediot said:

Purge?  Again?  Why, because it is cheap and simple?

Again, wait to you see this one in person. Sure, there are some elements carried over from HHN24, but this zone is GREAT! They really took the extra budget they had from used elements, and introduced a ton of new stuff. Plus, the actors here are doing a stellar job, and having a ton of fun.

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On 10/10/2017 at 2:22 PM, StupidStupidDan said:

But the Trick R Treat zone is gorgeous as hell, and really true to the nature of the film (which isn't super scary either).

Yes, it was very pretty.  Also, pretty boring.  There was no reason to even pause in the area after youve seen the kid puke water once.  They couldnt even be bothered to make it look like something other than water?   None of the SAs are even interested in scaring anyone.  So, does that make them non-SAs?

 

On 10/10/2017 at 2:22 PM, StupidStupidDan said:

Agreed. Altars of Horror is kind of garbage, but the actors are doing their best with it.

Altars is wasted space and time.  Just plain stupid to have a zone for selfies.

 

On 10/10/2017 at 2:22 PM, StupidStupidDan said:

But, hold your opinion on this zone until you see it in person. It's a lot better live, especially after dark.

OK, I did like this zone once it got dark.  I'm still not happy with it.  Two or three actual scare actors.  The rest is all for selfies.  I'd prefer them to make it actually a scary event and not Universal's kinda scary but we dont want to really put effort into being scary event.

 

And, yes, Purge was good.  I liked it the most.  And shouldn't we?  That zone is the largest zone and should be the best.

Invasion! was so dumb and a waste of effort.

The best was actually the clowns.  At least they were trying to scare people.  The only part of the park where people (ok, young girls) were actually screaming and running away from SAs.  And the SAs in that section are seriously good at what they do.

Overall, my opinion is quite low.  I think 3 good houses is really reaching for an event that should be a top tier event.

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