Often times we talk about theme park concepts that are brewing behind-the-scenes at theme parks that have not yet been announced. Some things we report on may never be announced and that’s part of the crazy world of how things work in the entertainment industry in general. Today, we can share with you an idea that we shared with you in the summer of 2020.
Back then, Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando was still a “go”. However, a plan was devised quickly on how to disperse crowds around the park. An extension of the Universal Orlando app was being devised exclusively for HHN. The idea was to let guests reserve showtimes and haunted house entry windows for their night at the event. Guests who purchased Express Pass would have been given priority to as many houses and shows as they could squeeze in.
What has recently surfaced is a small part of my article I said we would explore later down the road and today is the day! In that article, I mentioned that if there were no houses available to visit after the guest exited their last one, they could be sent on a “quest”. This patent specifically addresses how those quests might have worked.
At this point, I’ll also mention a recent article posted to Inside The Magic. It mistakenly shows that this patent is tied to the Universal Classic Monsters area of Universal’s Epic Universe. While the monsters will still be taking up residence in the new park (and yes, it will still open at some point). That land has gone through the most drastic changes since the concept art originally came out. Since it officially has been announced, the show in the huge theater has been cut (phase 2 maybe?) and the walk-through haunted house is no longer on the table. This is the one the ITM article mentions. And no, it never had an interactive walk-through element.
How are we so sure that the patent is for Halloween Horror Nights and not Universal’s Epic Universe? If you do a touch of super sleuthing, your biggest indicator is at the top of the patent. Nick Linguanti is an attractions specialist who helped design the virtual queues for the Universal Orlando app. He worked for Universal Creative and supported ATI. While Rick and TJ support the Universal Entertainment team. I’m sure long time fans of HHN are familiar with them.
The other interesting thing to note on the patent is that it was filed in October of 2019. Meaning this was not thrown together for HHN in 2020. Rather, it was an idea that Universal was kicking around pre-pandemic. However, it was going to be a key-part in getting guests off the streets and into parts of the park that were going unused.
As hardcore fans of HHN remember, there have been several “bonus” offerings to the event for years now. Some may remember the virtual reality game that was offered for those who ponied up the extra money for it. In addition, the park has offered several different forms of their Legendary Truth, which has its own lore tied into Halloween Horror Nights. Some of these ideas are still bubbling and could come to light like a one-on-one immersive haunted house. For an upcharge though. Don’t be ridiculous.
Anywho, back to the patent. The idea was (and still is) to let guests go into these side quests that are interactive. Remember Disney’s initial pitch for Galaxy’s Edge? The idea was your MagicBand would be able to tie you into the story of the land. It would remember you in every attraction, shop and cantina you entered. This is Universal’s slightly different take on that experience.
In this case, the system would tell you where to go based on mostly your phone/app. It would remember what you’ve done and creative a narrative on where you’ve been, where you’re about to go and what is potentially still out there left to do. This could not only change from season to season at HHN, but also within the season itself.
Most likely this is sophisticated enough where (post-pandemic) this too would require an upcharge. The low crowds of HHN in 2020 would have been a perfect place to test these quests. However, I don’t think this is the last we have heard of them. Could some of the team from Universal Entertainment be rehired to bring some of this online before HHN 2021? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, since I mentioned the Universal Monsters area of the park. Would you guys be interested in hearing about how that area has evolved and changed since its inception? It is a pretty interesting story for another time.
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