Yes, I know that Universal Studios Orlando’s annual Halloween Horror Nights event, HHN25, just ended last night, but let’s be honest…us fans are already foaming at the mouth in anticipation of what UO will give us next year. While I think most would agree that an anniversary year like this year’s event will be hard to top, I think that the creative team is talented enough to bring us an event that, if not more elaborate, will surely be equal to this year in other ways, and still bring plenty to the table. How might they do that? Well…we’ve got some thoughts…

Note: This isn’t based on any rumors or knowledge of anything coming. This is, essentially, our fan fiction for HHN26 based on what we’d like to see of the event. It’s not indicative of anything that may actually happen…but we’d sure like it to!

  • There are more TV Shows than the Walking Dead. As much as us HHN fans complain about TWD coming back as a house every year, it’s kind of hard to argue with the fact that it’s the highest rated show on television. It’s also pretty consistently one of the most packed houses of the night. However, with new TV shows like Ash vs. Evil Dead on television (as well as having seen the Evil Dead property multiple times at HHN before), it would certainly be interesting to see Ash again at the event (depending on series popularity, of course). While I don’t think AMC’s new show Preacher would lend itself well to a haunted house (not without controversy, of course). Supernatural seems like an obvious selection for a house, and would certainly bring with it a sizable audience. Is there a reason it hasn’t been chosen before? Perhaps The Strain, now that they’ve established a relationship with Guillermo del Toro in California?
  • IPs and OPs. Since HHN 22, we’ve had a pretty solid string of events with both intellectual properties and original properties. While I know a lot of fans (including myself) love the idea of an HHN full of original properties (a la HHN XX), I think those days are over, and I’m okay with it. Some of UO’s best houses have been those based on licensed properties, and they sure tend to bring in a pretty solid audience. What IPs would I want to see represented next year (besides the aforementioned TV properties)? Hard to say this ahead of time. I think a lot of the iconic properties have already been represented, and some multiple times. New IP’s that are actual recognizable franchises are a little hard to come by in the horror world nowadays.
  • Ongoing stories. I loved seeing Jack back. I think everyone did. However, I did find it interesting how everyone called him the Master of the icons, and the embodiment of Horror Nights, because HHN XX established FEAR as the lord over the icons (I thought). While surely not intentional, I’d love to see Fear come back to re-take his throne, perhaps setting up a direct conflict with Jack to resolve in HHN XXX? Here’s where I get all fan-fictiony…I’d love that this year sets up Jack as breaking out from Fear and taking this year’s primary icons (Caretaker, Usher, Director, Storyteller) under his wing. In retaliation, I’d love Fear to have Eddie, Cindy, Lady Luck, and perhaps a new icon or two to set up a war against Jack. They could even have a focus on these “forgotten” icons and new icons leading up to the big battle in HHN XXX. (you’ll see this thought pop up in some more of my wish list).
  • New Icons. To that end, I think this year’s “The Carnage Returns” show established that a well done icon show will be successful and well-loved. Listening to an interview with J. Michael Roddy (ex-Creative Director at Universal Studios Orlando, and responsible for much of what made HHN great in the early 2000’s, including Jack), he commented about the importance (to him) of having a house that reflected the backstory of each year’s icon to help establish a story that guests could get invested in. While I don’t think it has to be a house, I do think that a show or house (or both) goes a long way (and certainly did this year). Back to my fan fiction – a magician themed icon seems like a perfect way to get a new icon not similar to previous icons, and one that would lend itself to an awesome show (magic tricks/illusions gone wrong).
  • Legendary Truth for all! Well, kind of. I’ve not been able to attend any Legendary Truth events, because of how they’re set up as “final weekend” events for folks who get to select locations at specific times, or solve certain riddles/puzzles. I do like how it does seem to be an “earned” thing, and I would hate for that to be taken away from it, but I’d sure like to see it earlier in the event, perhaps from the very beginning, maybe even as an upcharge opportunity? I know, I know…you pay so much to get in to begin with, why pay more? Well, because it sounds like something that would be worth a little extra fundage, and would be available to the select few who wanted to pay for it earlier in the season. That can’t be bad, right?
  • Merchandise. I adored the level of merchandise that was available this year for the event. While I know not all the icons are as marketable as Jack, and I have no earthly idea how sales were for that merchandise, I’d love to see that level of marketing for future icons, and for icons of HHN past. Solid design work on the materials this year.
  • A stronger gate presence. Previous years have had some pretty significant effort put into the entrance to the park – video screens, props, etc. The last couple of years hasn’t really had something sizable. I know it’s tricky with the amount of folks who camp out outside the gates prior to opening for HHN, but I’d love something more elaborate as you enter the park.
  • Finally, stronger opening and closing scaremonies. One of my favorite aspects of Six Flags Fright Fest event is The Awakening, an opening scaremony show, only put on once an evening, that sets the evening up perfectly. While previous years of HHN have has opening scaremony events, and even closing scaremony events, every year there are rumors of closing shows that would set up next years event…and it hasn’t happened (to my knowledge) in years. While I know knowing the theme of your next event a year ahead of time is difficult, a little goes a long way to tease for the fans who would stay for that type of closing event.

I know I didn’t focus on some of the items that may be important to repeat visitors – pricing structure, security, and such, but as an out-of-town visitor who typically only gets to attend the first weekend, I’ve rarely run into those issues.

How about you? What would you guys like to see at HHN26? We’re only 10 months away from it happening!

Halloween Horror Nights 26 will be on select nights Sept. 16 – Oct. 31.
(for more information, read the post on UO’s blog)

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