Midsummer Scream 2017: Saturday Panels

Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, CA

Welcome to our first in-depth update for this year's Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival!  As I mentioned yesterday, despite some hiccups, this event was an overwhelming success, especially with the huge attendance and eager enthusiasm from thousands of haunters and haunt fans.  I also mentioned that there was an overwhelming offering of content, from panels to classes to movie screenings to live horror theater to mini haunts and escape rooms to the expansive show floor.

Well, the panels by themselves offered a wealth of content.  From official announcements and behind the scenes features by the "Big Four" Southern California haunts to poignant retrospectives, there was plenty to learn and enjoy.  I was able to attend four panels each day, and that only covers half of the number of panels offered.  Even then, due to my diverse interests, I could only partially attend some panels.  It would have been nice to have staggered the more popular sets against other popular showings, but that sentiment is mostly just my being selfish.  Ultimately, it's sort of incredible how, in two measly years, Midsummer Scream has created an event where it's already impossible to see and do everything. 

Because there was so much content from the panels alone, I'm splitting this update into two parts.  First, lets take a look at some of the Saturday panels--in this case, all taking place in the Terrace Theater, the new showcase venue for this year's keynote presentations.  Being held in the Terrace Theater--a separate building located behind the convention center itself--meant that guests would need to take a ten minute trek from the exhibition hall up and out to the theater.  However, the new venue also provided plenty of space for all guests.  In fact, in all but the Knott's Scary Farm and Halloween Horror Nights presentations saw many noticeably empty seats.  But at least the troubles of prior years, when guests had to be turned away due to capacity, were of no worry at all.

 The Terrace Theater offered a huge space for the marquee panels of the weekend.

The Terrace Theater offered a huge space for the marquee panels of the weekend.

 Though many panels saw plenty of empty seats, the space itself was a beautiful environment in which to take in all the information presented.

Though many panels saw plenty of empty seats, the space itself was a beautiful environment in which to take in all the information presented.

Beyond the 5th Dimension: Creating the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The first panel of Day 1 featured a look at the Tower of Terror attraction, from its conceptual inspiration to the actual design and construction process of this iconic and classic ride.  There were issues initially, as the start of the panel was delayed 20-25 minutes before the Midsummer Scream creative team even had a chance to rise up from the orchestra pit to make their opening remarks and kick off the presentations.

 The Midsummer Scream creative team gives opening remarks before making way for the Tower of Terror talk.

The Midsummer Scream creative team gives opening remarks before making way for the Tower of Terror talk.

Once things got underway, though, guests saw Rick West moderate a group that included Disney Imagineers Corey Sewelson, Michael Sprout, and Eric Jacobson, plus famed voice actor Mark Silverman, who provided the custom narration of Rod Serling and also the narrative voiceover for the Tower of Terror preshow video.

 Rick West on the left, with the Imagineers in the middle, and Mark Silverman on the right.

Rick West on the left, with the Imagineers in the middle, and Mark Silverman on the right.

Having Mark on hand was a huge treat for the fans in attendance.  He recounted how he auditioned for a role that seemed like a dream job for him, since he was a huge Disney and Twilight Zone nut at the time.  Silverman also delighted the audience with a reading of the Tower of Terror preshow script and a recreation of Rod Serling's lines.  For some, this panel alone was worth the cost of admission, and it was a great way to kick off the day!

 Cory Sewelson recounts a humorous anecdote about bringing a clown to the Tower of Terror construction site, after finding out one of the designer was terrified of clowns.  It seems this project brought out everyone's fears.

Cory Sewelson recounts a humorous anecdote about bringing a clown to the Tower of Terror construction site, after finding out one of the designer was terrified of clowns.  It seems this project brought out everyone's fears.

Knott's Scary Farm Presentation

Because of the delay in the start of the Tower of Terror panel, the Knott's Scary Farm official presentation began slightly tardy as well--ten minutes after its scheduled time.  However, in a bit of a surprise to those in attendance, the presentation itself only lasted about 20-25 minutes, with no Q&A offered afterward.  Knott's Jeff Tucker emceed the presentation, which kept most of Scary Farm's announcements close to its vest, saving them for the official Season Passholder Scary Farm Event to occur later this month on Thursday, August 31.

 Knott's had a very speedy presentation.  In fact, I missed most of it and only came in right at the announcement that this would be Elvira's final year at the Halloween Haunt!

Knott's had a very speedy presentation.  In fact, I missed most of it and only came in right at the announcement that this would be Elvira's final year at the Halloween Haunt!

Knott's did reveal some news about this season's Scary Farm line-up, including:

  • Trick or Treat: Lights Out, a redesign of the now-venerable maze that would make use of infrared-controlled flashlights that could turn on or off randomly.  This seems to be a more extensive version of one of the Skeleton Key mini-haunts offered last year.  Though it will be interesting to see how this may impact capacity and waits, it's great to see this wonderful and long-standing maze receive a new facelift.  It also means the Green Witch and her Tricksters are back for another year, which is a great item in my book!
  • Elvira will be returning for another year in the "Ghoultime Theater" (Charles M. Schultz Theater), but this year will be her final year.
  • Tickets and Scary Farm season passes are on sale now.  Get them at the Knott's Scary Farm web site!
 In other news, open auditions were also announced.  On Saturday, this was relevant.  Today, that is pointless, because the auditions occurred yesterday.

In other news, open auditions were also announced.  On Saturday, this was relevant.  Today, that is pointless, because the auditions occurred yesterday.

Six Flags Magic Mountain's Fright Fest Presentation

The Fright Fest presentation was also relatively short, occupying half its allotted hour time.  But there was a little bit more news from Magic Mountain compared to Knott's, especially since Six Flags doesn't have its own announcement event, and most of Fright Fest's attractions are returnees from the previous year. 

 Last year's Fright Fest panel was a pleasant surprise with how much entertainment and fun was included.  This year's wasn't quite as grand, but Magic Mountain still tried to inject some extra energy and personality into their presentation.

Last year's Fright Fest panel was a pleasant surprise with how much entertainment and fun was included.  This year's wasn't quite as grand, but Magic Mountain still tried to inject some extra energy and personality into their presentation.

 Initially, Peaches the Clown hijacked the show and tried to convince everyone that this year, Fright Fest would actually be Peaches' Fest.

Initially, Peaches the Clown hijacked the show and tried to convince everyone that this year, Fright Fest would actually be Peaches' Fest.

 After things settled down, the Fright Fest team brought some of their monstrous friends to play.

After things settled down, the Fright Fest team brought some of their monstrous friends to play.

That isn't to say that there wasn't notable news.  The Six Flags team, plus special guest Peaches the Clown, highlighted the following news items:

  • The event is expanded this year to include 21 nights.
  • Mazes Red's Revenge, Vault 666, Toyz of Terror, Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising, Willoughby's Resurrected, and Chupacabra return for another year.
  • A new maze, called Dead End, will debut this year.  Not much information was provided, but there will be a Willhougby's connection.  One assumes that this takes the place of the lackluster Willoughby's Garden of Darkness up on Samurai Summit.
  • Suicide Squad: The Six Flags Fright Fest Experience will be back this year, by popular demand.
  • In addition to the scare zones from last year, there will be a new scare zone called Damned 'N Disguise: Change Before Your Eyes.  This promises to be a unique scare zone that will take on changing appearances throughout the night.  Concept art appeared to show this being accomplished through projection mapping, but it's definitely an intriguing prospect to venture through the same scare zone multiple times a night and have it give off a different ambiance each time!
  • Fright Fest will be providing a Hidden Haunts VIP Tour this year.
  • New Revolution will receive a special Fright Fest VR overlay in the form of Rage of the Gargoyles,  wherein guests must defeat a horde of invading creatures.  Hinted during this part of the panel was the ability to shoot at the creatures within the virtual reality system.
 They also had the Suicide Squad on hand to hype their return to Magic Mountain.

They also had the Suicide Squad on hand to hype their return to Magic Mountain.

 The monsters were great in interacting with the crowd, even though the turnout felt a little less than last year.

The monsters were great in interacting with the crowd, even though the turnout felt a little less than last year.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor Presentation

The final panel of the evening featured Midsummer Scream pseudo-hosts, Dark Harbor, making the long and arduous trek from very nearby Queen Mary.  Dark Harbor creative team David Wally, Charity Hill, and Steve Sheldon brought along The Captain and The Ringmaster with them, and as they've done in past conventions, the two Dark Harbor icons provided quite an entertaining hour of banter. 

 Dark Harbor held the headline panel spot for Saturday.

Dark Harbor held the headline panel spot for Saturday.

 (L-R) The Ringmaster, Steve Sheldon, Charity Hill, David Wally, and The Captain share the stage--and plenty of hilarious banter and quips! 

(L-R) The Ringmaster, Steve Sheldon, Charity Hill, David Wally, and The Captain share the stage--and plenty of hilarious banter and quips! 

The big news was the unveiling of Dark Harbor's seventh and newest maze, Feast, which will be located on board the ship (the fourth maze to do so).  Feast introduced the newest Dark Harbor spirit, "Chef," a cannibalistic cook with an army of loyal servants eager to serve you.  The concept sounds a little corny, but it should at least make for a deliciously gory (seewhatididthere) maze in October!

 In the theater lobby, Chef appeared to find a new victim.

In the theater lobby, Chef appeared to find a new victim.

 Chef ponders something truly horrific.  What could be worse than cooking and serving humans?  How about doing the same to kitty cats?!

Chef ponders something truly horrific.  What could be worse than cooking and serving humans?  How about doing the same to kitty cats?!

In addition, Deadrise was noted to be receiving a new layout, while Circus would be bigger than ever.  These two were my favorites last year, and it's great to see that they'll be receiving additional improvements.

The team also promised more bars than before, including supposedly a hidden bar (or two) within Circus and/or Feast!  I'm not sure how much of that was jest, but given the very alcohol-friendly dealings from Dark Harbor last year, I wouldn't be surprise if this was indeed the case!

 It's worth noting that after a one year break, the original Ringmaster actress is back, which is only a good thing!

It's worth noting that after a one year break, the original Ringmaster actress is back, which is only a good thing!

That does it for the Saturday panels.  But wait, there's more! Stay tuned tomorrow for the other half of this update, looking at Sunday's happenings!

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.