Midsummer Scream 2016: The Rest of the Panels

Long Beach Convention Center

We'll finish off today's Midsummer Scream coverage by looking at the other panels I attended over the weekend.  Some of these were for only part of the panel's duration, and others were full time but not related to any Halloween season attraction announcements. Still, there was some great information gleaned from these sessions, which ranged from discussions about theme park ride design to key steps and strategies for haunted attraction success to creature design in movies.  Lets dive right in...

Frightful Attraction Design for Theme Park Audiences

The opening panel of the event featured some theme park industry legends and heavy hitters stepping in for a previously announced Disney-centric discussion about attraction design.  Tony Baxter (Walt Disney Imagineering), Gary Goddard (Goddard Group--Terminator 2:3D, Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure, and more), Phil Hettema (Hettema Group--Jurassic Park, Men in Black Alien Attack, and more) and Susan Bonds (Indiana Jones Adventure, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Mission: Space) explained their takes on utilizing the element of fear in theme park attractions. 

Application differed depending on the client.  Baxter and Bonds explained that Disney attractionstypically have to tiptoe to the edge of the line but ultimately remind guests that they are safe (a line that was infamously broken by Alien Encounter, a ride so scary that Disney closed it down and reworked it into Stitch's Great Escape.  Working for Universal, on the other hand, allowed Goddard and Hettema to push past the feeling of absolute safety on a ride and generate moments of unexpected fright, such as the dramatic emergence of the T-Rex just before the climactic drop on the Jurassic Park ride and the immersive illusion of danger in the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman.  The panel provided some fantastic insight to both fans of theme parks and aspiring designers!

The New Hauntness

The last panel of Saturday featured masterminds behind 2015 hits The 17th Door, Creep LA, Motel 6 Feet Under, and The Fleshyard.  Robbie Luther, Justin Fix, Carolyn Carpenter, and Adam LeBlanc respectively talked about their trials and triumphs in starting up new or relatively new haunted attractions in an increasingly competitive Southern California market.  The haunts represented ran the gamut from extreme to family friendly traditional, and each took an interesting and different path to success. 

The 17th Door relied on secrecy and viral marketing combined with an exceedingly high quality product to become the breakout hit of 2016.  Motel 6 Feet Under, on the other hand, recaptured an old school brand of Halloween charm and bottled it with slowly building word of mouth to find its success.  Creep L.A. presented a new and more interactive and unique method of experiencing haunts.  The Fleshyard saw its own ups and down and inconsistent success despite seemingly excellent and prominent location. 

It was interesting to hear each party's take on what worked, what didn't work, and what they had to plan for in terms of opening and maintaining a successful professional haunted attraction.  One thing's for sure--the job sure isn't easy!

Henson: Creatures with Heart

Representatives from Jim Henson's Creature Shop stopped by to talk about their roles in creating family friendly monsters in movies spanning nearly four decades.  Jeremy Nocon, John Criswell, and Robert Bennet chatted with moderator Clarke Wolfe (of Collider Nightmares fame) about making creatures that might be scary on the surface but adding touches of whimsy and endearment in their design and expressions to turn them into loveable icons.  Discussed were works from the Muppet movies and classics like Labyrinth, to name a couple.  The panel also brought along several puppets for display during the course of the hourlong discussion.

The Grandeur of Delusion

The team behind one of the most visionary, gripping, critically acclaimed haunted attractions around discussed the evolution and behind the scenes of the Delusion haunted theater series and shared plans for the upcoming 2016 seasonal attraction (tickets already on sale for subscribers and opening to the public on August 9).  Jon Braver, Ian Momii, Jackie Kreterfield, Kevin Williams, Niyia Mack, and Victor Mathieu recounted stories of idea brain storming, property searching and staging, technical preparations for each season's shows, and the challenges of turning their seasonal idea into something viable year round.  Along the way, the team also revealed ideas about expanding beyond haunted theater into television of screenplay media.

And that about wraps up today, but never fear.  We still have coverage of the Hall of Shadows mini-haunts featured at the event, a glance at the exhibition floor and other displays, and a look at the Decayed Brigade sliders.  It's officially Halloween season.  Hope you enjoy the frightful stuff!


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