SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons Halloween Horror Nights is Better than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

by on October 11, 2014 19 Comments

Filed under: Adults, Attractions, Halloween, Merchandise, Saturday Six, Universal Orlando Resort

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons Halloween Horror Nights is Better than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Now, before we start, this is not an article that’s trying to sell you on the idea that MNSSHP is not good, as we wrote several weeks ago that we love it, and it’s definitely the best Halloween event in town that you can bring the whole family to. That said, Halloween Horror Nights brings some elements to the table, which Disney could learn from in terms of over delivering to its guests. While HHN may not be for everyone, if you are a regular reader of the Saturday Six it’s probably for you and today we’ll look at the reasons why. Please remember that clicking on any picture will open it up in full size, and let’s count ’em down…

# 6 –  A night at HHN is completely different than any other experience you’ve had at Universal Studios Florida

HHN_DieIn_Glover

Mel’s Drive-In becomes Mel’s DIE-In for HHN. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

For anyone who has gone to MNSSHP you know that the one of the bigger differences between a party night and any other night is how well Main Street, U.S.A. is decorated. Unfortunately, outside of The Haunted Mansion, that’s where the level of theming stops. All the lands of the park are the same (albeit with wonderful candy stations) and all of the attractions are the same, just with less people going on them. That’s where I find the value in a MNSSHP ticket. You can do all the E-Ticket rides like Space Mountain and Big Thunder without having to worry about FP+ or standby lines as almost everything is a walk-on. Halloween Horror Nights on the other hand completely changes the dynamic of Universal Studios Florida. There are scare zones and seemingly hundreds of scare actors thoughout the entire park along with 8 haunted houses, none of which are available to non-party going guests.

HHN_Purge1_HateToFly

The Purge scare zone. (photo by Hate to Fly)

 

To put it in perspective: My normal day of going to the Magic Kingdom would be riding some of my favorite attractions (such as the TTA, Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise,) seeing a parade, and staying for fireworks. A night at MNSSHP at the Magic Kingdom has me riding my favorite attractions, seeing a parade, and staying for fireworks. To be fair, for the latter two points I do think that the Boo To You parade and Happy HalloWishes fireworks are the best Disney has to offer, but there is very little change to either one from year to year. In contrast, a night at HHN almost never sees me going on the attractions I love at Universal. It has too much going on that is new and exciting, and it’s here just for the Halloween and then gone forever.

 

# 5 – Rush of Fear/Frequent Fear ticket options

RushOfFear

HHN Rush of Fear ticket, valid for 10 event nights.

 

One of the least talked about strengths of the Universal Orlando Resort as whole, is the value, which guests can find across the board, especially the ones used to Disney-only vacations. Whether it’s the room rates and amenities at hotels like the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, menu prices for restaurants such as Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, Mythos, and Red Oven Pizza Bakery, or the incredible deals HHN guests can get via the Rush of Fear or Frequent Fear ticket options, there are great prices everywhere you look. As much as I love MNSSHP, as an annual pass holder the $62 per night charge is hard to justify more than once or twice a season considering how little there is different between a MNSSHP night and a non-party night. For HHN, the Rush of Fear tickets allow guests to go to 10 events for less than $80. The Frequent Fear pass gives access to 16 event nights for under $90. The deals almost seem too good to be true.  These tickets seem to be targeting the local and annual pass holder guests, and it would be nice to see Disney offer something as well to this fan base, even if it was done like a standard Magic Your Way ticket where the price reduces the more days you purchase. 1 ticket to MNSSHP for $62, 2 for $100, 3 for $135, etc. I could see myself going to more MNSSHP if there was a better financial incentive to do it.

 

# 4 – Merchandise

HHN_Merchandise2_Glover

The special HHN 24 Uni-Mini. (photo by Brandon Glover)

HHN_Merhandise3_Glover

HHN 24 merchandise. (photo by Brandon Glover)

HHN_Merchandise1_Glover

HHN merchandise. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

When you see all the items Universal pulls out for HHN it’s actually shocking how little Disney produces for MNSSHP. Outside of the limited edition MagicBand, Disney only has a limited selection of t-shirts and pins for MNSSHP, all featuring designs that if you took off the “2014” date, guests would find them impossible to distinguish from any other year’s offerings. Universal pulls out all the big merchandise guns offering not just a slew of HHN related merchandise, but also pieces directly related to all the big franchises they have licensed for the event. So that means not only do you have unique items like the limited edition zombie Uni-Mini, but you will find shirts for brands such as Aliens vs. Predator, John Carpenter’s Halloween, and The Walking Dead. I would have loved to have seen a MNSSHP themed vinylmation, or instead of using Chip & Dale for the millionth time on a generic pin, use one of the rarer villain characters like the Big Bad Wolf or Bowler Hat Guy.

 

# 3 – Finally there is something in the theme parks designed specifically for those of us over the age of 13

HHN_glover

Now try sleeping. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Roanoke2

A scene from Roanoke – Cannibal Colony, or what happened to the room of people behind MyMagic+ after Bob Iger got through with them. (photo by Hate to Fly)

Dollhouseofthedamned_Glover

Creepiness from the Dollhouse of the Damned house. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

The fact that both Disney and Universal are family friendly is great. In fact I would argue in general Universal’s biggest weakness is the fact it doesn’t offer enough for guests under the age of 8. However, in every form of entertainment, adults have options, which directly appeal to them and doesn’t have to be “for all ages.” Yes, I enjoy watching Modern Family and Dog with a Blog, but I also like True Detective and Fargo. I’m a huge fan of Guardians of the Galaxy and Frozen, but I also enjoy going to movies I can’t bring the kids to like Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street. For Universal to have an event inside a theme park that caters to adults is refreshing. Legitimately creepy scare actors that roam the streets, next level bananas situations like The Purge human auction, and stuff inside the haunted the houses that can be terrifying.

I understand the point of the Not So Scary part of MNSSHP, but some times I like scary. I love the fact that Universal Creative can produce a house like Roanoke – Cannibal Colony and mix what I know about history with a great horror twist. When I was growing up the movie Child’s Play was a huge hit playing on the idea of an evil doll, and the Dollhouse of the Damned takes that idea to the next level. I love going to the theme parks with my family, but sometimes I like going with my friends and nothing beats HHN as it doesn’t need to be safe or dumb anything down.

 

# 2 – The Walking Dead. Halloween. Aliens. Predator. From Dusk Till Dawn. The Purge. Dracula Untold (well, maybe not the last one.)

HHN_Aliens_HateToFly

A Xenomorph from the Aliens vs. Predator house. (photo by Hate to Fly)

Halloween_Glover

It’s the little things that matter. The pumpkin from the porch of the Halloween house. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

While there is something to be said for original content in the parks, the same argument can be made that guests equally love properties adapted from other forms of entertainment. For every Expedition Everest and Haunted Mansion that we love to ride we also have properties like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Star Tours which work tremendously because we already know – and love – the worlds they are based on. Universal was built on the concept of being able to ride the movies and Halloween Horror Nights takes that concept to the next level, allowing guests to be completely immersed  within the various properties and not just a passive experience on a ride. It’s one thing to ride Peter Pan’s Flight and see Capt Hook in a sword fight below you, but it’s something much more visceral to have Michael Myers from Halloween coming after YOU with a knife.

 

# 1 – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure

BillTedHalloween_Universal

Photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort.

BillandTed_Matt

The pre-show for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. (Photo by Joseph Matt)

 

A pitch perfect skewering of pop culture, celebrities, and the theme park world we know and love. The list of people and brands taken down is large and the jokes are actually funny. Zac Efron. Justin Beiber. Orange is the New Black. Snapchat. Frozen. 22 Jump Street. Donald Sterling. Capt. Phillips. Megan Fox. Scarlett Johansson. Divergent. Breaking Bad. Lebron James. Game of Thrones. The Hobbit. Guardians of the Galaxy. MagicBands. State Farm commercials. Avatar. This is just a taste of what you will experience.

Great music. Great dancing. Great jokes. The perfect recipe to a crowd pleasing show and has plenty of lines you’ll be talking long after the show. (I’m puppet dyingYou’re turtle racist….Magical Tracking Bands.)  Step aside Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo: The Musical and Celestina Warbeck. There is no better show in any theme park, period.

HHN_Glover

#story

So there you have it: Six Reasons Halloween Horror Nights is Better Than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween P:artySee you next weekend for the latest edition of the SATURDAY SIX, where I promise we are finally going to cover some non-Disney and Universal attractions you should consider on your next to trip to Orlando. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.

Special thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, grammar cop MegS, Universal Parks Icon Hate to Fly, Cover Band magnate Morgan Crutchfield, Parkscope everyman Joe Matt, and photo wunderkind Mike Sperduto for their invaluable assistance in this article.

Subscribe to TouringPlans.com

Posted on October 11, 2014

19 Responses to “SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons Halloween Horror Nights is Better than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party”

  • You can not compare both experience, is like comparing apples with pears. Disney focuses in families not in teenagers an up. For me that I have kids under 13, I would say it is better go to Disney in Halloween. May be when my kids are old enough not to get scared, I would chose Universal Studios.
    So that is why you can not said one is better than the other, because each experiences captures different audiences.
    The article is good, but as I said before, you can not say one is better that the other.
    May be if you compare Universal Studios with Seaworld, that could work, the focus the same age.

  • Them’s fightin’ words. But hard to argue…

  • It’s an odd comparison. I’d be interested in how Halloween Horror Night compares to Hallowscream over at Bush Gardens. Personally, I prefer the Not So Scary. I don’t really like replicating that feeling you get when you are in a scary place.

    • Howl-O-Scream is great for what it is and I think their “VIP packages” are better than anything you can get at Halloween Horror Nights. The scare actors roaming throughout the park are great. The houses are fantastic. The scares inside the houses are terrific. Where they lack compared to HHN is in IPs (like Aliens vs. Predator, John Carpenter’s Halloween, etc) and Bill & Ted, a show which alone makes HHN worth doing. Howl-O-Scream’s version of Bill & Ted – Fiends – is like comparing the Barnstormer to Big Thunder Mountain. I believe your overall experience is better at Howl-O-Scream than HHN, but there’s some things at HHN that Howl-O-Scream just can’t touch.

  • I think if you are simply comparing hard-ticket event benefits, this is a strong argument. An overall comparison of Not-So-Scary against Halloween Horror Nights… well just the names alone tell you they’re not the same offering, or even after the same audience.

  • I’m not sure a comparison is valid. MNSSHP is for meant for kids, HHN in meant for adults. For fairness, I have never been to either one.

    • Do kids not like decorations park-wide like Universal does? Do kids not like unique merchandise? Are the castle shows with performers on stage really the best Disney can do considering what we see them do elsewhere in the parks and on their cruise line?

  • It’s funny to see how people got overly defensive because of this comparison. I think people didn’t get the point that for almost every point in this article, Disney could do a better job and still keep the event directed at kids.
    6 – Disney could offer more halloween-specific attractions other the few things they do.
    5 – Disney could offer more tickets options for locals and anual passholders.
    4 – Disney could make more kinds of merchandise and more specific to things made for that year.
    3 – OK, this is the one point that conflicts with the “still being made for kids” rule.
    2 – Disney could use more franchises only on halloween. It doesn’t have to be terror movies like how universal does, but use stuff other than jack skellington, which I think it’s the only halloween specific franchise they use on MNSSHP.
    1 – Disney could make a show less “controlled” than the shows they make, making it still watchable by kids but also fresh and actual for teenagers and adults.

    So even though they are indeed made for different demographics, I think people should get less defensive and try to see the very good points this article made.

    • I think the “defensiveness” stems from the unusual comparison. It’s valid to discuss which park is providing the best experience and bang for your buck, but this is like comparing chocolate milk to wine.

  • Having been to both, here is my take. I know full well going to Disney that it is for kids and it is “not so scary”. What I found with Disney’s what that it really lacked atmosphere and theming. I don’t think the candy, “special” fireworks, and a parade warranted a $60 special event pass. Heck, over at Hollywood studios you get just about all that with Frozen and Star Wars weekends.

    Universal does Halloween better and Disney does Christmas better.

    • I do enjoy some of the things Universal does with Christmas (Grinchmas is great) I think they definitely could take advantage of their access to Christmas movies to really offer some interesting things. Agree that across the board Disney does Christmas exceptionally well.

  • Hi Derek,
    Normally you definitely TREAT us, but this post must surely be a TRICK!
    My mouth dropped open when I read the title of the post.
    So much so, that I didn’t even bother to read it for a few days until just now.

    With 8, 12 and 14 year olds, I know that comparing MNSSHP & HHN is just like comparing Pumpkins to Bobbing Apples.

    Have you been at the Pumpkin Beer Derek?
    Are you under some kind of holiday spell?

  • I understand your point about Universal offering special deals for residents and AP holders but it’s certainly because they have to. If Disney wasn’t bringing in the crowds at their current prices they would have to offer more deals but based on the number of sell out MNSSHPs already, it seems they are doing very well at their current price point. The truth is Disney gets the lion share of the market of people and families traveling to Orlando specifically to participate in Halloween at a park. Universal seems to be trying to capitalize on people who are already in the area and are interested in repeat visits rather than destination trips.
    It’s also a matter of taste. I don’t care how cheap the ticket is I’m simply not interested in things like a “Cannibal Colony” or people jumping out to scare me. That’s just my preference. I can go to “jump out and scare” haunted houses around me (while I fully concede Universal’s is surely far more elaborate and on a wholly different scale) without traveling to Orlando. I think at Disney everyone from the kids to the grandparents can attend the MNSSHP and enjoy it. Universal’s take on Halloween is definitely for a smaller percentage of the demographic but they seem to know that and are marketing it accordingly. It’s just hard to compare such different events, because as many have posted, it’s apples to oranges.

    • Have to disagree when it comes to special deals. Disney has a hard time selling certain events (such as a recent Food & Wine premium package) and instead of lowering the cost or make it more attractive to locals/APs, they just cancel it. They also are hesitant to lower room rates, leading to occupancy rates being low and using smoke and mirrors of refurbs/conversion to DVC in order to hide that fact.

      I’m not saying Disney has to lower prices, but the fact that they don’t doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing gangbuster business.

  • I don’t need six reasons why MNSSHP beats Universal- one is enough…

    1. Because at MNSSHP I know I won’t end up having a panic attack, sobbing and shaking uncontrollably, and eventually escorted out of the park.

    So for those that say MNSSHP is designed for kids, I’d say it is also designed for scardy-cats like me who find the Haunted Mansion just scary enough.