Events & Attractions

Midsummer Scream 2017 Day 1 Recap

Today kicked off Midsummer Scream weekend at the Long Beach Convention Center.  The summer Halloween convention featured a number of classes, panels, a number of haunted attractions, and a massive showfloor full of vendors selling spooky wares.  Throughout the day I posted a number of updates on social media of some of the happenings that the convention, but here’s a more in-depth recap on some of the details that came out of day one of the event.

We kicked off the day in the Hall of Shadows.  The Hall of Shadows is home to a number of abbreviated versions of local haunts.  We only hit a few of these since the scares are so brief and we wanted to focus on other areas of the convention, but the production quality for these was great in terms of decor, props, etc. The only downside is that it’s not really clear what all of the haunts are, so if I wanted to visit the full haunt later I’d probably have to ask around to find out what the specific haunt was.

The next area we spent a bit of time in was on the showfloor. As mentioned previously this is where they house the vendors for the event and there were hundreds! There was a lot of cool stuff to look at and the wares ranged from artwork to bags, to masks and more.  We’ll be sharing links to some of the vendors we were most impressed with over the next few days.

Knott’s Scary Farm Presentation

The first presentation we hit on day one was the Knott’s Scary Farm presentation, this was a short presentation that lasted only about a half an hour, but it was packed with information about this year’s event along with two major announcements.

This year, Knott’s Scary Farm will feature 13 haunted attractions and one of those will be the newly revamped “Trick or Treat.”  A part of the Knott’s Scary Farm maze lineup since 2012, “Trick or Treat” is becoming “Trick or Treat: Lights Out” for 2017.  The maze is being reimagined to have a grungier, gorier feel and will introduce a new cast of characters to the maze, which will no longer be under the control of The Green Witch.  For 2017 the attraction will feature a new, larger, more imposing facade as well as a new soundtrack, but more importantly it will feature all-new scenes.

Image of new Trick or Treat maze characters

The revamped “Trick or Treat” will feature a new backyard scene where you’ll encounter some beasts trying to escape the cellar as well as some children crying out from the attic.  You’ll then re-enter the house through an all-new greenhouse.  The final new scene will be the exit.  Historically guests have exited between a warehouse and the Ghostrider roller coaster tracks, but for 2017 the exit will be enclosed and become a side porch with an all new exit experience.

All of these changes are fine, but where the real excitement came in was in the twist at the end.  “We’re turning out the lights completely,” said Cooke during his presentation, which caused a slight buzz about the audience. “However, we’re not going to send you into a pitch black maze full of monsters,” Cooke continued, as the video screen revealed the haunts new interactive flashlight technology.

For 2017 each Trick or Treat guest will receive a flashlight to help them get through the now dark maze, but there’s a catch.  Knott’s controls them.  The new technology will allow Knott’s to bump up the lights when you need to find your way, change the color of the beam to reveal a hidden message, or when you turn the corner and you’re faced with an enormous monster…they can turn them off.  They then debuted the trailer for “Trick or Treat: Lights Out”

Following the exciting news of the re-imagining of a Knott’s Scary Farm favorite came some slightly sadder news as Cassandra Peterson AKA Elvira Mistress of the Dark took the stage alongside Knotts’ Jeff Tucker to announce 2017 would be the last year Elvira will perform at Knott’s Scary Farm.  While on stage Peterson joked, “You don’t want to see me all wheelin’ myself out in a walker or wheelchair do you?” Since 1984 Peterson has appeared as Elvira regularly at Knott’s Scary Farm in her one-of-a-kind stage show that pokes fun at everything from pop culture to politics and usually winds up killing a few people.  This year Peterson says she will be putting on an “extra, super, special show” so that she can go out on top and encouraged guests to attend her show while visiting Scary Farm.

In addition to the above big announcements, Knott’s announced that this years event will also introduce a change to it’s Fright Lane feature, which is being expanded to become Fright & Fast Lane, which will give guests priority access to both mazes and roller coasters.

Ben Cooper Costumes: Past and Future

One of the smaller panels at the show was for Ben Cooper Costumes, the iconic costume company that dominated the Halloween market in America for over 50 years.  The panel, which was moderated by Rebekah McKendry from featured Shirfa Cooper, the social media manager and project manager for Ben Cooper Costumes, Jon Miller a Ben Cooper Costumes historian, and Micheline Pitt, an artist and designer involved with a number of projects helping to revitalize the Ben Cooper Brand.

During the panel Jon Miller took attendees through the history of the company from its humble beginnings to the marketing and licensing behemoth that helped it dominate the Halloween market from 1937 and into the 90’s.  Shirfa Cooper, a member of the Cooper family, shared more intimate details about the business including how before the company had effective ways of collecting data on the success of its costumes, they would drive to various discount stores and look to see which costumes and characters were selling best.

Shirfa Cooper, a member of the Cooper family, shared more intimate details about the business including how before the company had effective ways of collecting data on the success of its costumes, they would drive to various discount stores and look to see which costumes and characters were selling best.

Micheline Pitt focused more on the future of the brand as she shared the story of her partnership with the Ben Cooper brand to develop a new line of clothes inspired by the classic costumes.  During the panel Pitt sported one of the dresses, which she shared had already sold out via pre-order in three of the sizes.  Pitt is also developing a men’s line which will feature button up shirts as well as t-shirts.  The dresses can be seen on Pitt’s website.

The Ben Cooper brand is also working on developing a graphic novel that tells the history of the brand and Halloween in America and will also be the focus of an upcoming exhibit set to debut at the Mystic Museum in Burbank in September.  The exhibit will include never before seen prototypes, archive photos, original art, masks from the 30’s through the 80’s a tribute art show as well as exclusive merchandise.  Tickets are just $10 and the exhibit will be on display from September 9 through October 31, 2017.

Submitted For Your Approval: Are You Afraid of the Dark?

We rounded out our day of panels with one that was particularly special to me because it focused on the Nickelodeon series, Are You Afraid of the Dark?  Growing up I watched this whenever it was on and it is likely partially responsible for my love of horror.  The panel, which was moderated by filmmakder Scott Markus featured the show’s co-creator D.J. MacHale as well as writer/director Ron Oliver who worked on Are You Afraid of the Dark? and later Goosebumps.

During the panel we learned a lot about the show.  Perhaps the most interesting bit was that the original show concept was nothing like what it turned out to be.  The original idea for Are You Afraid of the Dark was to be a direct to video bedtime story series intended for lazy parents.  The original goal was to have an older actor read fairy tales to kids.  The idea evolved to make the fairy tales, scary tales, but then they realized how weird it was having an old man reading scary stories to kids.  The concept would then eventually evolve into a much larger, more budget heavy, not direct to video effort that became Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Another interesting tidbit that came from the panel was how little involvement there was from Nickelodeon on the show.  During the panel as well as the Q&A questions came up about pushing the envelope too far, or episodes not airing and it was revealed that they never had that problem because Nickelodeon never gave any feedback on the episodes and let the creators make the show they wanted.  The only issue the series ever had was that “The Tale of The Full Moon” episode of the show was banned in England, for unknown reasons.

During the panel it was also revealed that Ryan Gossling was almost cast as David in the Midnight Society.  In fact, Gossling was given the role, but had to turn it down because of a little show called The Mickey Mouse Club.  Gossling later made it on to the show in an episode titled, “The Tale of Station 109.1.”

The panel ended with a look at whether or not there could ever be a reunion or reboot of the Are You Afraid of the Dark? series on Netflix or some other medium.  Scott Markus joked that the show was only nine episodes away from 100, but D.J. Machale was quick to shoot down the idea, not because he was against it, but because he just felt in today’s society they couldn’t do a show like Are You Afraid of the Dark? without a ton of edits and feedback from the studios.  He also pointed out that the CINAR’s right’s to the show had been sold and then sold again so getting the new owners along with VIACOM to come to an agreement would likely be next to impossible.

Overall day one of Midsummer Scream was a hit.  We had a lot of fun, met a lot of great people, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  We’ll be back at it again tomorrow when we learn about the history of Halloween decorations, see what’s planned for this year’s Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, and reflect on 45 years of Knott’s Scary Farm.

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