Summer is beginning to wind down, which means there's some spooky theme park news as we gear up for Halloween Horror Nights. And, even though some of the news about Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge's low attendance sounds scary, it's really not. Here's what happened in the big world of theme parks this past week.
JORDAN PEELE'S US GETS THE HHN TREATMENT
Halloween Horror Nights, the annual autumnal scare-fest at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood, brings otherworldly spooks into the theme parks by way of mazes, houses and "scare zones" packed with famed villains and film references — and the rabbit-filled mania of Us will be receiving its very own haunted walk-throughs in both Florida and California this fall.
Though categorically fright-filled, a couple of this year's most anticipated houses are vintage classics that border on kitschy Ghostbusters, which features a bad guy who'd work equally well on screen as between two graham crackers with a melted square of Hershey's chocolate, makes its debut on the Horror Nights circuit this year, while Killer Klowns From Outer Space upgrades its delightfully odd clowns from last year's scare zone to a full-fledged haunted house at Universal Studios Florida.
The Us house, on the other hand, suggests you "prepare to run for your life, as there is no escaping yourself." Fun! It'll be a smash hit, I'm sure of it, but the one busted doppelganger you won't find twirling around those halls in a Michael Jackson tee is mine because there is a z-e-r-o percent chance I'm stepping foot inside this scissor-cutting, red jumpsuit-wearing hellscape.
As someone who finally mustered enough courage to successfully cower her human form through every house, maze and scare zone (but one) on both coasts last year, I found what often makes Halloween Horror Nights so bloodcurdling isn't Michael Myers popping out amidst a pulsing slasher film soundtrack but the absence of a clear and apparent danger. The void of anything seemingly creepy is often the scariest of all — which just so happens to be the ethos of Peele's horror smash. (Ghostbusters' biggest export was juice, for Christ's sake!)
There are other nightmarish sights to behold at Universal Parks on both coasts, including a Yeti bloodbath, Creature From the Black Lagoon encounter and an ancient Roman blood pit, but witnessing "The Tethered rise up from their underground labyrinth ready to take on their privileged upper world counterparts" sounds both too similar to the divergent nightmare we live in daily life and a great way to ensure I never visit a beach boardwalk for the rest of my mortal life. Thankfully, my absence means you'll never encounter the underground counterpart of an overtired theme park reporter writing her column at 2AM from the top floor of Disney's Contemporary Resort, because let me assure you, she is likely going to be pissed off.
WE GOTTA TALK ABOUT STAR WARS LAND
Plenty of headlines are flying around following last week's Disney earnings call, most notably that The Walt Disney Company Chairman Bob Iger confirmed attendance at Disneyland's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was lower than anticipated.
I've staved off talking about this topic in-depth for some time because it's armchair economics without any specific figures, but I'll say this: consider that Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is, technically, not yet fully open. Disneyland's iteration will be in public operation for 33 weeks before its boundary-pushing flagship attraction Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is first unveiled to the SoCal park's guests, making it tricky to draw any conclusion thus far.
(I did not phone into the Disney earnings call, but the full transcript is online for any interested parties.)
So yes, the 3 percent attendance dip, the temporary park emptiness, the Galaxy's Edge hyperbole — it's less a sign of Batuu's failure and more that the land isn't even fully operational, to borrow a Star Wars phrase. Iger attributed the attendance decline to a lack of annual passholder visitation restrictions, and as a Californian, allow me to reiterate: so many people are blocked out. It's been a Disneyland drought of a summer, folks, with most tiers of Annual Passholders sequestered over at Disney California Adventure or shut out of the parks entirely 'til mid-August or early September.
The goons at Fox News called Disneyland's new land a flop that's already "slashing employee hours" — neglecting to mention that Walt Disney World will open Disney's Hollywood Studios exclusively to hotel guests three hours early every dang day from September 1 through November 2 to better accommodate crowds. (On a regular day, that increases park hours — which require additional staffing — by almost 25 percent).
Merchandise and food sales have soared, as reported by Gizmodo, with per-customer spending up 10 percent — which, as expected, has caused popular items to get price increases when they're restocked. Creature Stall's Lothcats and nearly everything at Toydarian Toymaker now costs a few bucks more on the West Coast, while drinks at Oga's Cantina are priced slightly higher at Disney World.
Whether or not you're mourning that you can't ride a Bantha around Batuu, just know the story's not over until Rise of the Resistance bows at Disney World on December 5 and Disneyland on January 17, 2020. Don't believe the tweets until Star Wars Land is done-done. (Except for the ones about blue and green milk, maybe.)
EVERYTHING ELSE THAT HAPPENED IN THE THEME PARK WORLD:
— I accidentally incited a small toiletries-related riot. How was your Monday?
— D23 Expo 2019 has a new procedure allowing attendees to "FastPass" seats to panels — and online reservations begin this Friday at noon.
— Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge dining and experiential reservations nearly broke the Disney booking system for popularity, so make your reservations ASAP if you want to build a lightsaber, create a droid or toss back a few Fuzzy Tauntauns at Oga's Cantina within the next six months. (Keep in mind: Droid Depot doesn't require reservations in Anaheim, but does in Walt Disney World.)
— Jaleo at Disney Springs has introduced a $25 four-course Almuerzo Rapido that'll have you in, out and back to the parks in just one hour.
— Just put me in a Sleeping Beauty coma forever already
— is Primeval Whirl gone forever?