Saturday, May 24, 2014

Halloween Horror Nights 4 Dates

Resorts World Sentosa has released the event dates for Halloween Horror Nights 4. The event will run from 3 Oct to 1 Nov, and is significantly extended from 8 nights last year to 13 nights this year. Halloween Horror Nights will also coincide with 2 public holidays: Deepavali and Hari Raya Haji, so expect huge turnouts on and before these public holidays.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Halloween Horror Nights III review

This year, Universal Singapore really stepped up its game with the third installment of Halloween Horror Nights. With the competition just down the street boasting a tie in with Thai horror studio, universal had to up the ante in order to remain the leader of halloween events in singapore.

I personally felt that this year’s event is a drastic improvement from last year’s. HHN 2 was rather disappointing, and paled in comparison with HHN 1. During the first year, although only half of the park was open, the event felt much more intense and fresh. There were plenty of things to look at, and the theatrical sets in the scare zones were stunning. The crowds were also manageable, and the entire event felt rather exclusive. We also saw many classic scare techniques deployed in the maze, and they were highly effective. These simple but elegant scares really established a high benchmark that HHN 2 did not reach. For HHN 2, the event was much more crowded, and yet there were less scare zones than the first year. Furthermore, the scare zones felt rather scarce, and there weren’t as many scare actors roaming the area as I would like to have seen. The sets were also rather unimpressive, and the fog was so thin that the scare actors had a hard time scaring anyone. The mazes were also rather standard, and lacked the diversity of scares found in the first year. I felt that the creative team found a formula for developing the scares and stuck to it, thus resulting in a repetitive experience in the mazes of 2012. A typical scare worked like this 1. Place a prop/scare actor to act as a distraction 2. Have another scare actor pop out from a hidden spot while the guests are looking at the distraction. 3. Add in loud noises and screams.

The motifs for HHN 2 were also highly similar to that of HHN 1. The House of Dolls felt like a remix of Carnevil scare zone of 2011, while Total Lockdown felt exactly like the Post Apocalyptic Rage scare zone of 2011. Thus, I was really excited when the motifs for 2013 were announced. Gone with zombies and dolls, and in with vampires and Asian ghosts.

The entire marketing campaign this year was extremely well done, with the advertisements for the event going up on billboards as early as July. Resorts World Sentosa also filmed many movie quality trailers, and they even created a mini site for the event. The HHN web advertisements were literally spammed all over the Internet.

There was also a greater engagement with the fan community, from the periodic updates on Facebook, to the behind the scenes videos on Youtube (hosted by the beret wearing Jason Ramsburg). Prominent fan websites like Dejiki and Super Adrian Me were also invited to the special press preview of the event. I feel that this increase in fan engagement is a step in the right direction, as it creates a loyal local fan community that is evangelical about the event. Knott’s Scary Farm in SoCal is an excellent example of a haunt event with a significant fan community. Knott’s Haunt had already spawned a book, many websites, podcasts and forums dedicated to discussing the event.

Halloween Haunt - a completely fan written publication on the history of Halloween at Knott's Berry Farm. Will Universal Studios Singapore also cultivate such a loyal fan base?

Perhaps a future direction the marking team can take is to reveal more of the behind the scenes process of making the event, as well as introducing the public to more of the personalities behind the show (Jason Ramsburg, we still love you, but we love to see new faces too!). Another addition can be the production of shorts or special features with the terrestrial TV channels and terrestrial newspapers so that the general public will be introduced to the event (HHN is still very much a niche event that is limited to the teenage crowd).

Jason Ramsburg - face of Halloween Horror Nights Singapore

I would like to applaud Universal Singapore for creating original icons for the event for the past two years. These icons are plastered all over the promotional materials as well as within the park, thus serving as prominent and instantly recognizable characters for the visitors. I was also very delighted to see the park integrating Asian elements into the characters. The Crone of the Forest is an excellent reinterpretation of the South East Asian ghost of the jungle, while the Opera singer is an amazing homage to the Chinese Opera art form.

As I visited the event on Halloween night (31 Oct), which was a Thursday, the crowds were significantly lighter, and so my experience may not be representative of all the nights of the event.
This year, they had extended their opening hours from 8pm-12am to 7pm-1am. This change was definitely for the better, as guests now had ample time to visit the entire park and experience all the attractions. However, I am not certain if the closing time of 1am was too late, as the park was mostly empty of visitors by 11.30pm on the day I visited. (Perhaps that was because it was a Thursday).

The park decided to not place any scare zone in the Hollywood area, a departure from the previous two years. I felt that this was a wise choice, and it allowed an altogether more pleasant experience. The park was able to allow visitors to enter 15 minutes before 7pm, thus easing the congestion in the Bull Ring outside the park entrance. Instead, visitors were ushered onto the streets of Hollywood, where a nightly rope-drop show marked the start of the night’s event. Apart from being a great crowd control technique, this decision also prevented the shops along Hollywood Street from being blocked by the scare zone sets. Thus, the operation of the shops and restaurants were not disrupted, unlike the previous years where the sets effectively blocked all the shops from the view of the guests. 

The opening rope drop ceremony was also extremely well done, and managed to generate anticipation and excitement for the evening. The (almost) deafening music was also well selected, and definitely helped to create the spooky-party vibe. Although the illusion of the three sisters disappearing was frankly rather expected and conventional, the show still managed to pack enough punch to get the crowd all hyped-up for the night. The pyrotechnics were also amazing. 

Stage for the rope drop ceremony, and the photo op afterwards. Taken from

The first maze, Possessions a.k.a House 13, was constructed in the Waterworld queue. This location was home to The Insanitarium maze last year. However, unlike in 2012, where the entrance to the maze was constructed at the entrance to Waterworld, the entrance of Possessions was hidden well within the Lost World zone. I feel that this was an ingenious move, as guests will now have to enter the dark and foggy forest of Lost World, thus building anticipation and hype for the maze. Furthermore, placing the entrance deep within a scare zone also helped to spread the crowd out, thus allowing the maze to maintain a rather stable wait time, unlike Songs of Death, which experienced wild fluctuations in wait time since it was located right off the thoroughfare.

Possession's tucked away inside the Forbidden Forest scare zone

This maze was exceptionally claustrophobic. It contained some innovative scare that was never seen before in the previous events, such as the camouflage man and the newspaperman. There was also the use of scent (or odor for that matter) in the toilet scene (though it was also used in 2012). All in all, this maze was a decent experience, and it did manage to deliver some scares. However, it lacked the creativity of The Insanitarium maze, such as the water tank effect, the handstand man, the rocking tables, and the multiple exits.

Interior of Possessions House 13 - Photo from RWSentosa Facebook page

One disappointment in Possessions was the chainsaw man. Chainsaws are usually a huge feature in the US versions of Halloween Horror Nights. Therefore, I was very excited when I found out that this maze was to feature a chainsaw man. However, it turned out that the chainsaw man was very mild and tame, and altogether unintimidating. Instead of using an authentic chainsaw with the cutting chains removed, Universal Singapore used a dummy chainsaw and attached a small speaker inside which played back the chainsaw noise. Perhaps Universal Singapore may consider having a chainsaw scare zone (with authentic chainsaws) next year?

The Forbidden Forest scare zone was located in the Lost World. This was the first time a scare zone was constructed in this area, and I must say that it was really well done. This zone was the scariest of all three zones, and it had the best ambience. The thick fog was the perfect cover for the scare actors to target their victims. The scare actors in this zone were all very quick on their feet, and managed to deliver some of the best scares of the entire event. It must have been really difficult and physically demanding to navigate the thick fog and scare guests for six hours a night. Although I went on the Thursday of the final week, I could sense that the energy level of the actors were still exceptional.

Forbidden Forest scare zone
Photo credit

This was an excellent example of how massive sets and impressive props are not needed to deliver effective scares. The atmosphere and the talent are the two key ingredients of a successful scare zone, not elaborate props or dramatic special effects (e.g. Total Lockdown – impressive sets, great pyro, but still fell flat in terms of scares)

I am really curious to see how the creative team will reinvent themselves on this scare zone next year, as I cannot imagine any other theme that will fit the Lost World area.

Moving on to the next maze, the Songs of Death. I find this the most impressive maze of this year’s event. From the façade to the finale, this maze was top notch, and even surpassed Adrift in terms of scare factor (perhaps it was due to the source material? Chinese Opera is scary in and of itself). The maze was very detailed, and it was all the more impressive as this maze was constructed in a temporary tent squeezed between the Mummy building and the Jurassic Park ride.

Songs of Death was constructed in such a narrow space!

This maze had one of the most dramatic entrances: a fully constructed façade of a Chinese Opera academy, along with an outdoor theater. The various scare elements along the maze was also very impressive, especially the mirror maze segment, which was highly disorientating and intense. The ambience within this maze was top-notch. The use of richly detailed textiles in the maze was great, and added to the realism and the authenticity of the experience.

Maiden of the Opera
Photo Credit

One possible improvement for future mazes located in this spot will be to station scare actors after the exit of the maze, along the long corridor that leads back out onto the main thoroughfare. This is the best time to scare guests, as they will have their guards down since they perceive the maze to be over.

The Songs of Death maze would empty out to the Ancient Egypt scare zone, which was the location of the Convention of Curses scare zone. This scare zone was an update from the Bizarre Bazaar zone of 2012. The kiosks were much more interactive and fun to look at, and the actors (especially the Nightmare Ripper). One of the problems with the Bizarre Bazaar zone last year was the congestion that was caused by the crowds stopping in front of the various kiosks along the thoroughfare. This problem was significantly improved this year, and the movement through this scare zone was largely smooth.

Convention of Curses
Photo Credit

I would also like to commend the park for having the Coven Celebration show in front of the Obelisk. I must say that this was a great improvement from the 44 Sins show that was also located on the same spot in 2011. The actors were amazing, and this really contributed to the ambience of the zone.
However, I do feel that this scare zone is a repeat of the Bizarre Bazaar scare zone, and I am definitely very curious to see how Universal Singapore can reinvent this scare zone for Halloween 2014. Furthermore, owning to the straight layout of the Egypt zone, there were also limited opportunities for the scare actors to scare the guests.

Convention of Curses is essentially located on a straight thoroughfare

Perhaps Universal Singapore may consider using the area facing the lagoon for their scare zone next year? That area has a lot of meandering walkways, thus making it an excellent location for an intense scare zone. Furthermore, that will also leave the main thoroughfare in front of the Mummy ride empty, thus improving guest circulation by easing congestion.

Possible space for a scare zone?

The Chill Out Zone located in Scifi City was a rather charming idea, though it was rather lacking in execution. Despite the presence of live music and laser beams, there wasn’t a significant enough reason for guests to pause at this zone. The outdoor bar/ lounge area was largely empty on the night I visited. 

A suitable model that Universal Singapore might consider is the ElecTRONica event held at Disney’s California Adventure from 2010-2012. During ElecTRONica, the entire area was transformed using impressive lighting effects to simulate a Tron landscape. Furthermore, there was also an amazing Laser Man show as well as a bar that served alcoholic beverages.

ElecTRONica at DCA California - a possible model for Chill Out Zone?

Perhaps Universal Singapore may consider improving the lighting effects in the Chill Out zone. Furthermore, rather than tucking the outdoor bar/ lounge area in the passageway leading to the New York Wharf area, they could move it onto the main thoroughfare (since Battlestar Galactica isn’t working anyway, so congestion wouldn’t be a problem). A small show would also be appreciated, as it will serve as an additional attraction to get guests to stop at this zone and buy a drink (cash register goes Ka-ching!)

Possible Chill Out Zone for 2014?

The final scare zone at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights is the Attack of the Vampires at the New York area. This scare zone was a radical departure from the previous scare zones in the same location. Gone were the zombies and mutants. Instead, we welcome vampires, gargoyles and werewolves. When the zone was announced, I was rather skeptical as to the ability of the creative team to transform the New York zone into a gothic cemetery, but after experiencing the zone, I must say that they did a great job.

Vampire alert!
Photo Credit

The set pieces and props at this scare zone were phenomenal, and the backdrop of the New York buildings simply fades away. Instead, you feel as though you have been transported into a gothic village/ cemetery. This zone also felt more cluttered with props and set pieces, thus creating many niches and crannies that scare actors can ambush unsuspecting guests from. This was a welcomed improvement as the previous iterations of the maze in New York zone were too open and too direct.

The Birth of the Vampire show was also amazing. The New York Public Library building was utilized brilliantly as the backdrop for this 5 minute long show. The lighting and ambience was excellent, and so were the blocking and the choreography. The “plant” in the audience was also a welcomed surprise.

Ultimately, I would argue that scare zones are actually more significant than haunted houses in determining the overall guest satisfaction. Haunted houses are relatively short (5-7 minutes) experiences, and entail a long (30-120 minutes) wait in massive switchbacks with little to see or do. Furthermore, the haunted house lacks the degree of social interaction, as guests form a massive conga line and file through the maze, with little opportunity to talk to their friends. On the other hand, the scare zones are the areas where the guests will spend most of their time, and they are also the areas where guests can get scared without queuing in line. Visiting a scare zone is ultimately a social experience, as guests are able to walk through the zone with their friends and interact with the scare actors. Therefore, I think that it was a step in the right direction when Universal Singapore decided to include many small shows and interactive elements in the scare zones. This brings the quality of the scare zones to a new height by making it a theatrical experience.

Finally, the gem of the night has to be Adrift. Adrift, located in Stage 28, was the most elaborate and impressive of all three haunted houses. Universal Singapore really outdid themselves with this maze, and I am excited to see what sorcery they can cook up next year. As Adrift has the luxury of being located in a soundstage, the set pieces were definitely much more impressive that that of the other two “tent” mazes. From the flooded room to the slanted decks, Adrift was a sight to behold. We also saw some interesting scare techniques in this maze, such as the Pepper’s Ghost effect as well as the levitating girl.

Layout of Adrift: a sight to behold
Photo Credit RWSentosa

Nevertheless, I must say that despite the amazing set and production quality of Adrift, it was not the scariest of the mazes. Most of the scares were rather conventional, and the maze felt too open and too predictable (unlike Possessions, which was extremely claustrophobic, or Songs of Death, which was unpredictable and creepy). However, I do realize that different mazes have different strengths, and I am grateful that the creative team decided to capitalize on the space of this area to create a spectacular, large-scale maze (something which Dungeon of Damnation did not do last year – it felt as though it was a tent maze, rather than a soundstage maze)

I would definitely recommend visitors to go through the mazes multiple times if possible, as each experience would be different. We managed to see certain effects on our second visit to Adrift that we missed on the first, and vice versa.

Overall, I felt that the event was decent, though there were still room for improvement. The attractions felt rather lopsided, as they were all concentrated on the southern side of the park, while Madagscar and Far Far Away were very underutilized. Certain attractions like Jurassic Park River Rapids should be operational, while others, like Madagascar: A Crate Adventure and Shrek 4D should not be open, as they were completely incongruous and unsuitable for the target audience of the event.

Bloody incongruous
Photo credit

Crowd control was relatively well done this year. However, one of the main drawbacks of big events like Halloween Horror Nights (as opposed to small haunts) is that single-file conga lines will inevitably form within mazes, thus diminishing the scare factor. Perhaps Universal Singapore may consider widening the passageways in the mazes, or creating multiple pathways through the same room?

The event length of 10 nights also felt a little too long, as the hype for the event generally died down on the last weekend. The crowds for the Hollywood and Orlando Horror Nights get heavier towards October 31st. However, the concept of Halloween as a holiday on October 31st does not really exist in Singapore, thus we do not experience heavy crowds towards Halloween. Instead, the attendance figures appear more like a bell curve, with lighter crowds during the opening and closing weekends, and heavier crowds in the middle of the run. This is because the crowds will come mostly during the second and third weekend after hearing the word of mouth from their friends who have visited on the first weekend. Thus, I propose that Halloween Horror Nights 2014 be held on 27, 28 Sep and 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25 Oct. By placing opening weekend on the last week of September, Universal Singapore will be able to capitalize on the Hari Raya weekend on the first week of October.

I would definitely like to see Universal Singapore expand their scare zones, especially if they decide to utilize either Madagascar or Far Far Away as that half of the park has been underutilized. A possible Halloween overlay of Donkey Live will also be awesome. Given that it is a highly customizable show, this Halloween overlay should not be difficult. Furthermore, given the more adult demographic of the event, Donkey would also be able to make more adult oriented humor.

Donkey Live Halloween edition?

Other possible live entertainment options would include: a pop culture satire, a night lagoon show, or even a parade.

Pop-culture satire shows are a staple in the American Halloween Horror Nights (see Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure). Given the popularity of local satire website, as well as the Noose, it is therefore highly appropriate if Universal Singapore capitalize on this trend. Perhaps Jason Ramsburg can produce satire show for 2014 given his experience in Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure?

Pop culture satire: a staple at US Halloween events

A night lagoon show would also raise the bar for the event. This can be a simple fireworks show with Halloween related soundtrack. This will cap of the night and help it end with a bang. Currently, the event starts with a bang (the rope-drop ceremony), but ends on a whimper.

Fireworks to end the night with a bang?

A parade would also be a novel idea, as it will provide street entertainment for guests. A possible example to consider would be the Roaming Legions seen in Halloween Horror Nights 22 in Orlando. This parade does not have to entail large floats or elaborate sets, but instead can rely on the talent of the actors and their ability to scare the guests.

A Halloween parade will definitely add variety to the lineup
Photo Credit:

A 4 scare zone + 4 mazes + 2 show lineup would be perfect for Universal Singapore, given its limited size and limited audience. I am not opposed to Universal Singapore recycling old mazes as long as they keep adding 2-3 new mazes each year.

Although the event icons (The Director, The Puppet Master, The Sisters of Evil) were highly creative and impressive, they lacked the instant recognizability that characters from well-established Intellectual Properties have. Sentosa Spooktacular, the event just across the road, tapped onto the Thai horror movie icons that the local audiences were familiar with, such as Shomba from Coming Soon (2008) and the eponymous Pee Mak (2013). Sentosa Spooktacular, despite operating on a smaller budget than Halloween Horror Nights, received an amazing reception, and had 4 sold-out nights (out of seven). Therefore, it might be wise for Halloween Horror Nights to also introduce Intellectual Property themed mazes and scare zones from next year onwards. I am sure that this will do wonders for the attendance (just imagine a Conjuring themed haunted maze!). In fact, Universal Studios is known for being the place where you can “Ride the Movies”, so it is only natural that Halloween Horror Nights feature movie characters.

Anyone up for a Conjuring maze?

I look forward to HHN 2014.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Halloween Horror Nights 3 Details

The details for Halloween Horror Nights 2013 has been posted to the HHN microsite at:

The highly popular Halloween Horror Nights in Universal Studios Singapore is back for the 3rd year running. Started in 2011 with only 1 haunted house and 5 scare zones. Last year, we saw record attendance, with tickets selling out on 4 of the 7 days.

This year, HHN is back with for 10 days, and features 3 haunted houses and 3 scare zones, as well as a special show produced for Halloween.

Details: The theme for this year's HHN 3 is the Evil Sisters, where 3 evil sisters unite to wreck havoc. The evil sisters are The Crone of the Forest, the Maiden of the Opera, and the Daughter of the Undead.

The 3 haunted houses this year are: Adrift(A), Songs of Dead(B), and Possessions(C). The scare zones this year are: Forbidden Forest(F), Convention of Curses(E), and Attack of the Vampires(D). 

My thoughts on HHN

Overall design

Resorts World Sentosa has really stepped up this year, and the design of HHN 3 is absolutely impressive. The icons for this year, the 3 evil sisters, are visually stunning, and have detailed, compelling backstories.

Furthermore, we see a further integration of local elements into HHN, with the Maiden of the Opera. The presence of local horror was minimal for the past 2 years. The Vengeance of the Matriarch maze in 2011, although themed as a visit through a Peranakan mansion, was actually very generic, and did not highlight the local Asian elements. Last year, we had the Chinatown maze in the New York area. Again, it did not play up the Asian horror mythology. Therefore, I am very excited to see USS adopting the Chinese Opera singer as one of the event icons for this year, and I am looking forward to an emphasis on Asian horror.

Mazes/ Haunted Houses

We see a increase in the number of mazes from 2 last year to 3 this year. I personally find it a very interesting choice to not theme all 3 haunted houses to the event icons. Instead, only the Maiden of the Opera has her own haunted house, while the rest of the icons are to be found in the scare zones. The other two haunted houses are themed to a ghost ship, and a possessed house.

I think that there is great potential for Adrift to be a spectacular maze as it is housed in the soundstage. Furthermore, the theme of a ghost ship is also very interesting. I look forward to innovative special effects to simulate the motions of a ship, or the rain and lightning of a sea storm.

The possessed house maze also sounds intriguing, as there is great potential to improve on the traditional haunted house experience.

Scare Zones
We see a reduction in the number of scare zones this year, from 5 in 2011, to 4 last year, and down to 3 this year.

We also notice a rather curious decision by USS to not place any scare zone in the Hollywood section, which is the first land visitors enter upon entry, perhaps due to congestion issues? For the past two years, the Hollywood zone was home to Carn Evil, and House of Dolls, both of which were rather spectacular and well-done. The canopy above the Hollywood zone helped to contain the fog, hence making the area much more scary. The canopy overhead also also served as a rig for USS to hang theatrical lighting, as well as massive props above the guests.

This year, we will see the New York zone of USS transform into a graveyard and a small town. It will be interesting to see how they pull this off.

We also see the first time that the Lost World is used for a scare zone. The Lost World seems to be the perfect location for the Crone of the Forest scare zone, due to the dense foliage and meandering paths of the zone. However, the Lost World zone seems to be the location where all the action will take place this year, as there is the concentration of 2 haunted houses and a scare zone, as well as a ride. This small, cramped zone might not be able to handle to crowds.

The scare zones located in the Ancient Egypt zone for the past 2 years were both major disappointments. In 2011, it was themed as the Edge of Darkness, though it rather seemed as the edge where the budget ended. In 2012, there wasn't a significant improvement with Bizarre Bazaar. The problem seemed to be with the physical setup of the Ancient Egypt zone. The zone is designed as a straight thoroughfare, dominated on one side by the Revenge of the Mummy facade, and on the other by the Treasures Hunters queue. The thoroughfare is very wide and hence is not a very ideal location for a scare zone. Therefore, it is very interesting to see how USS pulls this year's Convention of Curses off in the Ancient Egypt zone.

I would also like to see USS utilizing Far Far Away and Madagascar for their scare zones, as these 2 lands have not yet been utilized.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What we got VS what we could have gotten (revisited)

Three years back, I wrote an article regarding the attractions that we could have gotten vs the attractions that we actually got. With the 3rd year anniversary of USS, it's definitely time to see if we have any updated to the list.

Below is the rumored list published in 2007/2008 regarding the attractions planned for USS:

* A yet to be named Dueling roller coaster, featuring an Inverted Track and a Sit Down Track
* Journey to Madagascar
* Dreamworks Digital Animation Studios
* Shrek 4-D
* Back To The Future: The Ride
* King Kong
* Revenge of the Mummy
* Incredible Hulk Coaster
* The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
* Jurassic Park River Adventure
* Twister...Ride it Out
* Waterworld
* The Fast and Furious-Tokyo Drift
* Wicked
* Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time
* Sesame Street 4-D
* E.T. Adventure
* Backdraft
* The Simpsons Ride
*Stage 28

Below is the list of attractions we actually got:

*Pantages Hollywood Theater
*Lights! Cameras! Action!
*Sesame Street Spagetti Chase
*Battlestar Galactica Blue line
*Battlestar Galactica Red line
*Revenge of Mummy
*Treasure Hunters
*Canopy Flyer
*Jurassic Park Rapids
*Amber Rock Climb
*Dino Soarin'
*Shrek 4D
*Donkey Live!
*Enchanted Airways
*Magic Portion Spin
*Crate Adventure
*King Julien Beach go-round

So what did not make the cut?

Dreamworks Animation Studios, Stage 28
This attraction is rumored to be a "behind the scenes" look into the Dreamworks animation studios, showing visitors the inner workings of the animation process. However, this attraction got cut, probably due to licensing issues, as well as problems with guest appeal.

A certain iteration of this studios made it into the final stages of planning, in the form of Stage 28. Stage 28 was supposed to be an attraction that allowed visitors a peek into the magic of movie making, as well as transport visitors into various memorable scenes of Universal Studios movies.

Stage 28 survived for a very long time on the "coming soon" list. However, on May 2012, it was announced that Stage 28 will be replaced with Sesame Street Spagetti Chase ride. This move was probably done to increase the marketing appeal, and to cater to the young demographics of visitors.

Back to the Future Ride, Simpsons Ride
These two rides are simulator rides, where visitors board simulation vehicles placed in front of IMAX screens. These are spectacular, big-budgeted attractions, that are huge crowd drawers. However, I suppose Back to the Future got cut as it is a 20-30 year old franchise, while the Simpsons Ride got cut due to licensing issues with FOX studios.

I am going to predict that the next attraction to be built by USS will be a simulation ride like Back to the Future or Simpsons, as the park is lacking such an attraction.

Backdraft, Twister
These two are special effects shows that give guests a peek into the special effects used in Hollywood blockbuster movies. Although these two attractions got cut, we got Lights Camera Action Hosted by Steven Spielburg. LCA by Steven Spielburg is a similar attraction that utilized physical special effects to give guest the feeling of the "Storm of the Century".

ET Adventure, Sesame Street 4D
These two attractions are targeted at the 3-10 years old age group. Although these attractions got cut, certain elements from them remained on the drawing board, and finally made their way into the Sesame Street ride.

ET Adventure utilized a hanging overhead rail system to simulate the feeling of flying on ET's enchanted bicycle. The current Sesame Street adventure also utilizes the same ride technology.

Adventures of Spiderman
This is an attraction located in Orlando and Osaka, and it is basically a 4D simulation ride through the streets of New York. Although we did not get this attraction, we got Transformers, which can be considered the 2nd Generation version of this ride. The ride technology is the same, and the storylines are also roughly similar.

A condensed version of the hit Broadway musical. This attraction got cut probably because of the limited appeal as well as licensing issues with Universal Theatrical.

Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift, Terminator 2 3D, King Kong
These 3 attractions cater to an age range that Universal Studios Singapore currently misses. The teen 16-30 year old crowd will love these 3 attractions. However, currently in USS, we do not have any of these attractions that appeal to this crowd.

I am going to predict that the next attraction announced for Universal Studios Singapore will be a attraction based on a film property of the 16-30 age demographics.

So, in conclusion, I must say that although we could have gotten many other amazing attractions, the current line-up of attractions are actually very well thought-out and carefully planned to cater to most of the age demographics and bring in the "marketing muscles".

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Universal Studios Singapore Christmas Wishlist

It's the holiday season again, and in keeping with the spirit of the holidays, I'm going to present to you my Christmas wish list for Universal Studios Singapore.

The previous time I've written a similar list was in 2009, before the park opened, and you can find the article here. Well, I seemed that I got all my wishes from 2009. I wished for no crowds(5 minutes for the Mummy, seriously?) - checked, a Halloween event(HHN was awesome!) - checked, nightly fireworks spectacular(Lake Hollywood Spectacular) - checked, constant updates(Sesame Street ride in 2013)  - checked, cheap annual passes($188, $288) - checked.

Let's see if my wish list for 2012 will be fulfilled too...

Disclaimer - the items below are in no specific order.

1. Interactive Character Meet and Greet
I'm always looking forward to ways USS can "plus" the experience. The current character meet and greets are random, and slightly unsatisfactory. There is no specific place to meet a character, and they kind of just "pop-out" for a short duration. When the characters do show up, they are also pretty inanimate and does not interact much with the guest. The meet and greet experiences in the park are actually more like photo taking sessions with the characters.

Therefore, I hope that we will have a more structured and more interactive way of meeting the park's characters. Imaging having a 20 minute Kungfu training session with Po, with Po and Shifu personally teaching the kids. Or a fairy tale telling session with Fiona in the Shrek castle, where kids can talk to Princess Fiona and act out stories under her directions. These are much more wholesome and more captivating experiences, rather than a mere photo taking session.

For those of you who still can't visualize the experience, it kind of like Donkey Live with a real life meet and greet actor.

2. Streetmosphere Characters
This is an idea blatantly lifted from Disney. In Disney parks, they have walkabout cast members that act as citizens of the land that you are in. So imagine that you're in Hollywood area. You might walk into a cast member that pretends to be a fireman from the LA fire department, or a prospective actor looking to make it big in Hollywood. They are not film character per se, but just normal "citizens" of the place. These are improvisational actors that will augment your park experience and convince you to suspend you disbelief.

3. Better Food
I really hate to say this, but the food in USS isn't all that palatable. Looking at the park map, you might be led to believe that USS offers a wide range of food items that are both nutritious and delicious. However, the reality is slightly different. The food in USS is grossly overpriced and sub-standard. The burgers and fries in Mel's Drive In are dry and bland, while the serving size of the beef ball noodles in Casa del Wild in Madagascar is pathetically small. Even the China Bistro in Hollywood area is unsatisfactory. Therefore, I really hope that USS will roll out better food choices, and not leave me feeling ripped off. Paying $12 for a subpar burger and fries set is definitely not the way to go.

The variety of dinning establishments in USS provides a great opportunity for the park to experiment with different exotic cuisines, and to provide delicious items to satisfy the palates of every guest.

4. More rides
There can never be enough rides. The success of a park depends on keeping itself relevant and exciting by building new rides, shows, and attractions. There are a few ride systems and ride genres that USS should really have.

The trend in the amusement park industry is to go for interactive rides with variable experiences that makes it re-rideable. However, USS lacks such rides. These can be a simple shoot 'em up ride, or a complex decide-your-own-ending ride. An example of such rides in Universal Parks around the world are Men In Black Alien Attack, a interactive shoot 'em up ride through the streets of New York, where guests blast lasers at aliens to score points. The accumulated points will then determine the ending of the ride, with the high scorers getting a "good job" from Will Smith, and the low scorers getting their minds erased.

Another ride that USS should have is a Kuka arm simulation ride. The mold was broken when the Harry Potter ride opened in Universal Studios Florida's Islands of Adventure park. This ride used the Kuka arm system, which is basically a mechanical arm with the ride bench mounted on it. This arm has 6 degrees of motion, and allows guests to experience sensations of flight. See image below.

Finally, another excellent ride that I wish we had is a simulation ride. The Simpsons ride in Universal Hollywood and Orlando, the Back to the Future ride in Universal Japan, the Soaring ride in Disneyland and Disney World are all examples of the amazing simulation ride. It is basically a simple system where the riders are in a motion simulation base, which is placed in front of a large IMAX 3D or IMAX dome screen. This creates the illusion of movement, and is perfect for creating sensations of flight, or of speed. Coupled with in theater effects, such as wind, scents, water etc, this is definitely set to blow people away.

5. Interactive Queue or Increase Capacity
Canopy Flyers and Treasure Hunters are two of the most pain-in-the-rear rides in this park. They are relatively simple, and short rides, each lasting 30 seconds to a minute. However, the queues for these two rides are monstrously long, lasting anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes. Seriously, 90 minutes for a 30 seconds ride?

The problem for these two rides is that they have really low hourly capacities. They seat 2 per row, and have a limited number of vehicles running on the tracks. Furthermore, the loading and unloading process is also slow and tedious, with numerous safety checks to slow the process down. Therefore, USS can either bump up the capacity for these two rides, or to entertain the guests while they are spending 90 minutes in line.

USS could install interactive games, videos, etc into the queues of these two attractions. Imagine a treasure finding game in the Treasures Hunters queue. Or an interactive Jurassic Park Visitor Center experience while waiting for the Canopy Flyer. These interactive elements can be as simple as touch screen games, or as elaborate as interactive animatronic dinosaurs that responds to guests.

6. Fix Madagascar
Madagascar: A Crate Adventure has been plagued by problems since the get-go. There were rumors of a small fire during construction, of boats that were too big to fit into the ride path, of design flaws that forced the removal of a splashdown etc. All these incidents left us with a rather watered down, and slightly pathetic attraction. The attraction was billed as a 12 minute dark ride, with amazing special effects and a final splashdown, but we eventually got a 7 minute gentle kiddie ride. This attraction has a gigantic footprint and takes up a huge piece of real estate, hence it is really a disappointing waste of land.

USS should fix up the attraction, or bulldoze it to make way for a better, more exciting attraction.

7. Fix the PR Team  
Resorts World Sentosa is notorious for their PR team. This is probably the only place where attraction openings are announced only a week in advance. RWS has not grasped that their fan base is huge, and they could achieve a lot more by reaching out to their fan base and getting the fans excited.

Just look at the publicity for the opening of New Fantasyland in Disney World Orlando. Plans for the expansion were "leaked" 4 years in advance to the fan community, allowing the media and many fan websites to generate a huge buzz about the possible expansion. Then the expansion was officially announced at a huge Disney convention 3 years prior. At every stage of the construction, media and press were invited to the site to report on the construction progress. Videos of interviews with the creators behind the expansion were also posted regularly on Youtube. The creators were also very active in attending fan conventions and seminars, seizing every opportunity to tell the public about the expansion. Finally, a few months prior to opening, a viral marketing campaign involving dragons and "found footages" was launched, and the opening date was announced months in advance.

The USS public relations team seems juvenile in contrast. For the opening of Transformers The Ride, they just had a small fan contest, some TV spots on local television, and a small opening ceremony.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New York, USS vs New York, USA

In this post, I will be comparing the various buildings in New York street in Universal Studios Singapore against the real buildings found in New York, New York.

New York street is one of the most detailed themed zones in Universal Singapore, and the attention to detail in the zone is very amazing. Many of the buildings there are actually based on real buildings in New York, and this adds to the level of authenticity. The various architectural styles and references in the park is actually impressively accurate.

The view of New York street from the entrance is dominated by the the Neo-classical building that looms at the end of the street. This facade is actually modelled after the real New York public library, found on 5th Ave in Manhattan.

Image courtesy of USSi 

The real deal - see the likeness?

The New York Public library is actually a really famous building, and it was featured in various blockbuster Hollywood films.

Who can forget the apocalyptic scene in The Day After Tomorrow where the characters hide out from Mother Nature's fury in the New York Public Library?

Or the goofy Ghostbusters busting ghosts in the vaults of the Library?
The next recognizable building on New York street is the Rockefeller building right next to the Public Library.

Remember this? - Image courtesy of SGsearchsite 
This facade is modelled after the famous Rockefeller complex located off 5th Ave. The statue of Atlas Carrying the World is modeled after the one below:

The Rockefeller Center is well known for its public art program. The entire complex is literally filled with dramatic pieces of Art Deco works that celebrate the spirit and achievements of mankind.

The mural behind Atlas in Universal Studios Singapore is modeled after the mural above the main entrance to the Rockefeller building. Notice that in the photo, there is no mural behind Atlas in the original building.

The shape of the facade also closely follows the original building. Forced perspective is put to great use here to give the impression of a tall building when the facade is actually only about 3 stories tall.

Notice the tapered design of the building

Who can forget the heartwarming scene in Home Alone 2 that was filmed in front of the Rockefeller center?

Next to the Rockefeller center is actually a small clock, above the Empire State Emporium.

This clock is modelled after the facade of the famous Tiffany and Co on 5th Ave, as pictured below.

Finally, the rest of the buildings on New York street is modelled after the Tenement style of architecture, found all over New York, as well as other cities along the East Coast, like Philadelphia.

Tenements of New York, USS

Tenements of New York, USA
Such architecture is characteristic of New York, and was constructed in the 1800s to respond to the huge population boom due to the rise of the industrial factories in New York. You can see this style of architecture in famous movies like:
West Side Story

That concludes our tour of New York street. Do look out for more posts in the future.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

HHN2 Insanitarium Blueprint

Below is the blueprint for the Insanitarium Maze in Halloween Horror Nights 2. Although this is not the actual blueprints used in the construction of the maze, it is based on an accurate source. The layout is accurate, though it is not draw to scale. Watch out for more updates about HHN2 coming soon!