December 21, 2008

Ghosts of Christmas Future (Past)

I am a huge fan of the Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol"!
We own dozens of printed versions of the book, and it is read aloud in the days before Christmas.
We also own most cinematic versions of the story from Alistair Sim's perfect personification of Scrooge in 1951, to Patrick Stewart's interpretation in 1999
(We also saw Stewart in his one man show of "A Christmas Carol" on Broadway in 2001!)

One of my favorite Scrooge roles was played by George C. Scott in 1984. It was shot on location in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, including the cemetery scene, where Scrooge is shown his own tombstone. In reality, the scene was filmed in St. Chad's Churchyard and Scrooge's stone was real.
The coolest things is that it is still there!

Here is the scene...

And here are some shots I found online.

December 4, 2008

"Great Expectations" in Chilling, Thrilling!

So last night I was watching a movie version of one of my favorite Dickens stories,
"Great Expectations" from 1946 (IMDB Listing). The story has one of my favorite Dickens characters, "Miss Havisham", a wealthy woman who was jilted on her wedding day and spent the rest of her life wearing her tattered wedding gown, sitting by her aged wedding cake, in her decaying mansion.
Sound a little familiar? Phantom Manor?

Anyway, near the end of the story, Miss Havisham's dress catches fire and she dies. To my surprise, Miss Havisham's movie scream was instantly recognizable as one of the more chilling screams used in the classic Disney album, "Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House"!

Here is the scene from the movie. Pip is running up the stairs to try to save Miss Havisham.

And here is the "Chilling, Thrilling" sound which actually plays twice.
Start listening at 24 seconds (0:24).

And of course, the screaming moan that follows the Havisham scream (0:32) is from the Disney Mickey Mouse classic, Lonesome Ghosts"

  sound on/off - Lonesome Ghosts

November 25, 2008

Haunted Mansion Counterstrike Level

Ever since I first created my 3D illustrations of the haunted mansions, people have been asking me to create an entire 3D walk-though animation of the attraction. It has been outside of my level of expertise and time allowances. However, a Counterstrike map-hacker who calls himself "Nipper", has created an amazing 3D recreation of the Liberty Square Haunted Mansion as a Counterstrike level! His level of detail is eye-popping and he even included the sound effects and Ghost Host narration.
Check out the video walk-through.

November 20, 2008

A New Paper Model for Universal!

Universal Studios, Orlando just released one of my most recent paper model kits.  I created a simple paper model of one of my favorite scenic elements from this year's Halloween Horror Nights event.
It is "The Skoolhouse"!
Click images to enlarge
This life-sized, dilapidated, one room school house (designed by my pal Kim Gromoll) served as the entry to the Skoolhouse scare zone and guests could enter the skool and meet Schoolmaster Renshaw, and his little, diabolical trick-or-treaters.
Here is the real thing.

These are the Trick-or-Treaters, who inhabited the Skoolhouse scarezone, as they filed out of their skool bus.

To get your FREE Skoolhouse paper model kit, go to the HHN EXTRAS web page HERE and click on "3D Model" in the left navigtion bar. You can also check out our backstage video, see some of the people I work with and see what we do!

October 2, 2008


Here in Orlando, I am looking out of the window and seeing a beautiful pumpkin-orange sunset through a lacey pattern of black silhouetted trees, with an extraordinary sliver of a cresent moon rising. Although the trees are palms, this Florida October sky is looking a lot like the October sky back home in Pennsylvania!

Another reminder of my PA homeland is "The Skoolhouse" (at left) which serves as the centerpiece for one of the six Scare Zones at this year's Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights, which officially opened last Friday night. The Skool serves as an entrance to the Central Park section of park, where the trees are hung with 400 flickering jack-o-lanterns! It is spectacular! And if you come, be sure to linger under the canopy of grins for a few minutes and wait to see what happens when you hear a ghostly whispering voice say "Bloody Mary" three times...!
Between the 6 Scare Zones, 8 beautifully detailed haunted house mazes and the roving bands of chainsaw maniacs and zombies, this year is truly amazing fun! I've been to the event twice already since opening, and I'll be taking my family next week.
I still have one more week in the Universal HHN Art and Design department. It has been a terrific design season and the last 5 months went by too fast! 

Another great Halloween event in Florida is "Mickey's Not-so-scary Halloween Party" at the Magic Kingdom, and being somewhat of an expert in Halloween event web sites ;), I have to recommend that you take a look at the "Not-so-scary" web site. It is a beautiful, fun journey describing the event in charming rhyme. I love clicking between the sections and flying though the spooky scenes!
And look, there's the Liberty Square haunted mansion!

September 1, 2008

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary!

At long last, our Universal Orlando, Halloween Horror Nights icon has revealed herself!
I've come to know Mary very well over the last few months, and believe me, she's one wild chick!
Mary's appearance was preceded by weeks of story development on the Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights web site, which culminated last Wednesday night with the unveiling of our spectacular "Reflections of Fear" animation, that takes you on an infinite journey through Mary's mirror, and the worlds of this year's Horror Nights event!
Click image to enlarge

I had the great thrill of creating most of the environments, settings, objects and navigation for Dr. Agana's portion of the site. I even supplied some of the doctor's idle doodles that slowly replaced her clinical notes. The state of her office and journals needed to "reflect" her spiral into madness, and I had a great time slowly disheveling her office, breaking things, spreading dust and webs, and finally adding blood and a shattered mirror!
To relive Mary's evolution from Dr. Agana, to Bloody Mary, go to the Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights website, click on the broken clock on the upper right, and enter her personal journal by clicking on the book's title plate.
Begin with the top, left tab "I", and work your way down to watch the good doctor unravel.
To get the latest version of the site, I recommend clearing your browser's cache first.
Click image to enlarge
To enter "Reflections of Fear" click on "Enter Reflections of Fear", under Attractions.
I am extremely proud of what we created, and I hope you visit the site and the event!

July 5, 2008

The Universal Orlando, Halloween Horror Nights 18

Click image to enlarge
After many weeks of planning and pixel pushing, this year's Universal Orlando, Halloween Horror Nights website has gone live!!!
Keep checking in on the site in the coming days and weeks and watch it unfold.
This will be my third year on Universal HHN team and I can tell you that it is going to be an amazing event!

June 1, 2008

Launch Over the Lagoon

This afternoon, at 5:02 PM the Space Shuttle Discovery launched on mission STS/124. I watched it from the lagoon at Universal Studios, Orlando. Even though it is more than 45 miles away,
it is always an amazing sight!
I was standing on the New York side of the lagoon, looking across to the pointy roof the "La Bamba" restaurant, the soundstage containing the "ET" ride (center), and The Hard Rock Hotel (far right). 
Click images to enlarge

May 28, 2008

Orlando Time

Sorry for the long delay since my last entry. I have been settling back into the routine of living and working in Florida again. I am back to work at Universal, helping the Halloween Horror Nights team to dream up another awesome event.
I had a chance to park-hop at Disney last weekend. The crowds at the Magic Kingdom were pretty large, and I walked out of 3 disorganized restaurants before giving up and deciding to eat off the property. That part was not very magical.
However, the mansion was as wonderful as ever, and Pirates looked great too!

I also found the spot where the well used to be. (See the January 12, 2007 post)

We were handed a "wait card" while in line for the mansion. We were asked to give it to the cast member at the doombuggie operations board. It is one way Disney determines the queue wait times.

I also went to Disney Studios and went on my number one themed thrill ride, Tower of Terror!

I'm sorry, but I think the giant Sorcerer's Apprentice hat, blocking the beautiful Chinese Theater centerpiece, is one the biggest design blunders I've seen in a long time! What were they thinking? The fact that all it houses is a pin trading post, makes it even more ridiculous.
Give us b ack our beautiful sight lines! I think Walt would have a fit!

Epcot was very nice. I finally saw the Spaceship Earth rennovations, and thought they were fantastic! Judi Dench is a favorite actor of mine, and her narration was very soothing (Although Walter Cronkite will always be my favorite). The interactive "movie" was a little silly, but my big dumb head pasted onto a retro styled animated character was pretty darned funny!

Even though I'll be at Universal for the next 5 months, we still played in the parks on Sunday. In particular I wanted to ride the new "The Simpsons Ride"! It's a very funny, wild ride, (although I found it slightly nauseating, probably due to my age). Something I was not at liberty to tell you earlier was that Universal Creative tapped me to create some graphics for this attraction, and it was terrific seeing my work installed!

It w as also exciting to see the steel rising behind Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure, as construction on the "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" is underway!

I'm looking forward to doing a lot more cool things while I'm here, so stay tuned!

April 10, 2008

Universal Monsters, Haunted Mansions and Friends

Tim (on the left), who works at Universal, Hollywood, built a beautiful version on my Liberty Square haunted mansion model, complete with lights and sound effects
(I mentioned it in an earlier post March 14th).
Tim built it as a birthday present for his pal, Daniel Roebuck. You might recognize Daniel (on the right) from his many movie and TV appearances over the years. You can see all of his credits here.
Daniel writes about the model - "It’s just slightly smaller then the real thing so finding a place for it has been difficult. I finally decided to give it Grace’s room so I sent her to a CONVENT!"
Click image to enlarge
Tim writes, "My superbly talented neighbor and friend (who does animatronic work for Disney theme parks) helped me coordinate the lights with a one-minute sound chip placed in the house.
Here’s the basic show sequence:

Wind blowing and lone dog howling heard
Loud thunderclap accompanied by mini strobe reflecting
off the house
Haunted Mansion organ music begins and continues thru male voiceover
LEDs in the greenhouse pulsate to the voiceover, giving the impression the
disembodied voice is coming from ’something’ in the greenhouse!
Voiceover (deep male voice):
"Welcome foolish mortals to the Haunted Mansion. (chuckle)
I am your host, your GHOST host. There’s no turning back now.
-brief silence-
Heartbeat sound heard accompanied by the red LED pulsating in the tower windows
Female voice scream!
Soft female voice:
"Hurry back.......hurry baaaaack....."
End of show-"

Hey, Tim, I want MY mansion to that now! :)

Daniel and Tim are also HUGE fans of horror, and in particular, the classic Monsters of Universal. They are avid collectors of anything monster related, and their "Mons ter Rooms" are amazing!
After corresponding with Tim and Daniel for a while, they led me to a Universal Monster fan site "Universal Monster Army" which is great fun. There is even a section where members post photos of their "Monster Rooms" including Tim and Daniel. It is wonderful to see that somewhere the "classics" are still getting the attention they deserve!

March 17, 2008


It was very exciting to discover that Haunted Dimensions was linked on the German magazine web site, Der Spiegel-Online!
Haunted Dimensions is also mentioned in this week's Ehrensenf web TV show!
But do not blink! It only lasts about 10 seconds.
I really enjoy the international appeal of my projects!

As a fun side note, Mark and his co-host make cameo appearances in The Hooters video
"I'm Alive".