ABOUT OUR GUEST
How awesome is this? When I invited Chris Franklin to contribute to the countdown, he offered to report on his recent vacation to Florida where he encountered all kinds of spooky Halloween characters and events. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this for the blog, Chris! I bet its readers will appreciate it, also.
Chris is a illustrator, graphic designer and podcaster who co-hosts many shows on the Fire and Water Podcast Network, including Super Mates, where every fall he and his wife Cindy feature classic-themed horror films and comics during their “House of Franklin-Stein” event.
On our last days at the Disney Parks, we visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and had another ghostly encounter at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This was our first time on the ride, since I’m not a big fan of heights. But my interest in the elaborate que and the Serling-like storyline toughened me up to finally experience this. It was a blast, and I regret putting it off so long. Like the Haunted Mansion’s more mature, scarier cousin, I love everything about this now, and what better time of year to ride it? Also at the Hollywood Studios, we ate at the Sci-Fi Drive-in, a kitschy fun restaurant where you have small convertibles to sit in instead of at tables, and large screen plays old sci-fi trailers and clips from the 50s and 60s, many of which Jeff has on his Classic Horrors YouTube channel!
We wrapped up our vacation with two days at both Universal parks; Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The big draw for my wife and daughter is the Harry Potter segments of those parks, which of course feature lots of witches, wizards and scares, such as giant spiders on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and huge ghostly Dementors. The new Skull Island: Reign of Kong has some TRULY creepy theming. Tons of very human-looking skulls, an animatronic witchy woman that resembles a Deadite from an Evil Dead movie, and catacombs FULL of mummified corpses. The ride itself is fun, if a bit predictable with Universal’s standard 3D glasses and screens, but at the end you DO come face to face with a full-sized King Kong…or at least his animatronic head anyway!
Our second day was all about the Universal Monsters, beginning with a ride on Revenge of the Mummy. Yes, it’s based on the 90s Stephen Sommers movies, and NOT the 30s/40s films, but hey, it’s still a lot of fun, and actually pretty frightening in spots! The animatronic Imhotep you encounter several times is probably more convincing than his CGI counterpart in the films, and the ride actually tries to roast you from above at one point! This was another first for us this year, and one ride was enough for my wife, who sat out the second when the rest of us got back in line. The best part for us Monster Kids is that when the line lets out into the corresponding gift shop (as nearly all these rides do), there was a nice statue of Boris Karloff as the OG Imohotep waiting for a fun photo op!
The last time we visited Universal, I lamented the lack of presence for the monsters that had essentially MADE the studio. Turns out I had missed a HUGE amount of classic goodness by NOT seeing the Horror Make Up Show. This time we made up for it, and it was our favorite show at the park. The displays outside the theater were a wonderful tribute to our favorite monsters, the actors who portrayed them, and even the artists who created them, such as Jack P. Pierce and Millicent Patrick. The show itself is funny and engaging, and covers a lot of monster history we all know by heart, but it’s nice to hear the greats get mentioned, spreading their legend just a bit further to the uninformed Muggles who may have wandered in. The nearby gift shop has some really nice Universal Monster merchandise as well. I bought myself a cool T-shirt featuring all the big guns, printed in black-light reactive ink!
Our last meal was at the place I never want to leave. The Universal Monster Café. Part Ackermansion, part upscale McDonald’s, this is an absolute MUST DO for anyone reading this. The food is very good by theme park counter service standards, but the décor is worth it alone. Imagine Basil Gogos is your interior decorator, and you get the idea. His paintings are EVERYWHERE, as well as busts, movie posters, props, anything you can think of to represent our favorite monsters. And they all get their own little section, whether you choose “Crypt Dining” or “Swamp Dining”. Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man…even the Metaluna Mutant gets his own little wing! Oh and a constant loop of Universal Monster trailers plays on the TVs. If this isn’t what Heaven is like, I’m going to be sorely disappointed.