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Penn and Teller in talks with Universal Orlando, could join Halloween Horror Nights 2012 per new celebrity survey

Penn and Teller in talks with Universal Orlando, could join Halloween Horror Nights 2012 per new celebrity survey

Leading up to the Halloween season, Universal Orlando is once again surveying theme park fans online to determine the level of interest in including a variety of film properties and celebrities for the popular annual event. Survey details combined with a few recent celebrity tweets have signs pointing to magicians Penn and Teller being a potential new act to join Halloween Horror Nights 2012.


UPDATE (7/30/12): Based on facade construction currently going on at Universal Studios Florida, one of the two sprung tent houses appears to have a Las Vegas theme, featuring a replica of the city’s famous welcome sign. It’s highly likely this house will feature Penn and Teller’s presence at Halloween Horror Nights 2012. The rest of our early speculation regarding their involvement continues below…


In a new survey, Universal Orlando presents respondents with a list of movie and TV franchises as well as celebrities, asking if any of them would be desirable to be seen in future Halloween Horror Nights, either in development of haunted houses or as part of live performances. The list of 13 (naturally) celebrities includes familiar horror movie directors (Eli Roth, John Carpenter, Clive Barker, Guillermo del Toro, John Landis, Wes Craven), musical artists (AC/DC, Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper), and two magic acts: Chriss Angel and Penn & Teller.

The list is similar to an annual survey Universal Studios Hollywood sends out shortly after the conclusion of each year’s event to get ideas for the following year. But amidst the usual array of horror and shock rock icons are Penn and Teller, who have had experience with Horror Nights in the past.

The first Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1992 featured many live acts, including Penn and Teller. Their show was appropriately filled with plenty of blood and gore. Could they now be returning to the Halloween event 20 years later, perhaps in Orlando this time?

A mention in a survey doesn’t guarantee inclusion in the event. Anyone listed above may or may not ever actually end up being part of Halloween Horror Nights. However…

The survey has been conducted online for several days. But just yesterday, Penn Jilette (of Penn & Teller) revealed via Twitter that he is indeed in talks with Universal Orlando about something:

@pennjillette: We did a fun show for Home builders this morning and then one of the most exciting meetings ever at Universal. If we do this, it’ll be great

@pennjillette: So excited about possibly doing this new thang with Universal.But, I guess I’ll go out to supper with friends. \Good house steak in Orlando?

Just yesterday, Teller was also tweeting from Orlando, though he was at Disney’s theme parks the day prior:

@MrTeller: Is THIS your card? I’m at Toy Story at Walt Disney World.

That magician-joke tweet was accompanied by this image:

The pair has been in Orlando for a few days, having recently performed on Feb. 3, 2012 at Universal Orlando CityWalk’s Hard Rock Live. They have another Central Florida show coming up on Friday in St. Petersburg, near Tampa. But it seems that aside from having fun in the parks and enjoying a good steak (Penn ended up dining at International Drive’s Texas de Brazil restaurant), they’re also discussing either performing at Universal Orlando, developing a new show, or possibly even joining in the design of a haunted house, much like Alice Cooper did at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2011, Rob Zombie before that.

Beyond their 1992 Halloween Horror Nights appearances at Universal Studios Hollywood, Teller was recently used by Universal in promotion of magician Brian Brushwood appearing nightly at the event, with Teller quoted as calling him “dangerous and brilliantly original.”

Penn and Teller’s act has grown over the years and their current act, regularly performed in Las Vegas, would certainly fit in well with Halloween Horror Nights, particularly with some of their “darker” magic acts, including unique spins on classic tricks like catching a bullet in the mouth and sawing a woman in half, the latter a particularly bloody version of the trick:

Video: Penn & Teller saw a woman in half on America’s Got Talent in 2009

The duo never falls into the glitzy “illusionist” realm, instead offering a realistic and often comedic take on magic, surprising audiences with seemingly simple, yet entirely entertaining and effective “tricks.”

Celebrities aside, 13 movie and TV horror properties were also included in the survey: Exorcist, True Blood, Hellraiser, An American Werewolf in London, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Paranormal Activity, Trick ‘r Treat, A Nightmare on Elm Street, La Llorona, Halloween, Walking Dead, Universal Classic Monsters (i.e. Dracula, Frankenstein), and The Devil Inside.

The survey goes on from there to spotlight a few select celebrities and properties, asking survey takers to individually rate each one. Those highlighted are Wes Craven, Eli Roth, Clive Barker, “Halloween,” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Each of these have been featured in a Halloween Horror Nights event at one time or another, so it’s interesting that they are once again asked about in this new survey.

In addition, Universal Orlando asked respondents to decide which of the following haunted house themes is the most appealing:

  • “Original content developed by Universal’s own award-winning designers and special effects artists”
  • “Popular Horror Movies/TV Shows”
  • “Celebrities associated with the horror genre”
  • Comparing the Orlando and Hollywood versions of Halloween Horror Nights, the survey concludes by including two TV commercials from 2011′s events and asking for thoughts on which was better, which was scarier, which had a better story, and which had more memorable characters.

    Here Universal is essentially comparing Lady Luck from Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 21 to the vague notion of terror portrayed in Hollywood’s 2011 ad. Both ads are included below.

    Universal Orlando “Lady Luck” TV commercial

    Universal Studios Hollywood’s 2011 commercial

    With this new survey, Universal Orlando has now made it a trend to survey its fans in February to help decide the direction of their popular annual Halloween event. In a survey last year, Universal Orlando asked about adding a new ticket option, which ultimately came true. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Penn & Teller, or any other person or property mentioned above, will find their way into the event.

    Nothing can be firmly concluded from the survey with regards to what themes, characters, franchises, or celebrities will appear in either coast’s version of Halloween Horror Nights 2012, but it does offer a bit of interesting insight into the development of the event, which began the moment 2011′s version ended. Though the creative forces behind the event want to use the best ideas possible for their haunted experiences, from a marketing standpoint, Universal simply wants to decide which properties and personas will sell the most tickets and generate the most buzz.

    Would a a show developed by magician duo Penn & Teller be more enticing to potential visitors than a haunted house featuring Bill and Sookie from True Blood? Would Universal’s classic monsters draw more horror fans than a haunted house inspired by Guillermo del Toro’s recent works in the genre? And does featuring an “icon” like Lady Luck help inspire more interest in the event than showing a more abstract representation of fear in a TV commercial?

    These are the questions Universal asks in deciding exactly what Halloween Horror Nights 2012 will be. But it’s not likely we’ll know those answers until the annual teasing and eventual reveal over the summer. Until then, fans can once again this year speculate about Halloween Horror Nights a few months early. And, based on the recent celebrity tweets, we can be sure that Penn and Teller are at least in talks to work on something for Universal Orlando Resort.


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