While at WonderCon, Universal Studios Hollywood creative director John Murdy, art director/production designer Chris Williams and show producer Don Burgess took panel attendees behind the scenes with a sneak peek at the all-new, upcoming The Walking Dead attraction. Opening this summer, they are working with show executive producer Greg Nicotero, who does all of the make-up and creature effects, to make an attraction that’s bigger and scarier than anything they’ve done previously at Halloween Horror Nights.
This new year-round attraction will find park guests entering the post-apocalyptic world of the hugely popular series, and preparing to fight for survival as they make their way through nightmarish iconic landscapes, in a fully immersive journey that is overrun by hungry walkers. While you’re waiting for this exciting new attraction to open at Universal Studios Hollywood, here are 14 things that you should know about what to expect.
They have been working with AMC and The Walking Dead since 2012, as a part of Halloween Horror Nights. In 2012, they focused on the hospital and recreated that aspect of the show. In 2013, they replicated the prison and gave people the feeling that they were walking into Cell Block D, which had a second story that they erected 16-foot walls for. In 2014, the focus was still the prison, but it had changed and transformed in its appearance. In 2015, Terminus was the focus, so they highlighted the cannibals.
- Even though Horror Nights is a temporary event, they want to make sure the quality level is high, so that you feel like you’re walking through the show. Every walk-through attraction at Horror Nights is essentially a new show ever 10 seconds, and they’ll be approaching the new attraction that same way.
- They’ve been working on this new attraction for two years and will be taking everything up to the next level. Different from the Horror Nights mazes, the permanent attraction has bigger and broader sets with more height.
- The permanent attraction will open in the summer, and it will be available to walk through during Horror Nights, every year. When the attraction premieres, some of the cast will likely be there to experience the attraction themselves.
- It’s hard to estimate the time it will take to walk through the attraction, as some people take their time and some people sprint. It will likely take at least five minutes, but maybe as much as seven or ten minutes, as it is a bigger attraction than the biggest Horror Nights maze they’ve done for the show.
The attraction embraces the entire series, and not just one season or one character. In the Horror Nights mazes, they can jump from scene to scene with just a blackout transition in between, and go from one environment to another. But with the permanent attraction, they will have it all tied together in a logical way. If you’re outdoors and will then be heading to an indoor environment, they will define all of that.
- The biggest challenge initially was deciding what to focus on, as a result of having a finite amount of space to fit in as much as they can, and they will use every inch of space that they have. Universal is building a new building facility for the new attraction, which will also provide infrastructure to take care of the artists and performers, so that they have somewhere to go in between shifts.
- Executive Producer Greg Nicotero, who has done all of the make-up on The Walking Dead, is personally involved with the permanent attraction, after having been a fan of what Universal did for the show with Horror Nights. KNB effects are creating all of the animatronic walkers for the attraction, from the molds of the characters for the show.
- The “Dead Inside” hospital doors, where it all began in the pilot episode, will be in the queue for the attraction. In the version they did for their maze, the scene was puppet driven and made of foam, and a performer would watch on a monitor to know when to make the doors shake and the walkers growl. As you go through the queue line, there will be multiple sets of animatronic hands that have full range of movement. They can be programmed in different ways, so the sequences can and will be different when you walk through. They know it will be a big Instagram moment for people walking through the attraction.
They are incorporating the burning cabin from the episode entitled “Still.” The cabin will be on fire, you’ll feel the heat and you’ll smell it, for a full sensory experience. To bring it to life, they are using a faux fire effect that’s made by a company called Technifex, and that uses a combination of steam and lighting to look like fire. Three boilers work simultaneously to put the right amount of steam into the apparatus. The burned walker will come out of the cabin, smoking to appear that he’s still on fire.
- They want to be sure to get the dead eyes and mouth movement for the characters, in a way they can’t do for the mazes. You can use prosthetic make-up, but there’s no way to do that to someone’s face every day without damaging it. So, they are using high-end silicon masks with the eyes built into the mask. The mask has an internal structure, so that the character looks the same, no matter what face you put it on. Without the structure, they are able to replicate the biting and snapping movement of the walkers’ mouths. Under the mask, the performer will be wearing a black ninja hood, so that you don’t see their face underneath.
- For big fans of the show, the attraction will be littered with Easter eggs. Every single thing in the attraction relates back to the show, so it will be fun to see how many fans can find.
- There were no limitations placed on them, content wise, and the attraction will be more intense than Horror Nights. They could not do The Walking Dead lite, and they had the support of everybody at the theme park to go as far as they needed to with it. Instead, it’s more about communicating the age appropriateness of the attraction. They recommend that Horror Nights attendees be over the age of 13, so this will likely be along those lines.
- They will be auditioning for a huge cast of performers for the attraction on May 5th and 6th. You can get more information and details at USHauditions.com or on Twitter at @USHauditions.
The Walking Dead attraction will be opening at Universal Studios Hollywood in the Summer of 2016.