Earlier this week, Universal Studios Hollywood confirmed what fans have been speculating for a while – that a year-round attraction based on AMC’s blockbuster series The Walking Dead is close to opening at the Southern California theme park.
This is a major boon for haunt and horror fans in the region who lamented over the closure of Universal’s House of Horrors in summer 2014. House of Horrors was a year-round walk-through haunted attraction that featured such notable silver screen heavies as the Mummy, Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Norman Bates, and more. It’s closure and demolition was part of the unprecedented property-wide makeover that Universal Studios Hollywood is still undergoing in large to make way for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened last month.
For the past five years, The Walking Dead has been a featured intellectual property at Universal Studios Hollywood during its annual Halloween Horror Nights event, taking on every form from sprawling scare zone to intense mazes reflecting whichever season ended that spring. Over time, two very defined groups of fans have found their voice – those who are totally into The Walking Dead, and those who have had more than enough of it at Halloween Horror Nights. The latter group becomes more and more vocal online each season that Universal announces that The Walking Dead will be returning. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the show, and I’ve already figured that it’ll be part of HHN for at least a year after the show finally ends.
Creating a year-round Walking Dead attraction is a great move by Universal for multiple reasons, in my opinion. As summer approaches, more and more tourists will be coming to Universal Studios Hollywood to see Potter, as well as the rest of the park in general. Despite the opening of Wizarding World, Universal Hollywood is not yet a full-day park. Crowds come at peak times, and all of the attractions get slammed. Anything that acts as a people suck at this point will help. Universal hasn’t released information regarding capacity of the Walking Dead attraction, but on busy days, it should be able to handle upward of 1,000 guests per hour; that’s more than some attractions do, and definitely something that Universal Hollywood needs to help with crowd dispersion.
Having a year-round haunt open again at the park also gives fans something to enjoy whenever they visit. The House of Horrors was popular with horror and haunt fans, so there is no reason to expect the new Walking Dead attraction to be any different. The fact that John Murdy and the team have paired up with Greg Nicotero for the content within the walk-through gives me confidence that it’s going to look fantastic, and be frightening as hell. Very few year-round stand-alone haunted attractions exist here in the United States; having one here in Los Angeles is great news for those who have the Halloween itch throughout the year and need a fix.
Another positive side-effect of having a dedicated space for the Walking Dead attraction at the park is just that – it frees up one of the seasonal footprint locations used by Halloween Horror Nights for other IPs now. There may be a few more live actors thrown into the permanent Walking Dead attraction during HHN – but what I don’t think we’ll see happen is Universal double-dipping and creating expensive temporary mazes based on the franchise anymore. That’s a win-win for everyone – fans of the series get their Walking Dead fix any time they want, including during Halloween Horror Nights, and folks who are over the whole thing don’t have to worry about it being a recurring IP anymore.
There’s certain to be more news and information in the weeks ahead. Once the attraction opens, we’ll give you our full report and thoughts. Put us on the list of folks who are excited to have this new experience at Universal Studios Hollywood; we look forward to checking it out when it opens in the very near future.
- Rick West
Here’s the full press release from Universal Studios Hollywood:
Universal Studios Hollywood reveals a behind-the-scenes look into the making of its new permanent walk-through attraction based on AMC’s record-breaking television series, The Walking Dead, and announces that the eagerly-awaited experience will debut on Monday, July 4, 2016.
The captivating two-minute video features insightful commentary from Greg Nicotero, executive producer and director of The Walking Dead as he tours his LA-based special effects studio, KNB Efx, which is responsible for masterfully creating the show’s—and now the attraction’s—realistic decaying walkers.
“After six years of working on The Walking Dead, we have a great opportunity to take The Walking Dead out of the studio, off the soundstage and into an attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood where guests can come face-to-face with walkers,” said Greg Nicotero.
He continued, “It’s very exciting to be able to make the attraction as 100 percent authentic as possible. We’re getting the chance to utilize molds that were created specifically for the show and translate them into parts of the attraction. We’re creating animatronic walkers that guests will be able to see… it’s never been done before… it’s one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art… and I can’t wait.”
Universal Studios Hollywood has worked collaboratively with AMC’s The Walking Dead for years as a signature Halloween Horror Nights maze. This newly enhanced venture will take the highly sought-after experience from a seasonal, limited time offering to an exciting 365-day opportunity, raising the bar for themed walk-through attractions.
To ensure authenticity of the attraction, Universal Studios Hollywood is partnering with The Walking Dead’s creative team, including Greg Nicotero and KNB Efx to develop prosthetics, utilize original molds and painstakingly apply paint and detailing to attraction walkers. The integral involvement of the creative team will not only inspire the emotional connection fans experience, it will be among the attraction’s key distinguishing characteristics that will define it as a living representation of the show.
Coupled with authentic walker make-up effects, sophisticated animatronic walkers, substantially more detailed set design and costuming, and highly recognizable props replicated from the series, The Walking Dead attraction will deliver an uncompromised realistic environment that brings guests even further into the most watched show in cable television history.
The The Walking Dead attraction will be located within an entirely new, custom built structure, situated within an expansive building complex just inside the theme park’s main entry. Due to the intense nature of this experience, the attraction is not recommended for guests under the age of 13.
The past five years have been a remarkable time for Universal Studios Hollywood as the destination embarked on an unprecedented revitalization that has substantially altered over 75 percent of its familiar footprint to effectively characterize it as an entirely new theme park experience. The introduction of the all-new The Walking Dead attraction continues the theme park’s unparalleled investment in its ambitious epic transformation.
AMC’s The Walking Dead depicts the story of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by hordes of terrifying flesh-eating walkers. It is the #1 show on television among adults 18-49 for the last four years and will debut its seventh season this October.