With 2014’s Halloween Horror Nights upon us at Universal Studios Hollywood, we have one more behind the scenes peek for fans – this time, it’s from the maze The Walking Dead: End of the Line. Last week, as temperatures hit 100+ degrees outside, HHN’s Creative Director and Executive Producer, John Murdy, took a handful of media into the Walking Dead maze, where it was easily upward of 110 degrees. We had to keep reminding ourselves that it’s Halloween season – because Mother Nature certainly hasn’t gotten the memo here in Southern California.
When Universal announced the return of The Walking Dead franchise for both of its American parks, the news was met with mixed reaction from fans – obviously, those who are hard core Walking Dead fans were immediately thrilled; those who are neutral or actually don’t like the television series (I know a few – they’re rare, but they do exist) rolled eyes and voiced their dislike. And I totally get that. When you have something as popular as Halloween Horror Nights that has only a very limited capacity for new content each season, the moment you begin repeating themes or IP content, you head down a slippery slope that is often taken as creative being run by the company’s marketing machine (which sadly, should never be the case, but is a constant battle in this industry these day), or simply as being lazy. The latter certainly isn’t the case with Universal Studios, and we know for a fact that John Murdy plays a heavy role in selecting the event’s creative content from one season to another. The bottom line – Murdy really likes the franchise, its creators, and the general public is in love with The Walking Dead (isn’t your DVR set to record the season premiere!?) still.
This year, the maze is named The Walking Dead: End of the Line, and it picks up right after the Governor’s posse has smashed the tank through the fence of the prison where the show’s hero team has been holed up this past season. One of the most impressive aspects of last year’s Walking Dead maze was how large in scale it was – the two-story prison interior was mind-blowing to me, and I stated that visually, it was the best maze I have ever seen at Halloween Horror Nights here in Hollywood. For those that missed last year’s maze, I have good news: the prison is back, the amazing interior scene is back, and it looks fantastic.
Once guests pass through the prison interior, the maze is different than it was last year. I’m not going to give you a scene-by-scene break-down of what to expect; that’s not the point here. However, it’s obvious that End of the Line features key locales from the last season of The Walking Dead, and naturally, pays heavy attention to getting us to Terminus, where last season’s episodes ended.
As usual, the attention to detail in the maze is amazing, which is expected of Halloween Horror Nights. These attractions have massive budgets – so there is no excuse for them not to be visually stunning. Murdy has been training the maze’s scareactors as craftsmen put final touches on the different scenes, from lighting and sound, to mind-blowing detail. Everyone that works on Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood is a perfectionist, often going way up and beyond their expected scope of work to give these mazes just a little more. And it shows; the fans appreciate all of the hard work, too. Unquestionably, Universal’s mazes are at the top of the list when it comes to attention to detail and spot-on IP reproduction. Each scene is movie-quality, and that’s what we’ve all come to love and expect from Murdy and his team.
The Walking Dead: End of the Line is located in the Metropolitan sets area of the studio’s Backlot, between From Dusk Till Dawn and AVP: Alien vs. Predator. This year, the Backlot mazes will be accessed from the area next to Transformers, and guests will be walking (yes, walking) to the location; last year, trams shuttled guests to the Backlot location – not so for 2014.
A special thanks to John Murdy for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to take us through the maze ahead of the event, and a huge amount of gratitude to the men and women sweating their butts off in the oppressive heat this month to get this and the other attractions ready at Halloween Horror Nights; we appreciate all of the hard work and endless hours!
Ticketing and information can be found on the official Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights website! Good luck reaching Terminus!