At WonderCon today, new information was given about Universal Studios Hollywood’s upcoming attraction based on The Walking Dead – and the promise that it won’t hold back on the type of experience if offers those attending the theme park.
While The Walking Dead has been a part of Universal’s hugely popular Halloween Horror Nights for four years now, Universal Studios’ John Murdy, Chris Williams and Don Burgess all said that creating a permanent attraction was another beast all together.
Williams said that when recreating notable areas from the show, compared to the Horror Nights mazes, they were going for, “Bigger and broader sets and more high end sets,” saying they were, “taking the level of sets and the scenic tricks and taking them to a higher level.”
While the Horror Nights mazes were often built inside a tent, for the permanent attraction, Burgess noted, “Universal is building us a building” and “the team has been very careful to use every inch” as far as filling everything in sight with something of significance to the show. Beyond the more obvious recreations of set pieces from the show, Murdy promised Easter Eggs throughout, with references to locations and moments from The Walking Dead’s history.
The Walking Dead’s executive producer, frequent director and makeup FX guru Greg Nicotero had done some consulting on the Horror Nights mazes in the past and given his blessing, but Murdy said with the permanent attraction, “What we hadn’t had with Greg, but we do now, is him being personally involved.” Nicotero’s company, KNB, are building the animatronics for the attraction, which will be intermixed with real performers playing walkers.
As for those performers, Murdy noted that it wasn’t possible to use the kind of makeup you would on a TV show, because wearing spirit gum all year, “Your face would look like hell after that.” Instead, they were using high-end silicon masks, with a focus on making sure the dead eyes and mouth movement could emulate what you see in the series. We were shown video of both Murdy and Williams wearing the same mask, showing how the mouth can be opened and closed as though it’s a walker trying to bite its victim – and looks the same no matter who is wearing it.
Unlike the Horror Nights mazes, which tend to be based on the most recent season of the series, the permanent attraction will pull from throughout the show’s history. For the most part, Murdy didn’t want to reveal what is included, but did say they were using an impressive-looking “faux fire” to recreate the burning cabin from the episode “Still.”
And those waiting in the queue to get in will begin to experience The Walking Dead beforehand, as they pass the iconic “Don’t Open, Dead Inside” doors from the pilot episode. Some of KNB’s work will be seen at this point, showing the hands and faces of walkers trying to push their way out of the doors.
As for the content of the attraction, Williams noted, “We don’t hold back on anything, including in terms of gore.” Murdy said there were no restrictions put on them by Universal, adding, “Honestly, you don’t see stuff like this in a theme park!”
Said Burgess, “This is more intense than Halloween Horror Nights. We’re really surprised we’re allowed to do something this intense,” with Murdy remarking, “We cannot do Walking Dead Light.”