In this edition of Theme Park Bits:
- Take a very close look at the new The Walking Dead Attraction and read an early review.
- Learn how and when you can audition for Halloween Horror Nights.
- Universal Studios doubles down on The Secret Life of Pets.
- Disney introduces more Star Wars into its parks as Star Wars Land takes shape.
- Universal is testing VR headsets for future attractions.
- A new video teases the technology of Pandora: The Land of Avatar.
- The history of Disney’s scrapped Virginia theme park.
- And more!
You’ve got to give Universal Studios credit – no major theme park creates major new attractions as quickly as these guys. While their East Coast park has already seen weeks of technical rehearsals for the new Skull Island: Reign of Kong ride, Universal Studios Hollywood just opened the The Walking Dead Attraction, a year-round, walkthrough maze based on AMC’s ever-popular television series. The park has plenty of experience creating immersive “haunted house” attractions with their annual Halloween Horror Nights event, but as Inside Universal explains, this is far more ambitious than a typical Universal maze, which is built to be temporary and only experienced at night:
With the initial introductory scenes of the attraction aside, Murdy tells us that the goal is to bring The Walking Dead to life. Halloween Horror Nights fans rejoice – there are no black rooms, reset points, or drastic scene changes without a highly themed transition. He stresses that this is a daytime experience that has a different audience with different expectations. Although scares are a big part of the attraction, the real star is the theming and spectacle. The Walking Dead Attraction needs to stand on-par with the rest of Universal Studios Hollywood’s attraction roster, which means immersive environments that don’t resemble temporary fixtures.
As we walk through the remainder of the attraction, it’s clear to see that this year-round walkthrough will be a step above anything we’ve ever seen at Halloween Horror Nights – as it should be. Guests will be treated to projection effects, strobe lights representing bullet ricochets, multiple scenes that can play out differently from one walkthrough to another, and of course tons of easter eggs for true fans to discover. Murdy even noted that around one third of the maze could be changed depending on what happens in future episodes of the television show in order to keep the attraction fresh and up to date.
Year-round walkthrough haunted houses are an uncommon sight at major theme parks these days, so the mere existence of The Walking Dead Attraction (which really needs a better name) is fascinating. The combination of live actors, standing sets, animatronics, and special effects is certainly ambitious. If you can’t make it out to Universal Hollywood and don’t care about having the major beats from the attraction spoiled for you, a great low-light video walkthrough can be watched below. We previously posted a different walkthrough, just in case you want a different perspective.
Of course, a video like that allows you to see certain seams that won’t be noticed in the moment and the final experience won’t feature a couple dozen entertainment journalists huddling around every turn and photographing every corner. But it certainly shows off the scope of the attraction. Some of the set pieces, like the burning house, are undeniably impressive. Others, like the room full of immobile zombie mannequins, are not. In the end, it looks like a polished version of a Halloween Horror Nights maze and that may be all of the necessary information for you to determine in this is the experience for you.
Speaking of Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Orlando is already holding auditions for this year’s event, so if getting paid to dress up like a famous (or not so famous) movie monster or one of its victims sounds appealing, you can check out of the details over here. In recent years, Horror Nights has drifted away from original concepts and has started concentrating on bringing recent and classic horror movies to life, with mazes based on everything from Crimson Peak to An American Werewolf in London. If you’ve ever wanted to dress up like a Xenomoprh and jump out at drunk people, this is your chance.