Have you ever wanted to wander through a zombie apocalypse? Me too, weirdo! And we’re both in luck, because this fall, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood are celebrating their annual Halloween Horror Nights with a vivid recreation of AMC’s undead sensation The Walking Dead. This will be the first time that a TV show has been given the Horror Nights experience, says John Murdy, creative director on Universal Studios Hollywood. “We’ve focused in the past on movie franchises. We’ve done every major horror franchise you can imagine, from Nightmare on Elm Street to Friday the 13th, Saw, Halloween. But now horror has become so big on television, and Walking Dead stands tallest among those series.”
Murdy promises a host of settings and characters from the first two seasons of the show will be re-created in the two theme parks, including the hospital from the show’s pilot and the season 1 campsite. “You’re walking in their footsteps and experiencing all the things they experienced. We even use things like the sense of smell: If you’re in the hospital, you smell the dead bodies.”
Murdy estimates that the experience will include anywhere from 10 to 12 major environments. And, in news guaranteed to please gorehound Dead fans, Universal is working closely with Greg Nicotero, Walking Dead’s special effects makeup artist and all-around zombie guru. Says Nicotero, “We couldn’t be in better hands. Being a fan of the genre, Universal’s brand of horror and monster stuff is something that inspired me. When I was a kid, it was Creature From the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein, all those great iconic characters.”
Nicotero notes that Universal will be using many of the original molds and prosthetics similar to those used in the TV show. The Universal experience will offer a new challenge in terms of creating the walkers. “It’s a live performance, and you have people right there, it’s a much more tangible scenario,” he says, noting that – unlike on a TV show – you can’t touch up a zombie’s makeup between takes.
Nicotero also promises return appearances from Bicycle Girl (the half-zombie from the Dead pilot) and the grotesque Well-Walker. And the Halloween Horror Nights Dead experience will also feature a return trip from a walker close to the designer’s heart. “In season 1, there was a zombie eating a deer,” says Nicotero. “Which actually was played by me. So I get a Walker cameo in Halloween Horror Nights.”
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