LA correspondent Kory Davis went to Universal Studios to check out the new permanent Walking Dead walkthrough attraction. Based on the popular AMC show, The Walking Dead was only a halloween feature at Universal’s fright night events every year, but due to the success of the show and the demand for a year round attraction, Universal have made The Walking Dead maze an all year attraction. Hallelujah!
Let’s check out what Kory had to say about the experience as not only did he get to throughly test out the new maze, but he got to speak to scare actor John Ramirez who give him the low-down on some of the major features of the ride. As-well as speaking to John, Kory managed to speak to one of the heads of operation for the attraction and got some exclusive information about this years Halloween Horror Nights which you can read all about below. Take it away Kory!
Taking so many seasons of the show and packing it into a maze that’s really only a few minutes was a challenging feat even for Universal. Whatever the overall process was they pretty much hit the ball out of the park. So after 6 seasons of the show and 3 continuous years of The Walking Dead being a part of Halloween Horror Nights it was easy for Universal to just repeat and reuse everything they had from the years they’ve already integrated the show into the part. The amazing news is that they didn’t. I arrived to the park at 9AM opening day only to find out the line for the maze was already 2 hours long. It’s a good thing my longtime buddy John Ramierez was there to help me skip the line over and over again.
The most exciting part of the maze is actually the entertainment you get from waiting in line. From the ceiling to the floor the waiting room provides all kinds of goodies from the show from fake product placement to news articles that if you take a couple minutes actually are real but fake articles. This is great for repeat trips. There’s dozens of props to see and great blood splatters on the wall to get a very cool photo. As you can clearly see I had a great time getting my hands bloody. The lights flicker and the Terminus guards play character roles for the most part totally immersing you in the experience. This was much like the Wizarding World where when you ask to go to the bathroom the answer is more like a riddle.
I went through the maze in many ways. I lead the pack, was in the middle of the pack, and even once intentionally fell behind. The one thing for sure is that it’s obviously an amazing experience either way you put you. I’ll admit there were 3 scares that I really didn’t expect and we’ll just scared the crap out of me. I also noticed the actors and production value of the maze. I would consider myself to be a fan of horror mazes and here in Hollywood they never run in short supply in October. I certainly think if you haven’t been to Universal in awhile between the Wizarding World and this it’s a good time to go. After going through the maze nearly a dozen times I sat down with my buddy John whose been a scare actor for several years during Halloween Horror Nights and not only loves the job but balances it between being an actor for film and television.
Going through the maze is fun but from someone whose the one scaring everyone is it as fun?
Absolutely. I think I speak for the entire crew when I say we don’t just do it as a job but we really love getting into character and making sure everyone is having a good time and making sure we really give them what they pay for.
So there was maybe 12 to 13 actors inside the maze. I know you’re a veteran when it comes to Horror nights but just how rigorous was the casting process to get a gig inside the mall?
Universal makes sure safety is the number 1 priority when it comes to any mazes. Hundreds of people auditioned for this but only a few made the cut and with the exception of a couple anyone working in The Walking Dead maze is a true veteran to working mazes here. I can’t go into the casting process but there’s multiple stages and you really have to be creative, scary, and able to sweat the entire time.
It’s really that intense in there?
Definitely but as I said no pain no gain. It may be intense but just as excited as they are to get scared we love scaring.
How is this maze different than anything else at Universal Studios Hollywood or even Universal Orlando?
This maze will be here at least a few years and will only slightly change given the path of the show. If you notice the maze does not give a nod to any specific character because you never know who will survive the next season. This maze probably had 20 times the budget of anything we’d ever done here or even from Orlando from what I’m told. Each year at HHN Walking Dead reflected the current season but with this actually being an attraction all day everyday they really took the time to build real walls, real sets, LCD screens, etc. it’s not just us acting within wooden walls they took this thing seriously. Because of that the scare actors have more room to really get a good scare in and in some rooms really get to breathe because a few sets are mammoth.
As someone who works in the park everyday when did they inform you that The Walking Dead was going to be a full time attraction?
It drive us crazy because they wouldn’t even tell the employees until after this year already started. They had just demolished the House of Horrors which was twice the size and I don’t think anyone expected them to just build a whole new maze. Having said that I think it’s a brilliant choice because no other HHN maze has made it more than 2 years. Walking Dead only got bigger and bigger each year so it feels fitting.
Being such a big show was there any involvement from the producers or was it all left open to Universal?
Greg Nicotero was a huge part of the maze once they decided on the blueprint they were going to use. Once the maze was built he came in several weeks ago and really worked with the actors. Universal had most of the control but Greg wanted everything to be spot on from the show. If you noticed in the maze it really keeps to the basics like the first and second season and then heavily on the last season. Maybe that’s a clue where the show is headed. The funniest thing was learning the walk. He was very specific and researching the show the zombies in Walking Dead definitely have there own style of walking. It didn’t matter if it was days of training you had to learn that walk.
What do you mean blueprint? Was there different versions of the maze thrown around?
Yes. There was 8 different blue prints of the maze. The maze features the hospital, the prison, and the alley way. Plus a few more things like the forest of course. They were really going back and forth with utilizing different things. I think certain things they were toying with were like the market but those were used in previous Walking Dead mazes and here everything was 100% new.
After I met with John I was given a few priority passes and went through a few more times. I certainly had more appreciation knowing the actors weren’t just trying to scare you but we’re really trying to have fun and the same time. You could tell this by how they scoped out who to scare really going for the one they thought they could get the most out of. The final time I went I went through I was in line with one of the heads of operations, his name was Scott. I told him how much I loved the maze and he asked me my favorite scare. The maze does a great job of making you look left and something coming from the right.
Scott how has the response Been so far?
Well it’s only been a few hours but everyone seems to be having a good time and were really happy with how this turned out.
I then went in to try to get some secrets.
Will anything in the maze change much like HHN nights where certain things get tweaked?
Well, we do tweak things but since press night everything has worked to our expectations. I can see a little tweaks for the show as it goes but nothing will change but we will definitely be upping the scare factor come Halloween to really get the die hards to come back.
Are the rumors of a Freddy VS Jason and Exorcist maze true?
Well, those could be announced very soon. We’re excited about HHN as its getting bigger and bigger every year and everyone loved Alien VS Predator.
So in the end guys it’s really nice to hear the appreciation and microscope like things Universal does to bring us these mazes. The maze is truly sick and hopefully if Freddy and Jason make their way to Universal Hollywood if have to say I’m on board for Horror Nights this year! Fans should be happy with this maze for now. It’s like Halloween in July!
Review written by Kory Davis. Check out Kory on Facebook HERE
Take a look at a lights-on walkthrough of the maze courtesy of So cal attractions: