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AutoMatters & More: “THE WALKING DEAD – A Walk Through Attraction” Opening at Universal Studios Hollywood

Frightening and authentic Walker prosthetics and makeup
Frightening and authentic Walker prosthetics and makeup

Fans of the increasingly popular, long-running, hit AMC TV series “The Walking Dead,” and enthusiasts of the horror genre, will have something extra special to celebrate beginning this Fourth of July. That is the opening date for the brand new “The Walking Dead” walk through attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood.

For years Universal Studios Hollywood has worked collaboratively with AMC’s “The Walking Dead” to create a signature “Halloween Horror Nights” maze. This new, permanent attraction goes well beyond that, and is about as close to walking onto the set of the TV series as you will be likely to experience in person. Universal Studios Hollywood has partnered with “The Walking Dead’s” senior creative team, including executive producer and director of the series, Greg Nicotero, and his special effects company KNB Efx, to create an authentic experience, year-round in the park.

WaterWorld show with “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in the background
WaterWorld show with “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in the background

According to Larry Kurzwell, President of Universal Studios Hollywood, “We’re taking its authenticity to the next level by collaborating with the show’s award-winning production team to create a thrilling, living representation of the series that can only be experienced at Universal Studios Hollywood.”

“After six years of working on ‘The Walking Dead,’ we have this great opportunity to take ‘The Walking Dead’ out of the studio, off the soundstage and into this amazing and truly one-of-a-kind attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood,” said Greg Nicotero. “Guests can now come face-to-face with live and animatronic Walkers that are indiscernible from the Walkers from the show. It’s very exciting, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”

Since this is a year-round, permanent attraction, they were able to pull out all the stops and do this right, starting with an entirely new, custom-built structure. As you apprehensively walk along, probing deeper and deeper into the nightmarish, surreal spaces, you will experience the dilapidated, blood spattered Harrison Memorial Hospital and other scenes from the TV series, with highly recognizable props. Those props include Rick Grimes’ sheriff hat, Daryl Dixon’s crossbow, Michonne’s Katana, Negan’s bat “Lucille,” Carl Grimes’ 112-ounce can of chocolate pudding, the hospital clock frozen at 1:45 (as it was in the pilot episode), moonshine cabin, Del Arno semi-trailer and Bicycle Girl.

Of course what brings this experience vividly to life are the Walkers – many of them. Nicotero’s team and Universal Studios Hollywood have masterfully re-created frightening, realistic, decaying Walkers, employing the original molds from the TV series and specially created prosthetics – a living representation of the show. Adding to the chilling experience are authentic Walker makeup effects, sophisticated animatronic Walkers and costuming.

Minions-themed “Super Silly Fun Land”
Minions-themed “Super Silly Fun Land”

At the media preview, after we were introduced to members of the cast and the creative team, a teeming horde of 100 ravenous Walkers stormed our compound, clawing at the chain link fence that thankfully separated us from them. Thankfully the fence held, thus preventing a horrifying fate.

“Jaws” shark attacking the Studio Tour tram
“Jaws” shark attacking the Studio Tour tram

Of course afterwards our visit to Universal Studios Hollywood – “which has (in the past five years) substantially altered over 75 percent of its familiar footprint to effectively characterize it as an entirely new theme park experience” (with more yet to come!) – could not possibly have been allowed to end after the media preview of “The Walking Dead” attraction. This day that meant a return to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter;” a performance of the thrilling WaterWorld water show (finally I got multiple properly exposed shots of the fiery climax to the show by setting the cameras to their manual setting and underexposing for the intense flames. Otherwise they would have been blown-out, overexposed blobs of white); a massive wall of water cascading over kids who were gleefully beating the summer-time Southern California heat in the Minions-themed “Super Silly Fun Land” water park; the world-famous studio tour (capturing a photo of the shark from “Jaws,” up-close and personal with frightened passengers on the tram); the fun and educational “Special Effects” live show; a ‘meet & greet’ with Lisa and Homer Simpson; and much more.

Lisa & Homer Simpson ‘meet & greet’
Lisa & Homer Simpson ‘meet & greet’

Speaking of photography, a new “AutoMatters & More” website with additional original photography is under construction. It will eventually feature an archive containing all of the columns – 443 to date and dating all the way back to 2002! To be kept updated on its progress, as well as to offer your suggestions what you would like to see included in that website, send an email to AutoMatters@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #443