The zombies of "The Walking Dead" will play a larger role at this year's Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios executives say.
Previously, the scare zones sported different looks and themes. This year, iconic "Walking Dead" scenes from its first two seasons, including the military tank in downtown Atlanta and a re-creation of a pivotal scene in a barn, will take over the street program, says Jim Timon, senior vice president of entertainment at Universal Orlando. Watch for both "walkers" -- the term used for the show's zombies -- and embattled survivors (the uninfected folk) in these areas throughout the theme park.
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“It’s just a great iconic horror experience that I think all the guests are going to connect with this year,” Timon says.
"The Walking Dead" house will be dedicated to scenes from the series' third season, including experiences with the governor's fish tanks, an arena in the town of Woodbury stocked with chained zombies and moments from the prison's Cell Block C. (The fourth season premieres Oct. 13).
Halloween Horror Nights is an intense, after-hours, separately ticketed event at Universal Studios, which runs 27 select nights between Sept. 20 and Nov. 2.
It will be the second consecutive Halloween Horror Nights for "The Walking Dead," but this year's house and scare zones will be all-new construction, Timon says. Two previously announced houses will be themed to horror films "Evil Dead" and "The Cabin in the Woods."
Universal works with "Walking Dead" makeup artist and executive producer Greg Nicotero for the production.
“The walkers of ‘The Walking Dead’ are unique in their look and their style and their presentation. We‘re very careful to work with them to make that ‘real’ to fans," Timon says.
There are many scenes and characters to choose from, says John Murdy, creative director at Universal Studios Hollywood in California, which also will have a "Walking Dead" house.
“Being a television series, each season there is a new environment, there are new characters, there are new settings, which is wonderful for us in creating Halloween Horror Nights," Murdy says.
Timon expects the "Walking Dead" zones to appeal to guests who don't watch the show.
“At the end of the day, they’re very scary, very intense environments," he says. "Really that’s what you need in a street program. Are the environments scary? Are they scenically intense? Are the characters that you’re designing going to scare people? If you can check all those boxes, then you’re doing your job.”
But what about Horror Nights' trademark chainsaw-wielding scare actors? Is there room for them in "The Walking Dead" zones?
Survivors, particularly in the early seasons, had to use whatever was on hand to fight the walkers, Timon says.
"You know, it took some time to figure out how to kill walkers effectively and efficiently," he hints. "You used whatever you had.”