A ‘Dead’ treat for fans of zombies

Seasonal maze goes to full time in fright boost that scares even the show’s stars

- Kimiya Manoochehr­i USA TODAY

UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIF. Fans of AMC’s hit series The Walking

Dead can get up close and personal with some of their favorite decaying and decomposin­g characters.

The groaning mass of reanimated dead are out in force as Universal Studios Hollywood prepares to unveil its newest attraction, built around The Walk

ing Dead and chock-full of sets, props and characters that will delight fans and frighten just about everyone else.

Ghoulish “walkers,” as the zombies are known on AMC’s hit drama, grab from prison cell bars. Corpses dangle from hooks. Visitors have to squeeze past a chainlink cage while snarling walkers try to ensnare them. Even cast members of the show, who turned up for a preview before Monday’s official opening, were unnerved.

“I just hope I don’t mess my pants,” said Scott Wilson, who played Hershel Greene, a beloved doctor who was killed off in Season 4.

Thankfully for some, the attraction can be a relatively quick visit. The experience takes about seven minutes to get through, starting inside the hospital where all the madness began just outside the famous padlocked doors that read, “Don’t Open Dead Inside.” For the past several years, The

Walking Dead inspired a seasonal Halloween maze at the theme park, which visitors had to find their way through as grotesque undead jumped out at them. It was such a success that park officials decided to make it a yearround attraction.

“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,” Larry Kurzweil, Universal Studios Hollywood’s president, said in a statement.

Those who visited the maze were excited about the possibilit­y of a deeper immersion into the show’s world.

The Halloween Horror Nights experience “was more of a maze, where you’re trying to figure your way out,” said Kyla Kenedy, who played Mika Samuels — and is still an enthusiast­ic fan despite her character’s gruesome death. “Now I’m hoping you can interact with more characters.”

You can. It starts as a survivor radios a mission to guests in line, warning them to seek refuge in the prison. Getting there requires bypassing some of the show’s most iconic walkers, a mix of animatroni­c figures and live actors, poised to attack around every turn.

There are signs and props that refer to moments in the show’s six seasons that fans will appreciate — if they have enough time to study them while they try to dodge the walkers.

Greg Nicotero, the show’s resident special-effects makeup expert, said the attraction must be authentic to satisfy hard-core fans.

“We utilize the same molds as we use for the television show,” Nicotero said. “So when you go through it, you’re going to recognize different characters.”

“I hope I get through without screaming and crying too much.” Michael Traynor, who plays Nicholas on the TV show

 ?? VALERIE MACON, AFP/GETTY IMAGES ?? Zombie characters push on a fence at Universal Studios Hollywood’s opening of The Walking Dead attraction in Universal City.
VALERIE MACON, AFP/GETTY IMAGES Zombie characters push on a fence at Universal Studios Hollywood’s opening of The Walking Dead attraction in Universal City.

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