Last week Universal announced that The Walking Dead, a phenomenon in both cable television and the world of comics right now, would be returning to Universal Studios Florida as part of Halloween Horror Nights 23. Last year The Walking Dead made its debut at Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) with a maze set up in the queue area of Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride… Starring You. The maze was based on the first season of The Walking Dead television show and included elements of Rick waking up in the hospital and his travels to Atlanta. This year’s maze looks to bring in elements from season three of the television show, incorporating both the prison and the town of Woodbury.
While last year’s maze took place in the San Francisco area of USF, it is expected that this year’s edition will be housed in the parade building that is located towards the front area of the park near Café La Bamba and the Horror Make-Up Show. One element that many guests felt hurt the Walking Dead experience last year was how intrusive sunlight was into the maze before the sun went down. With this year’s maze being indoors, sunlight will not be a problem.
Universal has also announced that the Walking Dead will be the overall theme for all of the street experiences throughout the park. Last year HHN 22 unveiled a “zombie horde” concept outside of the Walking Dead maze to mixed reviews, with many feeling there weren’t enough zombies and the gap in between the hordes being released was too long. For the entire scare zone experience to be completely dedicated to the Walking Dead, Universal is going to need to have many more “walkers” roaming the parks or guests just aren’t going to feel the terror. The streets of the park will be filled with iconic locations and props from all three seasons of the television show, including the tank from season one and Hershel’s barn from season two, so being completely immersed within the world of the Walking Dead is going to set the right mood.
The Walking Dead brand was definitely a big draw at the Universal ticket counters in 2012, and the maze itself quickly drew waits of two hours or more. With the television show becoming even more popular in 2013 (including its record rating for the season three finale in March) look for many guests to be drawn to the Universal turnstiles once again.
Stars of the Walking Dead, Steven Yeun (Glenn), Norman Reedus (Daryl) and special f/x guru Greg Nicotero filmed a special video for the announcement:
HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
Universal also put a bigger emphasis on its Halloween Horror Nights Twitter account (@HorrorNightsORL) by handing over the reigns to Mike Aiello, the Creative Director of HHN 23. Aiello has made an instant splash, having a lot of interaction with fans and posting exclusive photos (such as the blueprints for the tank that will be used as part of the Walking Dead street experience). Aiello is one of Universal’s greatest assets and was also the creative force behind the Cinematic Spectacular lagoon show. Similar to how John Lasseter started his career years earlier at Disney as a Jungle Cruise skipper, Aiello began his journey at Universal with a job as a skipper on the old Jaws attraction.
To say the “new and improved” HHN 23 twitter account has been well received is an understatement. They have already broke their own record for followers and have held several interactive Q & A sessions with fans. Be sure to stay on top of @HorrorNightsORL’s tweets for great discussion on HHN and teases of what is still to come. And speaking of which…
@HorrorNightsORL ANNOUNCES “REVEAL WEEK”
Each night at Midnight this upcoming week the Horror Nights 23 twitter account will tweet some new HHN information. It stands to reason that each night a new haunted house experience will be revealed, joining Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods, and the Walking Dead bringing the total number of houses to 8. Halloween Horror Nights usually involves 8 houses, with last year only having 7 because of the construction of Transformers: The Ride 3D and Diagon Alley.
UNIVERSAL ANNOUNCES ONLINE SIGN UPS FOR LEGENDARY TRUTH: THE COLLECTIVE
Sign ups began last week for Legendary Truth: The Collective, the interactive experience for Halloween Horror Nights 23. You can register at hhn23experience.com. If you started an account last year for Horror Unearthed, your account should be ready to go and all you need to do is “sign in.” Otherwise you’ll need to register as a “new user,” but the process is very quick and absolutely free. After you sign up you will get a confirmation text. You can even sign up through your mobile device. Here’s a quick demonstration of how easy it is to sign up along with the confirmation you will recieve (click on pictures to see a bigger version):
What comes next is anyone’s guest, but Universal has a track record of over delivering to its fan base. Expect a decent amount of online games plus in-park activities. Since 2005 there have been several games and themes designed by Universal targeting the hardest of the hardcore HHN fans. Last year’s Horror Unearthed theme was a clever tie in to the construction of Transformers: The Ride 3D. The story went that when the construction crews broke into the ground to build the attraction they accidentally unleashed the Iniquitus (the patrons of death who roam the streets during HHN) and the Iniquitus then released the six Legions of Horror. Last year Universal incorporated this use of RFID cards for guests that could be scanned at the end of the haunted houses. This would unlock special achievements for the player as the RFID card is connected to your Legendary Truth online account.
The concept of Legendary Truth was first used by Universal back in 2008 to further immerse guests into the world of HHN by combining elements within the park and online. The Legendary Truth itself is sort of horror/paranormal investigative team with The Collective being a division of the team. The Spirit Seekers were another division of The Legendary Truth, but the story goes they all went missing in The Wyandot Estate from HHN 20.
For the first time, this year Universal will offer Legendary Truth merchandise as well as branded items for each of the Legions of Horror. As of this writing the Universal online store only has a few items available, and mostly in the form of hats, but look for more merchandise to be sprinkled in over the coming days and weeks leading up to HHN 23.