After six seasons of scaring up record ratings, The Walking Dead is being brought to life at Universal Studios Hollywood’s newest permanent attraction.
Opening Monday, July 4, the Walking Dead attraction was created with the help of Greg Nicotero, the guru behind the hit AMC series’ terrifying zombies. Nicotero played a prominent role in designing many of the animatronics, crafting the makeup for the human walkers, and even running a walker boot camp for the actors.
He also made sure the attraction featured callbacks to the TV series. “We really wanted to have the opportunity to get various hits from different seasons,” Nicotero tells EW. “So making it feel up to date with the show and still pay tribute to a lot of those other moments from past seasons, I think that was the hardest thing.”
And as the show continues, the attraction will be updated with even more tie-ins to the series. “We’d never want the attraction to not feel like it was caught up with the show, so there are opportunities [for updating] in the way that it has been designed,” Nicotero says.
EW got a sneak peek of the attraction earlier this week. During the moments not spent cowering in terror, we kept an eye out for some of the biggest Easter eggs:
Since season 6 ended, all the talk has been about who was on the receiving end of Lucille, Negan’s bat. Lucille can be spotted before you even walk through the entrance. The bat is covered in barbed wire, but for now seems void of Glenn or anyone else’s blood. Negan isn’t the only character with a trademark weapon Daryl’s crossbow and Michonne’s katana have both found their way to Universal.
When Rick wakes up in the world of Walking Dead, he’s in the hospital where Shane left him. It’s also where Universal guests start their journey through the attraction. Just like Rick, you’re immediately confronted with a chained-up door that reads, “Don’t open, dead inside.” If that warning isn’t creepy enough, the loud slams from the other side make it clear to stay away.
The cabin Daryl torched
If you make it out of the hospital and dodge the first few walkers, you’ll soon feel the heat. “One of the big special effects in the attraction is the burning cabin that Daryl torched in an episode called ‘Still,’” says John Murdy, the attraction’s creative director. “So we’re using a technology called faux fire, that looks like fire. While it’s not real fire, it also has heat … and the scent of a burning cabin. So it’s a multi-sensory experience using some pretty sophisticated special effects.” Adding to the experience is an on-fire walker stumbling out the cabin.
Of the many recognizable walkers from the show’s run, the most memorable might be one from the very first episode. After escaping the hospital, a disoriented Rick stumbles upon a girl walker who is missing half her legs and hips but continues to crawl her way around. He rides off with her bicycle before eventually returning to apologize for what happened to her and then shoot her. In the attraction, Bicycle Girl is still alive-ish as she protects her bike from future thieves.
Familiar face in a familiar place
In addition to such locales in as the hospital and cabin, a good stretch of the attraction is set in the prison, where much of season 3 and season 4’s action took place. While the prison has many walkers, it also features a man who looks a lot like a two-legged Hershel Greene. The fan-favorite farmer protects you by shooting down as many walkers as he can. Aww, Hershel.