They say celebrity deaths come in threes, so perhaps it's appropriate that "The Walking Dead" is coming back for round 3 of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.
The zombie-driven TV drama, which appears on AMC, will be featured prominently for a third consecutive year at the event, which will begin its 24th edition Sept. 19.
Universal usually limits the use of horror brands to two-year runs. The park will take steps to avoid undead burnout, said Michael Aiello, director of entertainment and creative development.
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"We want to make sure that it's visually very different for the guests," he said.
They're thinking big this year, bigger than ever, Aiello said. This year's "Walking Dead" haunted house will be the largest in Horror Nights history.
"It is literally double the length of a maze that we've done in the past and literally double the number of walkers that we've have in any other maze," Aiello said. ("Walkers" is "Dead"-speak for zombies.)
Universal aims to create a horde environment.
"'Walking Dead' is about masses of zombies," Aiello said. "There's a room or two in the maze where you are going to be surrounded by many performers at once."
The setting of the new maze will be entirely within the fourth season of the TV show. The fifth season debuts in October, smack in the middle of HHN season.
"Luckily, season 4 for us really came out of the gate with some varied environments," Aiello said. "The fact that they left the prison at that midseason finale and then they all went their separate ways could not have happened at a better time for us."
Among the sights: A Big Spot supermarket scene — complete with helicopter — the prison and the tunnel that opens up to Terminus.
"We literally end right where season 4 ends," Aiello said.
Could the HHN scene change after season 5 debuts? "It's entirely possible," he said with a laugh.
This year's "Walking Dead" maze will be constructed in Soundstage 25, a space not used for Horror Nights before.
"We're bursting at the seams, as far as Soundstage 25 is concerned, by how much we're cramming into that space to ensure we're hitting all the necessary beats that are within season 4," Aiello said.
The plans call for such a crammed space that the maze's opening façade and its finale will be built outside the structure, he said.
Also appearing will be the "really burned charcoal walkers" that arrive in the show's fourth season.
"You're going to see those in the maze," Aiello said. "We're even building a costume that allows us to quick-connect to a fog machine so the smoke looks as if it's coming from the costume itself."
Universal has discarded last year's all-zombies, all-the-time concept for its street program, commonly referred to as "scare zones."
"We have other ideas that we want to occupy our streets with," Aiello said. "We really want to concentrate it so that from the time you enter until the time you leave, you're enveloped. Once you leave, you can experience everything else the event has to offer."