Ratings aside, it doesn’t seem that AMC’s The Walking Dead will be leaving the public’s consciousness anytime soon. With fans almost as ravenous as the walkers themselves, The Walking Dead is a hot enough property to warrant not only a pinball machine and the Talking Dead after show, but now it’s likely the series could become an attraction at a theme park near you.
While most exhibitors at last month’s International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo were there to elicit smiles and laughter, Sally Corporation was offering the promise of shrieks and screams with their new The Walking Dead dark ride. Not a rollercoaster, but rather a themed attraction you ride through, dark rides have evolved a lot since the days of Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Walking Dead: Battle for Survival ride aims to be much more interactive.
John Wood, chairman and CEO of Sally Corporation, describes his still-in-development attraction this way, “The concept right now is ‘select a weapon.’ So you’re able to select a crossbow if you wanted to or select a shotgun or others that you could possibly use virtually. So it is all then captured on the screen in front of you.” Riders would be taken through the familiar deadly world of the TV show and thrust into intense simulations of peril as survivors of the zombie apocalypse. The stressful situations, haunting theme music, and blood-stained walkers will no doubt seem familiar to fans of the show, but riders may not see too many other familiar faces.
“The actors are extremely popular right now and (their characters) could die at any season. We’re not going to be featuring any actors, but there will be a lot of hints to the actors there as well as the environments. You know, there’s a lot of well-known areas in The Walking Dead series we can easily recreate and that we can go in and be survivors and do the role that we need to do.” Currently the concept sketches from Sally Corp. depict the Terminus rail yard, Steve’s pharmacy, and other locations from the AMC series.
If the description of the dark ride is a little vague right now, that’s because Sally Corporation is only in the second phase of their development process which includes storyboarding through a scripting process and breaking down the individual elements and costs of the three to four minute ride to pitch to the theme park industry’s potential buyers. The IAAPA Expo, a gigantic convention held in Orlando’s Orange County Convention center, doesn’t always feature finished products for consumers, as is the case with the conceptual The Walking Dead: Battle for Survival ride. Instead, the annual convention hopes to pair designers and manufacturers with large-scale industry buyers before complete construction begins. However, if their impressive IAAPA booth and industry track record are any indication, The Walking Dead dark ride will find a home. Although with actual construction time of this attraction, it will be over a year before it would be open to the public.
“(Production time is) at least a year to get everything ready to go and install somewhere. These rides are not small, they’re 20,000 square feet. There’s sets, scenery, lights, cameras, projectors, speakers, scenic work, ride systems, control systems, fog machines, fire devices, (and) live fire in the ride,” says Wood. For those fans worried about the quality of their beloved television series coming to a theme park, Sally Corporation’s last ride should put fans at ease. As producers of Six Flags’ Justice League: Battle for Metropolis, “The Great American Dark Ride Company” earned the Impact Award from IAAPA this year for the best new product and one with the most industry impact.
As an industry leader, Sally Corporation was approached directly by AMC about the project. The ride manufacturer is up to the challenge but mindful of the responsibility to fans of the show. “We want to be true to the expectations of The Walking Dead fans, and we want to make them feel like they’re really in the environment, but we don’t want to take on any specific story or episode that is singular. We want it broader in its appeal and approach and longevity too.”
If we know anything about The Walking Dead, it’s that longevity is key. Let’s all hope this idea lives to see another day.
Preston Burt is a freelance writer who covers his eyes at the sight of blood in real life. You can follow him on twitter at @nocashvalue80.