If you’re a “Stranger Things” fan, going through the “Stranger Things” maze at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights will make you feel like you’re in the show. If one experience isn’t enough for you, and you can afford to travel, each of the three Halloween Horror Nights has a different “Stranger Things” maze. We spoke with the developers of the Universal Orlando maze for details.
“Each story is a little bit different,” Patrick Braillard, creative development show director for Universal Orlando said.
“There are aspects of their maze that are different than ours and we’re able to pay off things that they don’t pay off.”
Each theme park begins in the same place, but as they tailor their attraction to their own space, and let different teams give input, the mazes diverge.
“When we start the process, and we’re also on different timelines and schedules, we’re all talking about how we’re going to approach certain elements,” David Hughes, manager of the scenic department and designers at Universal Orlando said. “One of the things we talked earlier was the demogorgon, how we’re going to showcase that. We discussed sharing molds, building things out in L.A. and shipping them here, would we build them here and ship them out there. We just discussed all that and came to our conclusion. So we start from the same path with all the same source material. Obviously, the show is the starting point for both of us, but then the paths diverge. They go off, develop their storylines based on their needs and other things affect that. The space in which they’re building the house, what they’re capable of doing in L.A. and then we do a similar thing. We have our soundstage, a certain size, and what we’re capable of doing in that location. Although it’s the same source material, you’ve got three different interpretations of that particular storyline. If you can afford to be a globetrotter and visit different parks across the world, there’s going to be an amazing experience, but different each time. It’s not like a roller coaster that is the same in all three parks. It’s going to be different.”
All of the Stranger Things attractions are based on season one, so you won’t see any demodogs or Mad Max lookalike.
“We decided very early on to focus on season one because it is so iconic for the fans of the show,” Braillard said.
“As fans of the show, we wanted to make sure we could really drill down and tell the story inside the house and provide those scares that are so important to us as fans, that we really wanted to make sure that we spent some time within the first season and detailing out every possible opportunity for the demogorgon.”
In the first season, the demogorgon was a big reveal. Hughes and Braillard had to find more places to make the demogorgon appear.
“One of the challenges we had early on looking at the show is that if you watch the show, the demogorgon doesn’t show up really until episode seven where it becomes an actual physical presence,” Hughes said. “We’re like, we can’t wait that long. We have to show our demogorgon fairly quickly. So we adopted the philosophy that you get a point of view on the demogorgon several times early in the episode. Our path through the story is shadowing the boys going through this experience, so we will show our guests what happens off camera. What happens just to the left of the camera or what happens just after the boys left a particular space. That way we were able to ensure that we had scares throughout the scenes and it wasn’t just a museum walk through where we’re just showing the stuff and not having scares. Being the event that it is, we need to ensure that there are scares constantly throughout the maze.”
The Hollywood version walks guests through the Byers’ house with Christmas lights, concluding in the school with Eleven versus the demogorgon. Orlando is able to go a little more in-depth with their “Stranger Things” maze.
“You’re going to see Dustin and Will and Mike and Lucas and Eleven, and Nancy and Steve and Hopper in a couple different forms,” Braillard said.
“In fact, both hazmat and in his sheriff’s outfit, George is in a hazmat outfit as well as in the Byers’ home. You’re going to see all of these characters as you travel a parallel journey alongside the boys during the first season. So while you’re being hunted by the demogorgon, you’re going to be able to catch moments of scenes from the show.”
While impeccable lookalikes are cast as live standins for Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine and David Harbour, there will be actual soundbites from “Stranger Things” speaking to you along the way.
“It’s disingenuous to say full scenes, but there are moments in which these characters are playing voiceover and they are actually involving you in the story,” Braillard continued. “Netflix were able to provide us not only with the video clips of the opening credits sequence which factors prominently in the beginning of the house, but also all of the audio stems from the protools sessions they had for each individual episode. So when you see Hopper, it’s Hopper’s voice. When you see Joyce, it’s Joyce’s voice. It’s Mike and Lucas and Dustin all yelling about the fact that Dustin’s a wuss and Dustin’s offering up his X-Men 134 to Will. There’s a lot of different opportunities for the guests to be able to experience their story and when you’re experiencing it, you are inside that season. You’re inside that episode experiencing it alongside them.”
The space in Orlando was big enough that sets from “Stranger Things” were recreated in exact scale.
“Netflix provided us with a plethora of information,” Hughes said. “Fortunately, we have a large soundstage so some of the set pieces we created are virtually a 1 to 1 recreation. The woodshed, the Byers’ living room and hallway into Will’s room, were based on the drawings that were the originals from the show, as well as the Hawkins lab itself. The tank, the graded balcony above that were 1 for 1 recreations and then we’d make alterations based on needs of our show itself. Again, we try to adhere as much as possible to the information that we’re provided by Netflix.”
Both the Hollywood and Singapore parks designed a full latex demogorgon costume and mask based on Spectral Motion’s design for the show. Orlando’s demogorgon is a tad different.
“We used the reference photos that were provided to us from Netflix to be able to sculpt our own pieces her in Orlando,” Braillard said. “Really that was because we wanted to make sure we had attention to detail. It’s the same costume essentially but we wanted to sculpt it in-house because our timeline is so much different than USH and Singapore’s is. It’s much longer.”
Halloween Horror Nights continues through the first weekend of November. Get tickets here!