Written by Robert Niles
Published: May 12, 2004 at 5:29 PM
Despite the popularity of such mazes at theme park Halloween events around the country each fall, USH's maze is the only permanent attraction of this type at the major theme parks in Southern California and Orlando. For the past few years, the maze has featured props and scenes from Stephen Sommers' "The Mummy" films.
For the latest installation, Universal turns again to Sommers, the writer and producer of the "Van Helsing" film, who also was on hand to open the new attraction. Sommers was joined by Dracula's Brides from the "Van Helsing" film, Josie Maran and Elena Anaya, in a made-for-the-cameras stunt to open the attraction by throwing the switch to awaken Frankenstein's monster.
In a switch from industry habit, where theme park attractions typically open years after the films upon which they are based, the "Van Helsing" attraction and film opened the same week. The attraction features a variety of props and scene sets from the film, as did the Mummy and Chicken Run attractions which previously inhabited the same building.
"Van Helsing"'s gothic facade stands near the entrance to the studio's theme park. Upon entering, visitors will find themselves in a depiction of Castle Dracula, surrounded by bats, rats and other assorted detritus of creepiness. Additional scenes feature Frankenstein's laboratory and catacombs in which lurk assorted monsters and zombies await to jump out at passersby.
Plan 10 to 15 minutes to walk through the maze, plus the wait time to get in the building, which will vary by park attendance and season. Universal rates this attraction "PG-13" and advises expectant mothers, sensitive children and those with heart conditions or claustrophobia to skip this attraction.
Although "Van Helsing" is based upon a current release, the attraction marks a nostalgic turn for Universal, as the maze replaces the spotlight on several of the film studio's classic monsters -- Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and the Wolf Man -- characters that identified the studio during the 1950s and '60s. The original movie studio tour at Universal devoted much of its attention to these monsters, only to shove them aside in recent years in favor of more contemporary films and characters.
Sommers will debut his second attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood next month, when the eagerly-anticipated indoor coaster "Revenge of the Mummy -- The Ride" opens on June 25.