You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How Universal Created a Living Trailer for ‘Dracula Untold’ at its Theme Parks

Universal’s marketing team had a challenge when coming up with their campaign for “Dracula Untold,” the studio’s latest tale of Vlad the Impaler who becomes the iconic blood sucking vampire.

The film, which Legendary Entertainment helped co-finance, revolves around the origins of the character and his love for his family, and stars a younger Vlad, played by Luke Evans, who wears armor rather than a cape. The film also spends less time in a dark, dreary castle and more time on a battlefield with Turkish armies. There are still bats, however. Lots of bats.

With Halloween Horror Nights, Universal found itself with the opportunity to turn to its theme parks to bring the film to life with a maze that showcases the film’s setpieces and introduces them to moviegoers who may not have known about the new angle producers are taking on the classic monster.

SEE ALSO: Film Review: ‘Dracula Untold’

The maze is a series of rooms that re-create some of the locations from the film — a dark, skeleton-filled cave, a Turkish army camp, a burned village, the woods leading to Dracula’s castle — even a sequence that wound up cut from the film involving the home of Baba Yaga, an evil witch.

Universal calls it an “immersive preview” of the film. “It really is a living trailer,” said John Murdy, creative director for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. “We’re a working studio and our job is to bring the movie to life.”

A classic monster movie fan — especially of Universal’s creature features that include Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon — Murdy jumped at the chance to turn “Dracula Untold” into a maze this year.

Other mazes or attractions at the parks this year are themed around AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Robert Rodriguez’s TV series “From Dusk Till Dawn,” the sci-fi franchise “AVP: Alien vs. Predator,” Universal’s upcoming film “Dracula: Untold,” the studio’s “The Purge: Anarchy,” and SyFy’s “Face Off –- In the Flesh.”

Studios have designed interactive experiences around their upcoming films before — especially with installations set up at San Diego Comic-Con like Legendary’s “Godzilla Encounter” and promotions built for “Ender’s Game” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Universal’s remake of “The Thing” also got a maze at Halloween Horror Nights in the past around that movie’s release.

But with “Dracula Untold,” Universal was able to make its experience part of one of the theme parks’ most popular attractions each year. While Universal does not release attendance figures for Halloween Horror Nights, the annual event is one of its biggest ticket sellers, selling out on many nights, with the parks shut down in the evenings to transform into the scarefest.

Murdy worked closely with “Dracula Untold’s” producers and director Gary Shore to come up with the concept.

“There were a lot of emails,” said the film’s producer Alissa Phillips, who remembers “running around (the set) taking iPhone photos and sending them straight to (Murdy and his team) so they had real-time updates of exactly what we were shooting, how a particular set looked and how a key character’s look had evolved. They have an insanely talented team of designers and yet they still involved us all along the way. I genuinely looked forward to getting emails from them. Sending the first image of Charles Dance as our ‘Master Vampire’ started a particularly spirited exchange.

“As a filmmaker I love their incredible attention to detail,” she added. “The costumes, make-up, props and even the color palette are all taken as directly as possible from our film. The Master Vampire’s cave looks almost identical to our set. There are images that could easily be our production stills.”

While Universal is in the midst of reviving its classic monsters for the bigscreen with a Marvel Studios-like approach, the strategy actually begins with “The Mummy,” out June 24, 2016. “Dracula Untold” already had been given the greenlight before Universal came up with the idea of telling a larger story with its iconic characters, although producers did film a sequence that attempts to connect “Dracula Untold” with that world.

SEE ALSO: Universal Veers From Superhero Trend for a Monster Plan

Phillips would only be happy to have another one of her film’s featured at Halloween Horror Nights in the future.

“Working on the maze construction was one of the more fun experiences I’ve had as a producer,” she said. “It’s not exactly an opportunity that comes along often.”

With Halloween Horror Nights having started Sept. 19, “Dracula Untold” has had several weeks of promotion before it opens in U.S. theaters on Oct. 10 (it bowed overseas on Sept. 30). The maze will be part of HHN through Nov. 2.

“We are huge fans of these mazes,” Phillips said. “They’re positively terrifying and so well executed. And the maze they created goes well beyond our trailers and marketing. “Every step of their development process was thoughtful and quite frankly fun. And having it up and running so early is a huge asset to us as we’re coming up on the opening of the film. It’s its own unique experience of our film.”

More Biz

  • Alan Horn Disney

    Variety Keynote Speaker Alan Horn Sees Opportunities in Expanded Portfolio

    As Walt Disney Studios co-chairman and chief creative officer, Hollywood veteran Alan Horn oversees the most enviable content portfolio in show business. In step with his co-chairman, Alan Bergman, Horn has command of monolithic brands like Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and Pixar — to say nothing of the 21st Century Fox film assets the men added [...]

  • Edward Cheng, Tencent Pictures CEO

    Tencent Shows Rising Cost of Compliance, Impact of China's Slowing Economy

    Tencent, the Chinese tech giant which commands dominant positions across games, music, streaming and social media, Wednesday revealed third quarter results weighed down by slowing ad sales, slowing PC games and rising costs. Revenues in the July to September period showed a 21% year-on-year increase to RMB97.2 billion ($13.8 billion). Net profits dropped 13% to [...]

  • Lilly Burns Tony Hernandez

    Variety to Honor Jax Media Chiefs Tony Hernandez, Lilly Burns at New Leaders Event

    Emmy Award-winning producer Tony Hernandez and Emmy-nominated producer Lilly Burns will receive the Creative Leadership Award on behalf of Jax Media at the Variety New Leaders event presented by City National Bank, taking place Nov. 14 in New York City. As founders of Jax Media, Hernandez and Burns have produced shows and specials such as [...]

  • Andrea Bocelli

    Andrea Bocelli Calls Plácido Domingo Cancellations Due to Sexual Harassment Claims ‘Absurd’

    Italian singer Andrea Bocelli is defending embattled opera star Plácido Domingo, saying it is “absurd” that concerts have been canceled in the wake of multiple sexual-harassment allegations. “I am still appalled at what happened to this incredible artist,” Bocelli said, according to the Associated Press. “I don’t understand this. Tomorrow a lady can just come up [...]

  • Rudy Lopez Negrete Returns to CAA     

    Rudy Lopez Negrete Returns to CAA

    Rudy Lopez Negrete has rejoined CAA as an agent in the Music Touring department, specifically focused on leading brand partnerships for CAA’s Latin music clients. He will be based in the company’s Los Angeles office, where he will work with Latin artists including Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Becky G, Isabela Merced, Luis Fonsi, Mon [...]

  • Richard Plepler HBO

    Former HBO Chief Richard Plepler Close to Signing Apple TV Plus Production Pact

    Former HBO chief Richard Plepler is close to signing an exclusive production pact with Apple TV Plus. Apple declined to comment and Plepler could not immediately be reached for comment. It’s understood that Plepler plans to launch a boutique production company designed to focus on a handful of high-profile projects. Among his advisors in pulling [...]

  • Byron AllenVariety Inclusion Summit, Inside, Los

    Byron Allen, Comcast to Square Off in Supreme Court on Racial Discrimination Case

    Byron Allen’s racial discrimination case against Comcast Corp. on Wednesday heads to the Supreme Court, where justices will consider Comcast’s argument that the case should hinge on two words: “but for.” Allen filed a $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast in February 2015, arguing that the nation’s largest cable operator was discriminating against his company, Entertainment [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content