Extinct Attractions – Chicken Run Maze, The Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom, and Universal’s House of Horrors

Welcome to Extinct Attractions. Today, we’ll be going on a winding journey through Universal Studios Hollywood’s past.

This past Tuesday, the Star Wars Trading Post opened at Downtown Disney, taking over for the former Rainforest Cafe and injecting some Star Wars into the shopping and dining center. The restaurant had long been scheduled for closure, and normally I’m not a huge fan of forcing in more IP, but the overhaul seems pretty impressively done, with a lot of fun details thrown in as well as some very cool looking merch.

Today, we are going to take a look at another restaurant in the Southern California theme park landscape, though what the dining space transformed into is pretty radically different than the store in Downtown Disney.

Via CNet 

Our story begins in 2000 with the release of Dreamworks’ first stop-motion film, Chicken Run. Inspired by The Great Escape, the film debuted on June 21, 2000 and quickly became a success. Though it never topped the box office, the film went on to become the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all-time, a record that it still holds to this day. At the time though, Universal had no inkling of the success of the film, but they had the theme park rights (which kind of baffles me since they did not have a partnership with Dreamworks at that point).

Via The Studio Tour 

On June 10, 2000, almost two weeks before the movie was released, the Chicken Run Maze opened on the former spot of the Marvel Mania restaurant. At the time, Universal was phasing out their Marvel characters in the Hollywood park, so the transition out of the restaurant made a lot of sense (though the irony of a chicken restaurant inspired by Chicken Run would have been pretty brilliant).

Via The Studio Tour 

The Chicken Run Maze was filled with models and figures from the film all throughout the “maze.” I put it in quotes because there was only one path through the experience, but there were still a lot of cool sights to catch along the way. Unfortunately, a video of it does not exist, but I do actually have one surprisingly vivid memory from it.

At one point, guests were given the option to crawl through a tunnel, just like the chickens in the film. For some reason, I remember loving the chance to crawl around in a theme park as a rambunctious 3 year old at the time. I should also preface this by saying I have almost no memories of life before I was five, but for some reason this attraction always stuck out to me.

The Chicken Run maze had a short life at the park, closing in November 2000 to be used for the Grinchmas ceremonies. It was a brief life, but a very important one as the maze concept then took over and has been used as the model for that space ever since.

Via Movies Anywhere 

The next year saw another experience similar to the Chicken Run Maze open up in the same spot, with the new attraction known as The Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom. Opening in May 2001, alongside the highly anticipated sequel, the attraction followed the same pattern as its predecessor in that it included some props from the film, though these ones primarily remained in the queue.

This attraction was interesting because it served as true middle ground between the previous attraction and what would come in the future. The sets that guests walked through became a bit more elaborate, and there were even some animatronics thrown in.

However, the one big thing missing from the attraction was scareactors. That worked fine for me, as someone with a huge fear of mummies, but as an attraction in itself, I think the experience would have benefited a lot from having a few people scattered throughout to really creep guests out even more.

Even with the lack of actors, the maze still managed to stick around until January of 2004, a solid run considering it had been nearly three years since The Mummy Returns had been released. It closed for another maze, this one being Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula, the first of these mazes to include actors throughout. That attraction closed in November 2006 to make way for the longest tenant of the space, Universal’s House of Horrors.

Via YouTube 

Opening in March of 2007, the newest house paid tribute to one of Universal’s biggest assets, the classic movie monsters. This maze was awesome because it was a bit less scary than the typical faire that Universal creates for Halloween Horror Nights, so it appealed to a few more people. Plus, the classic monsters are always just so cool to see that it made for a fun time jumping from Chucky to Norman Bates to the Wolfman.

To make it even cooler, they would up the ante every year for Horror Nights, adding in more scareactors and giving it slight retheme, such as Monsters Redux, where everything was set to some groovy music.

Overall, I really liked House of Horrors. It was the first of these mazes that I really remembered the whole shebang of and came at a pivotal moment in my life when I discovered that I really like scary things. It may not have had a lot of universal appeal, basically turning away any family with young kids, but I couldn’t get enough of it.

Eventually, Father Time came a calling with the attraction closing September 1, 2014 to make way for The Walking Dead Attraction. Though it made sense, with The Walking Dead being a HHN stable for years and the show being one of the biggest on TV, it was still a sad day to see an attraction based on Universal lore go for the newest fad.

Via Disney Wiki

As always, don’t forget to check out my interactive maps of the Disney Parks throughout the years where you can watch or learn more about all the attractions from the domestic parks and the Japanese parks, with the Parisian park recently added.

Thanks for reading and have a magical day!

Cole Geryak
Cole Geryak is a childless millennial making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.