When wanting to design the perfect Zombie structure rather it be a live specimen or robotics there is a long thought process that takes years of development or experience. The master creator and Supervisor of the Zombies for The Walking Dead Greg Nicotero isn’t new to the Zombie game by far. Nicotero is Master Special Effects Artist in his own rights creating the legendary Zombies for George Romero himself. People around him say he lives and breathes Zombies and is infamous for pointing out Zombie like qualities in the living.
Of course when you think of Zombies you think blood, guts, missing limbs, and body parts ripped to shreds but when coming up with the ultimate look for these Zombies they wanted to go with the starving Ethiopian look. That was the main critical idea when the Make-up team was putting together sketches of ideas til they came up with the their final Signature Zombie look for the show. They pulled all of the looks directly from the 2003 published comic book so that they wouldn’t stray from the initial dark satire of the plot.
This series had many first and new ideas when it came to special effects Make-up and mechanical design that hasn’t been seen in the Zombie world. First of all beginning with some of the plot features such as the Zombies actually feeding on something else besides a human being. The scene where the Zombies fed on a horse was something new in terms of Zombie satires. You see insinuations of it but never it directly put out there.
When asked about how Nicotero felt about the unforgettable scene this is what he had to say:
“It was almost like a Piranha attack – it really was like a feeding frenzy. We had thirty extras leaning over this prosthetic horse that we created, and they started ripping its insides and its entrails out and going crazy. They were sticking their heads in it and their hands in it. I kind of whipped them into a little bit of a frenzy before we shot, and it was funny because at one point I walked over to Frank and I’m like, “Dude, these guys are so amped up you better shoot this quick before they tear the horse apart!” – Nicotero Though that was the best unique surprise it wasn’t the only one Nicotero had in store when it came to innovations for the show. Him and his team sat down and thought about new ways of portraying a gunshot wound to the head with a Zombie. Seeing as the times have changed artists in the industry have started using explosives. Well, the problem with that is you have to use a stuntman and seeing as they were going for a specific body type it just wouldn’t have worked out. So they built a a self-contained head hit rig that ran purely off compressed air. For all you kiddos who do not understand what this means let’s turn to page six of your Special Effects for Dummies manual and take a lesson. Basically what it does is makes an explosion of blood from the head or really any body part without harming the extra and makes a more natural splatter.
Mind you this is only the first season a set of only six episodes, so it’s only a little peak of what’s in store for the series. There’s more formulations for new ways of killing our beloved Zombies. We can all definitely all breath easy for season two because Nicotero has already aboard.This is very relieving because it would be Make-up suicide if you try to bring in another artist that isn’t already used to the conditions that they are filming in. Let me remind you that the show and filming is taking place in Atlanta, GA and surrounding areas. If you have ever been to the south then you already know that it is extremely hot and humid. That type of weather can do a lot of damage to make-up and various prosthetic items used to create the looks.
Damage wasn’t a huge issue with the make-up they used somewhat of an after thought but Nicotero did have a few words to say on the matter,
“The make-ups that we’re doing are relatively bulletproof. But when people start sweating or rubbing their necks, you do have to go in and touch people up. It’s tricky. I can’t remember when I’ve worked under these circumstances, especially shooting in the daytime. Most zombie shows like this, they’re shot at night. So to have a zombie TV series in broad daylight, running down Peachtree Avenue in downtown Atlanta, it’s challenging. Everything has to stand up to pretty tough scrutiny.” -Nicotero
Keep in mind that since they are filming in high humidity and strong heat these artists need to think about the decomposing Zombies. In most Zombie films they really aren’t expanded over a long enough period of time to show degradation and decomposition of the Zombies. The reality is that the living dead are well going to do things that dead people do like decompose. Never fear though because the Make-up team did think about this. In the 2003 comic series the Zombies did start to morph so keeping in the tradition in the show they will too.
The team really took the time and have been continuously drawing up sketches of the different stages and kinda implementing what stage each should really be taking on. Don’t worry there will always be some fresh Zombies roaming around because there will always be fresh victims to be eaten. They just want to show varying stages are living food runs out they will slowly starve and waste away.
This so far is what has been said about the highly anticipated decomposing Zombies from the creator of them,
“One conversation that Frank and I had at the beginning of our prep was, How far do I take them… We want to be able to show the degradation of these zombies over time. So some zombie make-ups are a little more fresh-looking, some are a little more decomposed looking. This is the first time we’ve ever actually gone through and hand-picked the actual zombies that will be featured. It’s one thing to glue prosthetics on somebody’s face, but if you have somebody who’s got a lot of character and they just have a really great structure to their face, it’s great. We’ll go to dinner and a waitress will go by, and we’re like, “Man, she’d be a great zombie.”
What will be in store for the cast and audience in the new season? Well we’ll just keep you in suspense about that for now. . . . .