After 12 years on air, the special effects team behind The Walking Dead had perfected the art of crafting the perfect zombie. And even by the third season, special make up effects creator Greg Nicotero was discussing how they learned from each season and built on what makes a great zombie.
In an interview with CNN from 2012, Nicotero said; “I sat down and made a list of what I thought worked successfully in season one and what I thought we could refine. Season two came up, and we had refined the look of the zombies, the design of the contact lenses, design of the dentures. It’s the same with season three. We’ve used a lot of animatronic puppets, we’ve used practical gags to accent the zombie kills. Every time I watch an episode, I’m always thinking about how we can refine it, how it can be better.”
Nicotero expanded on the tactics used in the long-running TV series; “At the beginning of each season, we have what we call Zombie School, and what that does is give me an opportunity to audition anywhere from 150 to 200 extras.”
Nicotero continued to describe the methods employed to make The Walking Dead one of the best horror series; “I grade them [the extras] on two criteria: Look and performance. We have a visual aesthetic that is really important to the show and the zombies, that they look thin and gaunt and emaciated. We tend to go with thinner people who have a specific kind of bone structure, so when we put prosthetic on them, because makeup is an additive process, it doesn’t look like we’re building out their face too much.”
“The second part of it is performance. The actor has to bring it to life. It’s very important that our walkers are genuine and authentic.” The Walking Dead was so successful, it has spawned several spin-offs including Fear the Walking Dead and the upcoming Dead City (focusing on Negan and Maggie).
Check out our guide to the best zombie movies.