The Walking Dead is back and to make sure everyone is prepared, we are delving into some of the characters who make the show great. While we have covered Negan and Rick in detail, we thought it would be fun to delve into the Walkers themselves. Some of the information found here is based off the comics, but much is related to the television series so there is no need to fear spoilers here. This list is all about the Zombies, where they come from, how they’re made and what their favorite snack is (Hint: it’s you).
You might think you know all about our favorite walking corpses, but there’s a lot that goes into creating a show like The Walking Dead that many people don’t consider. Each and every Walker we see on screen is played by a lucky Extra, including some faces you might recognize. There’s even a little tidbit at the end to help you become a Walker should you be so inclined, so read on and learn all about the Things You Never Knew About The Walking Dead Zombies.
15. THE WALKERS OUTNUMBER THE LIVING BY 5000:1
Get ready, CBR readers… it’s time for some math! Don’t freak out, it’s the fun kind of math that lets us know how many Walkers there are to each human survivor… and you thought you would never use this stuff outside of school, didn’t you!? In issue #10, Robert Kirkman revealed that walkers outnumber humans 5,000:1, which leaves us to do some calculations. Let’s start with the global population when the outbreak occurred: seven billion,
With 1 of 5,000 remaining alive, that leaves the living at about 0.02% of its former glory, which would equal 1.4 million globally. If we further tear this apart knowing the population of the United States at about 330 million, that leaves only 66,000. The outbreak has gone on for about two years show/comic time so that number has since dwindled greatly. SourceFed recently calculated the updated numbers to only 382,885 across the whole planet.
14. THEY MUST ATTEND A ZOMBIE ACADEMY
Most of us don’t know the best way to Zombie so the folks at The Walking Dead put any prospective Walkers through a sort of Zombie Academy. The school is put on for anyone who gets through auditions so they can all walk in the same way, reach for the living, like each other or chew on the intestines of a former family member like a zombie.
Part of the training removes the urge to throw up arms like Frankenstein’s Monster or utter “Braaaiiinnnnssss….” as you lunge for the cameraman. Pretty much anyone who has attended the Zombie Academy has reported that it’s a lot like school, only a lot more fun with a lot more biting. During the school, the producers measure all of the prospective zombies to prepare their costumes and get them ready for prime-time.
13. THERE ARE FOUR DIFFERENT KINDS ON THE SHOW
In a show that has hundreds of extras playing Zombies, you might think that the budget for the costume and makeup department might equal the GDP of a small country, but they are far too clever to fall into that trap. Not every Walker needs to take up a full frame or be on camera for more than a second so the makeup department classifies Walkers into four separate categories.
They have their Walkers lumbering off in the distance, the ones a bit closer to the camera, the ones really close up and the ones who get the full Walking Dead treatment. Way out back, they might don some nasty clothes and a little makeup, but not much. They don’t need it. The folks in the middle picture are going to need some more red paint while the guy on the right gets the special attention in the makeup chair.
12. THEY DON’T BLINK THANKS TO CGI POST-EDITING
Have you ever played the blinking game with someone to see how long you could go without fluttering your eyelids? Some people can do it for a really long time, but most folks just need to bat their eyes whenever their body forces them to. Zombies have no reason to blink. Why would they? They’re already dead and they don’t care if their eyes get damaged since, in all likelihood, they are probably already messed up anyways.
It’s simple: Walkers don’t blink… but the human actors who play them do. It’s up to the visual effects department to comb through every frame in an episode of The Walking Dead and digitally remove an actor’s blink. It takes time and money, but it’s one of those details you probably never thought of but would have noticed if they weren’t doing it.
11. THERE’S MORE CGI THAN YOU MIGHT THINK
Fans made a lot of fun of some crappy CGI that came about in Season Seven. There was a poorly animated deer and a backdrop at a junkyard that just didn’t cut it given the budget for the show. What fans didn’t realize is that there is a lot of CGI going on that we don’t even realize. In addition to the non-blinking eyelids, we just mentioned, pretty much all weapons that interact with a Walker or a human are CGI.
There are no collapsable blades here so when The Governor gets Michonne’s sword thrust through his chest, that’s all CGI. The makeup department does an amazing job at making the Walkers look realistic, but they have to rely on some digital editing when it comes to an absence of limbs or other gory details that wouldn’t work without the visual effects department’s help.
10. THEY ARE EATING PICKLED HAM
Let’s all hope nobody thought the folks dressed up as Walkers were actually eating “the other white meat” on the show. Of course, they aren’t, but then… what are they eating? It turns out that the crew puts together something rather tasty: pickled ham! Pickled ham might sound kind of weird, but it’s not that unusual a dish. People do eat pickled pigs feet so there has to be something there.
While this means that a practicing vegan, vegetarian or someone who follows a Kosher or Islamic diet couldn’t take on a role where they had to chew on some flesh, it does mean that some people get to snack on something tasty… ish! Originally, they used barbecue sauce-soaked pork, but the sauce kept ruining the Walkers’ makeup so they switched to soaking it in vinegar to get that “fresh from your guts” sheen.
9. CELEBRITIES WERE ZOMBIES (SORT OF)
While most people need to audition and pass zombie School, some folks or approximations of their decapitated heads get onto the show with little more than a phone call and a special request. As far as the ones above go, the one on the right is made from a mold of Johnny Depp. This head was used in an episode in Season Six where Rick, Andy and Jesus need to pick a head in order to gain access to the Savior’s compound. He ends up picking the second one leaving the good Mr. Depp’s head unscathed.
Actual celebrities have had their time on the show including Scott Ian, the guitarist from Anthrax and Hines Ward, the wide receiver from the Pittsburg Steelers. They have all been able to eat the flesh of the living for a quick cameo on The Walking Dead.
8. MAKEUP TAKES UP TO TWO HOURS
The makeup artists on set have honed their skills into a science, which allows them to turn an average person into a walking corpse intent on consuming the flesh of anyone who gets in their way. While this might have taken hours previously, they have created a process that allows them to throw some dentures, contact lenses and latex with a dash of paint in just under one to two hours.
The rate of decomposition on the show has continued over time so the makeup artists have been able to learn and grow their talents as time has gone on. All you have to do is look at any of these closeup pictures of Walkers and you can see the level of work that goes into making them–knowing it only takes about two hours makes their accomplishments even more astounding.
7. THEY CONTINUE TO DECOMPOSE AS TIME GOES ON
As we just mentioned, the rate of decomposition on the show has continued since it first began. This has been evident not only in the Walkers but also in the show’s title card as well. It’s a nice touch, but also one that makes a lot of sense. When the first season aired, the Walkers weren’t all that… gooey. They looked like regular folks who might have been feeling a little under the weather.
Now that we are in the eighth season of the show, Walkers are looking pretty rough. In reality, a corpse would decompose within only a day or two, but we aren’t dealing with reality here so we get to see these walking former folks fall apart as time goes on and the visual effects and makeup that goes into the decomposition is beautiful in its utter goriness.
6. THEY DON’T CREATE THEIR OWN VOCALS
The sound the Walkers make can drive fear into the most secure survivor. You know the sound we mean… it’s kind of a low growling, raspy moan that permeates the most secure location. You might think that a person would get used to it, but ultimately, it’s probably going to drive everyone nuts. As we said, the makeup artists put a lot of work into the Walkers, but the folks over at sound engineering don’t mic up each and every Walker.
That would be cost-prohibitive and would cause filming to come to a halt whenever some Walker on the far side of the set sneezed. Instead, the Walkers don’t make any noise at all. All of the sounds coming out of the Walkers’ decrepit mouths is added in post-production. It almost makes them even scarier to think that these hundreds of corpses aren’t actually making a sound.
5. SEGREGATION IS THE NORM ON-SET
When it comes to eating regular meals in-between takes, the Walkers and the regular folks don’t sit together. Segregation isn’t anything we should tolerate these days, but when you think about it, would you like to sit across from the lady in the picture above and enjoy some delicious beef jerky? Probably not, but that’s not the only reason they segregate the living from the dead.
Part of the reason these folks don’t mix is to create a distance between the groups. They don’t mix on screen so they don’t mix them on the set. It makes a certain amount of sense, but it could also do with the fact that extras don’t get the same craft services as the main cast. Those guys are eating from a wonderful buffet with seafood, desserts and all the rest, while the Walkers get spaghetti and salad.
4. IN THE WALKING DEAD: THERE ARE NO ZOMBIES
Think back to every episode of The Walking Dead and consider what the Zombies are called. At no time during the show are the dead actually called Zombies. They are called Walkers by most of the core cast, but they have been labeled as biters, rotters, roamers, lurkers and anything else you can think of to describe a walking corpse.
The explanation that has been put out by the creators is simply that the word doesn’t exist in the universe where The Walking Dead takes place. There was never any film or book that coined the term so there isn’t any reason to point to a walking dead person and call them a Zombie. To be fair, Kirkman did use the word twice in the books, but it was likely a mistake given he probably calls them Zombies when nobody is around (we all do).
3. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ALIENS
Early on in the series, Kirkman got a lot of flack from fans asking how he could possibly make the story continue for as long as he planned. He replied jokingly by saying, “Oh, we’re going to this until issue 75, and then I’m going to run out of ideas, and then I’m going to do an alien invasion and just kind of completely ruin the book. That’s when we’ll jump the shark and it’ll be terrible and everybody will hate it.’
When issue #75 hit the stands, that’s exactly what Kirkman did, but it was all a joke. He received letters and emails accusing him of ruining the comic, but it was more of an inside joke and a jab at the fans than an actual storyline in the books. Issue #175 is set to come out in a few months… perhaps we might see another invasion!
2. THE SOURCE OF THE OUTBREAK WILL NEVER BE REVEALED
Kirkman has been asked repeatedly about the source of the Zombie outbreak. For some reason, people want to know why everything goes the way it is, but given that there is no way to solve the problem or dial back time to fix it all, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. Kirman has said that he does have some ideas as to the cause of the outbreak, “…but it’s nothing set in stone because I never plan on writing it. So yes… I do know… kind of.”
He has been pressed for further information, but only replied, “That starts to get into the origin of all this stuff, and I think that’s unimportant to the series itself. There will be smaller answers as things progress… but never will we see the whole picture.”
1. THEY ARE A MACGUFFIN
A MacGuffin is a literary device that keeps the plot moving forward. Think the briefcase in Pulp Fiction or the Death Star Plans in Star Wars. These are the core element of a plot that the characters must focus on and revolve around, but they, in and of themselves, may not be important or can even be cast aside. When it comes to the Walkers on The Walking Dead, they are nothing more than a MacGuffin intent on pushing the survivors this way and that.
Think about the show for a moment and it’s easy to see. Walkers aren’t even the monsters of the story. They aren’t even what it’s named after! Sure, they look nasty and they eat people, but when you get right down to it, the true monsters are what the survivors are willing to do to survive. Negan and the Governor are monsters, but so are Rick and his happy band of survivors.
As promised, here’s how you can go about becoming a Zombie for the Walking Dead: Casting Call: Here’s How to Be a Zombie on “The Walking Dead”
What did you think of these things you didn’t know about the Walkers? Did any surprise you? Let us know in the comments!
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