It’s tough times in the special effects make-up game as the greater emphasis has been put on digital effects; even a legend like Rick Baker has had to retire because the work just isn’t there anymore. Of course, one place where there is still work is The Walking Dead, where make-up artist Greg Nicotero and his crew kill it every week with some of the greatest zombies ever put on film. The artistry is easy to admire as its all down practically, but is Dead about to cross into the final frontier? Will the zombies now feature – *gasp* – digital parts? According to Nicotero, the answer is yes.
While talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Nicotero revealed that he’s going to be working some new school into his old school techniques. “We’re doing a few things we haven’t done before, which is digital augmentation of couple of walkers,” he said. “We’re moving noses and putting a cavity there. Taking the area underneath the ribcage and shrinking it down. Kind of Bernie Wrightson style. That stuff is what makes it more exciting because it gives us more opportunities.”
But why, the purists will ask, why is Nicotero sullying his good work with those awful computers? Frankly it was kind of inevitable. At this point in the show it’s been years since the zombie apocalypse began, and dead bodies decompose, especially under the hot sun of the southern U.S. At some point, the older zombies would start falling apart to the point where there might not be any skin, or where holes and wounds start to envelop more of the body. Hell, wouldn’t the bugs and carrion birds be picking at them too?
“Every season we sort of refine [the walkers],” Nicotero explained. “We refine the teeth even more and we just keep changing it up, and every season it’s been different and we just keep pushing it a little bit more. It’s been really fun. We sculpted full muscle arms and then we added sagging flesh off of them as everything is about to drip off. [Showrunner] Scott [M. Gimple] has one very specific thing that he is conscious of, which is that it can’t be a Ray Harryhausen. It can’t be a walking skeleton. It always has to be muscles. It always has to be something that is motivating the movement.”
You’ll be available to re-evaluate the work of Nicotero and his team when season six of The Walking Dead debuts next month on October 11.