From Fresh to Decrepit: An Evolution of 'Walking Dead' Zombies

Here's how the undead on companion series 'Fear' differ from season six of the flagship.
'Walking Dead' season six walker, left, and 'Fear's' undead  Courtesy of AMC

Walking Dead fans currently revisiting the dawn of the outbreak on companion series Fear the Walking Dead will be in for a bit of a shocker when the flagship zombie drama returns Oct. 11 with some of its most grotesque walkers the show has featured yet.

Season six of The Walking Dead will kick off with what executive producer and effects guru Greg Nicotero says are things the drama based on Robert Kirkman's comics hasn't ever done before.

"We're doing a few things we haven’t done before, which is digital augmentation of couple of walkers," says Nicotero, who designs the undead on both shows. "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."

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The crush of new walkers — first seen in the season six trailer that debuted at San Diego Comic-Con — are more "decrepit," Nicotero says.

"Every season we sort of refine [the walkers]," he notes. "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."

When season six returns Oct. 11, Nicotero says the new batch of episodes will have even more hordes of the undead — perhaps more than Walking Dead has previously featured.

"In the pilot, we had two days where we had 150 or 200 walkers when we were shooting with the tank. But this season, we had 300 walkers in one day, which is the most we had ever done," Nicotero says. "The shots in the trailer, the swarm of walkers on the road, that was one of the shots. It’s just about taking the threat of the walkers and putting them in the forefront. When Scott pitched the season, he went, 'This is when the zombie threats are going to elevate and escalate.' "

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The shift to the hordes of decrepit walkers will mark a massive shift from Los Angeles-set companion Fear the Walking Dead, which in two episodes has only featured a small handful of the undead — who still look pretty human as the outbreak has only just begun.

"This is something that Robert said to me once: He said skulls are really hard, so I think unless you are a walker who has been atrophying and decaying for a really long time, the point was to see a character trying to stab a walker in the head and not be able to penetrate the skull," Fear showrunner Dave Erickson says. "The point was it's hard physically to kill somebody. It just is. I think we wanted to have that sense of it, but we also wanted [the characters] to be forced to do [kill the walkers]."

Fear airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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