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The Walking Dead

...because “The Walking Dead” didn’t become television’s biggest show by stumbling around like one of its brain dead zombies. Based on a comic book, the show embraced the crossover culture to expand the zombie apocalypse via trans-media efforts like webisodes and a second screen experience. Realizing how audiences have changed, the creators also encouraged fan participation through unique promotions, online forums, contests and other events. More than most other shows, the makeup department also plays a large role in the production, as the zombies’ terrifying but somehow still human appearance contributes to the narrative.



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Adapted from a popular comic book series, “The Walking Dead” already had built-in crossover appeal before it even aired. Still, the producers understood that their narrative could never be limited to an hour-long broadcast on Sunday nights. They made the decision early on to tell the story through different media platforms, from new formats like webisodes to old ones like print novels. Genre fiction from H.P. Lovecraft to George R.R. Martin has always thrived on building rich, detailed worlds, and “The Walking Dead” has used trans-media culture better than any other show to expand its mythology.

No one begins life as a zombie, and “The Walking Dead” didn’t start out as television’s most popular show. Instead, the series has cultivated its massive fan base by seeking out viewers and then engaging them. The show adopted Netflix streaming early on, which let people catch up on old seasons or even revisit their favorite episodes. Taking a cue from comic book culture, the producers have also offered unique promotions, events and contests to energize the base. And while social media presence is now more or less a requirement, “The Walking Dead” offers more ways for fans to interact than simple hashtags, from the second screen experience to podcasts to talk shows. All this extra work has proved to be worth the effort, as “The Walking Dead” has combined the large audience of a network TV hit with the fan devotion of a cult cable series.

While it’s nice to have good writing and a solid cast of actors, “The Walking Dead” wouldn’t survive long without its title characters. To that end, the make-up department on “The Walking Dead” deserves more credit than most for the show’s success. The zombies may be a metaphor for the loss of humanity in a crisis, but it really helps that the literal zombies look scary, cool and also still kind of human, so that whole metaphor thing holds up. The extras on the show are another overlooked asset to the production. Usually, background characters have to stand around and blend in, but the zombies have to move, act and react in very well-defined ways at all times. And don’t forget how long those extras have to spend with the equally hard-working makeup artists!

Resources

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Book

We’re All Infected: Essays on AMC’s the Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human

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Book

The Walking Dead and Philosophy: Shotgun. Machete. Reason.

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Article

How Technology Is Making ‘The Walking Dead’ Television’s Most Popular Show

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Article

The Walking Dead is Killing it at Social Media

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Article

How a Second-Screen App Made ‘The Walking Dead’ Come Alive

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Journal

The World of The Walking Dead – Transmediality and Transmedial Intermediality

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