An Interview with the Producer of The Walking Dead Escape

Geeky shit is important to me. Obviously. However, also more increasingly so has been physical fitness; the challenge being to find ways to make calisthenics a bit more, well, fun.

The Walking Dead Escape, San Diego 2012.  (Ryan M.L. Young)

Enter the land of the fun run. You’ve probably seen dozens of adverts in the side bar of your browsers for various mud and obstacle courses which are actually a blast and give you a goal to train towards. The latest of these has been perfectly crafted for the zombie loving, comic book reading, geeky audience. Today I talk with Liam Brenner, producer of The Walking Dead Escape, a zombie survival run coming next month to Philadelphia!

Thom Obarski: A Walking Dead obstacle run! The scope and scale of this event just looks incredible! What makes these obstacle run type events so special and popular?
LB: Obstacle race popularity is driven by the fact that people want to have unique, shared experiences. In the case of The Walking Dead Escape, there are so many millions of fans, and this is their opportunity to find out if they really could survive a Zombie Apocalypse! But it’s really best said by Robert Kirkman himself: they’ve been reading about it and watching it and now they get to live it!

TO: As Walking Dead is the big name in zombies right now, was this the logical extension in reaching the widest audience?
LB: It’s an absolutely marvelous extension, because it allows people to participate and truly interact with their favorite brand as opposed to just be passive.

TO: The first iteration of this particular event was at San Diego Comic-Con last year; did you get in a lot of con traffic? That must have been incredible to have Robert Kirkman run The Walking Dead Escape.
LB: Yes, most of the people at The Walking Dead Escape: San Diego at Petco Park were there for Comic Con, and we’ve already received many inquiries from people who will be there again this year about The Walking Dead Escape because they loved the experience so much!

The Walking Dead Escape, San Diego 2012.  (Ryan M.L. Young)TO: We at Capeless Crusader try to focus on social issues as they relate to comics, and it’s no secret that obesity is a major issue for our country right now.  Are you finding that events like this are inspiring people to get off the couch and have some fun with their exercise?
LB: Absolutely! Over 85% of the participants who attended The Waking Dead Escape: San Diego from SDCC hadn’t ever done an event of this nature.

TO: If this is someone’s first introduction to a run of this nature, how long is the course and just how in shape should you be?
LB: 35-45 minutes and you can go at your own pace—you’ll just want to be sure to avoid the zombies and survive however possible!

TO: Is it more about running for time or maneuvering for survival?
LB: It’s definitely more about Survival, knowing when to run, how to maneuver not to be caught by zombies and knowing when to hide.

TO: Some of these obstacles look pretty intense, how do you make the course available to a wide range of fitness levels?
LB: Some of the obstacles are pretty intense but so is the zombie apocalypse, and this is the real deal! People find their red zone, not necessarily someone else’s, so they do the course at their own pace.

The Walking Dead Escape, San Diego 2012.  (Ryan M.L. Young)TO: Other zombie runs I’ve seen on a smaller scale base survival on whether or not the zombies can pull flag football markers off the runners, but you guys have taken a different approach to survival. Can you give us any details on the process of quarantine screening?
LB: You enter the Quarantine zone and specialists run black lights over you. They can tell if you’ve been touched by zombies, so Quarantine is where you’ll find out whether you’ve survived the apocalypse or you join the undead.

TO: Any tips on surviving?
LB: The slowest person is the first to go; captain of football team is next. You don’t want to be reckless, but you also don’t want to be last. You need to have brains and braun and of course be smart, thoughtful, and swift.

TO: Smaller societies tend to band together in dire situations. Is there any merit in working together as a team with your friends or fellow runners?
LB: There’s definitely merit to that, and we saw that very thing in San Diego. Strangers banded together on the course to strategize how to get out alive!

gallery28TO: Will the “walkers” be actually coming after the survivors or are the walkers there more for atmosphere?
LB: Zombies tend to move slower, but they are clever. They are not there for just atmosphere… this is a REAL zombie apocalypse, and they are out to get you!

TO: I assume no weapons—nerf or otherwise—are permitted to protect yourself!
LB: Nothing permitted.

TO: As this event is carrying the Walking Dead brand, what elements from the show or story should fans keep an eye out for?
LB: Numerous obstacle zones that fans of the Walking Dead brand will identify!  The feedback we had in San Diego is that they said it was like walking through a REAL zombie apocalypse—many comments like, “Wow I can’t believe how real it looks… from the makeup to the props to the obstacles.”

The Walking Dead Escape, San Diego 2012.  (Ryan M.L. Young)TO: Being Kirkman approved, I would assume we can expect some of the highest caliber zombie make-up effects of any event of this kind!
LB: Nothing but the BEST!

TO: Another unique aspect of this event is having different ways to experience it. You don’t have to just run from zombies if you don’t want to. Can you tell us a bit about the various levels of participation?
LB: Yes! There’s Survivors that navigate through a zombie infected evacuation zone, Walkers that embrace the inevitable and become one of the undead, or Spectators can watch the apocalypse from the sidelines at the Escape Party.

TO: Can people just walk in day-of to do this or are you anticipating all the wave times to be sold out before hand?
LB: We expect the waves to be sold out, so buy your tickets at www.thewalkingdeadescape.com NOW! We were sold out in San Diego, and there were fans who were very disappointed.

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TO: This is the first Walking Dead Escape outside of SDCC. Why Philly? Any plans for additional cities in the future? I’m sure you’d get a big draw in Atlanta!
LB: The City of Brotherly loves zombies, and The Walking Dead is wildly popular in Philly. We’ll be announcing more markets soon, so stay tuned!

TO: Thank you for your time, I’m really looking forward to it!
LB: Thank you for your interest in The Walking Dead Escape: Philadelphia! Your readers will not believe how exhilarating this event is—don’t miss it!

There you go: If this sounds at all fun, come on out to the Wells Fargo Center on April 21st and meet up—if you can catch me!