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How AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ Creates a Zombie

by G&A Online Editors   |  October 1st, 2012 2

Bill-Johnson_001The zombies pictured here were creations of Bill Johnson. Whether it’s graphic design, creating life casts, building rooms of horror or painting wounds on silicone prosthetics, Johnson has a special eye for his art. He’s been called on often for his trade secrets in the special effects industry as well as his sick talent for creating life-like death.

For more than 25 years, Johnson has been known as “Splat.” Though his credit appears on everything from The Patriot (yep, the one starring Mel Gibson) to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, he loves to work in the dark arts. You’ll find his spiders in the cult classic Eight Legged Freaks, his dead bodies in Zombieland and The Crazies, and the work of his paintbrush and silicone prosthetics in The Walking Dead. Bill Johnson just might be the most interesting man in the world.

Walking into the basement of his workshop is like descending into the mind of a serial killer. A coroner’s lab with authentic details gives you the feeling you’ve just been lured into a trap, but once the fear calms down, you can appreciate Johnson’s obsession for detail.

Check out the process that goes into making a zombie in the slideshow below.

In the world of makeup, he received no formal education. But his years of experience working on some of Hollywood’s most haunting projects has tuned his skills into a career. In 2010 he was selected as a special effects makeup artist for Greg Nicotero’s KNB EFX Group to help create the most realistic zombies we’ve ever seen, used by AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Bill-Johnson_002

Deep wounds are simulated with a special silicone prosthetic Johnson molds in a handcut relief days before. Once they are prepared to “set” on trays, he applies a temporary adhesive that’s carefully adhered before fleshy realism is added by airbrush and paintbrush.

Johnson has been a pioneer in the field of applying the type of silicone prosthetics seen on The Walking Dead. In zombie films, the viewer expects to watch hordes of zombies—not one or two—which means Splat has to apply his makeup fast. A hero zombie used to take the industry as long as four to five hours in makeup production. Johnson can achieve an even better result inside of an hour and a half. If he’s creating a zombie that’ll walk among a group as a background extra, he can finish that person in as little as 20 minutes.

You just can’t kill zombies faster than Splat can make them.

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Zombie Nation is the premier publication for surviving the zombie apocalypse. From firearms to tips and tactics, zombie hunters will be kept up to speed on how to avoid becoming zed-bait. Order your copy today.

  • NOYFB

    That girl zombie is cute….wonder if she's single?

    • Mack Missiletoe

      Definitely single! haha

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