By Tara Bennett
A widespread rise of zombies hostile to human life has overrun military and local law enforcement, leading to a panicked collapse of civilization until only a small pocket of survivors remain. Will you be one of the survivors? Or will you be one of the first to fall?
For those who have ever wondered if they would survive the zombie apocalypse, they will soon have their chance with The Walking Dead Escape, based on the hit AMC television series. The first leg of its national tour will hit the River Center Arena on Thursday, April 24. The tour will also include a stop at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday, May 24.
Produced by Skybound EXP, which publishes The Walking Dead comic book, “Escape” is the official zombie run of The Walking Dead franchise. Compared to regular zombie runs, “Escape” operates on a much larger scale where participants have to run through different levels of a lifelike evacuation zone and avoid getting tagged by walkers.
“We’re always looking for different ways for our fans to engage in The Walking Dead,” said David Isaacs, president of Skybound EXP. “This is kind of the next natural step because it’s one thing to sort of see this post apocalyptic landscape in The Walking Dead, but it’s another thing to experience it first hand where you are part of that experience.”
According to Isaacs, fans of the series spend time projecting themselves into the world of The Walking Dead, and wonder what choices they would make in situations as seen on the television show. The Escape is a way for fans to actually live out the fantasy, but without the risk of getting their heads ripped off.
“I think it’s a very fun way for people to kind of take the next step and go from seeing it, watching it, playing with it, to living it,” said Isaacs.
The Escape was originally launched as an event for attendees at the 2012 San Diego Comic Con held in Petco Park. It then expanded into three additional cities, including New York City, where the course was integrated onto the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Intrepid. Based on the enthusiasm for the Escape, Skybound decided to take it to the next level and go for a national tour.
“People who come will be thrilled to see some of the things they are used to seeing in The Walking Dead,” said Isaacs.
Participants are able to choose if they wish to be a spectator, a survivor, a walker, or, for a little extra money, go through the course as a survivor and then as a walker. Those who sign up as walkers will be put into makeup done by professional special effects makeup artists, and also go through zombie training in order to appear as a real zombie.
For the survivors, they must avoid being touched by the walkers and make it to the end of evacuation site. Participants don’t have to fear being bitten, as the walkers will only try to touch, nor shall they run. The Escape is about a mile long and lasts for 45 min. After completing the Escape, a UV light screening shall determine if a participant became one of the infected.
With the possibility of zombies being present at every corner, participants can expect the unexpected, but this is not your typical haunted house experience according to Isaacs.
“It’s not a haunted house, it’s more of a suspense adventure,” said Isaacs. “We’re about people actually feeling like they’re in The Walking Dead.”
According to Isaacs it’s all about creating a reality for the fans who want to answer the question: “What would I do during a zombie apocalypse?” In order to achieve the reality of the situation, there will be nothing present that does not belong in a zombie apocalypse. Participants can expect to see wrecked vehicles, but they don’t have to worry about overcoming an obstacle that would test their endurance or strength.
“Ours is more of a mental challenge,” said Isaacs. “We take out anything that isn’t organic to an evacuation situation. It’s more of a psychological experience.”
The River Center itself will also aid in creating the realistic experience for participants.
“Arenas get creepy quickly at night, and we take advantage of that because what we tell people is that this is the real evacuation center,” said Isaacs. “People really start to get into the idea that the River Center is part of the set, and it starts to be that blending of fiction and reality.”
Afterwards, each spectator, survivor and walker are welcome to join in the Escape after party, which will feature food, dancing, music, and chances to see celebrities. Currently, guest appearances for Baton Rouge have not been announced yet.
“We’ll be announcing some celebrities for Baton Rouge in the next day or so,” said Isaacs.
Tickets for “Escape” are $75 for a survivor ticket, $95 for a walker ticket or $150 for a VIP ticket, which allows participants to do both. For more information, visit the Walking Dead Escape website at http://thewalkingdeadescape.com.