Making its second-annual appearance outside San Diego Comic-Con, The Walking Dead Escape offers the chance of a lifetime to experience the dawn of the Zombie Apocalypse up close and personal. Last year’s Escape was the highlight of my Comic-Con experience and this year’s Escape offers to be even bigger and better. Escape Creator Liam Brenner discusses the origins of the Zombie obstacle course, bringing AMC onboard this year and making Escape a touring must-see event, coming to a city near you!
How did you initially get involved with The Walking Dead Escape?
– “I’m a CO of a company called Ruckus Sports and I’m also the Executive Producer and Creator of The Walking Dead Escape. I got into this business back in 2005 as one of the founders of The Denver Marathon. I learned that I really had a passion for participatory sports. We started Ruckus back in 2010 and the thing that brought all this together was I’m a really big fan of the Apocalypse, whether it’s vehicular, biological or most importantly, Zombie. I’ve been reading these novels and books for decades. To do an obstacle course is kind of like surviving the Apocalypse. We approached Robert Kirkman, Creator of The Walking Dead, and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this crazy idea, ‘What do you think?'”
Would you say this obstacle course is more of an extension of the graphic novels or the TV show?
– “Well, Robert is the creator of The Walking Dead. The graphic novels are primarily how this thing started. What we’re really excited about is that we really brought this whole thing under one roof: Our partnership with Skybound — which is Robert’s company — as well as AMC. Two weeks ago we announced AMC’s partnership with this year’s event. Being a partner with one of the best-selling comic books out there, as well as one of the top scripted-shows of all TV, we’ve really tried to increase our game. Even though last year was an exceptional event, we’ve put a lot of changes in place for this year, to make it even better. Whether it’s the obstacles or the course — both of which are entirely new — more Zombies or a great Escape party, we’re excited.”
You mentioned more Zombies this year…
– “Out of the feedback we got last year, it was a phenomenal event, but people said they couldn’t get enough Zombies. It’s a pretty logical conclusion. We worked really hard at increasing the number of Zombies on the course this year. There’s going to be 50 percent more Zombies.”
Are there any other changes you can mention?
– “The obstacle zone has been redesigned. Whether it’s what became a fan favorite, the chain-link Mega Zone or all-new obstacles altogether, the course has been changed, from head to toe. Although you start in the same place, it’s about all that will be familiar.”
As a fan, how can you participate in The Walking Dead: Escape?
– “There’s three ways to participate: a survivor, a spectator (which is a great front-row seat to the end of the world) or a Walker (which is easily our most popular slot).
How often will survivors be allowed into the course per hour?
– “You can actually do it every 20 minutes, any time you like. Just like last year, it’s three times an hour, any time between 5:00 and 10:00 at night.”
Do you have an estimate of how many people ran through Escape last year?
– “Over 10,000 people participated last year, and we’ll try to do even better this year.”
How many people are generally involved with the obstacle course?
– “We have a staff of 60 people, by the time it gets up and running.”
How long does it take to set up the obstacle course?
– “We’ll actually start setting up on Wednesday. Usually, three days.”
Any chance some of the AMC actors will be making surprise appearances?
– “They’re always in high demand and their schedules are usually sorted out, but I surely wouldn’t be surprised.”
How many cities has Escape visited before San Diego Comic-Con?
– “We did one event before Comic-Con, because we really wanted to make sure we worked out the bugs on the new course and the makeup, in order to keep the quality high. Obviously Philly is a major city and there’s lots of Walking Dead fans, so it’s a great fit. When you revamp a course, from top to bottom, we wanted to make sure we weren’t going into Comic-Con without a dry run.”
“What’s exciting is that Escape doesn’t stop with Comic-Con. We expect to do eight to 10 events this year, starting in September.”
Do you know where the first touring location will be?
– “We do, but look for that information a couple of weeks after Comic-Con.”
Will upcoming Escape locations mainly focus on stadiums or go elsewhere?
– “We’re focused on truly unique, big venues in urban environments and try to replicate the early days of the Zombie Apocalypse. Generally, we like to use big venues. It’s kind of our format that works.”
A lot of competitors are trying to recreate the Escape experience with Zombie Runs. Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
– “There’s no one really doing what we do. There’s different things out there and if people are enjoying themselves, we’re thrilled. At the end of the day, there’s only one Walking Dead Escape.”
What’s the best perk of being involved with The Walking Dead?
– “The best perk is being able to build your own Apocalypse and make people happy doing it.”