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Comic-Con 2013 Preview: Nuke the Fridge’s Handy-Dandy Survivor’s Guide to THE WALKING DEAD ESCAPE

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Hello, fellow Fridge Nukers! Bradfield reporting from my “Comfort Zone” – Ground Zero of the Zombie Apocalypse.

There are already two pieces here on the site that describe my experience with THE WALKING DEAD ESCAPE AT PETCO PARK – a preview and a review from 2012.  The only problem with the latter is that it was posted somewhere in the time frame of the Colorado shootings, so naturally, it only took a couple hours to be pushed down the priority chain – and rightfully so.

So if it was just about a “heads up” for our readers, truly, we could just re-post last year’s material, not just link to it.

It stands to reason, that if I’m to do something fresh for this year’s event, I should bring something new to the table. So, in that spirit, knowing that there are more than a few Walking Dead fans in our readership, rather than a “sales pitch,” which would more or less be “preaching to the choir,” I thought a more useful way to spend column space would be telling those who are going, or are at least really interested, how to get the most out of The Walking Dead Escape.

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Your mission… Should you choose to accept it:

Simply put, The Walking Dead Escape is an immersive obstacle course in PetCo Park (across the street from the San Diego Convention Center) through which zombie “Walkers,” chase “Survivors.” Participants can pay to either be a zombie ($80), or a runner ($75), in addition to watching the event ($20), or even help Survivors navigate the course as a “FEMA” Volunteer (free). [Do I have to say actual FEMA training is not required?] The course itself shifts between a more in your face “reality” of San Diego being Ground Zero for the zombie apocalypse in the show, and locations meant to resemble sets from the series itself – which, so far, takes place in Georgia.

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So for example, the “Zombie Highway” on which you’ll find a car with “Sophia Wait Here” painted on the windshield of a car (an actual set piece from the show) is still within the confines of PetCo Park. The biggest difference, this year, appears to be the addition of two settings from Season Three: the prison in which Rick and company, at this point, have claimed as “home,” and the Governor’s sadistic “Gladiator Arena” from Woodbury. I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s going to be more intense than last year.

I can only offer advice from the point of view of a Survivor and a Spectator , as the Walking Dead’s makeup crew — who provide the zombie makeup effects for the Walkers — keep their secrets well-guarded. However, if you’re participating as one of the undead or a FEMA volunteer, you don’t need a lot of advice. Spectators are easy, enjoy the show, and you’ll have access to exclusive WD merchandise for your time and money. However, if you’ve come to the conclusion that running from hordes of the undead is your idea of a good time, I offer the following advice:

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1) The first rule of “Zombieland”

Cardio. I said it before, it’s an obstacle course – and it ain’t no joke. In addition to outrunning the dead on relatively clear terrain, you’ll have to climb rope ladders, “marine crawl” under tables, and otherwise dodge dozens and dozens of flesh hungry monsters. Again, if you are signed up already, or just seriously interested, word to the wise – get in a little power walking, at the very least, in the next week.07-13-12 SDCC 018 The Walking Dead Escape name

2) Hydration

There’s a reason Comic-Con is held in San Diego: If we’re going to get together in Southern California in the summertime, there is only one place in which the weather doesn‘t outright suck. And unlike last year — where WDE was open for three days, all day long — it is open from 5pm to 10pm, and on Friday and Saturday night only. So while Survivors won’t be running the course in the midday sun, as I so poorly chose to do last year, it is still Southern California in the summertime. You’re doing something physical, plan bare minimum replenishment accordingly.

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3) Seriously, a little “training” wouldn’t kill you

In fact, it might “save your life.” The course includes roughly four levels, varying terrain, of PetCo park. In addition to dodging the dead, well, for one, there will be a LOT of stairs. Stairs with Walkers on them, trying to eat you. [Well, at this point in the overriding story, all they have to do is touch you, but we’ll get to that.] Every “clear” stretch of terrain you’ll see will still have a dozen Walkers between you and the next chance for a quick breath before you move on. Additionally, there are rope ladders and plenty of places where you’ll have to crawl. If you don’t take a little time to work your lungs and limber up your muscles, you might as well be… you know.

4) Shoes make the ensemble

Perhaps the best piece of advice that I can give to anybody taking the Survivor option is wear shoes with excellent traction. This especially applies to CosPlayers who might want to run the course as their favorite superhero, or in pretty much anything else that isn’t geared toward maintaining traction in a survival scenario. I. AM. NOT. KIDDING. Sure, everyone thinks it would be great to run the course as Superman or Wonder Woman, but like most sports stadiums in the country, the walkways of PetCo park are paved with what I refer to as “vomit proof” concrete. Not the average sidewalk, but that slick, always looks wet, concrete that makes post-event cleanup easier for custodial staff. You run that course in boots, Man of Steel or not, you may be sliding into a metal beam, Kal El.

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You’ve seen the show, haven’t you? We’re all dead anyway. And unlike the show, all the zombies have to do is touch you, smearing a little “blood” on you, and you’re infected. There’s no getting away from them. No matter how many times you’ve dutifully positioned yourself in front of a Walking Dead marathon, and planned for the zombie apocalypse, you can’t use weapons, nor can you punch, kick, or otherwise violently interact with the zombies. You will be hiding behind a barricade, making a map in your mind of how you’ll get around the Walkers in front of you, and I guarantee there will be a half dozen behind you, pouring out of a bathroom, office space, or some other corner of the park about which you’ll be thinking, “They can’t possibly be in there.” So in that spirit, the most important thing to remember is…

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This will not be easy, as one of my only gripes with last year’s Walking Dead Escape is that the “FEMA” Volunteers weren’t so much helpful, as real volunteers would be in an actual crisis, but hollering at you, moving you through the course as quickly as possible. I don’t know a lot about official FEMA procedure in the face of a mass infection, or even a zombie apocalypse, but I’m relatively certain protocol wouldn’t involve shoving Survivors into the face of the infected, in the interest of making good time. Then again, maybe I’m being a stickler for reality. I don’t know. Go ahead – get infected. Roll with it. The first person to complete the course in your group may or may not remember the details – how much effort went into creating such a cool environment. If you’re there, I can assume that Walking Dead is one of your favorite shows – and though it’s well worth the $75 price tag, that’s a lot of money.