With all this talk of Armageddon and the need for a Zombie Apocalypse survival plan from the CDC we felt that now would be a good time to sit down with our personal favorite zombie expert.
While Jason Meehan may not claim the title, he certainly is racking up the credentials for it, if there was any formal application process for the title [note to self: research formal accreditation process for zombie expert].
After finishing up his Bachelors in Photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA he headed home to New Jersey. Less than five years later, he runs the Asbury Park Zombie Walk, one of the largest Zombie walks in the country and recently gained the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Zombies.
How did you get started with the zombie walk?
3 years ago I saw some photos from a friend of a Zombie Walk in Atlanta and was like, “that is cool, I want to do that.” So I looked around on the internet and there was nothing in [New] Jersey.
So you started the first one?
Yeah, we started small. We decided to go for it and had a myspace page and poster designs within a day. It was a real underground grass roots effort. We ended up with about 400 hundred people that first time.
When did you realize “this is gonna be huge”?
It kept evolving from the first one, we wanted to top ourselves and go bigger and stronger. We started getting calls from professional make-up artists from around the area wanting to do something. We were like “we can’t pay you but you can do make-up for tips,” and it kinda snowballed from there into what it is now.
When we went for the Guiness record people were showing up at 9am and the walk didn’t start until 4pm, they were so excited to be a part of it. Then before we started I was standing above the crowd and saw nothing but four thousand zombies. That was awesome.
Do you see a lot of different backgrounds in the walkers?
We thought for the first walk we would just get about 50 people who were into Cos-Play and Horror Fans so we would at least have something to talk about. We actually ended up with 400 people from a bunch of different groups, everyone from the horror fans to preppy people. We [even] had moms with babies in strollers asking if there was someone who had safe make-up for their baby.
That does sound like a pretty good mix, how much prep work did you need to prepare for an event?
The first one we planned in about a month once we decided to go for it. The second one we planned over three months. When we decided to go for Guinness, planning started in January 2010 for an October event. We used social media a lot for our marketing and partnered with businesses in Asbury Park to support the walk. We gave our walkers a list of Zombie Friendly businesses. For the October walk we made it a full day event with vendors and a screening of the movie Collin. We also went to a couple of the cons like the New York Comic-con.
I bet that was pretty awesome.
Yeah we met some of the cast from Walking Dead and I was walking around when this guy stops me and complimented my make up saying that it looks really awesome. It was Max Brooks [Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z] so the fact that he made a point to compliment me was great.
That’s like a stamp of approval. You did something for George Romero too right?
Thea Munster, the mother of the zombie walk, who started the first zombie walk in Toronto [Canada], reached out to me about doing a walk in New York with enough zombies to fill a theater in honor of George Romero opening his new movie Survival of the Dead in the US. I was standing in a park with a megaphone surrounded by couple hundred zombies getting ready emphasizing that “George Hates Fast Zombies!”
So how about you, Slow or Fast Zombies?
Slow, the fast rage zombies from 28 Days Later were scary but slow zombies are the best.
What is your take on expanding the genre to other mediums such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?
I haven’t read the book, but I have read comics like Marvel Zombies and The Walking Dead. I just can’t seem to be able to sit down and read, I need to see the carnage.
Have you seen some of the new stuff like the Christmas video that Team Unicorn produced?
Yeah I saw that.
You hear a lot from sub-cultures about the fear of going mainstream, how do you feel about Zombie culture merging into the mainstream?
Zombies have been more mainstream for while, mainstream happens to everything but it’s not permanent. There will always be something else growing widely accepted. Vampires had their phase with Twilight, but they also had it with Anne Rice’s novels. Zombies are definitely the new vampire and a zombie series on basic cable is impressive. Once this passes there will still people doing this.
Do you see yourself doing this for awhile?
It has been a lot of fun, I don’t know how long it [the walk] will go. Zombies will always be fun, I just don’t know how long I’ll be doing the walk.
So what is coming up for you?
I’m going to organize a small walk for the Saturday Nightmares in June. The original cast of Dawn of the Dead will be walking with us. Then we have the next walk in October, apparently we pissed off Seattle, they have a poster for their next walk that calls out us specifically.
That sounds like a challenge…
I find it kind of amusing but I don’t feel the need to stoop to that level.
So if they beat your record will you try to re-beat it?
I don’t know, probably not. Getting authenticated was a pain in the ass. The process is very stringent. We submitted our request for permission to attempt in June and we didn’t get the go ahead from Guinness until August.
Are you still going to try to top yourself for October?
Yeah we have a lot of big plans for this year. We would like to make it a full three day event, almost like a con on its own. We want to bring some guests from zombie films and special effects artists [to do demos]. We’re hoping to possibly even get some of the cast of Walking Dead to come down too.
That does sound pretty sweet.
Well Jason thanks for taking some time out of what can only be a crazy ass schedule to talk with us.
Keep an eye out here for more details on the next Zombie walk on the weekend of October 22nd and check out the Asbury Park Zombie Walk website . Show them some love because they are definitely bring our culture into the spotlight. We can expect many more great things to come. So everyone enjoy the Zombie Apocalypse tomorrow and remember to double tap and guns attract unwanted attention.