Some people watch The Walking Dead because they love the actors and character work. Some people watch because they love the over-the-top action sequences the survivors get into. And some watch because Greg Nicotero’s make-up effects and gore talents are some of the best in TV and cinema. (No doubt many of you go for broke with all three.) There’s one kind of zombie that Nicotero will never design to threaten those living characters, though: an undead skeleton. No bones about it. Or muscle tissue, in this case.
Nicotero explained why the show will never allow bare skeletons roaming the landscapes or stuck inside locked offices.
The only thing you'll never see is a Ray Harryhausen[-inspired], perfectly clean skeleton walking around because obviously, there's no muscle. We still try to keep to the reality of [needing] muscle to move the bone to move the body, but it's just something that we continue to push every season with new sculptures and pushing the elements of what we can.
For years, viewers have been watching The Walking Dead deliver a mix of relatively “fresh” walkers and some that are so old and gross that they’re basically vocal cords helplessly vibrating a surrounding pile of sludge, and Season 6 has had some truly crazy ones. But beyond the occasional spot where some rotted-loose meat falls off a walker and reveals the bony structure beneath, we don’t get a whole lot of white bursts out there in walker populations. And it’s somewhat reassuring that the show keeps some core principles like that to guide the progression, as many shows out there are quite lawless with their supernatural elements, which can cheapen things.
I mean, even if you’re not talking about the science of what parts of human anatomy need to be working in conjunction in order to make movement possible, there’s nothing particularly gross or scary about a bare skull. If one falls out of your glove compartment, sure, but not on top of a zombie. Nicotero also told TechInsider a bit about how the team adds some digital augmentation to some of the grossest walkers, and I have no lack of faith in Nicotero’s team creating the creepiest skeleton possible. But it still wouldn’t be all that amazing.
What would be amazing is to know what an in-his-prime Ray Harryhausen would be like on The Walking Dead’s effects team. As a stop-motion icon, he’d probably be working with Aardman on Wallace & Gromit features, but it’d be interesting to see if and how his style would fit in with this post-apocalyptic world.
But that’ll never happen, unlike the return of The Walking Dead for the rest of Season 6, which will begin on Sunday, February 14. And obviously don’t expect to see any Skeletor tribute walkers at that point.