Eric Brooks Looks at The Atlanta Movie Tours "Big Zombie Tour"

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 Traveling in the Land of the Dead

A look at Atlanta Movie Tours' "Big Zombie Tour 1 and 2"

By Eric Brooks

 

Several years ago, I went to my local comic shop to sign up for Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I had not been in a comic shop in years and was really out of touch as to the current titles. Russ, my comic shop's owner, asked what I was into and I told him that I was mostly into horror and he said he had something I might like. He took me over to a rack of graphic novels and showed me volume one of a zombie comic. He covered the people on the cover and pointed to the walkers at the bottom and said "You probably think this is about them but it is not, it about them" and he revealed the people. I have since become a huge Walking Dead  and have read the comic, the novels, and religiously watch the show. In early March, I was looking for a birthday gift for B Movie Man and came across a company that offers tours of the filming locations for The Walking Dead. I knew he would love that and so would I so I him a gift certificate and gave it to him with the explanation that I thought we would go on a guys weekend and do  the tour. We finally booked our tickets and two weeks ago headed to Atlanta to the land of the Dead.

The purveyor of the tours we took is ed Atlanta Movie Tours and they operate out of a downtown Atlanta location and a store in rural suburban south Atlanta. B Movie Man and I opted to take both of the tours they offer: The Big Zombie Tour 1 and The Big Zombie Tour 2. Each tour lasts about 3 hours and the timing is such that one can take both with about two hours between for travel and lunch. The Big Zombie Tour 1 starts at 9:30 in the morning at Atlanta Movie Tours downtown store. It is a small establishment in warehouse district near the center of town that is being redeveloped. We had a half hour or so to look at the Walking Dead and other film souvenirs for sale and the collection of movie posters around the shop. The tour started promptly on time and for the next three hours we were treated to a very interesting menu of locations used in filming the first 2 seasons of Dead (during which the show was headquartered in downtown Atlanta). The second tour starts at The Woodbury Shoppe in beautiful downtown Senoia, GA about 30 miles southwest of downtown. It includes sites from seasons 3-5 including the towns of Woodbury and Alexandria.

Both tours were excellent! Atlanta Movie Tours has really mastered their services and anticipated customer needs. Both tours were taken via a very nice and new bus well stocked with ice water to insure no one gets thirsty on hot summer days. The guides were both extras from the show who both played numerous "walkers". As a result they have many interesting tidbits about the show and stories from  the sets. For example, there are four levels of walkers on the show. The highest level is the hero walker, the ones who are featured and often interact with the cast. They get full makeup and prosthetics. The mid level walkers are behind the hero walkers and fill out the shot. They get airbrush makeup and are now produced in an assembly line (Henry Ford would be proud). The background walkers appear in scenes with large crowds and only get masks. They are often folks with long hair to cover the mask strings. the bottom level are the deep background walkers who are only seen way in the distance and they get no makeup at all. The guides were both very interesting and did a great job of explaining locations and even has video clips to show to create context.

Both tours featured an array of highlight locations from the show. The first tour includes mostly locations from early episodes. The archway through which Rick rides into Atlanta, the King County Sheriff's Department, the hospital in which Rick awakens and Bradbury's Department Store stand out. One location from season 4 that is included in the first tour is Terminus. The second tour includes a number of sites from later seasons including the site of the walker battleground run by the Governor, the pharmacy where Glenn goes for Laurie's pregnancy test and has his dalliance with Maggie, the bar where Rick finally kills the living, the house on which Carl eats all that pudding, the place where Merl turns and Daryl kills him, Morgan's apartment, and of course the towns of Woodbury and Alexandria. Woodbury is actually the lovely little town of Senoia, GA. If there was ever an argument for film tax incentives, Senoia is it. It was nearly bankrupt and defunct when The Walking Dead showed up and it is now a bustling town full of dead fans and businesses to cater to them. The Woodbury Shoppe is home to everything Dead and even a small prop museum (Daryl's bike is SAWEEEETTT!!). The town of Alexandria is also in Senoia (in fact it is right at the bottom of the main street which is downtown Woodbury). Alexandria is also really surrounded by a 15 foot tall metal fence. There are friendly but firm security guards at every entrance to Alexandria and a slew of signs declaring it off limits because it is an active filming location (The Walking Dead films from May through November).

In all it made for a great day. I can highly recommend the tours for any Dead fan or even anyone interested in how filming is done. Pretty much every significant location is covered. There are two that aren't. The first is the prison. It simply does not exist. The prison was a purpose built set at the studio in rural Georgia where the show is filmed. It was dismantled and the building now houses Father Gabriel's church. There are a few cells in the museum in the Woodbury Shoppe. The other location that can't be visited is Hershel's farm. It is a private farm and the owners have absolutely no interest in the Dead or its fans. In fact , the owners' daughter played a walker on the farm and her parents would not even let her in the house until she was completely out of her makeup. B Movie Man and I did also visit one location not on the tours that is easily accessible to the public. We stopped at the Cobb Electric Performing Arts Center which is used as the CDC. It is conveniently located near the intersection of I-75 and I-85 and can be located with the assistance of their website. B Movie Man and I have had our share of adventures and this was one of the best!

To learn more- visit http://atlantamovietours.com/



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