Today we finally got our first glimpse at Frank Darabont’s small screen adaptation of The Walking Dead at San Diego’s Comic-Con, and it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect when you think Darabont-meets-zombies. Creator of the graphic novel Robert Kirkman hit the stage with Darabont, some key cast members — including leads Andrew Lincoln and Emma Bell — and producer Gale Anne Hurd (Terminator, Aliens) to chat about the six-episode series, and present the footage.

After the break, some thoughts on the footage, highlights on the panel, and news on how Battlestar Galactica composer Bear McCreary will be involved with the series.

The footage opens with a police roadblock and shootout that leaves deputy Rick Grimes (Lincoln) injured and subsequently hospitalized. When he wakes up, the hospital and city are deserted  (28 Days Later style), his family is missing, and he learns that zombies have overrun Atlana. We get glimpses of several other characters, and some great zombie swarm set pieces. One features Grimes forced underneath a car (which looks terrifyingly claustrophobic), and the footage ends with him climbing into a tank as an overheard shot shows us dozens of zombies on and around it.

Like every AMC show thus far, the series looks like it could be a movie. It actually reminded me a lot of FX’s Justified both in terms of setting and style. It’s definitely more serious drama than mere zombie camp. The footage they showed us was apparently sanitized for Comic-Con’s family audiences, but Darabont promises exploding heads, and a decent amount of gore. The zombies themselves look detailed and realistic — definitely on-par with the quality you’d expect from a Romero zombie film.  He also mentioned that they’re pulling lots of imagery directly from the comic.

Darabont said that they held a “zombie academy” for three days in Atlanta to find suitable zombies. Instead of telling people how he wanted the zombies to act, he and the producers lined them up and let the actors show their own interpretation of being a zombie. It was basically zombie improv.

Aside from the footage, it was great to see Darabont and the cast chat about the series. It’s clear that they’re all very proud of the work they’re doing, and that they respect the source material greatly. Darabont — who’s been a fan of zombie films since Night of the Living Dead — mentioned that he’s been trying to get the series off the ground for the past four-to-five years. He promised the audience that they will follow the graphic novel’s plot arcs closely, but that they’re also open to new and interesting tangents. They’re working closely with Kirkman for the series, and he’s also writing the fourth episode which they’re currently filming. He also hinted that they may try to get some well-known horror directors for season two.

Darabont also announced for the first time that composer Bear McCreary will be working on the series. He chose McCreary because “[he] does something unique. He doesn’t just clobber the audience with what you’d expect.” As a huge fan of McCreary’s incredible work on BSG, which I consider among the best television scores ever made, his involvement with the series is the  topping on an already delicious cake.

AMC senior vice president Joel Silverman mentioned that the series will bring some much-needed original content to AMC’s FearFest, and that the network is very excited about bringing the first serious zombie series to TV. The series will be premiering globally in October in several different languages. At this point, it’s by far my most anticipated new TV series this fall.

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