Disney's Z-O-M-B-I-E-S opens in the slightly off world of Seabrook, a town that would very much like to forget a zombie apocalypse in the not too distant past. A perfect, modern Americana is enforced, outsiders are shunned, and total conformity is the law of the land. This perfect Seabrook neighborhood is exactly as perfect as all the others.
The soothing, uncomplicated pastel tones reassure the residents that all is well and the past never happened. Even the tulips are planted in a perfect grid.
Another of the standard issue Seabrook homes available in one of the 6 legally permitted pastel tones.
Even the domestic interiors reflect a ruthlessly enforced pastel palette. Everything in it's perfect order, the good people of Seabrook only look forward, never back. The home of the young heroine Addison (Meg Donnelly) reflects that comfortable conformity.
Addison's (Meg Donnelly) family living room.
Addison's (Meg Donnelly) family kitchen.
In this strange world, the Seabrook high school Mighty Shrimp reign supreme. And the alphas of Seabrook high are the cheerleaders, led by the almost too-perfect cheer captain, Bucky (Trevor Tordjman) seated here at the exclusive cheer dining table in the cafeteria.
The cult of cheer captain Bucky (Trevor Tordjman) is expressed in near religious terms at Seabrook high. The pep rally is an expression of that cult of personality. LED color bars illuminate the perfectly spaced, 36" balloons that frame his layered graphics.
Another view of Bucky's (Trevor Tordjman) temple to himself at the pep rally.
Seabrook high's football team was a key story point. With the help of the optimistic Zombie freshmen Zed (Milo Manheim) they go from last place to contenders for state champs. As most high school football fields are surrounded by non-Seabrook modernity and freeways and have fully branded artificial fields, we were forced to create our own stadium in a rural park- seeding and reconditioning a field, importing bleachers, scoreboards etc.
The central conflict of Disney's Z-O-M-B-I-E-S is the first day of school integration. Zombies are the hated underclass of Seabrook. Their homicidal cravings having been brought under control by an inhibiting device (the Z-Band), they are now just normal people. But Seabrook still imposes a curfew, offers only menial work and lives in fear of the Zombies. Here the pastel fearfulness of Seabrook is confronted by the saturated, exuberant excitement of the young zombies.
The young zombies excitement is soon tempered when they find themselves relegated to the dingy basement for remedial English. The script called for a spoken zombie language, so I thought there should be a written one. The 18 glyphs are based on the folds of the human brain, the object of classic zombie obsession.
Another basement space in Seabrook high is one of several zombie safe rooms. While the humans wish to forget the zombie apocalypse, they still prepare for another outbreak. In this bunker lucky survivors must be prepared to live a decade or more below ground.
Unlike the bland conformity of Seabrook, the "slum" of Zombietown is an organic and ironically liberated place. Walled in and eking out a marginal life from the pre-apocalypse resources and the detritus of Seabrook, the zombies have made an extraordinary community with nearly nothing.
The zombies came into being 50 years ago when an experimental energy lab exploded. Now the surviving zombies have been pushed into the overcrowded neighborhood surrounding the destroyed lab. We found this early 20th century working class neighborhood in Hamilton, Ontario and stripped it of all greenery. Other than the zombies, nothing can grow in Zombietown.
Having spent years in a blind haze of ravenous wandering, the recovered zombies live in a wonder of the five senses. They love sound, color, and especially light. Every house in Zombietown is a celebration of each family's particular joy. Bonzo's (James Godfrey) house is a tribute to his love of music.
Another house in Zombietown, the windmill speaks to the zombies genius and resourcefulness in doing a lot with a little.
This Zombietown house is all about the freedom that wheels offer to people who spent decades staggering aimlessly.
Our young hero Zed's (Milo Manheim) house in Zombietown. His little sister Zoey (Kingston Foster) is obsessed with light. We made the little newspaper/flower light garden for her to tend.
Zed's (Milo Manheim) room. Zed's dad Zevon (Tony Nappo) has done his best to make life as normal as possible for his kids in this human/zombie apartheid. Their home speaks to the thrift and genius of their kind.
Zed's (Milo Manheim) easy chair, a repurposed shopping cart in his bedroom in Zombietown.
The weird and wonderful upstairs hallway in Zed's (Milo Manheim) Zombietown hovel.
Zed's (Milo Manheim) family kitchen. Unlike the sterile, pastel human homes, the zombie homes are full of authentic love and realness.
Another view of Zed's (Milo Manheim) kitchen.
50 years ago the Seabrook energy plant exploded in a blast of zeta radiation, creating the Zombie race. Totally avoided by humans, the plant is a gathering spot and almost a temple to the zombies. This is the 'Light Garden', an intimate, special place deep within the energy plant.
I was very interested in exploring the mythos and identity of the zombies. We determined they were proud of who they are while acknowledging their tumultuous beginnings. So we created a Zombie social realism that celebrated their story. I worked with artist Aurora Kruk to realize this idea. This mural celebrates the zombie renaissance.
Here Aurora Kruk works on the mural celebrating the moment of genesis of the first Zombie, Z.
Artist Aurora Kruk works on a mural celebrating the Z-Band, the device that restored the zombie's humanity.
The Z-Band mural glowing in black light.
The tentpole musical number of Disney's Z-O-M-B-I-E-S is BAMM set in the very heart of the ruined energy plant. Here the zombies can truly be themselves safe from human interference. Also here they bring to bear all their ingenuity and technical skill to create a cobbled-together rave-like atmosphere.
Another view of the main hall of the ruined energy plant. Invisibly embedded in the center of the "concrete" floor is a "tricking" air mattress system that allowed the zombies to perform choreography that seemed to defy physics.
We scrounged and built dozens of light elements out of junk and debris.
More zombie-style lights in the ruined energy plant.
The tire wall had full spectrum LED's lining the interiors of each tire.
The green zombie "Z" hangs above Eliza's (Kylee Russell) light control booth on a catwalk over the dance floor.
Our jumping jack lights were made by wrapping 2' florescent tubes in overlapping layers of colored gel, then screwing loads of those fixtures to angle iron "jacks".
Bonzo's (James Godfrey) DJ booth at the ruined energy plant. Note the organ pipes clustered behind it. They were rigged with CO2 blasts to punctuate the beats of the song.
We constructed these "totem poles" out of tires, washing machine drums, flasher barricade lights, old surveillance TVs etc. Like all the other zombie-style lights they had a huge range of light options built in.
Zed (Milo Manheim) leads the zombie dancers in BAMM in the ruined energy plant.