For the first time ever Back to the Movies was invited down to the London Olympia to attend the Walker Stalker convention, a very popular comic-con style set-up where many of AMC’s The Walking Dead cast members attend and meet the fans.
We hopped on the train down to London, and just like at the BAFTA’s only two weeks ago, a chauffeur from Blacklane greeted us, which had been pre-arranged. I must say being dropped off at the Olympia in a lovely Mercedes was a great feeling. As the crowds were lined up all the way down the street, it was nice to hop out of the car and head straight towards the press entrance where we were let into the event 90 minutes early without any queues, that in itself was sheer bliss. As I found out when I attended Showmasters, the queues can be hours long for general admission and with the weather being as unpredictable as it was that day, it was great to head inside without any trouble. God bless you press pass!
With it being 9am, I walked in to find that most of the celebrity stands were empty which made sense. The stalls were set up but there really wasn’t much choice when it came to the stalls. Every single stall had near enough the same things; T-Shirts, Pop Figures and all of that stuff. It was no surprise that by the end of the day we hadn’t even visited one stall when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
The first guests to come out were Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene). Those guys came out at 9:10am and were on their feet all day from start to finish with huge crowds gathering to meet them. I quickly hopped into the Michael Cudlitz queue before it got insane but it was still early so only people with a VIP pass (Or press pass) were in the venue. Nevertheless, there was still quite the queue for Michael and it took an hour to finally meet him. Michael saw that I was wearing my controversially banned Primark ‘Eeny meeny mini moe’ T-Shirt and gave me a hug as we discussed the banning of the shirt and the ridiculous decision to ban it from Primark shelves after only one complaint. He really seemed to appreciate the fact I was wearing it as he and Jeffrey Dean Morgan were the two most outspoken actors from the show who spoke most about the controversial banning of the shirt. I really enjoyed meeting Michael but I still couldn’t really justify paying £50 for a selfie, so me and my photographer Adam split the bill and had a picture together. Funnily enough, an autograph was also £50. So £50 for a selfie, that is only worth something to you and no one else, against a £50 autograph, which could easily be re-sold, seemed like a bit of a mismatch. The rest of the event selfie prices were also incredibly questionable but it’s not the stars fault, it’s their management and some of the prices were rather disgusting for a damn picture. Another issue I had with the prices was that the autograph and selfie prices were displayed at the table only and not at the end of the queue line where most of the public would easily be able to see it, you have to queue for the full duration of the line to get to the table to see the prices on offer. What if you’re short? Why isn’t this displayed where the line starts or on a screen or somewhere visible rather than a table sign? It’s common sense really.
If you are coming to Walker Stalker I’d certainly give their website a read over and over again. I must have missed the information that stated that the two biggest actors at the event (Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan) weren’t selling photos on the day. All autographs had been pre-sold and I still couldn’t find this on the Walker Stalker site after the event, so either I’m going blind or it just wasn’t advertised as well as it should have been. I think it may be the former. If I was a paying attendee then I would have done better research before hand and I am told that there were FaceBook Q&A’s done regularly but not everyone has access to social media so this information would have been unknown and did explain why a few GA attendee’s on the day had the same concerns and sense of uncertainty as we did. This really disheartened me on the day as I wanted to meet Norman and JDM more than anyone else but not to worry, it made sense by just how many people were queuing to meet them, I’ll remember to triple-check for next time!
Whilst the press passes did give us VIP access it was clear to see that the event was not tailored to general admission and VIP guests originally. When we first arrived the queues were insane for near enough every guest, some general admission tickets were being allowed in front of the VIP’s, some VIP’s ended up waiting longer than general admission which shouldn’t be the case and up until the afternoon, the lines were a bit muddled. As the day went on, however, there were three lines created per booth: a general admission line, a VIP line and a Gold / Premium line. Then and only then did our VIP badge feel worthy as we were allowed to walk down the line in front of general admission and see the guest we wanted to see quickly and get on with our day.
I felt as though the convention was certainly tailored to the big spenders of the Gold and Platinum badge variety. General admission tickets had long queues all day starting outside the arena and then again at the celebrity booths. If you’re coming to an event like this with a general admission ticket, I can’t see anyone managing to meet more than 4 guests in a day because of how insane the queues actually were. I’m going to be saving up for a platinum pass for next year’s event as those guys had it good. Photo ops all included priority lines that got them to meet the guest so quickly that they could meet the entire cast in half a day without question. Platinum is where it’s at and Walker Stalker only seemed to care about the big spenders whilst us mere mortals fell by the wayside.
Our press-badge at the time felt a bit worthless. Pre-approved press outlets were being declined interviews, we couldn’t get anyone to approve us for anything on the day, it was quite a disaster for media and a lot of the press guests I spoke too also had this complaint. I understand the event isn’t tailored to press so I can’t complain too much; we had VIP access and the panels were where the press-badge became the holy grail of passes. At the panels there were queues as far as the eye can see, we strolled up to the front, showed our badges and we were escorted to the first or second row of chairs every-time without question. We were with Gold and Platinum badge holders all day for every single panel with no trouble getting into any of them. We attended the David Morrissey and Scott Wilson panel, the Andrew Lincoln and Chandler Riggs panel and the Greg Nicotero panel, it was awesome to walk past the huge crowd, flash a badge and instantly get some of the best seats in the house. That was amazing! The panels were easily the best part of my entire day.
Walker Stalker is certainly a comic-con unlike any I’ve been to before. Shying away from stuffing merchandise down our throats at every turn and making it more of a guest meet and greet show. To meet your favourite celebrities was easier than ever before and aside from Norman and Jeffrey everyone else was easy to meet with the VIP badge. Towards the end of the day, the queues were much smaller and we managed to meet Ross Marquand (who somehow remembered our interview with him last year), Scott Wilson (Hershel), Seth Gilliam (Father Gabriel) and David Morrissey all within the space of 20 minutes. That in itself was incredible and instantly it made me want to get the Gold / Platinum badge next year so I could hit up the bigger stars too.
Whilst I didn’t agree with the extortionate selfie costs, Walker Stalker does a great job of walking away with your money. Make sure to have cash at hand because the ATM queues are insane and prepare to pay some silly money to meet your favourite celeb. At the end of the day if you really want to meet someone that badly you’d pay any number set out in-front of you and I did admire the setup of the event which made every celeb feel approachable, rather than hiding in a separate room or behind some curtain shying away from the public.
Stay away from general admission; take a good chunk of cash with you and you’ll have one hell of a day. Walker Stalker gets you up-close and personal with your favourite actors and actresses from the show and it’s a weekend to make some memories.
Thanks for having us and hopefully you allow us to come again next year despite this mixed review!
To take a look at more pictures from the event you can check out my Instagram page HERE