The San Diego Comic Con has played host to many strange creatures over the years: Vulcans, sparkling vampires, even a Groot. This year, however, is the first year the con has featured actual non-human creatures in the form of a real-life snake pit.
Vikings, the popular History Channel show that reimagines the saga of Viking king Ragnar Lothbrok, has for years featured innovative and interactive booths at SDCC that allow fans of the series to star in their own personal viking epics: like reenacting viking battle scenes, for instance.
This year, they’ve taken things one step further by creating a display full of actual live snakes that slither and menace con-goers, allowing them to experience a snake pit not unlike that which may have killed the real Ragnar Lothbrok according to legend.
Currently halfway through it’s 4th season, Vikings series creator Michael Hirst left the question of just how Ragnar will die still unanswered at the mid-season finale in April. Will he be killed by his power-hungry sons, as some Norse legends suggest? Or will he instead meet his end in the deadly snake pit of rival King Aelle of Northumbria?
The History Channel’s Vikings Vipers Den experience at SDCC may provide no clear answers as to Ragnar’s fate, but it does trap series fans inside a high-walled, dark enclosure that brings them face-to-face with a rainbow of writhing reptiles. “Get ready to experience the death of Kings,” intones a staff member as participants enter.
Inside the dark room, shifting light-up displays reveal a series of 7 foot long glass tanks, stacked in a semicircle, that contain “45 snakes in total, with over 26 different species” according to David Allsberry, co-owner of Boone’s Animals for Hollywood. Allsberry and his team worked with the History Channel and A&E Network to bring the serpents to sunny San Diego.
“It’s the first time, as far as we understand, any live animals have been at San Diego Comic Con,” said Allsberry. But before you start worrying that this could all go horribly awry and turn the convention into a Snakes on a Plane sequel, fear not: Allsberry told Geek and Sundry that the Vikings Viper’s Den isn’t actually a nest of vipers.
“They’re all non-venomous,” he assured us, “no poisonous snakes here.” The Viper’s Den instead features Pythons, Boa Constrictors in a variety of hues, as well as Gopher Snakes, which are commonly found in Southern California. Allsberry tapped the scaly talent of Karl Miller, whose he called “one of the preeminent snake guys” in the industry, to help populate the booth.
Miller stressed that while “there were plenty of snakes we couldn’t bring because there’d just be one big fat snake left at the end,” all the species slithering within the exhibit got along well and were regularly monitored to ensure they were clean and comfortable. Any snakes that appeared to need a break from the action could be replaced with alternate “stunt snakes” hidden in containers behind the booth.
The interactive display also includes surround sounds of snakes hissing and rattling, that culminates by plunging participants into a silent darkness and using special effects to simulate snakes striking out at their ankles.
While the effect is certainly unsettling, Allsberry emphasized there was no actual person-to-snake contact to minimize risk of injury –but not only to the fans who visited the exhibit. “People think the walls of the containers are for their protection,” he said, “but it’s really more to protect the snakes.”
Featured Image Credit: Jonathan Hession/History.com