This weekend, Orion Pictures unleashed a new Child’s Play into theaters everywhere, along with a brand new version of the Buddy doll (now known as Buddi) to terrorize a new batch of victims (and a few other surprises to boot). Behind the more AI-centric redesign of Chucky and all the glorious kills in Child’s Play (2019) are legendary effects artist Todd Masters and his brilliant team at MastersFX, who worked endlessly to give fans a super fun slasher but also a bold new version of a horror icon as well.
[SPOILER WARNING: The following contains some spoilers about specific plot points in Child’s Play (2019), so if you haven’t seen the film yet, and don’t want to have the experience spoiled, be sure to come back to this interview once you’ve seen the remake.]
While there is always that innate pressure that comes with taking on an established and iconic horror character, Masters instead saw the new design of the Buddi doll in the remake as his way of paying tribute to one of his compatriots as well as taking the character in a new direction that was more befitting of this new Child’s Play story.
“Because I knew many of the monster makers from the original Child’s Play, I saw my opportunity of working on this film as my way of showing my respect to what was done before, 30 years ago. I didn’t want to copy their genius, so instead, we used some of the traditional methods that were developed by Kevin Yagher and his team back then in subtle ways as a wink at their work, and as our tribute to the days when practical effects were in full swing.”
“I was fortunate to work alongside Kevin many times, usually on Tales From the Crypt, and visited his shop, too, so I saw how he ran his creative team and how they were able to make Kevin’s miraculous monsters work. So, some of that technology is still in Chucky; like, we made Chucky’s under-skulls, clear and vacuum formed, just like Kevin would have back in the day. Some other little nods are sprinkled throughout the movie, too, that maybe only a few people will really understand, but we know they are there, which made it even more fun for our effects team.”
“We obviously updated the Chucky doll design, because story-wise he’s really not the same doll as he was in the original Child’s Play series,” Masters continued. “The same design wouldn’t have made any sense. Chucky’s design was created via director Lars Klevberg’s guy, Einar Martinsen, and we let our machines (via our talented practical/digital artists) do much of the sculpture work, and even some of the mold work, too. The machines also produced much of Chucky’s animatronics as well.”
“Because he is the product of the fictionalized Kaslan Corporation, the biggest consideration we had to make was how would a group of executives design a doll that they were planning to mass produce? Sure, they have a bunch of designers, and they would have a huge budget, but we figured that they would want to 'simplify' aspects of the doll for mass production. So, we kept that in mind, and focused on having these clean lines to the design, but also made sure that this Chucky felt 'manufactured’ too.”
Klevberg was very involved in the effects process and collaborated with a highly talented effects crew at MastersFX, working closely with Masters and his tireless team of artists and puppeteers throughout the production schedule on Child’s Play (2019). “Lars was in our Vancouver studio nearly every day of prep. We doodled out shot design and got into the experience on a visual level, and he’d come and work in our kitchen, helping us all focus on the script. Lars oversaw nearly every aspect of our effects and puppet builds, and he really embraced our team and our weird work, and led the charge even when some of us were completely overworked. He’s an impressive human being.”
“On set, we led with practical effects with nearly everything, and only resorted to VFX when either it didn’t make sense to do a setup practically, or it was physically impossible, like some of Chucky’s big movement shots. We did have a great walking rig for the puppets and could get a few steps in, but most of these were CG to make them effective and more expressive. Chucky’s faces were practically expressive, though, via remote control using servos, as Kevin Yagher had done. But in certain shots, Chucky did require CG-help to really nail the appropriate expressions to tell certain aspects of the story.”
While the primary directive on Child’s Play (2019) was the new Buddi doll, the remake also features several ambitious and intricate death scenes, including the two-timer Shane (David Lewis) being torn to shreds and his face removed so that it could adorn a watermelon (a shockingly gruesome present that Chucky leaves for his best pal Andy, played by Gabriel Bateman) and the film’s bloodbath finale inside Zedmart, which features not only Chucky going into full-blown killer mode, but we also get a cavalcade of robotic creatures looking to inflict some pain and death of their own.
“We had way too much fun with Shane’s death,” admitted Masters. “That one was led by MastersFX Lead Artist Chris Devitt, and there were many others involved, too. It really was this funny thing in the script in the way that it was written, and we knew we needed to really achieve that guy’s look and expression (stretched over a watermelon)so that it looked right. And the watermelon was courtesy of Whole Foods. But this sequence was just a joy to design and to shoot, and there was a great sense of team spirit on this one. We really wanted it to be an over-the-top payoff, and feel very ridiculous, like something you would have seen in the '80s.”
“For the finale inside the Zedmart, not only did we have to create piles of practical effects, but we ended up shooting it week one when production had originally told us that we were shooting the Franken-Chucky scene in the basement. So that was a big surprise, and it was really tough to pull off. Especially because we had fallen behind on Hero puppet builds since the studio had come in and asked for last-second changes. Keith [Arbuthnot], our lead puppeteer, and his animatronic teammate, Josh [Raymond], worked around the clock, for days, leading up to the shoot, and they were the true heroes of this show.”
“We were all raw by that first shoot week, and I thought I was going to lose people, but the team really rallied, and somehow we did it and kept ahead of the shoot's needs, too, but just barely. And speaking of bears, those Buddi Bears that you see at the end were actually Chucky dolls in a little bear suit—I kid you not! I am glad it worked out so well, even if I still am feeling some of the madness of this shoot one year later.”
Go HERE to catch up on our previous coverage of Child's Play (2019), including more interviews with the cast and crew, and below, you can check out the full list of the MastersFX team that worked on the new Child's Play:
ANIMATRONIC PUPPETS and PROSTHETIC FX
SUPERVISING MFX ART DIRECTORS
and HAIRY ROBOT PRODUCTIONS
Jason Ward and Lori Sandnes
MAKEUP FX & PUPPET FX
LOGISTICS and SUPPORT
CHUCKY DESIGNED BY