From the make up work of Lon Chaney who, without any kind of education or training, simply figured out how to transform himself into a legion of tortured monstrosities, through the building of full-scale physical monsters, to modern film techniques utilising motion capture and creating the iconic creatures on a computer screen, the history of the craft of designing creatures, monsters, and humanoids is given a loving discussion by those responsible for some of the most iconic creations of the last several decades.
Major contributors are effects luminaries such as Rick Baker, Tom Woodruff Jr, Phil ‘Raptors in the goddamn kitchen’ Tippett, and Greg Nicotero; directors Guillermo del Toro, John Landis, Joe Dante, and Kevin Smith; as well as actor Matt Winston (son of the late and much-missed Stan), and you can feel the passion the guys have for the craft in every loving description of the conception and development of each idea.
Quite surprising is the lack of actual film footage used to illustrate the points. It was evidently (and quite correctly) felt that the sight of these creations in their dormant but nevertheless meticulously constructed state was enough to inspire suitable awe in viewers without a repetition of the shots for which they are most well known, while the explanations of the exhaustive and intensive process that went into their constructions allows us to fully appreciate just how much work it takes to bring to life even one such creation.
Rob Bottin is mentioned by several contributors throughout but noticeable by his absence, and from a comment late in the film it transpires that he gave up on the industry due to the lack of respect he was receiving. Likewise, Tom Savini is nowhere to be seen (and in fact, is only even mentioned once), which is a little surprising given that he is a name that general audiences are most likely to be familiar with.
A fascinating look into a side of filmmaking rarely granted the prominence it deserves, Creature Designers presents the creation process with as much reverence and enthusiasm as the artists themselves have for it, so much so that it might even inspire people to give it go themselves.
CREATURE DESIGNERS: THE FRANKENSTEIN COMPLEX / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR: GILLES PENSO, ALEXANDRE PONCET / STARRING: RICK BAKER, PHIL TIPPETT, TOM WOODRUFF JR, GREG NICOTERO, GUILLERMO DEL TORO, JOE DANTE, JOHN LANDIS / RELEASE DATE: TBA