This weekend, while Woody and Buzz are making you cry, Chucky will be making ’em die.
Yes, the ginger-haired, maniacal doll is back in theaters for the first time since 2004’s “Seed of Chucky” in the new movie “Child’s Play.” (The last two entries in the franchise were direct-to-video.)
The scary film isn’t just another tweaked reboot, but a completely different take on the iconic character.
In the 1988 original, a voodoo curse sent the soul of a Chicago murderer into a children’s toy which went on a revenge killing spree. Now, for a more technologically advanced era, Chucky’s bloodlust is a factory defect.
So, while you’ll recognize aspects of the toy that gave you nightmares, he’s really Chucky 2.0.
“There’s definitely some respect paid toward the original design,” says Todd Masters, president of MastersFX, the firm which created the doll. “His costume is still striped, and he’s still got the suspenders.”
But, he adds, “There’s other stuff that we definitely wanted to make sure that we weren’t too close to.”
He compares Chucky to a cup of Joe.
“We kind of thought of it as the Starbucks logo,” Masters says. “Think about how that logo got simpler over time and now you can barely even tell it’s a mermaid. So, we kind of took the corporate polish off it, and kept removing parts of it and made it more and more simplistic.”
The concept for the re-imagined character began with discussions with the film’s Norwegian director, Lars Klevberg, who found a nontraditional inspiration for a freaky horror villain: his 3-year-old child.
“He’d talk a lot about his young son, and how curious he was and how he’d take in information,” Masters says. “How he’d look at Lars with his big eyes and subtle emotions.”
With a toddler’s naiveté in mind, Masters, his team and designer Einar Martinsen aimed to not over-animate Chucky and turn him into some hyperactive puppet. They explored simple ways the new life-form would learn pain and discover the real world around him.
To understand how a toy from a store works, Masters “hacked up a bunch of dolls” and found the key to making Chucky an emotionally compelling character is keeping him real. The doll is, for the most part, totally tactile — not computer animation — save for some enhancements to his eyes.
“Practical things, for whatever reason, seem to touch us more,” he adds. The team built six normal dolls, plus a variety of stunt toys, and individual body parts.
Once the props were ready, Klevberg would sit on the ground and play with them — discovering how Chucky moves and repositioning his mouth and eyes to create expressions. Klevberg also experimented with different lighting angles. That’s when Masters saw that the classic way works best, comparing the doll’s shift from cute to sadistic to none other than actress Joan Crawford.
“She has such an amazing face,” he says. “If you light from the top, she’s evil. If you light from the side, she’s softer.”