Old Friends, New Buddi: A Conversation With Effects Legend Todd Masters

June 2, 2019

Photo Courtesy Orion Pictures & MastersFX 2019

 

Todd Masters has been in the special effects game for over three decades, with his work spanning from horror classics such as Dead Heat, Night of the Creeps and Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight to modern greats Slither and Fido, and even comedies, including White Chicks and Look Who’s Talking. His studio, MastersFX, lists a resume on their website that reads like a who’s who of the cinematic world. The word “staggering” comes to mind when looking at all of the projects that Masters and his studio has been a part of. He’s even circling back around on some franchises, having worked on the newest entry in the Predator franchise that released last year.

 

Most recently, though, his studio was involved with the new take on the legendary Child’s Play, set to release through Orion Pictures on June 21st. Through a process spanning roughly two months, Masters and his team created the animatronic dolls that grace the screen in the film. “It was a lot of puppets to make very fast,” Masters admits. There was one “Robo Chucky,” two “Heroes” (which were operated by rods operated by puppeteers), two stunt Chuckys (that would face all kinds of abuse throughout shooting), and a couple of boxed Chuckys (used for store models, the collector’s items of sorts). MastersFX used all of their shops, located in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto, to make molds, moving parts, and interchangeable parts such as heads and hands.

 

Masters knew that no matter what his team and production did with the dolls, that they would face criticism from the fanbase, especially the diehard Chucky fans, but that was OK. “I’m glad people are a little agitated by [Chucky],” Masters says. “So if they hate the fucker, let them hate the fucker.” This isn’t the Chucky from thirty years ago, folks. The new Chucky is a so-called “Smart doll,” using technology not unlike Alexa and Cortana to create the user experience. “Horror is a subtle, abstract perspective,” Masters notes. “When we look back at films from thirty years ago, it’s more obvious, like ‘Oh, that was during Reaganomics!’ As such, this is not the same movie that it was thirty years ago.”

 

He does go on, however, to talk about the resurgence of movie monsters and would-be “creature features” in the modern age. “When the world delivers real assholes, real monsters, and real horrors, you kind of need things like this, like Chucky or Freddy or whoever it is, to be like our partner in present-world horror.” When man becomes the monster… well, fill in the blank.

 

In some scenes, Chucky is being operated by rods held by puppeteers, limb by limb. Masters accredits the success and smoothness of the shooting of these difficult shots not only to his own team, but to the vision of director Lars Klevberg. “He was always motivated by the shot, rather than by guesswork. He used storyboards to figure out what he wanted to show on-screen, and plugged in the parts and pieces from there.”

 

As a haunt actor and makeup artist, I can appreciate the work that goes into making a monster, especially a little "Good Guy" (or "Buddi" in this case) like Chucky. Being able to talk to a legend of the industry, as Todd Masters is, was something special. Child’s Play hits theaters on June 21 via Orion Pictures.

 

Check out some behind the scenes photos showcasing the creation of Chucky below.

Photo Courtesy Orion Pictures & MastersFX 2019

Photo Courtesy Orion Pictures & MastersFX 2019

Photo Courtesy Orion Pictures & MastersFX 2019

Photo Courtesy Orion Pictures & MastersFX 2019

Photo Courtesy Orion Pictures & MastersFX 2019

Photo Courtesy Orion Pictures & MastersFX 2019

Photo Courtesy Orion Picture

 

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