Tooth Fairies and Limb Vendors: Creatures of Hellboy’s World
“I have always loved movies where the star is the monster. That has branded my view of art and storytelling all my life,” says del Toro. The director demonstrates this devotion to monsters of all shapes and sizes in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. “In the first movie, we did big, big creatures,” he says. “One thing I wanted to explore this time was what would happen if the first attack came from tiny creatures that are actually cute.”
Hence, the tooth fairies were born. Dainty and almost Tinkerbell-like, the fairies have little else in common with their spritely namesake; they have an insatiable appetite for calcium and are happiest when eating through human flesh to get to it. “Guillermo outdid himself on the cuteness scale with the tooth fairies, but they’re nasty little things,” says Selma Blair.
Solution Studios created an animatronic tooth fairy for a scene in the B.P.R.D.’s medical bay in which Johann reanimates the fairy, but the full-scale infestation of the burrowing predators in the auction house fell to Mike Wassel’s visual effects team. He would seamlessly create the swarm that attacked the B.P.R.D. after the carnivores had already eaten through a number of auction guests earlier in the evening. Wassel’s crew would need to make it appear as if Hellboy, Liz and Abe were frantically gunning and flaming through the nest of fairies.
Wassel’s group also created the plantlike Elemental creature, which stands more than 70’ tall after water activates its properties. Interestingly, the Elemental “seed” comes from Nuada’s grenade; the weapon shoots out magical Elemental spores that, after touching water, sprout into a forest and will choke anything in their way to achieve the goal of reforestation. Originally used by elves to grow an ecosystem, it’s been eons since one has been activated.
Solution also designed the juggernaut Golden Army soldiers, which play on-screen as 16’-tall mechanical robots that morph from an egglike state to full militia. This Golden Army has been dormant since Balor put them to rest, but it has been silently waiting for a new wearer of the crown to command them. Del Toro asked his artists for an enormous chamber that could house the hundreds of golden eggs. The stunning designs were brought to life at Solution.
Prosthetic creatures abound in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. With more than two dozen of them on set over the course of the shoot, the Hellboy II creature department was one of the production’s largest. Spectral Motion from Los Angeles took charge of 15 characters. Solution Studios, Creature Effects and Euroart Studios from the U.K., DDT from Spain and Filmefex from Hungary also made contributions to the horde of trolls, goblins and creatures of the night.
“This is the most massively scaled film I’ve ever worked on,” says Mike Elizalde, founder of Spectral Motion. “It’s been challenging, but also rewarding because of the cleverness and relevance to the story that each character has.”
Spectral Motion’s many achievements include Wink, the Prince’s lumbering sidekick and a match for Hellboy in brute strength. He is portrayed by actor Brian Steele, who is 6’7” tall as Steele, but 7’5” as the drooling beast. The Wink suit, an animatronic masterpiece, weighs 130 pounds. Coupled with Steele’s body mass, the suit was stunning that he could maneuver, much less walk, as long as he was able in the suit. Wink’s facial expressions and the movements of his weaponlike hand (with built-in mace) were controlled via radio by puppeteers.
“The finish, the quality, the mechanics, the articulation, the personality that these prosthetic characters have been given is incredible. The first time we all saw Wink, we couldn’t believe it. The whole set just stopped and assembled around him; it was spellbinding,” lauds executive producer Chris Symes.
Stunt coordinator BRAD ALLAN sums the cast and crew’s respect for Brian Steele’s work: “The effort Brian goes through just to make this character walk is amazing, let alone fight.”
Elizalde’s painstakingly detailed daily routine included the application of Hellboy’s prosthetic makeup. Perlman’s entire face was covered, along with much of his neck, arms and torso, in a process that typically required about three hours. “To wear rubber glued to your body and face and then get in front of the camera and, on cue, give the emotion you’re supposed to give is tough,” says Elizalde. “Ron is a great actor, and his emotion reads through the makeup.”
Del Toro agrees. “Sometimes I have to push, or pull back, a performer in prosthetics until he/she finds the right wavelength,” he explains. “But with Ron, there’s no need. The man is a master in makeup.”
As noted, it took makeup artists THOM FLOUTZ and SIMON WEBBER five hours every day to transform Doug Jones into Abe Sapien. The process for his new characters, the massive Angel of Death and the simpering Chamberlain, was also labor-intensive.
Remarks Perlman: “The Angel of Death was, to me, the most impressive of the new makeups and conceits that has been created for the film. She’s got eight wings and stands 9-feet tall on an 80-pound frame.”
“I always play characters under gobs of makeup and obstacles,” Jones muses. “Sometimes they’re heavy; sometimes they’re hot; sometimes they’re glued on…or there’s a mask with mechanics, which keeps me from hearing the other characters’ dialogue, or there’s a vision problem and I can’t see where I’m supposed to put my prop. But my job is to look as if I wake up this way every day, and the design work is so beautiful that it becomes something really fun for me to give motion to.”
For the character of Johann, Dodd explains the need for multiple performers: “I’ve got two animators that are on very big radio-controlled units. One animates my mouth, which is basically two little things that pop up and down in time to whatever I’m saying. And the other one controls how much smoke you can see in my glass bubble, as well as—at various key moments—these two eye-like things on the front of my mask that are a form of breathing apparatus. Every time Johann wants to sigh, or there’s a climactic moment, smoke will shoot out of that point.”
For the many other creatures—from the Tadpole Vendor to Cathedral Head to a bevy of trolls—del Toro commissioned a number of artists to work on their creation, and left it to one of the shops to bring them to life. He is well known to bounce ideas from one artist to another; the results are an amalgam of designs that look as if they have existed since the dawn of time.