The FX of Hellboy II!
All the way back since 1986, Mike Elizalde has been offering the cinematic world some wonderfully inventive creatures. From HELLBOY to the Silver Surfer in FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, he has created some memorable movie magic. Early on, his creatures found life in the confines of Mike’s garage. But it was with Hellboy in 2003, he was offered a wonderful chance courtesy of Guillermo del Toro to reinvent the famous character in live action form.
The challenge and eventual success of this collaboration, lead Mike and his wife Mary to the realization of Spectral Motion. Their company continues to play a major role in modern day special effects including HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY and the upcoming LAND OF THE LOST. Mike graciously offered JoBlo/Arrow in the Head to stop by his studio and get a look at what goes on behind the scenes.
And when I first arrived, I couldn’t help but notice the savagely beautiful life size sculpture of Sammael, the hound of resurrection, the seed of destruction. But you can just call him Sammael. This monstrously huge beastie sits in the lobby greeting visitors to Spectral Motion. Already, this seems like the coolest place to work… ever. Other than Sammael, there is much to see as the walls are covered with posters, and several other sculptures which surrounded me. I especially loved Hellboy’s corpse friend. There is so much goodness in the front lobby alone, I couldn’t wait to talk shop with Mike.
Once Mike and I found our way to his office, again, I was extremely excited to see all of the character busts he had surrounding him. This really is the greatest place to work. And the thing about Mike and his company, I found there to be an absolute love for the work. He is a very down-to-earth dude that is as much a lover of genre filmmaking as a part of the process. His creatures, whether animatronic, special make-up effects or monsters themselves all come from a genuine place. After all, it takes a special kind of artist to create such memorable characters that are as much alive on screen as the actors themselves.
After the interview, we walked through his house of wonders where all the magic takes place. In the main workshop, he showed me how it was all put together. Surprisingly, it was just a very large room where there was an animatronic department, a molding department and everything else you could think of. I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of some fantastic creations including the “Sleestaks” from LAND OF THE LOST which he is also working with Universal Studios on. I’m getting excited for that flick. I also saw several other creations including some early molds that just might not make the cut for HELLBOY 2... But hey, there is always HELLBOY 3.
After that, I got to see where they created the virtual images of future characters. It is amazing how far technology for this kind of art has come. Although the way many of these artists work, it is very much rooted in making it as photo realistic as possible. I for one prefer practical effects with CG used to enhance. I still get nostalgic watching some of those films from the Eighties that didn’t have computer generated visuals. And you know what, oftentimes, they looked a hell of a lot better than some of what we get today. This is why it is so exciting to see all that can be created by taking the best of both worlds in regards to modern day effects.
As we were finishing our tour, I got a chance to see the massive oven used to make the molds. I mean this thing was insane… and it is damn hot, even when it is not being used. Spectal Motion is not located inside a very large building, but what they accomplish in this space is very impressive. There are so many people working with Mike to make the effects work. I even talked to a couple of ladies that were sewing in “hair” onto some masks which looked to be a very labored process. I was impressed with everyone and everything I saw within these walls, inside a company that is about to bring Hellboy and pals to life again for THE GOLDEN ARMY.
Mike and Mary have created an amazing little company. And thanks goes out to Mike for taking the time to chat and show me around with camera in hand. For more information on Spectral Motion, you should check out www.spectralmotion.com and see all sorts of goodness that they have to offer. And of course, look for the Golden Army to be in full force come July 11th, when HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY will be playing at a theatre near you.
Let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to JimmyO@joblo.com