What a dream job this guy has. Peter Chevako, who worked with Alterian Ghost Factory, Inc., on Cult of Chucky (review), has designed, fabricated and performed animatronic puppets all over the world and is a mo-cap suit performer as well. In addition to working in feature films, TV and commercials Peter has designed specialty items for theme parks and the medical industry.
But his job isn’t easy. It’s exacting work. When we caught up with Chevako in the workshop the other day, he showed us a de-skinned Chucky (think: the metal-skeleton version of The Terminator, but only 3-feet tall) and, with a complex system of cables running from it to mechanical apparatus, he could be several feet away and make Chucky’s pinky flick in the slightest. He says the controls are pretty much 1:1 on pressure and leverage, so in order to make delicate movements the puppeteer uses a feather touch.
When we asked what kind of skills make for a good puppeteer, Chevako says, “It’s being able to channel the character you’re bringing to life. To really feel it, and become it in a sense.” He explains it often takes several people to work a single Chucky (one for the expressions, one for the hands, one for ambulation, etc.) and yet, when the puppeteers gather to watch playback on the monitor during filming, they are as one: grimacing, smiling, gesticulating in unison along with the doll onscreen. They really get into it!
So does Don Mancini, the writer of the original Child’s Play, and the writer-director of the new movie, Cult of Chucky. “He’s so enthusiastic,” Chevako says, “but also so concentrated. When I look at him he’s not just thinking about the scene, but the whole legacy of Chucky in a way. He’s really very focused and just very concentrated.”
“In this movie, there’s some humorous bits where the three Chuckys are joking around on how they killed this doctor, and Don would be laughing. A lot of times he would sit next to me because I do the lip synch and I have a monitor and so I’m moving his mouth, and so Don would be looking at the monitor so intensely. It’s just inspiring because it’s his whole soul going into this doll.” Yikes! If that’s the case, keep the cutlery away from Mancini.
Speaking of speaking, we wondered if Brad Dourif, who voices Chucky, is on set, or does he pre-record, record afterward, or what? “We get the sound files [in advance], I load them into a computer and so I actually sit with just the head and program the movements before I get to set,” Peter explains. “Then I record the movement. So that when we get to set, whatever head is going to be on whatever body, we assemble it there but the actual performance of the lips is already recorded.” That’s the ideal scenario, but “With the exception of – especially on the previous movie [Curse of Chucky] – there were a lot of lines that got changed on set, so I would do them live and Brad would have to ADR after. In this one, the whole scene with the three Chuckys, was done that way, so we had to do it [on set]. Don and I recorded it – we did the performance then Brad matched his voice to our movements, which isn’t how it’s usually done.”
Chevako says he had a great time making Cult of Chucky, and that he thinks the audience is really going to love seeing all the practical effects – all of Chucky’s expressions are “real” and even when he’s walking it’s the doll with a puppeteer clad in green-screen material walking behind and working the arms and legs. Pretty impressive!
You will have your chance to see Chevako and Alterian’s magic at work when Cult of Chucky premieres on October 3, 2017.
Written and directed by Don Mancini, Cult of Chucky stars Fiona Dourif, Alex Vincent, Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Michael Therriault, and Elisabeth Rosen.
Confined to an asylum for the criminally insane for the past four years, Nica (Dourif) is wrongly convinced that she, not Chucky, murdered her entire family. But when her psychiatrist introduces a new group therapy tool — a “Good Guy” doll — a string of grisly deaths plague the asylum and Nica starts to wonder if maybe she isn’t crazy after all.
Andy (Vincent), Chucky’s now-grown up nemesis from the original Child’s Play, races to Nica’s aid. But to save her he’ll have to get past Tiffany (Tilly), Chucky’s long-ago bride, who will do anything, no matter how deadly or depraved, to help her beloved devil doll.
- Inside the Insanity of Cult of Chucky — Viewers will discover what it was like to film inside an insane asylum and the challenges production faced on set. They’ll also hear from the cast and filmmakers as they discuss why they were attracted to this story and how the filmmakers’ vision brought this fun-filled horror film together.
- Good Guy Gone Bad: The Incarnations of Chucky — This featurette offers a peek into Alterian’s workshop, the studio behind Chucky’s puppeteering, to see how the magic is created and focuses on how the look of Chucky has evolved over the years.
- Feature Commentary with Director and Writer Don Mancini and Head Puppeteer Tony Gardner.