We love zombies here at Legacy, they are one of the most fun creatures to create in design stage and fabrication. One of the many zombie pieces we had the privilege to work on is the Honda Zombie commercial from 2012.
This piece was great, because we got to make a zombie as if he is involved in every day life. He golfs, he goes to work, he socializes, and he drives a Honda! Because he dresses like you and me, we were only required to make prosthetic effects for his head and hands. These effects were able to be your typical foam latex appliques that started as sculpted clay over a casting of the actor’s face.
It’s so cool to take an established piece of pop culture and distort what is expected of it. Commercials tend to be the best place for that and we’re so glad to be a part. Check back all month for new posts featuring creeps, ghoulies and monsters. We’re “dying” to show you more.
UPDATE! Check out this awesome behind the scenes video we threw together for the loveable, yet unruly Zicam Cold Monster, and continue on to the post below.
Zicam… Sounds like a cold medication, not a creature effect, right? Well, strangely enough, it is a cold medication and a creature effect. The Zicam Cold Monster, represents the person feeling a cold creeping up on them. But how do you accurately represent that “pre-cold” feeling in physical form? Well, you go to Legacy Effects.
I seeeeeeee yoooooou…
A while back, AD Agency Grok!, Production Company MJZ and director Rocky Morton came to us with the grand idea to create a creature that embodies a pre-cold. The sneezing, aching, runny nose, red itchy watery eyes… all the symptoms that make you feel like a “monster” would become an actual monster. Although this particular monster had to be big, intimidating, and sick, he needed to be a somewhat sympathetic character.
That’s where Zicam comes in. The basic moral of the story is: “You can run, but you can’t hide”. However, you can fight back, and that is exactly what Zicam does. When you take Zicam in the early stages of an oncoming cold, it essentially shortens the cold and lessens the symptoms, as illustrated in the moment when the Cold Monster is hit by the Zicam truck.
Both the director and the agency decided that the character needed to feel more real and alive when interacting with actors on set, and they wanted a real physical presence for their character. Most of the creature effects were achieved in camera, with some CG enhancement of facial expressions . We created the character designs digitally, because this allows us to create many different designs visible in a 360˚ rotational format. Our Lead Designer, Scott Patton, is a wizard with 3D design and was able to conceptualize 30-40 different character designs along with numerous variations for review within a few days time. After several tiers of approvals, a design is finalized and the fabrication can begin.
Me, Myself and I
No wonder he caught a cold.
To keep the translation of the character as true as possible, Legacy rapid prototyped Scott’s design of the character head, hands and feet. While the body and limbs were fabricated by hand to match the body proportions. The Zicam Cold Monster needed to be larger than life, and twice as hairy. At over 7 feet tall and operated by a 6’ 3” performer, he is one of the larger creatures we worked on this year. Bruce Mitchell is the operating performer, Bruce not only controlled the internal working of the Cold Monster, but he also led the fabrication of the suit along with Ted Haines and Mark Maitre, while Pete Clarke watched over the mechanical head. One of the biggest challenges in making a suit like this, is making sure it doesn’t look like just some guy in a suit. Exaggerated proportions, extreme height, and facial mechanics are a great way to offset this feeling.
Let me give you a hand.
Upon completion, the suit weighed over 80 pounds, and the head carried over 30 servos for expressions operating just inches from Mitchell’s face. You can imagine that his vision was limited at best. Mitchell used special goggles that allowed him to see the camera’s view, along with vocal cues and directions piped into the suit. It took a four man crew to operate and maintain the character on set. 1 suit performer, 2 facial puppeteers, and a 1 dresser. Not a bad group of assistants for a cold riddled monster.
Creating creatures and monsters can be a lot of fun. Especially when they are kind of endearing and kid-friendly–even if they are dripping with snot (the monster, not the kids). A great design and an intriguing hook are essential to advertising, and Zicam’s character is a great example of that. We stepped up to that challenge, and this creature remains very close to our heart. We look forward to helping Zicam on future projects with this character. See the official commercial below, and be sure to protect yourself from lurking Cold Monsters. Thanks for checking in!
Beans, beans, the magical… commercial?!? Everyone is familiar with Jay Bush of Bush’s Baked Beans and his loveable talking dog, Duke. But you probably wouldn’t expect to see Legacy involved in commercial effects for baked beans. Well, surprise!
Just before Christmas of 2012, Bush’s Baked Beans contacted us for a new commercial idea for their popular brand. The spot features Duke, the talking golden retriever, showing Jay his brilliant idea for talking Jay and Duke action figures. Of course, these figures did not really exist, so that’s where Legacy stepped in. When considering making a likeness puppet or action figure, our philosophy is that there is no better and more accurate way to start the process than to digitally scan the actor. As soon as the job was awarded, our scan-master extraordinaire, Jason Lopes, got together with the man himself, Jay Bush. Using a hand held scanner, which looks similar to R.O.B the NES controller, Jason is able to scan Jay from head to toe and build him as a 3D model in real time. It’s quite an amazing piece of machinery, and saves a lot of time in building a 3D model by hand. Jay was more than accommodating and patient to hold several expressions and poses while Jason scanned his head and body.
Once the scanning is finished, and after getting Jay to autograph a can of baked beans for Jason, it’s back to L.A. to start building these figures. Since scanning a dog is a bit more challenging than scanning a human, Duke is digtially sculpted from scratch in 3D in his action figure pose. While Duke is being worked on, digital sculpting and clean-up on Jay is happening, getting him ready to be “grown”, or 3D printed, on the Connex500 3D printer. The mechanical parts and fixtures that make the puppet’s mouth move are modeled and integrated into each figure’s interior. We even grew Jay’s glasses, possibly the smallest thing we have ever grown.
Once grown, the figures are sanded and polished to the proper level, achieving just the right level of detail to look like a mass produced injection molded toy. Since they are action figures, we grew the characters in ABS plastic to be as durable as possible. Jay’s head is the exception, we molded his head and cast it in a silicone so his mouth can move without any ventriloquist doll-like seam lines.
Once all the pieces are grown, the figures are painted, assembled and rigged for puppeteering. Since the action in these figures is relatively simple, we pulled it off with cable rigging and old school puppeteer tricks. Jay is outfitted with an arm raising motion and moveable mouth, and Duke is given a moveable mouth and wagging tail. The cables are fed through small ports on the backsides of the figures and controlled off screen, by Jay himself. The cables are then removed digitally in post, but for the most part all effects are caught on camera. And now Jay Bush has his own personal action figure!
This was a very fun project to work on, and proof that no job is too small for us, here at Legacy. We even had the honor of meeting Jay and Duke, who were both awesome to work with (even though Duke kept trying to sell us the Secret Family Recipe–he is relentless, that’s for sure). All in all, it is another exciting new project completed! Now, let’s roll that beautiful bean footage!
Everyone is familiar with DIRECTV, and over the years they have released some very memorable adverts. Recently they were prepping to release 4 new ads for their service featuring the popular “DIRECTV Genie”. Director Tom Kuntz was looking for a large tortoise to bite the finger of an actor in one of these spots. The hope was to get a real “actor” tortoise to perform in the scene, but if you have ever met a tortoise in person, you know they tend to march to the beat of their own drum –slowly. Unfortunately for them, it was decided that a real tortoise would not work for this ad other than for distance shots, so production company MJZ approached Legacy for some solutions to their tortoise needs.
Freshly off of Life of Pi, we were in full-fledged animal mode. We went straight to work, heading to the nearest animal park to study and scan real life tortoises for the piece. The tortoise was digitally sculpted and then the large shell and front legs were milled in dense foam, while the head and neck were grown on our own Objet 3D Printer. It was decided that we could bring this character effect to life with a hand-operated puppet head accented with a few animatronic effects, ie: eye and lip movement. Originally, it was decided by production, that all that was needed for the effect to work was the head, neck and part of the shell of the tortoise. Being the perfectionists that we are, we couldn’t just provide half a tortoise. In order to really make the effect work and make it as convincing as possible, we made a more complete tortoise than what was asked for. We decided to provide the full fiberglass shell, platinum silicone head cored for a human hand and similar silicone front legs for the final piece. It was fashioned in a way that the puppeteer could be in the tortoise shell and operate the head from inside.
With no more than 10 days of construction from award to shooting, we are happy with the direction we chose, because this tortoise turned out very well, and the director was glad that the additional shell gave him more options on set. At Legacy, we strive to make the product the best we can, trying to think of not only what production asks for, but what they may not no they need until they are on set. We love creating effects, and hope that reflects in all of our work. View the final advertisement below, and check out the following DIRECTV ad posts coming soon.