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.
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.
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.
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!