Gremlins in the Garage!

Interview with Jeff Brower
by Ed Martinez
Conducted in 1996
Part 1

EM: Last time we spoke with you, you had just completed the sculpture of the female cenobite.
JB: The next one after the female was the new pinhead, with the altar of souls.

EM: Whose idea was that?
JB: One day, on his way back from New York, Dan Fay had a brain storm that it was a good idea to do another Pinhead. It was shortly before the Christmas season, and they wanted to try to get a Christmas pre-order out. It was done very rapidlly, a quick decision, I think. I had fifteen days to do the sculpture.

EM: That's short in comparison to other projects, right?
JB: Yeah. The altar of souls was done in one marathon eighteen hour session. That is with the exception of the back. I came in later and finished the back. That's why the back is sort of flat.

EM: How did you go about it as far as armatures, reference, sculpting materials, etc.
JB: It was a pretty standard wire armature, and Sculpey.

EM: Aluminum armature wire, or copper?
JB: I think I used coat-hanger wire, whatever was at hand. Actually I start with scale drawings. I find out what the height of the character is and I do a 1/4 scale drawing, with the figure standing straight, like you would at the doctor's office.

EM: Where did you get the information for the different heights of the characters?
JB: I think I just made it the same size as the other Pinhead.

EM: So that if you put all of the Cenobite kits next to each other, they would be in the correct size in relation to one another.
JB: Yes. I draw a sort of a stick figure within the 1/4 scale drawings and use it as a template for my armature. So the armature is done unposed.

EM: Who chose the pose?
JB: Daniel Fay. We were originally going to do the third Pinhead (from the third movie). It was going to be the crucifixion scene in the church, where he's laughing. It just wasn't working out. Out of context, it was hard to make him look sinister. It looked like he was having a ball, like he was singing an opera or something.

EM: Do you sculpt the head separately from the body?
JB: No. We decided to make it a snarl instead of a laugh on his face. We also decided it would be better to go back to the original look of Pinhead. Within the space of a fifteen day job, he changed quite drastically.

EM: What kind of photographic reference did you have to work from?
JB: Normal stuff, like the Hellraiser Chronicles book and the movie itself. I use freeze-frame a lot. There were a lot of good photos in the book. I had the Hellraiser trading cards, too.

EM: Give us a little information on your sculpting technique.
JB: I generally put off detailing as long as possible. The longer you keep a sculpture in it's rough form, the better the chance you have of getting good anatomy. Once you do the detail, you fall in love with it and don't want to change it.

EM: After you do the armature. do you make a naked man, with musculature before you do the final layer with the leather.
JB: Yes, that's exactly what I do. But Pinhead didn't get complete legs, just the suggestion of legs. Then the folds of the skirt were worked over that. A layer of Sculpey was stretched over that to give the suggestion of musculature showing through the leather costume.

EM: Did you find it difficult to obtain a likeness of Doug Bradley?
JB: Frankly, I wish the likeness had been a bit better. I've heard it commented that Tom Kuntz' likeness was better on the first Pinhead, and I can't disagree. In terms of the rest of it, I quite like it. I think the Pose is dramatic.

EM: I think that since the first Pinhead kit there has been more information available about the details on the costume, such as the leather piece on the back of the head, etc., so that's all more accurate now.
JB: Yes, so that was good. And I quite liked doing the altar of souls.

EM: Where did that idea come from?
JB: I think that was my idea. I saw the pillar of souls (in the movie) and I liked the idea that the character of Pinhead would have, something to relate to, instead of just relating to a void. With all the Cenobites I've done, I tried to do that to some extent, where the most obvious one being the female, beckoning Butterball with that sort of Flasher look to him. I wanted Pinhead to have something to relate to, so the chains coming out of the box were supposed to be stiffened and coming out straight at you. But not a whole lot of people build it that way. A lot of the time, they don't stiffen the chair. It's like that on the box, but most people don't try to imitate that.

EM: Did you do the one that is built and painted on the box?
JB: Yes.

EM: What kind of reference did you have to do the pillar of souls?
JB: Well, some of those reference pictures were provided by you. I believe. Your pictures were great: they were a big help.

EM: Did you do the mold work on the Pinhead?
JB: Yes, I did all the mold work on it. That was all done fairly rapidly. In fact there's a crack that appears on his chest that I never did have a chance to fix. It's kind of frustrating because I usually spend a lot of time doing that on other people's sculptures. But Overall. I think it's a very minor frustration. I think it's a great piece. You know what I think is a great idea with this kit? To use very small finishing nails on the hands. Pins seem to just be too small and disappear against his hands.

EM: What was the next project?
JB: Actually the next one, Luke Skywalker, was begun prior to Pinhead. It's taken three years to come out and it'll be released in the next few weeks. The idea was all along to have Luke positioned so that he could be fighting Darth Vader. It got put off for one thing after another, and just became a real nightmare. The Sculpey dried out and cracked. It required a great deal of repair. In the process the face got set to a point where I just couldn't change it anymore. It wasn't quite right, but it got sent off to Lucas film anyway and rejected. I had to entirely re-sculpt the head. and it was rejected again because they didn't like the expression on his face. They sent it back again, and I just scraped the expression off his face. It was very frustrating. I didn't think it was too bad. But eventually they accepted the sculpture and the Luke Skywalker kit will be out very soon.

EM: Tell us a little about the Mars Attacks project.
JB: We started with the 3 1/6th scale heads which became the special limited edition three heads and a base resin kit. Originally Mars Attacks was going to be a 1/6 scale Project.

EM: You mean with whole bodies and everything in 1/6 scale?
JB: Yes, it would have been huge. It would have been really difficult to do dioramas in 1/6 scale. So, Dan found a guy who could do those resin arms and legs which enabled us to do the kits as 1/8 scale instead of 1/6. So, we switched over and I sculpted three new heads in 1/8 scale.

EM: So the 1/6 heads were sort of an aborted attempt?
JB: Yes, and we had these three heads left over that we didn't know what to do with, so Daniel suggested that I sculpt a little Mars Attacks base and we offered them on little clear acrylic rods as a special limited offer kit. So that's what we did.

EM: So you did all three Mars Attacks heads?
JB: Yes: Tendril Face, the Attacking Martian, and the Flying Saucer Martian. I also did the interior of the cockpit for the Flying Saucer Martian kit. We had come up with the outside of the saucer and it was going to be made in vinyl. For manufacturing reasons, it had to be constructed in meltable materials. So it had to be wax and meltable plastics. Using metal washers and other found objects, I would have to make little impromptu molds so that I could create my washers out of sculpting wax so that they could burn out. On Mars Attacks I did a lot of wax work, a lot of finishing work, and a lot of radius work.

EM: What exactly is radius work?
JB: The vinyl pieces are made in metal molds and any fine lines in the molds act as knife edges and actually cut the vinyl pieces as they come out. So this is why the real hard edges have to be cleaned out for vinyl casting. Because otherwise the pieces will just get shredded as they come out of the mold. Radiusing means going through all these cracks and lines and so forth and making sure they have a rounded (radiused) edge not a sharp edge.

EM: So how is that done?
JB: With the use of paint brushes and sculpting tools. Its done first in the sculpture and then to the original waxes, at every stage slowly and carefully refining. It's very time consuming.

EM: So tell us, what was your next project for Screamin'?
JB: Well, after that things slowed down for a little while. Things on Mars Attacks stretched out for quite a while. In fact, we're still doing things now, such as re-tooling. We've had some complaints from people who've had difficulty fitting the clear plastic domes over their heads. So, we're re-tooling the helmets, making them a little bit bigger. So people won't have that problem anymore.

EM: Then what?
JB: After Luke Skywalker, I did a piece for an independent company. It's a winged demon and a castle base. Also. I did some Halloween projects. I still do installations for an alternative music nightclub called QE II. This year I did for them a 16 foot long bat skeleton, out of aluminum foil and spray paint. I did it in a night and a day. Compared to three years on the Luke Skywalker, that's amazing. (The name of Jeff's company is Mystic Visions. - Ed)

EM: So did you do that on location?
JB: No. I made the bones at home and then went in one night after closing and attached it to the wall. I have prior pieces too. Our vampire got a coffin this year for the first time. The werewolf got a little forest. Last year I did a werewolf out of aluminum foil. I took a real cheesy rubber werewolf mask and jazzed it up with new fangs and reshaped it from the inside, and added lots of hair and gave it glowing red eyes. The body itself was sculpted out of aluminum foil and gaffer's tape. That sort of stuff is fun; it's big and it happens fast.

EM: It gets your Halloween mood flowing.
JB: Yeah, and one of the most interesting things about it is that people will be seeing these things for the first time without knowing that the person who did it was standing right next to them. So you get this totally unedited commentary about your work. This was a time when there were a lot of changes happening at Screamin'. I started the contracts for another job with the Bureau of Historic Sights. I did a big model for them of a mansion. So that kept me busy until February when we started the Dr. Channard kit.

EM: Tell us how that Progressed?
JB: Well, I first did the design sketch and showed it to Richard Hammecher and he liked it. Most Screamin' 1/4 scale kits don't have bases. But because the tentacle is such an integral part of the look of this character, this kit is going to have a tentacle and a base.

EM: So how is that going to work?
JB: The back of one heel is going to touch the tentacle and the base, to lend it some support. Other than that he'll be raised up off the base. which is going to resemble the chamber he comes out of in the movie.

EM: Is it going to be all hollow vinyl?
JB: The base is going to be very thin, it'll look like just the top of the chamber.

EM: So, are the bases going to be hollow vinyl like the Mars Attacks bases?
JB: Yes and no. The tentacle itself will be in segments. One segment will be the torso head and top of the tentacle, all in one piece. The base and the rest of the tentacle will be in several pieces.

EM: So it will probably suggest in the instructions that you should put some sort of weighted filler in the bottom of the tentacle and the base?
JB: Yes, like plaster.

EM: And leave the body of the figure as lightweight as possible.
JB: Yes, you could use aluminum foil or newspaper as filler. I think aluminum foil is the next best thing since peanut butter. I use it a lot.

EM: What kind of reference did you have for the sculpture of Channard?
JB: I had very little reference for Channard. I had the films, and the pictures from the Hellraiser Chronicles. He's going to have his arms outstretched with the little tentacles coming from the palms of his hands. It's definitely the most detailed of all the Cenobite kits so far.

EM: Do you feel you got a good likeness to the Characters?
JB: Yes, I think so. The likeness to the actor is really not as important as the likeness to the make-up. His whole face changed in the makeup, the deformity from the wires, etc. In fact down around his nostrils, the laugh lines in a normal person goes up above the nostrils, but his follow the make-up. So you have to sculpt the make-up, not the actor. In that regard, I think it's coming out great.

EM: When do you expect to finish this pieces
JB: I hope to have it finished in two weeks. Then we'll have to go through the production process, the molding. etc. So the chronology of release will probably be: Luke Skywalker, Michael Meyers, then Dr. Channard.

EM: Can you tell us what the next projects will be?
JB: Only generally. We are going after several licenses and I'm quite excited about some of them. We've discussed doing more Hellraiser kits. My feeling is that the sophistication in the model kit market has really grown since the beginning of Screamin'. I think we have to play catch-up a little bit. I think we need to find ways to have a little more variety in how we do things. We need to continue what has been begun with things like the new Pinhead and the Mars Attacks dioramas, to have things be a little more complex than just a figure standing there. Channard is a step in this direction with the base. I think you'll see more things like that. We are also discussing doing original designs. The particulars of that have not been worked out yet, but I think somewhere within the next three or four releases, you'll see something like that.

EM: One last question. Have you seen the Netherworld Dr. Channard kit?
JB: Yes. I've seen it. It's a beautiful sculpture. I loved the base; ours is not going to be anywhere near that elaborate. I think it's very dramatic, but Paul doesn't have to conform to some of the same standards I have to. Ours is a licensed kit and has to go through an approval process as well as the fact that ours is a vinyl kit and has certain production factors to content with. I think they're going to be very different things. I hope that anyone who has the Netherworld one will be wanting ours as well. I believe Screamin' and Netherworld are on two very different scales. I think the challenge to sculpting Cenobites is that as cool as they are in the movies, that they really don't do very much compared to a superhero character or an action character. The Cenobites are subdued, so it's hard to come up with dynamic poses. One thing we have discussed is a 1/6 scale Pinhead.

EM: Yes, I've seen photographs in a Japanese magazine of Kaiyodo's 1/6 scale Pinhead.
JB: Yes, but we don't like that sculpture. In fact I have a design sketch for a 1/6 Pinhead of my own. It has a diorama background with a pillar, with lots of chains and corpses hanging off it.

EM: Well. I hope that gets produced.
JB: Yes, you'll have to wait and see.

EM: I'm looking forward to it. Thank you for your time.
JB: You're welcome, Ed.

Part 1


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