Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters (2019) Movie Script

(dramatic theme playing)
(pulse zaps)
(electronic whirring)
(monster growling)
(girl screams)
(squawks and chitters)
(ominous theme playing)
My first awareness
of phantasmagorical images
was in 1955 on television,
they were running
the 1933 Schoedsack/Cooper
production of King Kong,
and I remember
just being blown away
as a five-year-old by that.
(King Kong roars)
Around that time,
LIFE magazine came out
with a lot of Rudolph Zallinger's murals,
in the Museum of Natural History
in New York, of dinosaurs.
I got amazed by the concept
that there was another world
before our world,
where monsters,
without men, lived.
And then I saw
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
And then I was
never the same afterwards.
You know, it was just like,
"What was that?
What did I just see?
Why was it like that?"
It took me a number of years
to figure out how it was done.
I drew, tried to sculpt,
pushed clay around,
animated stuff,
with like terrible lighting
in my bedroom.
(film projector whirring)
(dramatic theme playing)
Nobody was interested
in what I was interested in.
So, as a consequence,
through most of my formal education
up until the college years,
you know, I was...
You know, I was friendly,
and, you know, liked people
and they liked me,
but I had very little in common,
so I spent most of my time alone.
I wasn't into like sports or anything.
You know,
I was too dorky for girls,
so I just spent more time alone,
you know...
My parents didn't understand
what it was that I was doing.
My mother became worried about me,
that I seemed to be obsessed
with these weird things,
and I think they went to talk
to some psychiatrist.
My dad was a probation officer,
but his avocation was,
he was an abstract painter.
So we connected on that level.
(intense theme playing)
There was a little community college,
a junior college in San Marcos,
in the San Diego area,
called Palomar,
and they had a great art department.
And I became friends with
a number of instructors there.
A couple of them were involved
with conceptual art.
It was like a curtain had been lifted
and you were free,
you were free!
Totally free!
There were no constraints at all,
you could do anything!
I made a number of abstract films,
16mm film, bleaching the film,
and using paint
to create abstract shapes.
(intense theme playing)
The conceptual movement,
yeah, it was like...boom.
It was-- It's not like sculpture,
it's not like painting,
it's like--
It's filmmaking, it's like...
making stuff with sticks.
But it was ridiculed
by a lot of people too,
saying it's not art,
because it's not,
you know, a thing that has
a price tag on it
and people can't understand that.
(theme music continues)
During summer of 1967
or something like that,
I went to the beach
with some friends in San Diego
and came home and was watching
the science-fiction movie on TV.
In the intermission,
the host of the program
had a guest, and the guest
was Bill Stromberg,
and he showed his stop-motion
movie called Time Tomorrow.
(eerie theme playing)
And so I was able
to get in contact with Bill,
he was about to embark
on his next independent feature
that was based on
a Ray Bradbury story
called Sound of Thunder
about dinosaur hunting.
So I just started working with Bill--
he would drive down every weekend
and pick me up
and take me back to Carlsbad,
like a 30-minute drive,
and we'd work in his garage studio,
and slowly put together
this short 16mm film,
and it was great!
(monster growling)
MAN: Hark! Into the earth!
He was 15 years old at the time.
He came up
and started working with me
on Sound of Thunder...
(roars) very elaborate home movie.
(male interviewer laughs)
Bill Stromberg was my mentor.
I graduated from 8mm to 16mm,
and so it was the greatest opportunity.
And then I got to work
during my summer breaks
at Cascade Pictures.
(instrumental flourish in commercial)
And who are you?
I'm Poppin' Fresh,
the Pillsbury Dough Boy.
TIPPETT: Cascade was
a production company
that did television commercials
That's where I met Dennis Muren.
Tex Avery was there
once we started working,
so that was a huge influence.
Have Campbell's Chicken Chicken!
It was like some kind
of graduate program,
because the commercials
turned over really quick
and you were doing this here,
and you're doing that there,
and it was like this and like that,
and this, and the...
So you learned a lot of shit
like really quick.
(dramatic theme playing)
The first Star Wars was really
the first big theatrical feature film
that a lot of us worked on.
During the time that Star Wars
was in postproduction
with visual effects,
we got introduced to George Lucas
through Dennis Muren.
Cascade had closed up,
there was not enough work,
I didn't want to work
on big Hollywood movies
where you're working at a studio
all you could do is
just touch the camera--
you can't touch a light...
And I was a huge admirer
of George Lucas,
from THX and from American Graffiti,
and eventually I got
the job on Star Wars.
They weren't making
the kinds of movies
that we were interested in doing
in Hollywood at that
particular point in time.
So working for the studios
really wasn't that interesting.
But if you wanted
to be a part of that system,
you had to join a union,
and there was no union
for stop-motion animation
or monster making or whatever.
So what George Lucas did was,
he set up ILM on the outskirts
of the union jurisdiction,
which allowed us
to be able to participate.
George wanted to do some insert shots
for the "Cantina"--
he didn't feel he had gotten
enough material.
And simultaneously,
I was working
with David Allen
on a Bill Stromberg production.
(male narrator reading)
NARRATOR: Is the creature
ready to unleash its horror
on an unsuspecting world?
(creature roars)
I was juggling both jobs--
I was working on creating
the Crater Lake puppet,
and also working on the Cantina scene,
under the auspice of Rick Baker,
who George hired.
(dramatic theme playing)
Rick got a bunch of us together,
that he knew through Cascade Pictures,
a bunch out-of-work
stop-motion animators
to do the Cantina scene.
Well, all these guys
can make small sculptures--
they can make face masks,
they can make full-body costumes
if they want to,
they can draw, they can paint,
and it would be perfect
for them to be able
to switch from doing
little stop-motion and puppets
to be able to make costumes
for the Cantina,
it made total sense.
We built a number of masks,
kind of refurbished things
over existing masks
that Rick Baker had.
We made like 20 monsters
in like five, six weeks,
something like that.
And then when it came time to shoot,
George invited us to come down
and play the monsters.
While we were making the masks,
George would come by once a week
and check things out.
At that time, he saw a puppet
that I had brought in to the studio--
a stop-motion puppet--
which gave him the idea
to do the chess set scene
as a stop-motion scene.
Previously, I think he was going
to do it just with actors in masks,
and I think Michael Crichton
had just came out with Westworld,
and I guess
there was something similar.
In Futureworld,
if you can afford to go there,
you're lucky.
When Westworld came out,
there was a chess game in it
with people in big costumes
and George was all, "Oh shit!"
Anyhow, that's where the idea
of doing it with stop-motion came from,
he had seen little things
that Phil and I,
even you do,
wave under his nose,
and he and Gary went,
"Why don't we do it
with stop-motion?"
As opposed to the guys
in the costumes?
In the costumes.
Because he was really--
At least that's my memory of it,
he was pretty deflated--
they had taken his idea
and ruined it.
So this was the original armature
that I had inside the puppet
that I made when I was a teenager,
that George saw when
we were doing the Cantina scene.
BERG: There was a scramble
to make this number of figures
in a very short period of time.
I can't remember what it was,
Phil thinks it's a week,
I think we probably had to do it
more in like two weeks.
But it was all a real scramble,
and it was right
at the tail-end of the shooting,
so we were under a lot of pressure
to get this thing done
as fast as we could.
I think we shot it
over about three days,
in the evenings.
It was part of the night crew.
(creatures squealing and vocalizing)
I realized, when we saw
some of the footage from it,
oh, this was the movie
I really wanted to see as a kid.
And it was, but you never know
how many people feel that.
None of us had any idea
when we were doing this
in the first place what would happen
with Star Wars and careers
and everything like that.
It was really nice
to see something take off
on such an extraordinary level.
I never expected to be part
of anything like that.
CHUCK DUKE: I could have sworn
it was Ray Harryhausen
that did the chess scene
when I first saw Star Wars--
the original--
and I even stayed for the credits
to see Ray Harryhausen's name,
and you know,
it wasn't Ray Harryhausen,
it was Jon Berg and Phil Tippett.
New heroes, all of a sudden,
because I had no idea who they were.
People often time talk about Phil
as sort of the heir to Ray Harryhausen,
and I think that's true
in a lot of ways,
because he definitely has
that character understanding
that Ray had.
To me, what makes Phil
equally as interesting
is that he has a contemporary
aesthetic to him--
like, each movie that he did...
Like when you saw the chess set,
there was something different
about that,
even though you knew
that it was stop-motion,
but the fact that it was presented
in a high-tech environment
as a hologram
was a very interesting spin on it.
You know, maybe Phil
didn't come up with that,
but he definitely used his techniques
to the very best possible way
for that moment.
The popularity of Star Wars
drove all
of the subsequent media stuff.
Whatever celebrity
kind of blew off of that
was irrelevant to me.
You know, I didn't care
about that stuff.
(dramatic theme playing)
I came to United States
to go to a graduate school,
and I was studying painting,
and after that,
I didn't really know what to do.
I was sort of hanging around
San Francisco,
and doing odd jobs and generally
being kind of illegal,
because my Visa ran out.
So I actually met a French guy
who had a car
and he was just here
for a little bit of time
and he said...
(French accent)
"Come with me to L.A.
(normal voice)
"and if you do that you can take my car
and I'm gonna go back to Paris."
He was actually a cameraman.
And the night we got to L.A.,
we met somebody
who I had been in college with,
who actually knew Phil,
and said,
"Oh, you have to come to my friend
Phil Tippett's house."
So we went there that night,
and I met Phil,
and he was in a house with
his friend who is a composer,
listening to Beethoven incredibly loudly,
and in his house,
there were shelves
with beautifully sculpted
clay dinosaurs.
It was actually very,
very impressive.
It was L.A. at sunset,
with thick smog,
so the colors in the sky
were amazing,
and there was just like this man
with this red, wild hair
and listening to wild music,
and I pretty much fell in love like that.
The next time I saw Phil, actually,
was at Dennis Muren's house
in Glendale.
And I got very drunk,
and I asked him to marry me
on the balcony
of Dennis Muren's house
and he said yes!
Quickly after that episode,
he was actually working,
or about to work,
on this project, Timegate.
(male narrator reads)
So the clay dinosaurs and stuff
were actually for that.
I was sort of game for anything,
so I kind of signed up
as a production assistant,
and it was actually really fun
because we were sort of
trying to prep to do a movie.
I do remember shooting
some tests out in the desert.
So that was sort of interesting,
but Timegate kind of fell apart,
basically it didn't actually
turn into a movie.
And then came along Piranha.
(male narrator reads)
Originally, I called Rick Baker
to see if he would do the film Piranha.
And he said no, he would not
do the film Piranha,
but he said,
"You should call Phil Tippett
and here is his phone number."
TIPPETT: Jules had a studio
in Los Angeles--
a very small room,
not much bigger than this room--
where she was doing her paintings.
And the Piranha job came up
and Jon Berg and I rented it.
We called it The Fish Factory.
This is the original clay sculpture
that Phil made for Piranha.
A mold was made off of this
and all the subsequent
rubber piranhas
came out of that mold.
TIPPETT: I designed
and sculpted piranha fish
and then molds were made,
and Jules did some designs
for coloration.
Phil, who was with
his adorable wife Jules,
worked on the fish, of course,
which were very difficult
under our circumstances,
and also on some creatures
that were in the laboratory.
I just do remember making
tons of fish and painting them,
and my job was to actually
mix up gallons of blood
to throw in the water
when the fish
were thrashing around--
the rubber fish on sticks.
DAVISON: You know,
she got insurance,
she hired a crew,
she got all the materials,
she produced the visual effects
for Piranha.
DANTE: This was a really cheap
movie shot in Los Angeles,
in a swimming pool,
for which we all had
to learn to scuba dive.
And in the movie,
Phil is my scuba diving buddy.
We have a scene together
where we play scuba divers,
and he gets eaten by piranhas,
and then later,
a water skier goes by him,
and there's the body--
is underwater with bubbles
and blood and that's all...
that's Phil!
I was a huge stop-motion fan
and I didn't know
how many movies I was going
to get to be able
to make in my career
and I really wanted to have
stop-motion in the picture.
And Kevin McCarthy's mad doctor
has created a lot of weird stuff,
so we could have
a sort of a Ymir-like creature.
The Ymir in Ray Harryhausen's
20 Million Miles to Earth
is one of his major achievements.
And it's a reptilian creature
on two legs.
And that was something that,
I think Phil felt that he could do.
Jon Berg made an armature,
I sculpted a puppet
and cast it in foam latex,
and I animated a couple
of shots with this creature.
(eerie theme playing)
DANTE: This was designed
by Phil Tippett.
It's a stop-motion whatchamacallit,
which we used in a sequence
in the picture--
Explain how that's done.
DANTE: Well, we move it
this much and take a shot,
and this much and take a shot,
and the sophistication is mainly
in the lighting,
which is very important,
and the number of movements
that you can do,
and not knock him over
and have to start over.
Very soon after that, I think,
then came the big move
up to the Bay Area,
when George Lucas decided
to set up, you know, ILM.
So we moved to San Francisco.
I just never saw Phil,
he was just consistently working
'cause it was for Empire Strike Back.
For The Empire Strikes Back,
Dennis Muren convinced
George Lucas
to, you know, consider
doing stop-motion.
This Tauntaun creature was in it.
And I said, "How the heck
are you planning on doing this?"
It was a snow lizard in the script.
Previously, the Tauntaun
was gonna be a guy
in a suit somehow.
MUREN: It was clear
that it was not gonna work,
so I just pushed on and said,
"We really should do the stop-motion."
I'm a big fan of stop-motion,
but the advantage of it is the control.
So you've got control over everything.
So George said,
"Okay, let's do it that way."
And so he hired me, initially,
to come up with some designs
for the Tauntaun.
And I spent like
two or three days just doing
like a dozen sketches:
It could be this, it could be that,
it could be that,
it could be this,
it could be that...
So I sent all these drawings up to him
and he picked one,
and asked to see
a three-dimensional model of it,
and I made a three-dimensional
clay sculpture of it,
and he said,
"Yeah, that's a Tauntaun."
TOM ST. AMAND: I was hired
by Phil and Jon Berg,
late 1978, to work
on The Empire Strikes Back.
I worked on the Tauntaun
armature with Doug Beswick,
a very fine animator
and a good friend.
ST. AMAND: The basic principle
behind stop-motion
hasn't changed
for like 80 years, really.
You build a model of some kind,
you would have a start pose,
and then you would shoot
a frame of film,
walk up and make a little move,
go back behind the camera,
shoot another frame,
come back,
make another little move,
go back and so on and so forth.
What we tried to do
was to think sculpturally.
You know, think of this
as a moving sculpture.
Stop-motion's a lot like sculpting.
You're like building a performance
by doing little moves,
you know, and people say,
"Oh, this is tedious,"
and it's like, "Well, it's
as tedious as sculpting is,"
you just build these things up,
bit by bit by bit.
When you shoot ordinary stop-motion,
every frame is a very clear frame,
it's very sharp, there's no blurs.
TIPPETT: Which I particularly
like, aesthetically.
But as the B-movies, you know,
the Ray Harryhausen movies were rolling
into like the "A"
Star Wars type pictures,
it was imperative to try
and get the look of things
more photographic.
If you looked at frames of
a horse running, there's blurs.
We needed to find
some way to put blurs
into the stop-motion,
it had a better chance
of looking real.
For example,
we have this light here.
So if, for some reason,
say you wanna do
some stop-motion on this light,
you'd move it to there
and you shoot a frame,
and then you move it to there
and you shoot a frame
and you move it
to there and you shoot a frame.
And when you run it,
it looks like it's moving by itself.
That's hand animation.
If you replace this little joint here--
instead of with your hand,
and you put
a little motor there--
that can turn this by plugging it in,
turning power on to get it to do that,
then you're controlling the motion,
that's why it's called motion control.
And the motion is controlled
by a computer,
just how far to move that.
So the Tauntaun,
when it was running across,
we had a rod attached to it,
and the rod was attached
to a motor,
and as each frame
is actually being shot,
between the time Phil animates,
the motor slides
the whole puppet along
like about an inch.
And so, the whole thing
is blurred,
and even if the blurs
aren't quite right,
at least they add something to it.
(wind howling; Tauntaun barking)
Most of Phil's designs
were creatures,
and soft, organic things.
He never wanted to design
any kind of hardware stuff.
(dramatic theme playing)
TIPPETT: Joe Johnston's
design of the walker
was very complicated.
Jon Berg has
a great engineering mind,
and so, they worked together
to figure out
all sorts of complicated things,
since what you were actually
going to be seeing on film
was going to be
the actual physical armature--
it's not covered over
by rubber or anything.
JOHNSTON: During the design
process of the snow walker,
I found this brochure that had
been published by U.S. Steel.
And it was
these paintings by Syd Mead,
and there was one panel--
it was a walking truck,
and it was walking
through the snow.
I saw this thing,
and I'm gonna adapt it
to an armored transport.
I think the success
of the snow walker
is that it walks like an animal
and yet it moves like a machine.
It's one of the best examples
of what stop-motion can do.
Dennis came up with this idea
of doing it super old-school
and freeing up the camera,
and shooting the white,
big background paintings,
that Mike Pangrazio was doing.
When it was called for,
three walkers
to be in the same shot,
Jon Berg and Doug Beswick
and myself were the animators.
They animated it
like it was one mind
animating the thing.
They're all moving the same,
which is really amazing.
They all look like--
The machine itself
is dictating how it moves,
not the animator.
For some of the bigger strafing shots,
we build trap doors
in like really large sets,
on the main stage,
and for every frame,
we would pop up
and animate the walkers
and then go down
and the frame would be shot.
(suspenseful theme playing)
And then Phil contacted me
about coming up for a year to work,
specifically, on a film
called Dragonslayer.
I didn't know a lot about it,
but he said,
"We're gonna do
a really cool dragon."
The design of the dragon,
of Vermithrax Pejorative
in Dragonslayer
was really an interesting process.
There had been an artist on board
who had done a design sketch,
and Phil kinda said,
"This is our starting point."
And he really,
really was interested,
and intent on designing
the ultimate dragon.
Most of the inspiration
was taken from the script.
It needed to be very old
and very crotchety
and very mean--
it had lived too long...
And it was a classic
mythological character
that was this malevolent force of nature.
That's an abstraction,
but you have
to start somewhere.
And so I would look
at a lot of reference material
of big lizards, like Komodo
dragons and things like that,
and looked at their foot fall--
I did a lot of research.
He knew the emotional response
that he wanted to portray
in the dragon.
I built the armatures
on Dragonslayer.
We were able to hook up
motion control equipment.
They came up
with the term go-motion.
I always thought it was kinda funny.
Like, "Stop. Okay this..."
Now, stop-motion
and now you have go-motion.
The go-motion thing was
very counter-intuitive.
Instead of kind of
intuitively sculpting in time,
you had to have
a very clear previsualization
of what the thing needed to be,
and kind of abstractly
break that down into axes
until it all came together.
WALAS: So we were
just winding up Dragonslayer
and Phil came in
one day and said,
"George Lucas has a new picture
called Revenge of the Jedi."
I was like,
"Work on a Star Wars movie?"
This is like--
That was the ultimate
you could possibly do on the planet
as an effects person.
I asked him,
"So what are we designing?"
And he just said,
"Just design whatever you want,
"design a whole bunch of aliens,
and George will sort it out."
(dramatic theme playing)
For Return of the Jedi, George asked me
to head up the creature shop.
There wasn't even a script yet.
He said there was a scene
that's gonna be
kinda like the Cantina,
only bigger.
I put all my effort
into doing three-dimensional stuff,
which I found, particularly
for George, worked really well.
He really responded
to three-dimensional stuff
you know, right there.
Because when you do
a drawing and it's cool,
and it's whatever,
you still have
to interpret that,
and it changes again
from the interpretation.
And this is like, oh,
this thing has that feeling,
I can see it, it has light,
you know, I can see an angle,
I can really imagine
what that thing could be.
For Jabba the Hutt,
the direction that we got was,
"It should be like a big slug."
And so,
we all did different versions
of what that could be.
The first one I did was
like a four-armed creature
that George thought
it looked too much
like Ming the Merciless.
The second one I did,
he thought was too gross.
So I asked,
"If you could cast an actor
to play the part,
who would that be?"
And he thought for a second
and said, "Sidney Greenstreet."
And that was
the direction that I needed
to all of a sudden, I... I...
I didn't see what it should be,
but I understood the character.
And so I sculpted up this thing
that ended up becoming
the design
that Stuart Freeborn
and his team executed
as a huge puppet
with like five operators.
What I realized with Phil is like,
he's really good at blocking out
very primitive shapes,
and then he adds the detail,
whereas a lot of
other designers today,
they kind of start hitting it
with the detail
long before they found the form.
One of the reasons why I think
a lot of the designs,
especially with Star Wars,
stayed relevant for so long
is that, at their core,
they're very powerful,
instinctive forms and shapes--
like the Rancor monster--
you know instinctively what it is.
The Rancor was a puppet that
I put my hand up into
and operated the mouth,
and Tom St. Amand had rods
that Dennis had to light out
to make the mechanical hands work.
MUREN: If you shot it
at normal speed
and just moved it,
right away, you'd say
there's something wrong,
I recognize that.
And after a little while,
"Oh, I know what they're doing,
it's a little puppet," you know.
So, to get away from that
and to make it look bigger
and heavier,
we did a lot of tricks.
The Rancor pit sequence
was shot
as a high-speed puppet.
We had to shoot really fast,
and so we were like...
We had to move that quickly
and be coordinated,
so we did tons
and tons and tons of takes.
While we were shooting
the Rancor,
one of the biggest lights
was up there by the ceiling,
but the knob
hadn't been tightened down,
so this big hundred-pound light
came down
and squished this part
of my hand, like right there.
It was very painful,
but then we had to shoot,
so I put my hand up the thing,
we were performing.
My hand just swole up
inside this thing.
My hand swole up, I couldn't--
I couldn't pull it out.
So I had to eat my lunch
with my hand up Rancor's ass.
There was a character
that I designed,
it was a small thing
and it fit down to your waist,
and it was gonna be playing
a piano,
kind of a keyboard instrument.
We were rehearsing
and George had chosen
a temp track to rehearse to,
which was "Superfreak."
(instrumental "Superfreak"-style
music playing)
There wasn't
anybody else around,
so I got into this outfit
and was just rehearsing
to make sure that it was
all gonna work properly.
And I have no sense of rhythm
and I can't dance.
But I got in this thing,
I was like,
"Okay, we'll turn on music
and then we'll film it,"
and my wife walked in.
ROMAN: And I saw this
kind of blue character
dancing to "Superfreak."
And he was dancing away,
and seemed to have
the beat and everything,
and I'm like, "That's cool!"
She goes, "Who's that?
And who's in the suit?
Where's Phil?"
And you know,
"Phil's in the suit."
"No, that's not Phil.
Phil can't dance."
And then he took the thing off
and it was Phil! I'm like...
The point is, is that
once one puts on a mask
or change your physicality,
you can become something else
that you're not.
You can inhabit what that character is.
You know, if you look
at these Star Wars films,
they're sort of like school.
You know,
you got your three classes,
each one's lasting three years,
of working on this thing,
and when you're done,
then you kind of go on
to something else
and that's what Phil wanted to do.
And he got an Oscar for Jedi too,
so that was like,
"Yes, go on, young man,"
to the world, you know.
(dramatic theme playing)
TIPPETT: After having worked on
three Star Wars movies,
pretty consecutively,
that were interrupted
by Raiders and Dragonslayer,
it was time to move on,
and there wasn't anything
to move on to, really.
He just kind of like got,
was absolutely,
completely depleted,
and I think at that point,
he was kind of done
with working at ILM.
TIPPETT: And so it was
an opportunity for me
to do what I kinda needed to do,
was to get what drove me
into all of this as a kid
out of my system
by making my own short dinosaur movie.
That's when he decided
to do Prehistoric Beast
in the garage.
I was so obsessed
with all of that stuff
in King Kong when I was a kid,
I had to do something
to make it go away. Heh.
And so that's
what Prehistoric Beast was,
it was actually putting
a nail in that coffin
and saying--
The title is
a line from King Kong.
So I made this 16mm short
called Prehistoric Beast
that I thought I could sell
to educational channels,
because it would be--
That's the kind of thing
I'd have liked to see
when I was a kid.
When Phil told me
he was doing Prehistoric Beast,
I thought, "Oh, that's
interesting, but why?"
It seemed like
a step backwards or something,
I was still working at ILM
where we're just like
pushing the envelope,
technically, all the time.
That's not
where Phil's interests were.
He was going for an aesthetic.
When it was over, I just felt
that it was absolutely
the right choice to do that
because nobody has any idea
what you have in your mind.
(dramatic theme playing in film)
paleontologically accurate,
and it was a narrative,
but any of the exhibitors
I took it to said,
"It's too scary for kids.
"You know, if you got one kid
that started crying,
then, that's over."
-(suspenseful theme playing)
-(both roaring)
messing around with zooms
and moving cameras,
and rack focuses,
just things you didn't see being done
in stop-motion films at that time.
He was bringing them up a level
and incorporating them
into a more naturalistic filmmaking style.
TIPPETT: And from there,
a production company in New York
called Philips Mark
wanted to do a documentary
on dinosaurs,
which we ultimately did.
So that's when I started my studio.
We rented a space
and we hired some people
and it was old-fashioned stop-motion:
so, sculpting, casting...
We got to put all that stuff together
and cut it together,
and Jules edited it
and did all the sound effects work.
That was fun doing that.
(dramatic theme playing in film)
ROMAN: We actually bought
a warehouse to work in,
basically from the money
that Phil was allowed to participate
from the profits of Jedi,
which was amazing.
Thank you, George Lucas,
for letting us have
a little tiny, tiny, tiny percentage
of a percentage of a percentage,
but it was actually very
significant and meaningful,
and allowed us to,
to actually start our business.
I was never a business man.
I mean, if business
was left up to me,
I would have been
out of business 30 years ago.
ROMAN: He has
to always be making something
or drawing something,
and he didn't really want
to be involved
with running the company
on the level that I had to run it.
I gradually learned
and I took some courses
and I joined a group that trained CEOs
and I learned how to run a business
with creative people,
because it's not always that easy.
Probably the smartest thing
Phil Tippett ever did
was to marry Jules.
Jules was always in charge
of the production aspect of the effects--
from Piranha on,
she just ran the show.
You know, Phil would have
been out of business
a hundred times if it wasn't for Jules.
I mean, she has managed
to keep all these shops
and all these people running
for decades.
I got a call from my friend Jon Davison,
who produced Piranha.
That he had acquired
a screenplay
by Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner
called Robocop.
There was a big monster robot
in it, ED-209.
When I first read the screenplay
for Robocop,
one of the things
I was first attracted to was
ED-209 was
the perfect opportunity
to work with Phil again.
Jon hired Paul Verhoeven
after having been rejected
by quite a few directors.
And Paul had never done
any visual effects before.
So, I think he was
kind of nervous about that.
Phil, of course,
had to explain to me,
what we were going to do.
I had never done anything like that.
And so, he had to teach me
what he would do with stop-motion
and how that would be
integrated in the movie.
He couldn't have had a better
mentor than Phil Tippett,
who was there all the time,
and walked him through
how to best spend
our very limited resources.
The budget wasn't that great,
so there was not a lot of money,
so everything had to be
very carefully managed.
I'm not that great
at mechanical design,
so I hired Craig Hayes to come up
with the designs for ED-209.
I met Phil back in the '80s.
I guess it was '85, '84,
somewhere around there.
Phil was working on the big
monster in Howard the Duck.
And so, I got to go
over there and see the stage
where he was working, and see
the go-motion set-up and stuff.
And it was pretty cool.
TIPPETT: He was just a kid,
and he brought in
some model parts he made.
And I was like,
"Oh, that's really brilliant!"
(suspenseful theme playing)
These are some of the pieces
of the foam maquettes
that were used to talk through
the design with Paul Verhoeven.
And you can see here--
it's pretty kind of simple.
And, let's see...
So, you can see here,
some piece of the arm,
and it really wasn't much more
developed than this
to be able
to just kind of talk through
what this design would be.
A lot of the ideas were from
military equipment-- tanks, etc.
But a lot of that stuff is very dry.
So, another thing that
I really draw inspiration from,
as most people do, is nature.
So, I really wanted
to kind of figure out
what was the organic component
to this thing.
(suspenseful theme playing)
ED-209 is a great amalgam
of like Japanese aesthetics
mixed with corporate thinking,
with Detroit sensibility.
Especially in 1987,
it was everything that Detroit was--
big, clunky, overdesigned,
made for one thing,
but completely
inappropriate for its task.
It's not perfectly symmetrical.
For instance, these big pods
that are in the front, here,
are exactly the same,
side to side.
But all the weaponry
that's attached to them
is slightly different.
Same thing with the lower legs.
When they originally designed
this guy,
his mouth was actually turned
the other direction.
So, it actually looked
like he had a smile.
Everybody was trying to figure
out what was wrong with him.
And Phil kind of came in and said,
"Yeah, because
he looks like he's smiling.
Why don't you just take that
thing and turn it upside down?"
And like almost immediately,
it became this grimace,
this angry looking face.
TIPPETT: Because the budget
was so tight on this thing,
I was going to do everything
very Ray Harryhausen
Dynamation style,
which really kind of limits
how you can go about
designing the shots.
You move it like this.
The next frame,
next frame, next frame,
next frame,
next frame, next frame...
And in the movie,
you will see this.
(joints and parts whirring)
I grew up with Harryhausen,
of course,
and Phil too, in fact.
If you look at The Argonauts,
it's not so different
from ED-209, isn't it?
I mean, it's also stop-motion.
And there is a beauty to that.
I think what you can do with it,
with the stop-motion is that
it adds a dimension
to the movie of beauty.
There was a problem
that in the boardroom scene,
there were really long dialogue scenes.
The way those shots
needed to be set-up,
the way that Paul
would have to been done
on a blue screen stage,
but there wasn't any money for that.
So, I proposed that we build
a full-scale prop of 209,
this thing that's behind me.
(suspenseful theme playing)
This part right here,
the carapace,
and over and these parts here,
are built
in many ways like a ship,
like you would build a ship.
So, I would build cross sections
out of wood, and then,
in between those cross sections,
lathed very thin strips of wood
to form the basis of the curve.
The killer whale was
a huge influence in the sort of,
you know, the face or the head
of this kind of thing.
And then, we had to do
a missile launcher.
We had to have something
that really told people,
"Uh-oh, something's
gonna happen now."
These pieces here,
these braided,
stainless, kind of
very fancy looking things
come from the plumbing
department in the store.
The guns themselves,
you can see on the front here,
these sort of elaborate looking
machine pieces
are actually like sprinkler,
automatic sprinkler valves.
This piece right here was fun--
this is also kind of cool
because this whole piece
pops off and gives us access
to the interior of the robot.
So, when we're putting it together,
the arms and the base and stuff,
we're able to access it through there.
It couldn't move,
so you had to put it there,
and then the moment
that it started to move,
you had to go to stop-motion,
with the miniature.
There is one scene
where he has
to go down a staircase.
He doesn't get it because
he's not programmed for that.
And so, he falls down.
And then he's on his back,
like an insect.
And then he gets irritated,
and he does like this,
agh-agh, like this!
That's all Phil.
(robot squealing)
I was trying to push Phil
into making the... ED's
fall down the stairs, comedic.
And I also wanted a joke
at his death.
TIPPETT: I was in a middle
of shooting the shot,
I got a call from Jon,
who said,
"Can you do something funny?"
"We need a laugh right here."
VERHOEVEN: He completely
surprised me with that shot.
I thought it was so well done,
and so funny!
I did the voice of ED,
by the way.
(robotic sounding)
"Put down your weapon.
You have 14 seconds to comply."
Which is sort of
a bad Roger Corman imitation!
ED 209:
"Put down your weapon!"
When they made
the first Robocop,
they built ED-209,
and of course,
everybody loves ED-209.
And they were actually
incredibly surprised
that within a very short period of time,
there were model kits out of this guy.
And Craig Hayes, apparently,
kind of took offense to that.
And so, for Robocop 2,
he decided that he would make
something so complicated
that nobody could ever duplicate it again.
I mean, certainly,
that's not the only reason
you do something.
You know,
design has got to be for,
to serve its purpose,
but, yeah,
there was a certain amount
of, you know, I would say,
glee taken in the fact
that, whoever's gonna try
and make this one's
got their work cut out for 'em.
They wouldn't possibly
be able to replicate it.
And they did.
Somehow, some way,
a model kit came out,
not long afterwards.
They did it solely from photos
and they get pretty close.
They did several toys, yeah.
And some of them
were pretty good.
So, mission not accomplished,
but they did come up
with a pretty cool robot,
and it has a lot of interesting
features on it.
We had so many moving parts
on this puppet.
I think Phil even got a little mad.
At one point he said,
"What are we building
such a complicated puppet for?"
I think the original design
was more like an ape.
He was kind of like a gorilla, sort of.
And even,
I think, in some cases,
walked on his knuckles too.
(suspenseful theme playing)
This is the design drawing
that Craig came up with,
the final design drawing.
There were
quite a few different ones.
And this was the wooden model
that Craig put together,
just to make sure
that all of the designed parts
could move and perform.
I took Craig's prototype
and spent about two or three
months engineering it
to work as an animation puppet,
which has to be practical.
All these things have to work.
He has to be able to walk.
TIPPETT: It had to do a lot
of different things.
And so, there was
like a grasping arm,
there is a machine gun.
(man groans in pain)
And it's got like a big ram on it.
So, it can punch people.
It's got retractable toes,
so it can dig in and hold.
And then its head,
for the third act,
opens up,
and there's a projection
of Cain's face on the inside.
At the end of the day, we had
eight Cain stop-motion puppets,
in addition to like a one-third scale
larger one for close-ups.
Robocop 2 was going to be
one of the biggest
stop-motion projects
that anybody had done,
so they were looking
to get people
with experience from all over.
So, I was lucky enough to be
contacted and came up here.
And I was one of the cameramen,
doing primarily lightning
and camera set-up
on the miniature effects on the show.
We had so many people
working on it
and trying to get the shots out
that we had
multiple set-ups going.
At some point in time,
we had 18 stop-motion set-ups.
One would be being prepped
and the other one being shot,
and we'd go back and forth like that.
I animated one shot
right at the very beginning,
but there
just wasn't enough time,
because there was
just too many things going on.
For a lot of the work,
the interactive work with Robocop
or the static stuff,
with people talking and such,
we built a full-scale version
of the model from right here up.
We didn't need to build
the legs, you know,
so we basically took it
from here and built it up.
DAVISON: The picture was
directed by Irv Kershner.
But we had
to start principal photography
with the ending of the picture,
the big effects sequence battle,
because there was a release date
coming right up.
But Kersh just couldn't figure out,
you know, how to shoot it,
or what to shoot.
Irvin Kershner
had known Phil Tippett
from Empire Strikes Back,
because he, of course,
did the great Walkers.
And I think Kersh leaned
on Phil very heavily.
So we had Giacomo Ghiazza
who storyboarded
the whole sequence with Phil,
and really, Phil went out
and just directed it.
So, the first unit
was shooting all day,
and Phil had to be there
because it was filled
with visual effects.
And at night,
Phil was directing
the second unit on many days.
So, he was like practically
working around the clock.
We have 36 shots to do
in the next 12 working days.
(ominous theme playing)
Everybody was so focused
on the same thing.
I mean, everybody in the studio
was working on the same movie.
Everybody was together.
You know, there was
a lot of passion,
you know, just absolute passion.
(light dramatic theme playing)
(flash bulb pops)
HAYES: Robocop 2, really,
was kind of the peak
of stop-motion animation
for a feature film.
So, through all this process,
we were really looking forward
to the future
and to see where is it
gonna go from here.
What's next?
Well, none of us
really had any idea
what that would end up being.
(dramatic theme playing)
Everything went
to computer generated images
practically overnight.
Computers were finally
just sort of taking over.
There was absolutely no choice
when the digital revolution hit
and kind of dissolved
the photochemical process.
I was more intimidated
by the digital technology
than I was fascinated by it.
You know,
I was compelled to use it,
because there was
no other choice.
I got a call from Kathy Kennedy
right after I'd finished Robocop 2.
She said, "We have
this Michael Crichton property
called Jurassic Park.
What Steven Spielberg
wants to do
is to use full-scale animatronics."
And I went like,
"I don't think so, Kathy.
I don't think it's ready."
She said, "Why not?"
And I said,
"It's just not practical."
Dennis Muren, Stan Winston,
Michael Lantieri and me,
we went down to talk to them.
And Kathy took me
into an office and said,
"Here's what we're gonna do.
We're gonna cut you four guys
into participation of the film."
And then we got
into the storyboards.
Who is doing what?
What's practical? What's full-size?
How are we gonna put it together?
So, everybody's area
of expertise were kind of framed.
And we would just go through that
over and over and over again.
And at that time,
most of the work
was gonna be done
as go-motion, stop-motion,
high-speed miniatures...
the visual effects side.
I worked on the animatics
for Jurassic Park with Phil,
Randy Dutra and Kim Blanchette,
who is a very fine puppet animator.
These were done as a guide
for the live action filming.
I remember seeing a number of the tests
they were doing,
and the dinosaurs
were looking just fantastic.
(suspenseful theme playing)
Seeing this raptor attack
was just great,
it was incredible.
And I was really excited
about seeing that.
So, what was ILM
gonna do on Jurassic Park?
We didn't know.
Animation was gonna be done
by Phil as traditional.
Maybe we could add blurs
to Phil's work.
At that point,
there wasn't any talk
about computer graphics.
TIPPETT: At the same time,
Steve Williams and Mark Dipp
had confidence
that they could build
computer graphic dinosaurs.
So, Steve made
a tyrannosaurus skeleton,
and they had it like running
and showed it to Steven.
And he went like, "Great!"
And they funded ILM
to go to the next phase,
where they made
a whole-skinned creature
based off of Stan Winston's maquettes
and took it down to Steven.
And Steven, you know, said,
"This is how
we're gonna make the movie."
(ominous theme playing)
So, we all thought that
we would be out of a job.
We thought, "Well, now
what are we gonna do?"
Everybody over there
was so shocked, you know,
because, of course,
everybody loved stop-motion.
I thought it was
pretty much over for me
at that point in time.
You know, I remember Steven
asked me how I felt,
and I said, "You know,
I feel like George Mlis."
And that's
when he very kindly said,
"Oh, he made great movies!"
And I said, "I feel extinct."
And he goes like,
"I'm puttin' that in the movie."
It was incredibly emotional for Phil.
He just was, again,
was just like depleted.
Like, "That's it,
life's over, we're done."
And I'm like,
"We're bloody well not done!
"I got these two little kids,
"we've got a warehouse,
"we've got employees.
We've gotta keep it going."
I do remember,
actually, driving over
to ILM with Craig Hayes
and having a meeting
with Dennis Muren
and a couple of other people.
And, you know, Dennis...
it had been on his balcony
that I proposed to Phil
in the first place.
Phil also kind of
felt betrayed by Dennis.
Like, "You're doing
this stuff in CG!"
It was a bit complicated.
Ultimately, of course,
Dennis really valued Phil
as an artist.
He maybe felt betrayed,
but he wasn't
and it was the future.
And you know, the thing is,
it was gonna happen anyway.
But it was really hard on him,
hard on me, at the time...
But you just had to go through it,
because it was an opportunity.
And so, Craig and Jules and Dennis
cooked up this idea
for the "Dinosaur Input Device"
or "Direct Input Device"
that would allow
stop-motion animators
of my studio,
Randy Dutra and Tom St. Amand,
to go in and physically
manipulate these things.
it's a motion capture device
with little encoders
at all the various places,
where there are rotations.
And that feeds
through an umbilicus
into the computer,
and there's a wireframe
of the dinosaur in the computer.
So, when you move the head,
the head moves in the computer.
ST. AMAND: We could
still be puppet animators.
We could still do what
our training taught us to do,
which is to take the model
and move it a frame at the time,
same as we did in the old days.
We didn't have
to worry about cameras,
it was like a virtual camera.
In that sense,
it was kind of liberating.
So, the stop-motion animators
could still be
a part of this process.
They bring all of their talent
to the show
and not be sort of ostracized
because they weren't
computer animators.
MUREN: Those guys
knew how animals move
and how they should perform.
We had CG artists
that were good
at computer graphics,
but they didn't know
about animals, really.
And Phil, you know,
knew all about animals.
And Tom St. Amand,
and Randy Dutra--
these guys knew
all about the behavior.
It would not have been
the same movie at all
if ILM on its own
had done the film.
I thought it was a fantastic idea
to try to keep Phil involved
because it's not
just a technical process.
No matter if it's a practical dinosaur,
or a digital dinosaur,
or a stop-motion dinosaur,
you need an aesthetic brain
like Phil Tippett's
in the animation and the movement,
because that's where the character is.
And that's what Phil has
established over the years
is his grasp on frame by frame
expression of character.
And of course,
Jurassic won Oscars.
It was Phil's second award.
So, you know, that was...
had a happy ending, again.
That kind of pulled us
into the next era
of Tippett Studio.
Without that, we would've
been stuck doing clay and...
I don't know, he probably
wouldn't have done anything,
but that actually paved
the way for the next step.
it was Starship Troopers.
That was the step
into a completely digital studio.
The reason
I made Starship Troopers
is I wanted to work with Phil Tippett.
I wanted to do a giant bug movie
with Phil Tippett.
I thought, "I wonder
if the book 'Starship Troopers'
is optioned or available."
I mean, nobody's done that.
I mean,
that's kind of the classic,
giant bug
in outer space movie.
So, we found out that
the rights were available.
TIPPETT: Very early on,
Paul Verhoeven
went off to do Showgirls.
We had met
and worked with Craig Hayes,
and had pretty much designed
all of the bugs
two years before going in.
So, we knew
what the bugs were gonna be.
And one of
the conceptual things
going into it was,
well, it's a war movie,
and so each
of these bug characters
are gonna represent
a different aspect
of the movie genre,
war stuff, you know,
things like the German Stuttgart
flying bugs;
there's the warrior bugs
are the infantry;
there's a tanker bug was
like a flame-throwing tank.
It was just a great experience
because we were able to be there
from the very beginning, right.
It's always the best when you're
part of the filmmaking process
from the start.
One of the things that was
great about Paul Verhoeven
is that he is very visually orientated
and really understands this stuff.
So, it was a smooth process
of iterations.
I did storyboards,
Phil did storyboards,
we exchanged storyboards.
We were very deep into it.
I gave them to a really...
storyboard artist
to make them really powerful
and strong, you know,
make them more
three-dimensional, in fact.
(dramatic theme playing)
The designs were great,
and so what we did was,
we executed
Phil's vision of what
these bugs should look like
and how they should move.
And our job was to take them
from basically illustrations
and execute 'em
and bring 'em into reality.
And that meant that Phil
was really our art director
on the show.
Go ahead and touch it.
-GILLIS: You want to retract it?
Get ready to retract, guys!
And... retract!
TIPPETT: Yeah, Okay.
All right, great.
Phil was all the insects in it.
And without Phil,
there would have not been
a movie, you know.
Starship Troopers
was kind of not manageable.
I must have hired
like a hundred people,
whoever we could find who had
some sort of aptitude
and enthusiasm.
Phil was gone,
shooting in the Badlands
for, gosh,
it seemed like four months,
just gone the entire time.
Phil was always there, of course--
he was all animals
that had to be integrated later in it.
Vic Armstrong,
the second unit director,
did the ones that
I would not have time to do.
And then we split,
and he went one way
and I went the other way.
And then we started to shoot.
And Phil was jumping from one set
to the other set, you know.
I had the feeling there were
three directors in Starship Troopers.
There was me,
there was Vic Armstrong,
and there was Phil Tippett.
These three directors
have made that movie.
-Not one!
-(film camera whirring)
[man] Okay, and action!
TIPPETT: We were shooting
out in the desert
and they were really long days,
and I think six-day weeks,
and it was
very physically grueling
and we... all exhausted.
(gunfire sounds)
And then when Phil came back,
I remember he came back,
maybe he broke the door,
and I just thought,
"Oh, my God!
What's happened?"
He just looked like a wild man,
like he'd been out in the desert
for a long time.
And then there we were
back in Berkeley,
trying to figure out
how on earth
are we gonna do these shots!
I was like, we had no idea.
I arrived at Tippett Studio
when we started working
on Starship Troopers.
Computers were newish
to the industry at that point,
and the Digital Input Device
was a fantastic way for me
and some of the other guys
to get into the digital world,
because we had never--
at least myself--
I had never even turned on
a computer
at that point to use for anything.
HAYES: We always prefer
to take someone
from their practical film experience
and we could teach them
how to operate a computer.
The hardest thing to do
was to take someone
who could operate a computer
and teach them how to be an artist.
(dramatic theme playing)
Craig Hayes pretty much designed
and supervised,
you know,
putting all the stuff together.
At the end of the show,
I offered to give
my visual effects supervisor
credit to Craig.
He really was
that visual effects supervisor.
But the studio wouldn't have it.
So, they wanted my name
to be up there.
I had signed a contract,
so it was like, ehh...
(dramatic theme playing)
You know, the results
were just fantastic.
I think, to this day,
the movie holds up
really, really well,
in terms of the blend of the CGI
and the practical effects.
I have the feeling
that everybody
was so taken by the movie
and had so much the feeling
that they were expressing
and doing something that
they had never done, you know.
(herd rumbling)
We were all working on
something unique.
And then it was compounded
with the Academy Awards
because it was nominated,
of course,
because, I mean,
the work was phenomenal.
But it was the same year as Titanic.
So it was like, there's no way!
The radioactive fallout
from an Oscar has meaning
in that it puts you
on other people's radar.
And so, you get more publicity,
you get more notice, meetings,
you get more work.
So, on that level, that's good.
But in terms of substantiating myself,
that is "no meaningful."
I don't think of myself as an artist.
I think of myself as a filmmaker,
or a maker of things.
I think these things actually
kind of make themselves.
You know,
I just kind of stand back.
I found the older I get,
the more I stand back
and really try
not to influence things by intention,
and to just kind of let things happen.
Effectively, I kind of got
kicked upstairs.
For my day job,
I am a visual effects supervisor
or director at Tippett Studio.
I will be involved
with the production,
go out on location
and shoot everything,
make sure
it's all is shot properly,
and then bring it back,
and the guys will work on it.
So, I will show up to dailies
and see how things are going.
I've got a team of people
that I've worked with
for many, many years,
that I have
a great deal of confidence in.
We all share the same language,
we know what we're talking about.
(dramatic theme playing)
Phil didn't really care
about, you know, the glory.
I think Phil does it
for the love
of what he's doing.
I wish that Phil had gone on
to direct other pictures.
One of my favorite Phil Tippett
films is Mad God.
I'd shot my Mad God project
maybe 30 years earlier
and abandoned the project.
And some of the guys
at the studio
were watching the archives
and they got very interested
in rebooting the project,
and offered to volunteer.
They did a couple of shots
and came back,
and we've kind of
got on a roll,
and then we accumulated
more volunteers over time
and then it just kind of grew itself.
(intense theme playing)
Mad God is a very old school,
hands-on approach to making stuff.
It's kind of my recapitulation
of all of the things that influenced me.
ROMAN: Mad God is a very unique
kind of experiment, I think.
It's a sort of a non-narrative narrative.
Heh. I mean, it is narrative,
but it has no structure.
I mean, it's not obvious
where it's going.
It's just like nothing else
I've seen.
(dramatic theme playing in film)
Mad God was a reflection
of the absurdity of the world
that I live in
and the craziness of it.
I'm in this world,
there's nothing
I can do about it, you know.
But I got to find
some kind of expression
to make sense out of stuff
that doesn't make sense to me.
(creatures snarling)
It's this weird organic sort of process,
but it's an obsessive thing.
TIPPETT: I'll keep a journal.
In the journal, there'll be ideas
for Mad God as they come up.
But then, every night
before I go to sleep,
I write a page or two
of the first thing
that comes into my mind.
That's interesting
to look at it the next day,
and see how
the consciousness is eroding
and what
the thought process is.
And I think
that also helps feed
the dream world as well...
It seems like... I do that,
I'll have more dreams.
This is a cottage
in the back of my house
that I use
to kind of do experiments
and to work on other projects
that are advancing,
whatever it is
I'm going to do next.
So, this is
like a library of books
that I've collected
over the years
that I've used as reference,
and a bunch of artifacts
that I just randomly place
on shelves.
It's not so much inspiration,
it's more like having
an ambience,
of like,
I think things talk to you,
even when you're not listening.
That's kind of the world
that I live in.
ROMAN: Phil...he is Mad God.
That's who he is.
DUKE: What's great
about Phil and Tippett Studios
is that Phil is giving
whoever is interested
in stop-motion
a chance to experience it
and to perform it.
(dramatic theme playing)
I think it's very important
we have a shop
that actually still functions
and that we are
still shooting stop-motion,
and that we're still working
on puppets,
and using milling machines
and lathes.
J.J. Abrams wanted to have
a stop-motion sequence
in Star Wars Episode VII.
Our team had to go and find
the actual puppets again,
which was not an easy task,
and then scan them,
recreate them in the physical world,
mold them, and then make
some new puppets
for us to work with.
Phil and Dennis Muren
and Jon Berg
all stopped by to remember
how everything was put together
and how it was executed.
Hey, how you doin'?
MORLEY: So, here's the cuts.
-BERG: Wow!
-In and out.
-There's just one cut you're doing?
BERG: It's very odd and very "dj vu"
to see something like this
after so many years.
Stand up...
Now you're playing chess.
MUREN: It's so nice
to be able to touch.
Not only the puppets,
but it's the whole set-up.
Just move the camera,
move the lights,
walk around, look at it,
change this, change this...
I think there's a charm
to the old way of doing it,
because you can relate to it,
you feel it,
you can look at it
and there's like an amazement
of something is moving
by itself.
And that's still not been able
to be duplicated in CGI.
The animators were Chuck Duke
and Tom Gibbons.
Gibby animated
the main characters
and Chuck did
all the background characters.
Chuck Duke, Jon Berg.
-DUKE: Jon, hi!
-BERG: How you doing?
So, these guys are gonna
do the deed.
-MAN: Oh!
-They're gonna animate it.
That was an amazing circle
to have happened in my life
because that sequence
in the first Star Wars
was a huge thing for me
as a kid.
DUKE: Those were puppets
that I've always wanted to see.
I never thought that would happen.
I look at animators as actors.
And so, I respect their skill
and their judgment.
You know, it's like,
"Well, you're gonna do
"the same thing
that we did 40 years ago.
So, heh, good luck,
I'll see you in the morning!"
TIPPETT: There's just not
a whole lot of time.
Maybe he gets up right away,
and this guy
is coming in for him,
and he raises up his hammer
and clocks him
and this guy goes down.
He's definitely the voice
in the back of your mind
when you're animating.
We were asked again
for the Han Solo Star Wars
to bring back the chess set.
We tried to get Chuck back,
but he was unavailable,
so one of the guys that
was a volunteer on Mad God,
that we've subsequently hired,
David Lauer,
has become a very, very good
stop-motion animator.
Gibby animated the main characters
and David animated
all the background guys.
LAUER: We were actually redoing
the New Hope animations,
but just with a more oiled machine.
And so, we were trying to get in
as many overlaps in animation,
little tendrils and claws, as we could.
It's technically far superior
to what Jon Berg and I did.
But they took a lot more time,
a put lot more effort into it.
We just did this thing
like really quickly.
The stage has
all of these incredible armatures
and artifacts
from all these past projects.
And some of those were Cain,
some of those were
the Digital Input Devices
from Jurassic Park
and Starship Troopers,
and I've just had
this hankering,
this desire to animate
those creatures.
I just kind of tapped him
on the shoulder
and asked if it would be okay
if I could animate one of those things.
He said,
"Oh, sure, anytime, no problem."
TIPPETT: A lot of this stuff
that was done in the past
for theatrical feature films
has become like iconic
and historical
and all that stuff, so it'll--
It's in the books.
You know, what's done is done
and it's got a life of its own,
and it's like your kids,
you know...
It's like, "There they go."
(dramatic theme playing)
(gears and parts whirring)
TIPPETT: I don't look back.
I never think about the past.
So, um, that's all done
and that was like a different
person that did that stuff,
so I just look forward.
I have a number of projects
after Mad God
that I want to do,
that are bubbling away.
So, it's always
one thing after the next.
VERHOEVEN: Phil Tippett
can do anything, you know?
When you want
to really achieve an artistic,
subtle, nuanced idea
about movement of an animal,
he's the master,
there's nobody better than him.
I've never seen better,
you know?
DAVISON: You know,
I've only heard Paul Verhoeven
call one person a genius
and that was Phil Tippett.
And I was somewhat taken back,
because, you know, I just think
Phil Tippett, I mean,
he's an incredibly talented guy.
But a genius? Wow.
And you know something,
Paul was right.
Phil Tippett is a genius.
He is an eccentric,
unique visionary.
He's not a corporate kind
of personality
who weaves smoothly
and effortlessly
through the political structures
of things,
he is the guy who says,
"This is how it ought to be,
and I'm not afraid to express it."
DANTE: He's a brilliant guy
and is still working,
and still adapting.
He realized,
along with a lot of others,
that stop-motion
was gonna have its limits,
and when go-motion came in,
and, you know, the use
of CGI on Jurassic Park,
all that kind of thing, I mean,
he rolled with the punches
and he said, okay,
this is the new technology,
I'm gonna embrace it
and I'm going to try to make stuff
that's as personal to me
and expressive as it was
when it was just one man,
one monster.
What's interesting about Phil
is there's no one else like him.
He doesn't design
like other people design.
You always know
when it's Phil's work.
He's a very recognizable
he has
a very recognizable style,
a very recognizable hand.
And he puts his fingerprints
on everything he does--
you always know
he's the artist.
MUREN: It was good
for the whole industry,
good for me and good
for Lucasfilm and everybody,
that Phil's got
such an imagination on it
that there's no way
to keep it in.
He let his subconscious come up
and really could feel
the work and not analyze it.
It's the difference between
a scientist and an artist.
You know, we're just lucky
that he's been around.
I'm lucky.
(gentle theme playing)
ROMAN: He became well known
because of being
on an incredibly successful
commercial movie,
but the contradiction is,
really, really what he likes to do
are these very more underground
kind of things.
I mean,
I think this other persona
that's come out of Mad God,
that's also kind of
this underground legacy.
I just don't think
in terms of a legacy,
or what life is going be like
after I have no life.
You never know!
But I won't be around,
you know, either way.
You're either forgotten
or, you know,
read about in history books.
(dramatic theme playing)