Maleficent – Prof. Zhefeng

Prof Zhefeng2

The following interviews are with Rick Baker and Toni G, two of the great artists who were involved in the production of the movie Maleficent. The interviews reveal interesting details about what and who inspire them and about what happens behind the scenes to enable them; to create this type of blockbuster movie.

Q&A with Rick Baker for Maleficent

Maleficent is one of the most famous of Disney’s animated villains. What was it like to create the real life Maleficent character?
Everyone is familiar with the look of the original Maleficent cartoon character. It’s intimidating and hard to bring a cartoon character to life. Therefore, we chose to rethink the look rather than redesign it. Since this title role was played by Angie, I thought the look of the character should reflect mostly her own overall look. She had specific ideas about it and I worked with her to bring them to life. For example, it was actually her idea to add prosthetics to the face.

How much time was spent creating and perfecting Maleficent’s legendary horns?
The horns were created over a period of 2 months. We did at least 6 different versions of different sculptures and spent a lot of time trying to find the most practical way to get them on and off. We also tried to make them as lightweight as possible.

Who are your role models in the field?
Jack Pierce – the great makeup artist who created all of the classic Universal monsters – was my first influence. Dick Smith follows as a close second, but I am a fan of any makeup artist who created iconic and memorable characters.

What were your favorite films to work on? Who were your favorite characters to create?
I enjoy creating characters so I have fond memories of any film where I was allowed to completely originate the look of a character. Harry from “Harry and the Hendersons” is probably my favorite character that I have created. I wish I would have created the Frankenstein’s monster from the 1931 film. I think it is the most iconic monster look ever created for film that has lived on and resonated universally for generations. The blend of actor and horrific makeup is a masterpiece that I continue to be influenced by and strive for.

Q&A with Toni G. for Maleficent

Maleficent is certainly one of the most menacing and unforgettable of Disney’s characters. How did your memories of the original Maleficent influence this reinterpretation?
Maleficent was so magical and scary, yet she had a beauty about her. I would say those three elements are what I wanted her character to achieve.

What elements would we be surprised to hear were influential or not in order to take a cartoon into the flesh?
It was more about finding a way to bring the animation to life. Besides her prosthetics, her eyes were the perfect way to achieve this. I was very inspired by the Labradrite stone with shades of beautiful greens, blues and yellows. I thought using those types of colors in the eyes was a perfect way to make her feel magical. Cristina Patterson painted very detailed contact lenses with these colors and the VFX team then added a final effect to make her eyes glow when she was upset.

How did the contributions of Costume and Special Effects [Anna B. Sheppard and Rick Baker] on this film influence your work and final product?
Rick Baker designed the special effects elements for the character of Maleficent – the structure of her horns, cheeks bones, nose and ears. The amazing artist Arjen Tuiten worked, with Rick to apply the pieces for the film. We all worked very closely with Anna for the costumes as Maleficent’s head wraps needed to fit perfectly around her horns.

You are a long-time collaborator with the film’s star and Executive Producer. How was your experience working on “Maleficent” uniquely challenging and exciting?
It was exciting to see Angie’s transformation through the use of the prosthetics. My main concern and challenge was her skin since we were using them on her for about 4 months. I didn’t want her skin to become irritated from the application and removal processes. We opted to use a mix of coconut and argan oil for removal, which worked perfectly and left her skin flawless.

Who are your role models in the field?
Rick Baker has been a wonderful guide and friend. I am so lucky to have worked with him on several great projects.

This article was published in the Jul-Sept 2014 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!


Prof ZhefengProf. Zhefeng is a writer, lecturer, trainer and consultant. In his free time, he writes for newspapers (Sarawak Tribune, The Star, Eastern Times), magazines (Her World, Female, Cleo, Malaysian Business, Marie Claire).