Eli Roth’s The House With a Clock in Its Walls has all kinds of special effects you’d expect from a big-budget project, but one of its most startling achievements was pulled off with a good, old-fashioned animatronic nightmare.
As the title of the film suggests, the fantasy epic—starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, and Kyle MacLachlan—plays around with the concept of chronology as its cast of characters all come together in search of a magical device capable of manipulating time. At one point in the movie, Black’s character, the warlock Jonathan Barnavelt, is magically de-aged from the neck down, leaving him with the head of a full-grown adult and the body of a small baby.
It’s the sort of visual gag that the movie’s makeup artist, Adrien Morot, initially assumed would come to life primarily with the help of CGI. But in a recent interview with Polygon, he explained that when Roth had a chance to play with some of the animatronic babies Morot built for Darren Aranofsky’s mother!, the director immediately decided that The House With a Clock in Its Walls’ baby would be practical as well, and Morot set about designing the grotesque thing:
“It, uh, looked really, really bizarre. I took a picture of Jack Black that we shot of him crying, and I pasted it on a baby’s body. Then we played with different sizes for the head.
“If you’re doing a Jack Black baby, the head needs to be perfect, because everybody knows what Jack Black looks like. The body of the baby needs to be perfect and must move in as real of a manner as possible, because everybody has seen babies. The second that you have some sort of weird clunky movement that might work for a creature there, it will not for the baby. It must be perfect.”
If you haven’t had the chance to see The House with a Clock in Its Walls but still need to see more Baby Jack Black, thankfully Universal’s just posted some behind the scenes footage of it in action.
It may be a face that only a mother could love, but you’ve really gotta tip your hat to Morot for inadvertently creating one of the single best advertisements for comprehensive sex education in human history, and then convincing a film studio to put it in a movie. Bravo.
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