Wonders of the Troll Market and Beyond – Part 2
A Hungarian mine cave housed the gigantic Troll Market set, one of the biggest built for Hellboy II — a vibrant, busy environment filled with practical and digital creatures — which Del Toro wanted to deviate from usual design standards. “Each artist was free to bring forth as many sketches of creatures as they wanted,” Del Toro explained. “The only condition was to veer away from ‘movie monsters’ and make the creatures more surreal and exotic, reference things other than film: engravings from the middle ages, Hieronymus Bosch, the arabian tales, etc, etc. Barlowe had the best batting average… 8 out of 10 of his designs made it to the screen. But we treated these creatures like extras. We seldom, if ever showcased them — I felt this was crucial to treat the market like you would any other location… to make it real.”
Most of the surreal characters were built by Creature Effects, Solution Studios and Filmfex Studios as background suits with animatronic elements and extensions. Creature Effects contributed to the limb vendor (played by Matt O’Toole), the cat vendor — a bird-like creature suit with leg extensions, played by Jamie Wilson — and the organ grinder, played by Kevin Hudson. Cliff Wallace related: “the limb vendor is a Wayne Barlowe design and his head is basically a big bone with goggles and a mask. The cat seller has a bird-like face, but very strange mechanical leg extensions. I think the thing that’s interesting about Barlowe and the reason his stuff works so well is that it’s stuff that a normal designer wouldn’t put together. It’s stuff that really shouldn’t work, and that’s what makes his stuff unique.”
Among those suits, the organ grinder was the most peculiar construction. “The Organ Grinder is actually a small guy but built up to human size,” Wallace explained, “because the design demanded that he had a very thin neck that you really couldn’t do on a human. He also had very wide shoulders, so you’ve got a thin guy that’s built up to human size, with mechanical arms that are driven by this organ that he carries around.” Completing the look of the character was a small digital bogart.
Creature designer Nigel Booth and his crew at Solution Studios contributed to the creation of Silkard, the fish vendor — an aptly-named frog-like tentacled creature that sells fish. The monster was created as a suit worn by Brian Herring, with a radio- and cable-controlled head — able to perform lip synchronization, eye rotation and eye bulging — as well as cable-controlled tentacles. The creature’s skin was cast in semi-translucent silicone.
The tadpole vendor was another Solution Studios creation. “There’s a very large walkabout suit called the tadpole vendor,” said Leo Burton, part of the Solution Studios crew, “and that utilized a six foot seven actor inside to carry this enormous suit. The character carries these jugs of water on his back which are very heavy, so this poor guy was wandering around the set, but that was a animatronic suit, so we loved working on that.” Silicone ‘tadpoles’ were sculpted by Colin Shulver and put inside the tanks.
The Solution Studios roster also included the bagpipe player, “a sitting creature, which is an animatronic suit with a human ‘bagpipe’ being played by a weird creature,” according to Nigel Booth.
During the investigation at the market, Krauss interrogates a barber troll — dubbed the Cronie — shaving another, more humanoid character. The Cronie’s client was a Solution Studios creation as well — and yet another example of a hybrid make-up, worn by Aiden Cook. “The two-headed shop owner was a fairly conventional suit,” said Verner Gresty, part of the crew, “with a baby growing out, which is his twin baby brother growing out of his chest. It was a foam latex suit with a costume on top, and the actual baby was in silicone and we had to blend that straight in — and then the actual actor’s mouth had a prosthetic for speaking, but on top of that, his eyes and brows and everything else were animatronic on top of the head.”
A maquette by Matt Rose and Chad Waters that was originally intended to be the Fragglewump ended up becoming the Cronie (coincidentally, both characters ended up being punched away by Hellboy). This creature was built by Spectral Motion as a full-size suit worn by Brian Steele, with a fully-mechanized animatronic head. The suit also featured arm extensions. When Hellboy punches the Cronie away, the character becomes a Double Negative digital effect. The same model was used for several other trolls seen walking around the market.
Entering a map shop, Princess Nuala is greeted by Cathedralhead, an unusual-looking humanoid whose name is all the too descriptive. Born as a sketch in Del Toro’s notebook, the design was refined by Chet Zar into a maquette, The artist related: “it was based on a Guillermo design; he had given me a sketch that was really cool, which was the basic idea with the two big eyes and not really any mouth and a big cathedral on the head, and then Mike Mignola added some cool design changes, — so there was a big chunk missing from its chin like it was old and made of stone, so that really added a lot. I had some input on the paint scheme and I sculpted it and tweaked the design a little bit, so it was a collaborative thing, but it was definitely based on a Guillermo design. I headed up that crew as well, building the character.” The Zar maquette was the base for the Spectral Motion make-up and suit applied on Doug Jones, which featured a head extension complete with radio-controlled animatronic eyes.
Other background creatures at the market were entirely digital — including the small Bogarts. These two-headed mammal-like creatures were designed and sculpted by Mitch Devane. Del Toro actually extended their role into the film, making them the messengers bringing news to Prince Nuada. “[The Bogart] didn’t talk,” Butler said. “He communicated by clicking his two heads together. He was like a mascot for Guillermo. Every time he saw him, he burst out laughing.”
The ‘Striders’ are large background creatures designed by Constantine Sekeris. From the artist’s drawings, Solution Studios provided maquettes that were the base of the CG versions.”Even though the striders are just in the background,” commented Butler, “we did about six months of work on these characters. To make them as realistic as possible, we did very detailed textures on them, and we hand-animated bulging muscles — and they ended up in the background of the movie! Guillermo did a lot of that. He would put a lot of work into stuff and then only use it sparingly. It was all about creating an ambient atmosphere. Everywhere you went in this movie was rich with life and character.”
While the creature roster was left untouched for the most part, some characters that were supposed to appear in the Troll Market were left on the cutting room floor. Such is the case of the Yrdrig, a three-headed dog-like monster that was on its way to completion — with a maquette sculpted by David Grasso — before the scene that would have featured it got cut for budget reasons. “We had one very disappointing change, which was the character of Yrdrig,” Elizalde related, “a three-headed bulldog monster — we didn’t get to finish him, although we weren’t really building the puppet itself, we were just building a scan maquette for the digital work, and that’s one of the big sequences that got cut out.” Another character, dubbed ‘the wizard’ — which would have been played by Doug Jones — was cut for similar reasons.
The legless Goblin blacksmith — creator of the Golden Army — was played by John Alexander. The character began as a maquette sculpted by Matt Rose. As originally envisioned, the Goblin would have been attached to a wheel, with wooden crutches to pull himself around. Rose explained the process: “it was originally going to be something really fun, because we were thinking about our friend John Alexander to play this part and basically designed it around him. We’ve done it before too, like Mikey and even Mighty Joe Young — we basically worked with John knowing his abilities. We originally thought about how cool it would be if this goblin was like Johnny Eccs from Freaks, so he would have no legs and he would walk around on his upper arms.”
Originally, the goblin was a non-speaking character that would act as an informant to Prince Nuada. Upon seeing the maquettes, Del Toro decided to give the character a larger — and different — part. “He was supposed to be an informant to the bad guy,” Rose said, “so he would just see the good guys, run up to the bad guy and tug on his pant leg and point; that was it, so we thought it was going to be a cool little gag and he didn’t have to do that much, but we did the maquette and Guillermo loved it so much, he said, ‘If you can figure out how to make this work practically, I’m going to write more scenes for him!’”
To achieve the creature completely practically — with no post-production modifications — Spectral Motion changed the wheel into a cart, upon the director’s own suggestion. The performer sat on his stomach, with his legs extended back into the cart and his back arched up to raise his torso over the front wheels. Elizalde explained: “he steered the rig with his feet, hidden in some buckets in the back of the cart, and he wore a prosthetic from his neck down to his belly. The belly prosthetic made it look as if he was angled forward, when in fact he was angled back into the cart.”
Special thanks to Joe Nazzaro, who contributed precedently unused interview content; absolutely invaluable!
For more pictures of the Hellboy II creatures, visit the Monster Gallery.