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February 08
2022

ISSUE

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RETURN OF CANDYMAN OFFERS A VIVID REMINDER OF THE CORRUPTION OF RACIAL INJUSTICE

By TREVOR HOGG

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.

The final mirror shot of the CG Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove) covered with bees.

The final mirror shot of the CG Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove) covered with bees.

Originally appearing in the 1985 short story by Clive Barker titled “The Forbidden,” Daniel Robitaille, otherwise known as the Candyman, was murdered in the 19th century for having an interracial love affair and went on to become an urban legend where he kills anyone who dares to say his name five times in front of a mirror. Reprising his signature role, Tony Todd makes an appearance in the fourth instalment, which shares the same title with the original Candyman (1992). To achieve the necessary world-building and horrific consequences of visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) tempting fate, filmmaker Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) relied upon a combination of practical effects and digital augmentation created by VFX Supervisor/VFX Producer James McQuaide (The Boy) and Special Effects Makeup Designer J. Anthony Kosar (Lovecraft Country),  who is the founder of Kosart Studios.

A swarm of bees disperse to reveal that Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) has transformed into Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd).

A swarm of bees disperse to reveal that Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) has transformed into Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd).

Taking advantage of his time spent in the Australian visual effects industry, McQuaide contracted the services of Luma Pictures, Rising Sun Pictures, Method Studios Melbourne and Mill Film to produce 400 shots, as well as using previs and postvis artists based in the country. “This movie has a lot of long takes, so the shot count isn’t high, but it is almost half of the run time,” notes McQuaide. “Nia was trying to remain true to what the original movie had done.” A signature visual element are bees. “It’s a challenge.” says McQuaide, “because the first one is famous for practical bees flying out of the mouth of Tony Todd. We weren’t going to do that. Luma Pictures and Method Studios Melbourne did CG bees. There was some caretaking to make sure that the design, wing-flap per second, movement and flight patterns were accurate.”

Present-day Tony Todd placed beside what he looked like in the original Candyman.

Present-day Tony Todd placed beside what he looked like in the original Candyman.

It was important to honor the legacy of the Candyman trilogy while bringing forward unique ideas. “Incorporating honeycombs on Anthony’s skin was a way of creating something new while still existing within that world,” states Kosar. “Even adding other little nods, like putting a scar on the shoulder of Anne-Marie McCoy [Vanessa Williams] where in the original Helen Lyle [Virginia Madsen] struck her with a cleaver.” Encapsulated silicon was primarily used because it represents skin a lot more realistically than foam latex. “Everyone had different color zones and ranges on their faces,” remarks Kosar, “especially on males, it’s darker where the beard would be, flusher on the cheeks and more yellow when it’s against the bone, like the forehead. It’s all about having a trained artistic eye to match color. We have to work with our environment, too, because the lighting changes.”

“It’s a challenge because the first one is famous for practical bees flying out of the mouth of Tony Todd. We weren’t going to do that. Luma Pictures and Method Studios Melbourne did CG bees. There was some caretaking to make sure that the design, wing-flap per second, movement and flight patterns were accurate.”

—James McQuaide, VFX Supervisor/VFX Producer

All of the Candymen who appear in the car window reflection are shot against bluescreen.

All of the Candymen who appear in the car window reflection are shot against bluescreen.

Camera tests were critical in establishing the final look of the makeup and blood. “When I was designing the makeup, based off of the concepts, I was trying to figure the best way to play with shadows so that these holes and honeycomb pattern look deeper within his skin, while trying to keep it as subtle and thin as possible to keep his likeness,” explains Kosar. “It was tested on clothes and foam core boards via a wall, and splattered with various kinds of blood. This allowed us to see what color of blood looked the best with the way they’re grading the final film. Three Kings Red was selected for the blood.” The hooks went through three different paint schemes. Adds Kosar, “One was a silvery metal finish, another was slightly bronze tone finish, and lastly rod iron with rust on it. The rod iron with rust disappeared in-camera. It was cool that they picked the bronzy finish, which helped to give it a different look and caught the light in a cool way.”

Final makeup stage for Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

Final makeup stage for Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

Concept art was developed by Aaron Sims Creative, showing the arm of Anthony rotting away, with the initial bee sting being the point of origin. “We researched different types of stings as well as snake and insect bites that actually deteriorate the skin if not treated,” reveals Kasar. “Different rashes and diseases. Then the full necrosis of the skin. How the flesh and fat tissue rots away and reveals this dead muscle. We used that to inform how the honeycomb was going to be. The holes needed to be in clusters, so we had to make something that doesn’t exist look like it’s erupting from within the skin. Parts of the skin are rotting away and revealing this. It helped knowing where we needed to get to.”

Sculpt of Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) with the honeycomb pattern.

Sculpt of Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) with the honeycomb pattern.

Expositional segments with the shadow puppets were achieved practically. “We did some previs to help with the design process, but the execution is Manuel Cinema in Chicago,” remarks McQuaide. “It is remarkable work.” Dealing with the mirrors where the Candyman appears was hellish. “It’s a nightmare just trying to get orientation correct,” says McQuaide, “but we had shots where you were looking at reflections within reflections. That’s where techvis comes into play. We could work it out as computer animation and then execute accordingly. In some cases, we had to shoot Sherman Fields [Michael Hargrove] as an element and LiDAR scan the reflective surfaces that he would go on.”

“I love the final sequence in the church because that’s the final Candyman reveal, and it was the makeup we were working towards the most. We had five arm gags rigged to be cut off and another rigged so that the hook could go into it; that allowed us to match practical as much as possible. Then seeing Yahya with all of the honeycomb holes for us that was the most fun.”

—J. Anthony Kosar, Special Effects Makeup Designer

Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove) goes through the final makeup touches.

Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove) goes through the final makeup touches.

Sherman Fields went through an evolution of design. “The practical prosthetic wounds that told the story of Sherman being beaten to death by police officers wasn’t nearly as impactful as they needed to be,” explains McQuaide. “He was removed from every single plate, and we redesigned him with much more horrendous wounds. We reanimated him to do the same thing that the practical actor had done.” In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, the decision was made to have Tony Todd speak the final line, ‘Tell everyone.’ “The idea of bees parting to reveal the Candyman from the original movie happened early enough in post-production that we were able to shoot Tony Todd against bluescreen as part of the reshoot in Chicago and scan him,” McQuaide states.

Encapsulated silicon was primarily used because it represents skin a lot more realistically than foam latex

Encapsulated silicon was primarily used because it represents skin a lot more realistically than foam latex

Encapsulated silicon was primarily used because it represents skin a lot more realistically than foam latex.

“To finish your movie in closeup with the actor from the original Candyman and have him look the way he did 30 years ago, be fully CG, speak a line, be done in post and have it go by as if this was completely normal, there is no greater compliment than that. No comments were made about Cabrini-Green and Sherman looking artificial. In that regard, we did our job remarkably well.

—James McQuaide, VFX Supervisor/VFX Producer

Different types of stings as well as snake and insect bites that actually deteriorate the skin if not treated were researched.

Different types of stings as well as snake and insect bites that actually deteriorate the skin if not treated were researched.

Different types of stings as well as snake and insect bites that actually deteriorate the skin if not treated were researched.

Extensive environmental work was needed to make the Cabrini-Green public housing project period accurate. “In the flashback, we wanted to do a sequence around the towers that had been torn down in the early 1980s,” remarks McQuaide. “Chicago doesn’t have architectural plans for them so we had some basic schematics, photos from a local photographer, watched TV news documentaries, and used the original Candyman to replicate the towers right down to the textures and graffiti. For the modern day, the row houses are still intact, but everything around them is empty fields where the towers once were. The guy who initially summons the Candyman is a resident of these row houses, and a reason for doing this is he can see the modern metropolis of Chicago gentrifying on top of Cabrini-Green. We went around Chicago LiDAR scanning and photographing construction sites for modern townhouses. That data was then used to build this gentrifying Chicago that is encroaching upon the practical row houses more than it is doing so at the moment. But the writing is on the wall.”

The towers of Cabrini-Green were replicated right down to the textures and graffiti.

The towers of Cabrini-Green were replicated right down to the textures and graffiti.

The towers of Cabrini-Green were replicated right down to the textures and graffiti.

The towers of Cabrini-Green were replicated right down to the textures and graffiti.

Extensive environmental work was needed to make the Cabrini-Green public housing project period accurate

Extensive environmental work was needed to make the Cabrini-Green public housing project period accurate

Extensive environmental work was needed to make the Cabrini-Green public housing project period accurate

Extensive environmental work was needed to make the Cabrini-Green public housing project period accurate.

The original plate, animation and final image for a shot that takes place in the hallway mirror scene.

The original plate, animation and final image for a shot that takes place in the hallway mirror scene.

The original plate, animation and final image for a shot that takes place in the hallway mirror scene.

The original plate, animation and final image for a shot that takes place in the hallway mirror scene.

Candyman was one of the biggest projects that Kosart Studios has worked on. “I love the final sequence in the church because that’s the final Candyman reveal, and it was the makeup we were working towards the most,” states Kosar. “We had five arm gags rigged to be cut off and another rigged so that the hook could go into it; that allowed us to match practical as much as possible. Then seeing Yahya with all of the honeycomb holes for us – that was the most fun.”

“[We] used the original Candyman to replicate the towers right down to the textures and graffiti. For the modern day, the row houses are still intact, but everything around them is empty fields where the towers once were. … We went around Chicago LiDAR scanning and photographing construction sites for modern townhouses. That data was then used to build this gentrifying Chicago that is encroaching upon the practical row houses more than it is doing so at the moment. But the writing is on the wall.”

—James McQuaide, VFX Supervisor/VFX Producer

McQuaide is proud of how the visual effects work did not draw attention to itself. “To finish your movie in closeup with the actor from the original Candyman and have him look the way he did 30 years ago, be fully CG, speak a line, be done in post and have it go by as if this was completely normal, there is no greater compliment than that,” he admits. “No comments were made about Cabrini-Green and Sherman looking artificial. In that regard, we did our job remarkably well. The shot I’m most proud of is when Anthony walks around the SUV and you see in the reflections all of the Candymen that have gone before him, because it encapsulates the racial violence that is at the core of this movie.”


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