The upcoming remake of the 1988 horror favorite made sure that the 2019 Chucky still has some 20th century DNA inside his plastic body. Rather than render him as a digital creation like so many contemporary bad guys — think Thanos or Snoke — the production team made sure there was a physical doll on set menacing the film’s cast, including Aubrey Plaza and Gabriel Bateman as the mother and son who welcome Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) into their home. “I thought most of it was going to be CGI,” Bateman admits. “But they had an animatronic doll — six of them — that moved and could make facial expressions and everything.” (Watch the video above.)
A CGI Chucky was never an option for producer David Katzenberg and director Lars Klevberg. “A big part of getting Chucky right was having animatronics being a lot of the times we see Chucky,” Katzenberg says. So they enlisted the special effects studio MastersFX to create a line of Chucky “actors.” Puppeteer Jason Ward rattles off the lists of elements that went into the doll moviegoers will meet onscreen on June 21. “The actual internal structure is a series of animatronics that help move all the joints,” he notes, adding that a plastic exoskeleton goes on top of those animatronics, followed by foam latex skin, and the classic striped shirt-and-overalls costume. One part of his body that does get a digital assist are the eyes: “The eyes are built and replaced by digital movement,” Ward notes.
Once on set, it takes three-to-four puppeteers to bring Chucky — or, as he’s known amongst the crew, Robo-Chucky — to life. But that effort pays off with a doll that’s capable of all kinds of menacing expressions designed to freak out his human co-stars. “It’s an evil robot,” says Plaza. “There’s nothing creepier than that.”