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Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Peek Inside the John Cox Creature Workshop

Monster movie aficionados may recognize the endoskeleton to the left as one built by Willis O'Brien in 1945, which I believe may have possibly been used in his 1956 film The Animal World. As stunning as it was to be in the presence of this piece of movie history, it wasn't even the main attraction in the excellent exhibit I got a chance to preview tonight at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Called "How to Make a Monster", the traveling attraction showcases the impressive work of John Cox, the animatronic wizard who won an Oscar in 1993 for his work on Babe. And thanks to my membership at the Museum, I got the opportunity to take part in the official kick-off of the exhibit, and to drag my dad along for the ride.

But my dad and I didn't show up at the Museum tonight to see cute little pigs and sheep. I am, after all, the keeper of The Vault of Horror, and I have a responsibility to my readers.

There, that's a little more like it. This charming fellow and his brethren were among the only reasons to sit through Pitch Black. And here's a cool fun fact for you: notice the blue glow inside its jaws? Well that was caused by the flash from my camera, meaning Cox was using some nifty light-sensitive paint. Nice touch.

But every effects guy worth his salt has to have some dinosaurs on his resume, and Cox is no different. Here's one of the stars of the 1998 Sci-Fi original flick Gargantua, which was supposedly an attempt to cash in on the impending release of the American remake of Godzilla. Hey, don't hold it against Cox. After all, he didn't make the movie--just the dinosaurs.
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Slightly unnerving, isn't it? That's one of the animatronic endoskeletons Cox's studio built for the same movie, just without the skin. But if you think that's unnerving, wait till you get a load of this:

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Yeeeesh... No, that's not the Eye of Sauron. Actually, it's an eye from the giant killer crocodile in last year's Rogue.

Speaking of which, here's an early, unpainted version of that very aforementioned killer crocodile. And just in case you need more reptilian goodness...






I ask you, what other museum exhibit has a display case labeled "Crocodile Eyeballs"? The answer, my friends, is none. Need I say more?


In all seriousness, Cox really has some amazing work to boast of, and it's a wonder he's not better known, at least here in the United States. I noticed that he has done a lot of commercial work for TV in his native Australia, so it's possible he's better known over there. This is a guy who's dedicated to his craft. For instance, he built these two monsters, not for any movie, but rather, just for the hell of it:














Tell me that Gillman on the left shouldn't have landed Cox a spot working on the Creature from the Black Lagoon remake. As for that werewolf, it's cooler than many I've seen in actual movies.

Unfortunately, there were no samples of Cox's work on the Korean monster flick The Host, which I was hoping to see. Nevertheless, my dad and I had a very fun evening (the champagne didn't hurt). I urge you to check the exhibit out if you're in the area--it'll be here until the end of January. If you're not in the area, stay calm. This is, after all, a traveling exhibit, and so it may very well be headed your way next.

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