“There were many steps involved with bringing the character of Billy Butcherson to life – or reanimated life.”
We’re huge fans of Hocus Pocus here on Bloody Disgusting, and we’ve got quite a treat today for those of you who are fellow fans of the 1993 Halloween classic.
Not only did we get the chance to speak with Alterian Inc’s makeup FX master Tony Gardner, who was the film’s animatronic cat effects artist/special makeup effects artist, but he was also awesome enough to share with us TONS of behind the scenes insights as well as NEVER SEEN set photos that document his team’s effects work.
Of course, one of the film’s biggest effects is the undead character Billy Butcherson, played by iconic creature performer Doug Jones. Gardner’s photos and insights peel back the curtain and showcase all the work that went into bringing Billy to the screen; did you know, for example, that Jones wasn’t the only one to play Billy?!
Consider this an early Halloween treat – a bonus featurette for Hocus Pocus, if you will, that you certainly won’t find on any of the film’s home video releases!
Most of the set photographs below are credited to Andrew Cooper.
KEEP UP WITH TONY GARDNER and ALTERIAN INC. AT THE FOLLOWING SOCIALS:
“This behind-the-scenes photo from Hocus Pocus was taken on the lot at Disney Studios, on the soundstage where both the Witch’s house and the Graveyard sets were built. Here Director of Photography Hiro Narita fine-tunes the lighting on Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson, for the scene where Billy faces off against the witches on their broomsticks flying towards him over the cemetery. A giant flying grid was mounted to the ceiling of the stage that was capable of flying the Sanderson Sisters anywhere on the stage at any angle, and in this case, a cameraman was flown towards Thora Birch in the rig, representing Bette Midler/ Winnie Sanderson’s point of view. The high speed of travel on the rig would cause the “rider” to spin out at a certain point towards the end of their trajectory, which made for entertaining shooting days.”
“This photo was taken on the Disney sound stage where Hocus Pocus’s graveyard set was built. Actress Thora Birch reacts to Winnie Sanderson (Bette Midler) flying down to grab her, while Headless Billy Butcherson struggles to put his head back on in the background. For the scenes in the film where Billy Butcherson loses his head, actress Karyn Malchus took over for Doug Jones as “Headless Billy.” I wanted to shoot the effect practically on set, so we built up an upper torso for Karyn to wear that was proportionate to Doug Jones’. Karyn wore a skullcap with a neck stump on it that had magnets inside the stump that corresponded with magnets buried in the neck of the latex and polyfoam severed head of Billy Butcherson. Alterian had done a variation of this design on Karyn earlier, for a film called Freaked, where Karyn played a character named “Sock Head” and wore an animatronic “head” above her own, mounted on a skullcap.”
“This is a photo of Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson on the set of Hocus Pocus. His weathered skin and gaunt look was created by using one single foam latex appliance to cover his entire face and neck. I thought it was the easiest way to keep the prosthetics as thin as possible, and be able to have the wrinkles and folds line up and move well over the entire surface of his head. Because it was so thin and delicate, it took two makeup artists to apply it every day: myself and Margaret Prentice. The stitches were glued into his facial appliance every day, and between shots I would disconnect them on the bottom lip so that Doug could talk and eat. It wasn’t a flattering look though – he looked like a cross between a walrus and a skinny teenager trying to grow a mustache.”
“This Hocus Pocus photo was taken when Doug Jones‘ lovely wife, Laurie, came out to hang with us on the graveyard set on the Disney Studios lot. She was literally the picture of serenity sitting next to her husband on set while Margaret Prentice touched up Doug’s makeup. I seized on the opportunity to make the photo more memorable for her, and photo-bombed it pretending to be yelling at Doug.”
“Who doesn’t want a photo of themselves with their favorite zombie and favorite actor, Doug Jones? This was taken on the cemetery set for Hocus Pocus, which was built on Sound Stage #2 on the Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California. Doug wore foam latex gloves instead of hand appliances to save time during the prosthetic makeup application process, and also allow us to add some additional length to his fingertips. The gloves had acrylic fingercups inside them so that the extra length of the fingers was solid instead of floppy, and the fingercups were sculpted with long nails on them that were cast in a translucent grey dental acrylic. Given how physical Doug was as Billy, it was also nice to be able to change out his zombie gloves if they were torn up on set, as opposed to having to stop and spend valuable time repairing prosthetic hands.”
“Makeup Artists Margaret Prentice and myself touching up Billy Butcherson (actor Doug Jones) on the set. Doug’s prosthetic makeup took a little over two hours to apply, including the wig. The hands were foam latex gloves and were not worn until just before the camera was rolling. Doug wore a full-body spandex suit underneath his character’s wardrobe, which had foam latex “zombie” arms and legs, which were visible through the character’s tattered wardrobe. After the first makeup test, it was agreed upon that Doug’s big brown eyes were the soul to the character, and as a result, no contact lenses would be used.”
“There were many steps involved with bringing the character of Billy Butcherson to life – or reanimated life. We spent a day at Alterian doing a complete headcast and bodycast of Doug Jones, and also cast his teeth (so that we could build a rig inside his mouth to house some moths and dust for him to cough up on command). A month or so later we had Doug back out to try on his full body spandex suit, which included foam latex arms and legs – so that Billy’s zombified body could be visible through the tattered wardrobe, and we did our first glue-down test of the facial appliance makeup. That’s when actress Karyn Malchus came onboard to play the part of “Headless Billy.” In the first photo, we have Karyn and Doug side by side, both wearing the legs for the character. From here we figured out the best method to build Karyn’s upper body up proportional to Doug’s, and still allow here a range of movement with her arms to be able to carry her head around as well as crawl around the ground. The second photo is of Doug’s first wardrobe fitting at Alterian, with his skin color adjusted per the lighting on set, and his hero wig on and styled. The last photo in the series is of the completed look on set.”
“This behind the scenes photo was shot right after Doug Jones had had his zombie makeup touched up, and he had gotten settled into his coffin for his resurrection scene. The ground in the area where his grave was located was built off of the stage floor high enough to allow for the pneumatic rig that Terry Frazee‘s physical effects crew had built that would make the earth rise and fall, and also push Billy’s coffin up and out of the ground. Doug was fine will doing this stunt himself – which was good, because his makeup would have looked pretty humorous on anyone else. Once Doug was settled into the coffin, it was lowered down into the ground, a breakaway coffin lid was laid down over Doug, and then loose dirt, moss and leaves were piled on top of that. Once we got the “all clear” and the machinery started up, Doug was on his own. I think they had their shot on the first take.”
“In this behind-the-scenes shot, Doug Jones (in full Billy Butcherson zombie makeup), leans in so that Margaret Prentice and I can reference his makeup while matching up the look of his character’s severed head. This was prior to the scene where Omri Katz (as Max) knocks Billy’s head off with a tree branch. Karyn Malchus played the headless version of Billy Butcherson, and would be wearing this dummy head on top of a skullcap strapped to her own head, while looking through the lace of Billy’s collar. The fake head had magnets mounted in the base of the neck, and there were corresponding magnets inside the neck stump that Karyn wore on her head. The tree branch was metal covered in foam, and the only protection Karyn’s real face had was just the fiberglass skullcap covering her face from the nose up, so there was a lot of rehearsal to make sure that Karyn’s false head was at exactly the right height for the branch to take Billy’s head off and not her own.”
“In this behind-the-scenes shot from Hocus Pocus, Director Kenny Ortega (in grey shirt) lines up the scene where headless Billy Butcherson (on the left side of the photo) has just had his head kicked off by Winnifred Sanderson’s fly-by on her broomstick. Actress Karyn Malchus is wearing the “Headless Billy” rig, and that red dot in her hand is actually the base of a small fan that she’s pointing at her own face through the lace of the character’s collar. In the background behind Ortega you can see a zombie in a tracksuit: Doug Jones wearing his zombie prosthetics and wig, but regular sweatpants and shirt. That outfit was pretty much Doug’s uniform when he wasn’t in wardrobe, and he still wears that same outfit to work 25 years later.”
“Besides the real cats that played Binx in Hocus Pocus, there were a few versions of the cat that were built by the Binx crew at Alterian, supervised by Bill Sturgeon. In addition to the hero animatronic Binx, there were floppy cats, posable stand-in cats, and inflatable versions of Binx. After the animatronic Binx had been built and film-tested, it was decided that the cat’s long fangs were a bit too threatening, so we had to shorten the acrylic teeth on the animatronic Binx…a delicate operation considering the already-completed fur work and the small size of the cat’s mouth.”
“In this photo, I’m gluing Doug Jones‘ pre-cut mouth stitches back together with a prosthetic adhesive so that he can drag a blunt knife across his mouth, open his mouth up, and cough up some dust and some live moths. Alterian’s Vance Hartwell was in charge of fabricating a “mouth rig” that was essentially a latex pocket attached between upper and lower dentures which completely blocked Doug Jones’ throat. There was a small hole in the very back of the pocket so that Doug could cough some air through it and force the fuller’s earth and the mouths up and out of his mouth. Once the pocket was loaded with the Fuller’s earth, an animal wrangler would place several moths in the pocket with tweezers, under the supervision of a representative from the Humane Society. Then the stitches would be glued shut, and we’d run out of frame so that they could get to the shot as fast as possible. Unfortunately, it took a few takes to get this just right, but Doug was a real trouper! Those moths gave it their all as well. (Remeber, this was pre-CGI …there was no option other than figuring out how to do it practically with real moths.)”
“In these behind-the-scenes polaroid photos from Disney’s Hocus Pocus, Actress Karyn Malchus is fit for her Headless Billy Butcherson wardrobe for the very first time, while wearing the prototype body rig for the headless version of Billy. The sleeves for this version of the character had to be modified so that the area where they attached to the body of the jacket was a much larger opening, to allow for Karyn’s arms to go into the false arms at her shoulder height, which was midway down the false torso. Weird to see everything clean and white, prior to the final fabric choices and the dying and aging of the material. Karyn was working in an extremely limiting body rig, and with limited vision. She and Doug Jones were two peas in a pod – neither of them ever complained about anything and were so much fun to work with.”
In this shot, actor Doug Jones (in costume and makeup as character Billy Butcherson) poses with (from L to R) Makeup Effects Designer/Artist Tony Gardner, Writer/Producer David Kirschner, Director Kenny Ortega, and Producer Ralph Winter. Doug and David Kirschner are standing in Billy’s grave on set inside Disney Studios’ Stage #2. This grave was dug separately from the grave Billy rose out of, so that there was enough depth to hide a stunt mat in the bottom of it so that Doug could fall back into the grave and completely out of shot.”