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Creating Vigo the Carpathian, and the Ghostbusters II Ending You Never Saw

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Glen Eytchison was deep in the planning stages of his next theatrical production when he got a phone call from Industrial Light & Magic. It was early 1989, and employees at George Lucas’s famed visual effects house needed to create a painting of a 16th-century Carpathian warlord that could come to life for director Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters sequel. They had to do it fast: The movie was due to come out in June. Could Eytchison help them? 

Living paintings were something Eytchison knew well. As director of the Laguna Beach, California show Pageant of the Masters, he had, at that point, been creating tableaux vivants—three-dimensional sets containing actors that were lit to look like flat paintings and would, at the right moment, shockingly come to life—for more than a decade. “We’re the best at it,” he tells mental_floss. “No question about it. There’s no one any better in the world.” Eytchison was also a Ghostbusters fan whose idol was ILM visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren—so, of course, he said he’d help. 

What followed was a whirlwind month in which Eytchison and his team created a painting that would terrify moviegoers, sewed together Vigo the Carpathian’s costume, built a physical set of the painting, and shot footage of Wilhelm von Homburg as Vigo—complete with warlord outfit and facial prosthetics—stepping out of that set to fight the Ghostbusters. Eytchison, his crew, and ILM had no idea that their creation would become an iconic movie villain.

When he flew up to meet with Muren at ILM’s headquarters, then located in San Rafael, California, Eytchison intended to talk them out of using his services. “When all is said and done, the Pageant is about wood, unbleached muslin, paint, and light,” he says. “It’s not easy—in fact, it's very difficult—but it’s based on common sense: Eliminate the shadows and the set will look flat. I didn’t want them to go, ‘We’re paying this guy and that’s all you have to do?’”

But Muren wasn’t having it. “There’s no question we could figure it out, but you already know how to do it,” he told Eytchison. “Why should we waste our time?”

So Eytchison officially signed on and took a look at the script, while Muren and the ILM team outlined what they wanted their living painting to do. “They wanted him to be convincing as a flat painting in the early museum scenes where he’s being restored,” Eytchison says. “Then they wanted him to come to life and start speaking his lines, and they wanted that to be a really shocking moment.” 

Eytchison knew he could pull that off, but first, he had to tackle the most pressing issue: Creating the artwork on which he would base his living painting. “Some of ILM’s best people had produced some really brilliant and beautiful paintings, but they had all been rejected by Ivan Reitman,” Eytchison says. “They showed me a stack of paintings; Ivan had said that they were 'too Conan.' So our first task was to create a composition that would work for Ivan, and also work for us technically. It also had to work for Wilhelm von Homburg, who had already been cast as Vigo.’”

Eytchison knew they had to get started right away if they wanted to finish in time. So he asked ILM to send a matte painter down to his home in Southern California, where the Pageant’s costume department came prepared with books from their library. “We spent the day doing research to determine what a 16th-century Carpathian warlord would look like and what he would wear,” Eytchison says. “And while they were looking at costumes, I was looking through books of painters from that time and in that geographic location so we could match the look and feel of the period.”

After the team had compiled a number of samples, the next logical step would have been to spend a couple of days creating a painting to show to Reitman, but Eytchison decided to do something a little different. “We got a blackboard and we painted a background on it,” he says. “Then we painted several versions of each element—skies, trees, the burning castle, the throne of skulls—on separate layers of acetate.”

The final acetate assemblage. Courtesy of Glen Eytchison.

ILM representatives came down to Burbank, where Ghostbusters II was shooting, and went with Eytchison and executive producer Michael C. Gross to Reitman’s trailer, where they presented the painting. “I set it in front of him and said, ‘This is what a 16th-century Carpathian warlord would wear in battle,’” Eytchison recalls. “And he said, ‘I like it, but I don’t like the tree.’ And so I took the tree cel out, and put a different one in.” Reitman experimented for a while, testing different combinations and elements, and changing the positions of the acetate layers until he had a composition that he liked; then, Eytchison taped everything down. The meeting had taken just 15 minutes.

Eytchison took that composition, along with the reference material and photos of von Homburg, to a painter named Lou Police, who has created art for everyone from Warner Bros. Television to Walt Disney Studios. “We only needed one meeting with Lou,” Eytchison says. “He dialed in immediately to what we were going for. I was able to say, ‘The sky on this painting Ivan really likes, the patina on the armor in this painting he really likes, and the skulls he really likes in this painting.’ We gave the guy a stack of reference material that we had taken out of art books and circled and pointed arrows and pointed at stuff, and he said, ‘I know exactly what you want.’” 

A few days later, Eytchison had the painting of Vigo the Carpathian in hand. He photographed it and sent it to ILM and Reitman, who approved it immediately. Things were off to a great start. There was just one problem: Eytchison knew their original plan wasn’t going to work.

Lou Police's oil painting of Vigo, which Eytchison used as reference for creating the set and photograph seen in Ghostbusters II. Courtesy of Glen Eytchison.

There’s a big difference between creating a living painting on stage, where the nearest person is 40 feet away, and creating one for a film, where the painting is blown up across a huge movie screen with the audience sitting directly beneath it. “You're going to see every pore on his face—every imperfection,” Eytchison says. Which is why he knew that Police’s painting, as good as it was, would never be an exact match for von Homburg’s actual face. They would never be able to believably switch between the painting and the set for the scenes where Vigo talked to Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol) and ultimately stepped out of the painting.

Fortunately, Eytchison had a plan: The source painting would be used as a reference, but he and his crew would build the set, place von Homburg as Vigo in it, and photograph the whole shebang. Then, they’d blow up the photo to life-size and treat it in such a way that it would look like an oil painting, and that’s what would be used on the Burbank set. “That way, when he came to life, all I had to match was what we had already done,” Eytchison says, “as opposed to taking a painting of a guy and trying to match it exactly.”

ILM agreed to the plan, and Eytchison and his Pageant of the Masters team got to work. Rather than fly everyone up to San Rafael—which didn’t make financial sense—Eytchison opted to build the set in Southern California and ship it upstate.

Mike Smithson applies makeup to von Homburg, while sculptor Judy Park holds a palette. Courtesy of Glen Eytchison.

Many things had to happen very quickly. “We asked ILM to send us the cast of von Homburg’s body, which they did, in a big wardrobe box,” Eytchison says. “It came in three pieces, and we put them back together.” While Skipper Skeoch and Marci O’Malley were building the costume using the mannequin, Richard Hill was designing the set, then constructing it with the help of John Clancy. Simultaneously. Judy Parker was creating the structural elements of the set, like the skulls, which she sculpted from Styrofoam. Both the costume and the set were painted by David Rymar and Leslie Turnbull. “You need to use a similar texture on the background and on the foreground elements, and on the costume and the skin, because it’s the texture that’s going to make everything merge together as one piece,” Eytchison says. “That’s why the set painters are also the people who painted the foreground element and the costume.” Diane Challis Davy provided additional supervision of the physical production.

All of the elements took about two weeks to construct. Everything was shipped up to ILM, where the crew set it up in a light tent, which would help to eliminate shadows. Using a stand-in for von Homburg, Eytchison spent hours tweaking the lighting and getting rid of shadows to make the set look as flat as possible.

When von Homburg arrived, ILM’s Mike Smithson applied make up and prosthetics to his face (which he had designed along with Tim Lawrence). Then, the actor was inserted into the set, which was about 4 feet deep. They spent the next week taking the photo that would be blown up and turned into the oil painting on set, and shooting tests of Wilhelm speaking, moving, and stepping out of the painting.

Reitman wanted von Homburg to deliver his lines while standing perfectly still, with only his mouth moving. “We used several techniques to help him, including building a simple armature behind him to give him reference points and support, but he was having a tough time of it,” Eytchison says. “We were also dealing with the big reveal, where he stepped out of the set and onto the stage floor. It was an awkward move for Wilhelm, and he never got it quite right.”

Despite everything, Eytchison thought the results of their month-long sprint to create the effect looked fantastic. “I’m usually the one who is most critical of our work,” he says. “But when we saw the dailies, I thought the effect was going to be really interesting, and with a few modifications to the set, we could make Wilhelm more comfortable stepping in and out.” But not everyone agreed.

Eytchison on set with von Homburg, Dennis Muren (on the ladder), and Smithson (in blue). Courtesy of Glen Eytchison.

Though Eytchison was very happy with the results of the “test shoot, something about it—Eytchison is still not sure exactly what—just didn’t work for Reitman. “Ivan changed the entire ending,” Eytchison says. The director decided to replace the living picture scenes with a visual effect of Vigo’s disembodied head floating over a river of slime. At the end of the film, the villain doesn’t step out of the painting, but disappears from it, then reappears in the scene. Eytchison and his team weren't called back for the final shoot, which is why Vigo looks so different at the end of the film.

It was a shame but, Eytchison says, that is the nature of the film industry—and he knew that going in. “I wished we had a little more time with Wilhelm to work out the bugs, but I realized that Dennis and ILM were dealing with hundreds of issues,” he says. “There were a lot of people working on it—other people at other jobs in other departments whose needs also had to be considered. And when all is said and done, you have to trust that the director knows best.” Eytchison, a director himself, understood that.

Still, Eytchison is proud of the work he and his team did. “The fact that we managed to get it up there at all—I was just so pleased and impressed that we were able to work so quickly,” he says. “And Dennis Muren, Ned Gorman, and the rest of the crew at ILM were incredible to work with. They made us feel like a part of the team from the moment we arrived, and it was much appreciated.

The photograph that was turned into the "oil painting" used on the Ghostbusters II set. Courtesy of Glen Eytchison.

Since Ghostbusters II, Eytchison has created tableaux vivants for more movies—including Taylor Hackford’s The Devil’s Advocate (1997) and Barry Sonnenfeld’s Wild Wild West (1999), as well as for Broadway shows like Hairspray and The Will Rogers Follies, and for television series and commercials. But Vigo is still his most popular creation. 

“I get fan mail about Vigo,” Eytchison says. “I’ve been doing this 42 years. That’s a long time, and Vigo is the one thing that just keeps coming back. I get more attention for Vigo than I get for almost anything else I’ve done.”

The two paintings of Vigo survive. The photograph done up as an oil painting glowers out over a hallway at the San Francisco offices of Lucasfilm and ILM. Lou Police’s original hangs in Ivan Reitman’s home.

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15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
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DreamWorks

An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

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12 Facts About Disney's The Jungle Book
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Walt Disney Studios

It may not have followed Rudyard Kipling's book exactly—in fact, Walt Disney preferred that scriptwriters not read the book—but The Jungle Book was a toe-tapping box office success. Here are a few "bare necessities" you should know about the 1967 animated classic, which was released in theaters across America 50 years ago.

1. WALT DISNEY THOUGHT THE FIRST VERSION OF THE SCRIPT WAS TOO DARK.

Writer Bill Peet was brought on to script the first version of the movie, but Disney believed it was too dark. It’s not clear whether Peet left or was booted from the project; either way, a new team was brought in for rewrites. Floyd Norman, one of the new writers, said Walt wanted the film to have more laughs and more personality, and—true to Disney form—he also wanted sign off on every little detail.

2. MOST OF THE SONGS WERE DEEMED TOO DARK AS WELL.

Composer Terry Gilkyson was hired to write songs for the movie, but as with the script, Disney felt they lacked a sense of fun. Though the Sherman brothers (Richard and Robert) were brought in to write a new soundtrack, one of Gilkyson’s songs did remain in the movie: "The Bare Necessities." We'd say he got the last laugh: Not only is “The Bare Necessities” one of the best tunes in Disney history, it was also nominated for an Oscar (the film's sole nomination).

3. IT WAS THE LAST ANIMATED FEATURE WALT DISNEY OVERSAW.

When Disney died on December 15, 1966, the studio closed for a single day. Then they got back to business working on the last animated feature Disney had a hand in. It was released on October 18, 1967.

4. A RHINOCEROS CHARACTER GOT CUT.

Rocky the Rhino was intended to be a dim-witted, bumbling, near-blind character that would provide some comic relief. His scenes were completely storyboarded before he got the boot: He was supposed to appear after King Louie’s scene, but Walt didn’t want to put the funny sequences back-to-back.

5. THEY WANTED THE BEATLES TO VOICE THE VULTURES.

The Sherman brothers wrote the vultures’ song “That’s What Friends Are For” with The Beatles in mind, even giving the characters similar accents. But the Fab Four turned them down. “John was running the show at the time, and he said [dismissively] ‘I don’t wanna do an animated film.’ Three years later they did Yellow Submarine, so you can see how things change,” Richard Sherman said.

Here’s what the version of “That’s What Friends Are For” would have sounded like, as well as a glimpse of Rocky the Rhino:

6. THERE ARE MAJOR MISPRONUNCIATIONS IN THE MOVIE.

According to a guide written by Kipling, the main character’s name is pronounced "Mowglee" (accent on the 'Mow,' which rhymes with 'cow'), not “Moe-glee,” which is how Disney chose to say it. In addition, Kaa the snake is supposed to be “Kar,” Baloo the Bear should have been “Barloo,” and Colonel Hathi is really “Huttee.”

7. KING LOUIE WAS BASED ON LOUIS ARMSTRONG.

Although jazz singer and bandleader Louis Prima voiced the fire-obsessed orangutan, he’s not the Louis who the Shermans originally had in mind when they began writing “I Wan’na Be Like You” for the character. "We were thinking about Louis Armstrong when we wrote it, and that's where we got the name, King Louie," Richard Sherman told The New York Times. "Then in a meeting one day, they said, ‘Do you realize what the N.A.A.C.P. would do to us if we had a black man as an ape? They'd say we're making fun of him.' I said: ‘Come on, what are you talking about? I adore Louis Armstrong, I wouldn't hurt him in any way.'” In the end, Louis Prima stepped in.

8. A JUNGLE BOOK DANCE SEQUENCE WAS LATER BORROWED FOR ROBIN HOOD.

King Louie and Baloo’s “I Wan’na Be Like You” dance was later repeated, frame for frame, in Robin Hood, which also borrowed dances from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Aristocats. This was achieved through an animation technique called “rotoscoping,” where animators trace over the frames of old footage to use it in a different environment.

9. THE SONG "TRUST IN ME" WAS ALSO RECYCLED.

Originally written for Mary Poppins as “Land of Sand,” “Trust In Me” was recycled with new lyrics for Kaa to sing while hypnotizing poor Mowgli. Here’s what it would have sounded like:

10. THE YOUNG ELEPHANT WAS VOICED BY CLINT HOWARD.

Ron Howard’s younger brother also voiced another Disney youngster: Roo in the Winnie the Pooh movies.

11. PHIL HARRIS BROUGHT NEW LIFE TO BALOO.

Allegedly, Walt Disney chose Harris to voice Baloo after meeting him at a party. At the time, Harris was retired and nearly forgotten in Hollywood. His first day of recording didn’t go so well at first: Harris found Baloo’s tone wooden and boring, so asked if he could try a little improvisation. Once given the go-ahead, "I came out with something like, 'You keep foolin' around in the jungle like this, man, you gonna run across some cats that'll knock the roof in,'" Harris recalled. Disney loved Baloo’s new personality and rewrote lines to suit the style.

12. THERE WAS A SEQUEL.

It came out in 2003 (not direct-to-video, surprisingly) and featured Haley Joel Osment as Mowgli and John Goodman as Baloo. By most accounts, you shouldn’t bother seeing it; it currently has a 19 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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