Visual effects legend Phil Tippett on the 30-year nightmare of making ‘Mad God’


The 70-year-old Oscar winner appears on the Zoom call wearing a cropped t-shirt with a sunburst halo.

Phil Tippett’s stark white hair and beard add to the celestial aura, an image the stop-motion animation legend is behind the iconic designs of star wars, RoboCopand jurassic park would probably find amusing. After all, he’s spent the last three decades painstakingly constructing his own vision of hell, an endeavor that led him into a nervous breakdown.

“It just burned me and put me in the psychiatric ward. It took me a while to get over it, ”he says during our conversation. “That was really it [Joseph] The Journey of the Campbellian Hero, as [Carl] Jung did with his red book. When artists are obsessed, it shows, and it can really take you to dark places.

The “mad god” meets ZoomAndrew Paul / Entrance

Tippett was institutionalized for about a week and later diagnosed with unipolar depression shortly after completing crazy god, his highly anticipated horror saga that garnered a cult following years before it was even released. Now, after three decades, Tippett’s finished work is finally available on the horror streaming platform, Thrill — and as often as this sentiment is used, please trust me when I say you haven’t seen anything like it.

“The project has obviously exhausted and transformed me. And I will never, ever make another movie like this,” he swears.


It is obvious from the first images of the film that crazy god is Tippett’s magnum opus – a surreal, ambitious and painstaking mix of stop motion, live action and moving animation (now an industry standard technique that Tippett co-developed and popularized ages ago). over 40 years).

The plot is deliberately vague: an anonymous explorer called “the assassin” descends via a diving bell into a post-apocalyptic hell populated by armies of fleshy automatons, cleaver-wielding mutant brothel ladies, and juggernauts engaged in a perpetual battle. From there, it only gets weirder. Bile, blood, viscera, cascades of faeces; you name it, it’s probably splashed across the screen at some point during The Assassin’s explorations.

A film of such breathtaking intensity could never be completed on its own, but thankfully Tippett had the help of many colleagues, artists and fans over the years to help both build and film. crazy godcomplex sequences and character interactions. “I was lucky to have a lot of volunteers, and [with] Kickstarter and friends lent me money and so on, I was able to finish it,” he says. Even with that help, Tippett has spent thousands of hours of start-ups and tweaks over the years building mountains of molten army men, mechanical plague doctors, and wailing monstrosities built from real dentures and human hair. “That’s a pretty boilerplate answer, but they’re all like your kids,” he replies when I ask him if he has a favorite creature.

“I’m going nevernever make another movie like this.”

For a film that required such methodical, behind-the-scenes planning and preparation, it’s also, somewhat ironically, a film that deliberately doesn’t spend time worrying about logic, a clearly defined narrative, or a explicit symbolism.

“It happened quite naturally, you know?” One thing leads to the next. I do not work by intention, I work mainly from my unconscious. This is my guide. I trust her and she tells me what to do,” he explains of his creative process. As such, viewers are encouraged to feel crazy god instead of breaking down each thumbnail and character. Descriptors like “gloomy”, “grotesque” and “What did I just watch?” often come to mind when watching Tippett’s hallucinatory journey. But, oddly enough, there are certainly moments of hope, dare I say it.

“I still have hope. I mean, you don’t have anything else, even if it’s in the last moments of your life,” he says. “It’s a wonderful, cruel world , and you must embrace both.” Tippet says that crazy god was his attempt to find that balance between the wonderful and the cruel. “The [film] is very influenced by Hieronymus Bosch. It’s filled with horrible and demonic stuff but also fantasy, you know? Visions of the sky.

Clock versus time

The last section of Tippett’s crazy god also clearly touches on how one experiences and combats the notion of time itself – a perhaps unavoidable and unsurprising theme coming from someone whose life’s work is centered around slow, progressive still images that combine to represent fluid motion.

“The older I get, the more I study time, the more I observe time in the simplest things — I’m still amazed by that, you know? In a simple walk to the grocery store, what happens in [that] live?” he mused. “It’s like an adventure, it’s almost like I don’t know where I am. [other] thought, and it’s just like, ‘I’m home! It’s a miracle !’ laughs Tippett. “The weather is very mercurial. I really enjoy time.”

In the years before, during and after crazy god (he’s already preparing for another mystery animation project, Pendiken de Pequin) Tippett often ran to meet countless deadlines, both personal and professional. Now with crazy god and the positive and negative personal effects of the film behind him, perhaps Tippett can enjoy these mercurial moments more.

“You always work against the clock, [so] you have an innate sense of the clock,” he says of his career. “But it’s not ‘time.'”


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