How Five Nights at Freddy’s Brought Friendly Yet Frightening Vibes to Its Puppets

How Five Nights at Freddy’s Brought Friendly Yet Frightening Vibes to Its Puppets

They did it, they really did it. The Freddy Fazbear Pizza band from Five Nights at Freddy’s has been made real, and of course Blumhouse got the Jim Henson Creature Shop to do it.

io9 sat down with Five Nights at Freddy’s director Emma Tammi and project supervisor and lead designer Robert Bennett to discuss the collaboration, which has fans excited to see the beloved video game characters come to life. “We have an amazing team at the Creature Shop,” said Bennett, who also worked on The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. “The way that we initially started is we got the designs from [FNAF creator Scott Cawthon] and then we sat down with Emma and tried to figure out what these things needed to do—because that’s kind of a big part of building a character, is what does it need to do.”

Tammi jumped in. “Totally! So [the] different range of motion, different types of feelings we wanted to evoke, too: fear and dread versus quirky lovability, if you will,” she said, explaining the vision she had for the characters to present the fun and friendly facade of the animatronics, but then be able to become menacing when they’re alive.

It might look seamless on screen but it took a number of Henson puppeteers to make the magic happen. “Foxy’s a great example where you would have puppeteers performing digitally, like off off stage, and then you’d have puppeteers directly on the puppet, making it move,” Bennett explained. By digitally, he meant with a modern range of animatronic tools operating on remote controls that gave the puppeteers backup for all the different types of scenes. Bennett discussed his favourite, which gets a shining moment in the trailer: “Honestly, there’s a scene of Chica in the kitchen. I’ve seen the shots in the trailer but even on set, that was for me visually one of my favourite sets to see them perform on. It was moody [and] there’s a lot going on there.”

Image: Universal Pictures

Tammi continued. “We did all of that practically, and then we sweetened some things in post a little bit. That was, I’ll say, as much as we really did. The whole approach of this movie and certainly with the animatronics was to do everything practically. There still ends up being a fantastic collaboration to be had with VFX artists, whether that be clean-up or enhancements. And all of our conversations with the VFX teams were also about how can we support it feeling looking practical. So we were really all in sync about that, which was an exciting collaboration.”

Five Nights at Freddy’s is in theatres now.

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