Son of Monsterpalooza, a Gathering of Monster-Makers in Burbank

Tom Savini at Son of Monsterpalooza
Tom Savini at Son of Monsterpalooza
Liz Ohanesian

In nearly every corner of the Burbank Convention Center on Saturday afternoon, someone is making a monster. They are applying layers of makeup to models, turning humans into imaginative nightmare fodder. They are sculpting, painting and drawing creatures, some of whom have graced big screens across the globe, others fresh from the minds of the artists. At Son of Monsterpalooza, part of the Monsterpalooza family of fan events, folks take the tagline "the art of monsters" seriously. This isn't just a spectacle. It's a place to watch and learn.

Tom Savini isn't making any monsters at his booth, but he spent years creeping out fans with special effects make-up for movies like Friday the 13th and Creepshow. He has also taught many others the craft. An actor, director and make-up artist, Savini is beloved by fans, who stop by to say hi when he's stationed at the booth.

His goal is to teach students "the mindset" of the job, he says. "We do the same thing magicians do. We make people believe that what they see is really happening."

Cinema Makeup School alum Miya Tamlyn poses with her model Kat Sheridan.
Cinema Makeup School alum Miya Tamlyn poses with her model Kat Sheridan.
Liz Ohanesian

Near a convention center entrance, Cinema Make-up School has set up shop. Alumni of the Koreatown-based institution are showing off their skills with the help of a few models.

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Miya Tamlyn isn't making a monster today. Instead, she's transforming model Kat Sheridan into Darkchilde, an X-Men character. It's a project they originally did for San Diego Comic-Con and requires much more than the hours of makeup application that took place in front of the crowd on Saturday. "It's a full body piece," Tamlyn explains, with body paint in addition to face work, along with horns and teeth and loads of other accessories.

Tamlyn began the project in February, carving out a few hours every night to get the project done. Working with a team, they custom-fitted everything to Sheridan, whom the make-up artist met at another convention. Sheridan is a cosplayer, so she has experience with wild costumes, but this is different. It took seven hours alone just to cast her for various pieces. Today, they began application at 10:30 a.m. At a little after 2 p.m., Sheridan's look is just about finished.

An artist sculpts a monster at Cinema Makeup School's booth.
An artist sculpts a monster at Cinema Makeup School's booth.
Liz Ohanesian

It's not just makeup artists. Sideshow Collectibles, the company known for its high-end collectible figures based on popular comic book, TV and film characters, has a display near the front of the building. They're showcasing Court of the Dead, a new series of collectibles based on characters and stories created in-house. Meanwhile, The Scary Closet, a new L.A.-based company, is showing off prototypes for large puppets based on horror movie characters like Pennywise.

From professionals to hobbyists, it looks like everyone loves a good, scary monster.

Stephen Chiodo, director of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, at Son of Monsterpalooza.
Stephen Chiodo, director of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, at Son of Monsterpalooza.
Liz Ohanesian

Talk to a monster-maker and you might quickly get an origin story, a retelling of the moment when an ordinary child realizes that his or her destiny is making monsters. For Stephen Chiodo, that happened when he was a kid in the Bronx watching the 1933 version of King Kong. "I thought it was real," he says, the excitement of the moment still apparent in voice. "I thought it was fantastic." Chiodo went as far as to ask his parents to take him to the Empire State Building. He wanted to find the crack in the cement indicating that the monster was there.

After that, Chiodo was hooked. He started working on stop-motion animation when he was only 10. Years later, he and his brothers opened their own studio in L.A. Chiodo Bros. have worked on many high-profile projects— from Elf to The Simpsons to Team America— but their claim to fame is the 1988 cult horror flick Killer Klowns from Outer Space, a movie that turns every staple of the circus into something incredibly bizarre. Chiodo directed the film, which went on to gather a cult following thanks in part to repeated plays on cable TV.

"I think it kind of struck a chord with everybody," says Chiodo. "We all kind of like clowns, but we're all a little afraid of clowns."

The Chiodo Bros.' monsters still excite fans more than a quarter century after the film's release. "That's been the biggest joy for me," says Chiodo. "After 25 years, there's still an audience, a very devoted audience, of the film." The best monsters don't fade with time. They exist in our nightmares for generations to come.


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