Randy Cook (Ghostbusters) and His Work on Stop Motion/Practical Effects Before Winning The Oscar for Lord of The Rings

I might sound like a walking fossil to some by saying I grew up in an era when there was no CGI at all in special effects in film. And I can say, as obsessed as I have always been about film, I was with movie making as well.

From regular animation, to live action, to stop motion, I was fascinated by every single process used to create moving images, and (confirming the fossil thing) back in the 80’s/90’s when I was growing up there was no Youtube to do research about them. I remember sitting in front of the TV with a huge VHS tape (I have been asked what those are) waiting to tape any piece of information or “making of” show about them.

Often in those shows a man called Randall William Cook would show up. Many years after that, he won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects three years in a row for Lord of The Rings (2002, 2003, 2004).

Many people don’t know he has worked in over twenty films, including Ghostbusters, The Gate, The Thing and a lot of B movies like The Puppet Master series (a personal favorite). Before computer graphics where available to him, Cook had to rely in old school techniques like practical effects and stop motion animation to make his scenes come to life. The video excerpt I added above is about him working on Ghostbusters, making  the “Creatures” we see in the climax of the film (he used stop motion), and if you visit that scene again nowadays you can appreciate the huge difference with FX from ten years from now. If you see him working on the film The Gate, he would go from stop motion to people in costumes to make some scenes happen, among all sorts of “trickery”, from hanging kids up to the ceiling to do one shot to many other examples.

I would tape hours of videos like those ones, to me they spoke about creativity and hours of hard work just to create a couple of frames. The uncanny feel I still get from an image far form perfect, or the “weird” way stop motion still looks gives a sense of “hands on” to these old school films I truly feel nostalgic about. They were able to “wow” me, something so hard for me to feel again these days with 3D/CGI numb eyes. Very few films have that effect on me anymore, of course with few exceptions like Where the Wild Things Are and Inception, but that just happen every few years tops.

I wish I could tell that girl with the VHS tape what would become of Special FX in years to come, and that Randy Cook would still making film and “trickery” when she got older. She would be delighted, as much as I am now.