MastersFX recently celebrated the third anniversary of their studio in Etobicoke, Canada (just outside Toronto). And what a great three years they’ve had. The crew has stayed busy creating creatures for hit TV shows and popular movies. In fact, one Netflix movie the crew took on, Aliens Ate My Homework, was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Makeup.
Founder and president of MastersFX, Todd Masters, co-produced Aliens Ate My Homework along with Producers Roger Lay Jr. and Eric Carnagey of Lay-Carnagey Entertainment. The film’s title aliens were a MastersFX creation. They were developed using images from Bruce Coville’s book of the same title.
“We all loved Katherine Coville’s art—from the books—and we wanted to expand on those ideas, in their cinematic form,” Masters says.
“Since I was one of the producers, and working with a tight budget, we were able to cut a million corners, quickly getting designs approved, our effects builds were started early on, and our alien cast members were hired fast. We even managed to sneak one of our longtime studio supervisors, Brad Proctor, inside a plant to portray the role of ‘Phil the Plant!’ His part was later voiced by William Shatner,” Masters adds.
Other members of the film’s Galactic Patrol cast included: the graceful and powerful Madame Pong, portrayed by Tristan Risk; Alex Zahara as Tar Gibbons and Dan Payne as Grakker—a blue-faced alien soldier who has a behavior module for nearly every personality.
“We got very lucky with our aliens cast. Everyone was perfect and amazing,” Masters continues. “We were lucky to be able to invite them in early, as we had done several projects with each of them and knew they’d be perfect for these characters. Working with the rest of our MastersFX team, developing these characters was an amazing and fun process. We had to pinch ourselves, everyone that we wanted for this project was just as excited as we were.”
MastersFX not only creates puppets, prosthetics and animatronics work for the projects in which they are involved, but the team contributes to other elements as well, such as props and the like. For Aliens Ate My Homework, MastersFX created the alien costumes and weapons as well.
Masters explains: “Each of these characters evolved in our make-up and dressing rooms, after a few costume fittings. Each performer would come by and we’d literally start building on them, embellishing their costumes with a variety of additional items. As each member of the Galactic Patrol is from a different part of the universe, our team made sure each actor had his or her own look, style, color and feel.
“Normally, so many of these character effects would have been nearly impossible given our tight budget. But since we were so personally invested in the project—and all such big fans of Bruce Coville’s books—we insisted that everyone on the team gave it the old ‘Get’r done’ attitude, and just have fun. For all of us, it was truly the love for the project that got this made—and the Emmy nomination is the topping on the cake!” Masters concludes.
Said Lay and Carnagey, “From the very start of this project, we set our sights on making sure that every aspect of Aliens Ate My Homework would make young viewers believe in the wonder of the story, so they would want to be a part of this adventure. Todd Masters and his team at MastersFX helped us achieve that by surrounding the cast with wildly imaginative practical creatures that could perform and interact with our cast without any limitations. As longtime fans of Todd’s work, we can say that working with him on this film was a dream come true.”
Lay-Carnagey Entertainment and Todd Masters are already collaborating on another film project—details of which will be announced soon.
New projects for MastersFX include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Expanse and The Umbrella Academy. MastersFX has had their creative claws in The Handmaid’s Tale from the very start of this award-winning series. Each episode, MFX helps bring the alarming world alive, with work ranging from artificial babies to surgical procedures. Prosthetic designs for the show are also being spearheaded by the studio.
The Expanse has been anther show MFX has helped create from the beginning—contributing to the show’s memorable prosthetic effects and tattoo designs. Oh, and plenty of fabricated wounds, battle scars and mutilations.
The new series The Umbrella Academy will be sporting MFX’s work as well. The studio had their hand in the creating some truly unique character masks.
With all these projects going on, it’s fair to say the studio is keeping busy and has had great success in their three years in Toronto. The studio’s supervisor Zane Knisely—who has been creating innovative make-up effects for the entertainment industry for over 20 years—reflects on the past three years, saying, “Ever since we opened three years ago, it seems like we’ve consistently been on a growth spurt. We had to move into a new, larger space last year, in fact. Our new space is bustling and bursting at the seams, with incredible new monsters and fake body parts,” he says.
It was April Fool’s Day of all days when Masters and Knisely launched the studio in Toronto. Seems appropriate.
On making this move, Masters says: “Zane mentioned to me a few years ago that we need to build a space in Toronto, so we started talking and costing out the idea. Then, nearly at the same time, a producer on a series we were developing also told us we needed to set up a shop there. Zane was exactly right!”
The 2019 Daytime Emmy Award winners were announced on May 5. For more on MastersFX’s 30+ years in the business, check out Issue 135 and our entire back issues collection.