February 8, 2008

Bill Munns - Be Sure To Tune In.

Wednesday February 13, I will be speaking with none other than Bill Munns. If you dont know Mr. Munns, here is some information that will help get you aquainted with him.

Bill actually began his education in Hollywood magic as a teen, with a stuntman for a next door neighbor, and a special effects man across the Studio City, CA. He made his first movie as a class project at Hollywood High, and in 1966, started college as a film/theater arts major.

While learning just about every facet of the filmmaking craft, he gravitated toward makeup as a specialty, and became a working professional with Universal Studios when he was 20. With intense interest in prosthetics (masks, appliances and similar special makeup effects), Bill created the low budget but unforgettable "Blackenstein Monster" when he was

Teaching comes naturally to Bill (his mother was a college professor) and he respected the often unappreciated truth of the saying "we learn some from our teachers, more from our peers, and most from our student." So from 1972 until 1979, Bill focused on teaching makeup, as both teacher and director of the first makeup artist school in the world to prepare students for a Hollywood career. And during that time, Bill took it upon himself to recreate complete and faithful replicas of many classic makeups and monsters, to show his students not only the result but the process. A result of doing this gave Bill a unique perspective on the techniques and technology of the makeup industry, as it existed then, and provided a foundation for his studies now (35 years later) on the PG film and the controversy about whether the figure in the film is a human wearing a suit or a real animal.

Bill continued to look for new things to learn, and he had a lifelong love of animals. So when a famous movie animal trainer, Ralph Helfer, opened a school teaching people how to handle and work with exotic animals, Bill enrolled, just for the love of being close to the animals. But after taking all three phases of the training, Ralph started asking Bill how he could make his animals look different for a film project. How do you paint a chimpanzee green, to be an alien chimp? How do you put artificial tusks on a real elephant who's tusks have been cut to stubs. Can an orangutan be make to look half-human? How do you put a scar on a lion's face? And can any of these be done without tranquilizing the animal?

Ralph was preparing a film called "Savage Harvest" (a film about a family in Africa, terrorized by a group of lions) in 1979, and asked Bill to join the film as makeup effects supervisor, to handle the human makeups, the lion makeups, and the prosthetics to simulate some lion activities (a paw breaking through a window, etc.) Thus began Bill's next career phase, returning to film production as one of the makeup FX guys of the 80's, the era when makeup FX became a selling point for many movies.

During that decade, Bill designed the makeups and FX for "Swmp Thing","The Beastmaster", "Return of the Living Dead", "The Boogins", the revival of "The Munsters" TV series, as well as such specialized jobs as making a prosthetic for a chimpanzee to look like a laboratory specimen with shaved head and electrodes implanted in the skull (for "Brainstorm", Natalie Wood's last movie), make "Inflatable Dave", a love doll for "Where The Boys Are, 1984", make an assortment of erotic sculptures for an art gallery scene in Blake Edwards "Blind Date", and made a chimpanzee pregnancy belly prosthetic for "Paradise" (with Phoebe Cates).

But Bill's interest was in doing more realistic animal figures and scientifically respectable work, not just silly zombies and monsters. So he set out to start recreating superbly realistic replications of modern primates, as well as sculptures of human ancestors, based on fossil skulls. And that lead to one of the most iconic photos of Bill's career,and a photo that would gain worldwide fame in the studies of cryptozoology, and Bigfoot in particular. The infamous "Gigantopithecus" photo, with Bill standing beside it in a grove of banana trees, started simply as an extension of his work sculpting primates and ancestral hominids. He set out to create first just a head shoulder bust of Giganto (which now resides in the museum at the University of Iowa), but during that time, Bill was hired by a theme park robotics company interested in expanding into the museum exhibits market (where Bill's scientific sculptures were gaining acceptance).

That company, Creative presentations, agreed to take Bill's Giganto project one step further, allowing him to build a full body, full scale figure, for a showcase piece to promote the company's capability as museum exhibit designers. The figure of Giganto was built, and the infamous photo was taken in an off-exhibit area of the San Diego Zoo, before Bill moved the figure over to the San Diego Museum of Man for a temporary exhibit timed with the annual meeting of the Association of Physical Anthropologists. Once the picture was published in "Other Origins" about the search for fossils of Giganto, it was copied and launched onto the internet.

From that time, Bill's work continued on odd paths, doing sophisticated theme park and museum exhibit robotics, doing unusual prosthetics for the film industry, making the move to 3D digital computer graphics, and inventing a new software for lip syncing digital characters (for which he recently got his patent). Still very active creatively, he and some partners are seeking start-up funding for the lip sync technology software (to bring the patented process to market), Bill is writing and illustrating a book on Ancient Babylon, using his unique 3D visualizations of the ancient world for the illustrations, and has returned to the field of cryptozoology with his experience in movie prosthetics and suits being applied to the controversy of cryptids which are dismissed by some as just "a guy in a fur suit".

*Bio information provided by Bill Munns*


  • At 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hey melissa your interviews with bill munns & robert morgan were wonderful A+++ . lets talk bigfoot is a great show i will always listen to it. thanks bill green :)


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