New Life To An Old Monster:
An Interview With Mark Teague, Jekyll Production
production designer by day...
toiling over a drawing desk and a computer graphics program,
Mark Teague provided key artwork for Creative
Light Entertainment's upcoming release, Comic Book: The
Movie (see ad to the right).
a man of many talents. Though right now he's focusing on design,
he co-wrote, co-directed and starred as Superguy in the mockumentary
Superguy: Behind The Cape, a critical favorite film
that provokes both laughs and - gasp - thought, as it tackles
the question of what would really happen if a superbeing appeared
in today's celebrity-obsessed and lawsuit-happy society?
spending a few years in television animation, Teague relishes
the challenge Scott Zakarin
at Creative Light has laid at his feet: oversee the design
of the company's latest film, Jekyll. Hip-deep in storyboarding,
the soft-spoken artist graciously took some time out to show
me around his office and give Fanboy Planet a sneak peek at
some of the designs for the creatures that will appear in
this modern take on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novella.
point did he bend steel in his bare hands, but he did burn
a CD of artwork faster than a speeding Commodore 64.
McCaw: You are the full-time Creative Light Production
Teague: I kind of wear many hats. We met because of a
film that I did, Superguy. From there I worked on Comic
Book: The Movie. I did all the graphics, the animation,
and all the stuff like that. And then I just sort of stayed
been in this business for a long time, mostly in animation.
I worked for Disney for six years, and then Marvel Studios.
Different companies. I was sort of done with the whole business,
but then, I just sort of like the family here. You can wear
any hat you want. You just have to show what you can do and
you get to do it. Most of the time.
was tooling around with Jekyll. It kind of came out
of nowhere. I mean, he had already written it, and then he
asked me if I'd be the production designer on it. Sure, I'd
is the first movie, to me, with Creative Light, where we're
going to keep it close. We're not going to farm out too much.
We're going to try to use all the guys in the office. In just
the year that I've been here, it seems like (everybody) is
just so talented. Just give them a program and they'll learn
it in a day or two. So we're just going to try and do as much
as we can here.
The special effects included?
The effects, editing, you name it. Each guy has made a film
before. They've been on a set, they're doing stuff, it's great.
What are the challenges for you, having been handed this Jekyll
project? What do you find most intriguing about Jekyll?
make the bunny angry.
(pre-production art from Jekyll)
Jekyll himself, or the script?
The script. Working on it, what's your approach?
I'm sort of a horror film freak. I really love the gorey stuff,
and I'm a big werewolf fan. Anything werewolves, I love.
I first read the script…well, to me as a kid, Jekyll and Hyde
was the next best thing (to a werewolf). He kind of
looked like Wolfman a little bit. You know?
Yeah, if you had the Glow-in-the-Dark models, they did look
Yeah. Exactly. Very true. When I read the script…I guess I
had my own agenda at first, because I was thinking, yeah,
gorey film, werewolves and transformations. Because it's kind
of the same old nerdy guy transforming into a hip guy. More
of a creature. And Scott said, no, no, no, you're reading
the oldest version. We're going to do it with a new style.
So there was a draft where he was much more monstrous?
Maybe I just read it that way. He just said, no, this is going
to be more of an internal change. And that's the biggest challenge.
You know, you could write it any way you want it, but it's
still going to wind up on the screen. The viewers have to
see some kind of a contrast. You can only go so internal.
been a challenge. Trying to figure out different ways, whether
it's high-tech, or just different contact lenses, or maybe
even putting the actor in one of those tanning salons where
they spray the body, so he's really tan when he's Hyde. I
just picture him as cool and hip, almost like a rock star.
I think of him as Jim Morrison. I go from your average joe,
maybe a Mathew Broderick, to a Jim Morrison. That's a pretty
those boundaries to work with, so I can tell the guys okay,
we're going this way or that way.
Okay, so I'm not allowed to show the pictures, but I've seen
that you're going through a lot of designs for Hyde. It looks
like you're having a hard time settling, but it does all still
have a vaguely Victorian look. You're going to stay with that?
Everybody says that. To me, I don't really like the top hat
idea and the cape and the cane, but the way Scott wrote it
in, I think, is brilliant. So it's kind of paying homage to
the traditional Jekyll and Hyde.
doing that more for fun. I see it as kind of a duster jacket,
where his arms will be revealed and stuff like that. When
I'm talking to the other storyboard artists, we have to assume
that, to me, when he's Hyde, he's Batman. He just has the
sleek fighting skills of Batman. I think the cape would be
fun to use, and twirl around a bit.
- it's not going to be on through the whole movie. It's just
a few selected scenes.
Just dominating the sketches that are lying around right now.
Any other particular challenges?
A lot of it is going to be creating the digital arena, the
internal stuff that's going on in his own head. Everybody's
already seen everything. Everything we think of, aw, it's
too Matrix-y, it's too much like this…
quite a transformation...
(pre-production art from Jekyll)
challenge is in trying to make it look good. But now we've
sort of moved on from that, and we just want to tell a good
story. I don't care what we use or how we do it at this point.
Just a good story.
thing is that we've got Michael Burnett on board, who's a
great creature designer. He's worked on Buffy and everything.
And he's excited about it. He likes the rabbit I drew. (For
a different sketch of Mark's Evil Rabbit than the one above,
at the stage of movie-making where we can do any effect. Now
let's just tell stories. Who cares who can do what? I don't
want to know when it goes to 3-D animation. I can't stand
that. I don't want to know. I want to forget. I want to walk
out going "wow!"
To backtrack a little, you mentioned Superguy. I think Scott
said you're going to get that released in February.
I think May, actually. Maybe the first quarter.
That was done independently and then picked up by Creative
Light in the last year?
It's been almost three years. It has its own weird cult following.
It's won different awards in festivals. It's almost like Spinal
Tap, but with a superhero. I don't know if you've seen it.
been an interesting roller-coaster ride with that. Before
we'd even finished it, we had an option deal with Paramount.
We ended up writing a pilot. They optioned it for two years.
We wrote the pilot for it, and at the last minute they passed
on it, too worried that it was not quite on the mark, a one-trick
pony. And now everything's going to be like that.
it's frustrating, seeing that even Disney is coming out with
their superhero film, The Incredibles. And it's the
played the whole Hollywood gambit for a while. And then we
said, okay, we're done. We got in this festival, about a year
ago, Dances With Film, and we had no idea that there was this
writer from Variety there. He gave it this incredible write-up
up my friend and said, do you think this means anything? And
he said not really. We might get a few e-mails here and there.
and friends, about to do lunch...
checked my e-mail, and there was like thirty e-mails from
every studio in Hollywood. My phone started ringing off the
hook. For about a month, I did nothing but go to meetings.
A lot of, "hey, how are you? I like your movie." "I like your
movie." "Let's work together." "I've got another guy coming
in about a half an hour - let's talk next weekend."
went on and on. I got sick of it. I knew I had a good property
here. People were paying attention to it. I had already met
Scott a year before, so I came back to Scott. I said I just
want to get it on the shelf. That's all I care about. I want
people to see it. The big audience to see it. Just go buy
it or rent it or whatever. From there we just started working
geek. A big total fanboy geek myself. I love superheroes,
sci-fi, monsters, anything. So it was just a great partnership.
I had to convince my three partners on Superguy to
go in with Creative Light; that was the hardest part. They're
not really…they never really watched superhero cartoons. They
weren't into X-Men and all that stuff. They're more
So are they working here, too?
They all work at different companies. We really just wanted
it sold. Miramax was sort of interested in it, but they passed
on it at the last minute. There's a clip of Superguy in Comic
Book: The Movie, for just a second, that we didn't use
in Superguy. It was just me singing the blues in costume.
is actually integrated into Comic Book: The Movie, as Superguy
sings in a hotel lounge. Really, it wouldn't be the weirdest
sight you'd ever encounter during ComicCon.
again to Mark for showing me his portfolio, some cool designs,
and just generally putting up with having me foisted upon