Making Monsters

Episode 19’s podcast was all about Monster’s Inc. If you haven’t listened yet, please head over to Fancy Pants Gangsters and take a listen. If you have listened, you know that we talk about the humble, yet scary beginnings of monsters in cinema. Some monsters’ looks date back to fables and old books. In this article, we dive into the early art depictions of monsters of all kinds.

Werewolves are a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction. The widespread concept in European folklore, existing in many variants, which are related by a common development of a Christian interpretation of underlying European folklore developed during the medieval period. Belief in werewolves developed in parallel to the belief in witches, in the course of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Like the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland (especially the Valais and Vaud) in the early 15th century and spread throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century. Werewolves have been depicted in many different art forms for years because of their long legend.

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Werewolf by Lucas Cranach the Elder 1512  | Woodcut

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The Wolfman makeup by Jack Pierce 1941

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Wayne the Werewolf in Transylvania 2012  |  Digital Animation

Vampires are beings from who subsists by feeding on the life essence aka blood of the living. In European folklore, vampires were undead beings that often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighborhoods they inhabited when they were alive. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures, the term vampire was not popularized in the West until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as Eastern Europe. Vampires are described differently in most cultures and time periods but the creepiness is a common theme. Although, in more recent years vampires have had a makeover of sorts and are viewed as a lustful and attractive being.

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The Vampire by R. de Moraine 1864  |  Lithograph

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Count Orlok in Nosferatu 1922

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Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas Vampires 1993  |  Claymation

Frankenstein’s Monster a creature in the novel written by English author Mary Shelley in 1818 that tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. In Shelley’s original work, Dr. Frankenstein discovers a previously unknown but elemental principle of life, and that insight allows him to develop a method to imbue vitality into inanimate matter. The doctor spends two years constructing the creature’s body, one anatomical feature at a time, from raw materials supplied by “the dissecting room and the slaughter-house”, which he then brings to life using his unspecified process. Different from other monsters of folklore, Frankenstein’s Monster has a relatively young past and is represented in either Shelley’s original book with longer hair or from the 1931 Universal movie, Frankenstein. Jack Pierce did the famous makeup in the movie as well as other monsters for Universal.

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English Cartoon 1882

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Frankenstein makeup by Jack Pierce 1931

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Frankenstein’s Monter in Scooby Doo 1960’s  |  Animated

Monsters of all shapes and sizes exist in more legends and folklore that we can dive into at some other point but you can see from the examples above how we have progressed from graphic horror woodcut prints to animated less scary monsters. Information was found on Wikipedia about each monster’s background.

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