Blast from the Past! Rick Lazzarini and his work on "Spaceballs"
After Rick Lazzarini's stint at Stan Winston Studio on "Aliens" (for which he desiged and created animatronics for the Alien Queen, Running Facehugger, and Opening Egg), he freelanced about a bit. In 1986, Prosthetic makeup maven Ken Diaz contacted Rick, known for his animatronic wizardy, and asked if he might be able to tackle a challenge for a film he was going to be working on: Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs". John Candy had been selected to play "Barf", a half-man, half dog, and he needed very expressive ears.
Working from a head cast, skull cap, and a foam latex skin provided by Diaz, Lazzarini went to work on two versions of Barf's ears. Common to both pairs was that each ear would be individually movable, and each would have 5 Axes of movement: Rotate,Tilt side to side, Tilt forward/back at the base, and then two other Axes of Curling/Pointing straight. This would allow for nearly the same expressiveness and movement as a human hand, (with fingers together), so it would allow the ears to wave, curl, and spring to attention.
As per the specifications, one pair of ears was to be Cable Controlled, the other set Puppeteered via Radio Control. Lazzarini created a "Barf-Ear Waldo®", a cable-controller that mimicked every axis on the animatronic Barf Ears (this was not the first Waldo controller Lazzarini had created for a film; three years earlier, he constructed a Radio-Control Hand Waldo® for a severed arm at the climax of Clint Eastwood's "Tightrope"). The Barf Ear Waldo® provided a lot of "oomph" and speed to the ear movements, as it was all controlled by human muscles. The drawback of course was...it meant everywhere that Candy/Barf went, he had to trail a set of cables, and a rolling cart with Lazzarini and his Barf Ear Waldo® at the other end. While used a few times on set, it proved cumbersome and was quickly replaced by the more preferable alternative: The Radio Controlled Barf Ears.
The original Barf-Ear Waldo®, a cable-controller that duplicated every axis on the animatronic Barf Ears.
The Radio-Controlled Barf Ears and backpack.
Lazzarini found the strongest, fastet servos of the time, and placed them in a reconfigurable array on a leather backpack. This allowed Candy as Barf total freedom of movement, and Lazzarini to Puppeteer from off-screen wherever he had a good line of sight. Spending a lot of time together in the Makeup Room and on-set, Lazzarini and Candy bonded and had some great times together, both on and off-set.
With so much time on the set, Lazzarini read ahead in the script, noticing that there was an upcoming scene involving a parody of "Planet of the Apes". While working with Ben Nye Jr. and Ken Diaz in the makeup room, Lazzarini asked: "Well, who's making the appliances for this?" Nobody seemed to know, or had planned it out yet, so Rick does what he always does: he went for it. He went to the Unit Production Manager, Robert Brown, and made an offer: He would create a "Cornelius" prosthetic appliance, for no charge, provided that he wear it and be cast as one of the apes in the film. "I'm already on a weekly SAG payroll", Lazzarini put forth shrewdly.
He was challenged: "Well, this part requires you to ride a horse. Are you a good horseman?" Lazzarini( rep)lied, without a beat: "I'm an EXCELLENT horseman!" And so the part was his. Lazzarini sculpted the apce face in plasteline clay on his own face cast, applied flashing, created an Ultracal mold, then baked the foam latex for his prosthetic piece.
Makeup Artist Rick Stratton applied the makeup while Dione Tayler styled the hair, and soon Lazzarini was thrilled to be in full "Cornelius" prosthetic makeup and costume, riding (or trying to ride) a very ornery horse on the sands of Malibu, with Mel Brooks yelling at him to "STOP THE HORSE!". A Hollywood dream come true!
Check out the excellent horsemanship!