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The Untold Truth Of Chucky From Child's Play

With seven films, one remake and an upcoming TV series, Chucky truly has been a friend to the end, hasn't he? A heavy-hitter slasher villain, Chucky has been a constant, pint-sized presence in horror for over thirty years (and counting!).

In his debut feature, 1988's "Child's Play," a voodoo-practicing serial killer named Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) transfers his soul into a nearby Good Guy doll before he is gunned down by the fuzz. Tasked with killing the first human he revealed his true self to, Chucky spends the better part of two sequels trying to get his little plastic mitts on Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent). 

1998's "Bride of Chucky" marked a significant tonal shift in the franchise towards '90s-friendly meta-humor, as our slash-happy anti-hero reconnected with his ex-girlfriend Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), who herself becomes imprisoned in doll-form after an especially, uh, homicidal lover's spat. Chucky "getting lucky" leads us to the next sequel, 2004's "Seed of Chucky," where Tiffany and Chucky's hell spawn resurrects their parents, causing all manner of chaos in the process. 

Two video-on-demand sequels followed that brought the franchise back to its more straight-faced horror roots: 2013's "Curse of Chucky" and 2017's "Cult of Chucky." In 2019, a reboot of the original 1988 film asked: What if Chucky was a weaponized Google Home? (Longtime series fans answered: "no, thanks!")

With a sizable cinematic legacy and oodles of behind-the-scenes tidbits trailing in his wake, there's plenty to discuss when it comes to Chucky's legacy. So join us for a look into what makes Chucky ... well, Chucky.

Chucky's eyes were re-used in "Tales From the Crypt"

As far as character design goes, Chucky has been remarkably consistent over his decades-spanning career. Sure, his plastic mug has undergone the wee edit here and there. But overall, the Good Guy's brand is strong: the flaming red hair, the jean overalls, and of course, those icy peepers. Like Charles Lee Ray actor Brad Dourif, the glassy eyes of Good Guy dolls are a piercing blue. So, while Chucky takes on increasingly more human traits as he inhabits his doll body (including bushier eyebrows and a widow's peak), the iconic eye color is a perfect match.

Chucky's ice-blue eyes, along with the rest of him, were designed by creature effects artist Kevin Yagher (who worked on the first three "Child's Play" films). If you're a prolific horror hound, you might be thinking to yourself, "gosh, I feel like I've seen those eyes before." Well, you have. One of Yagher's other creations includes the ghoulish, pun-loving host of HBO's anthology series "Tales from the Crypt." Indeed, lodged inside the Crypt Keeper's sunken, sinewy skull you'll see a pair of expressive blue eyes that once belonged to a certain Good Guy.

Chucky was inspired by a whole bunch of evil talking dolls

The list of ooky spooky predecessors who inspired Chucky is nothing to scoff at, and his creators are more than eager to cite their sources. One of the inspirations for the Good Guy dolls was an interactive talking doll named "Corky" (whose voice actor, Edan Gross, provided the Good Guy "friendly" voice). There are striking similarities between the Good Guy design and Hasbro's My Buddy doll, as well as the iconic, pudgy-cheek'd Cabbage Patch Kids. The creators also drew inspiration from notable killer dolls of the horror genre, including the Telly Savalas-hating Talky Tina from the "Twilight Zone" series and the notorious Zuni warrior doll from 1975's traumatizing "Amelia" segment of "Trilogy of Terror."

While not a direct inspiration, it's hard to not consider Chucky's real-life counterpart. Enter: Robert the Doll. Dressed as a sailor and standing at 40-inches tall, Robert (named after his young owner Robert Eugene Otto) was supposedly infused with black magic and voodoo by a disgruntled family maid. The (rumored) laundry list of creepy occurrences includes the doll wandering around in the middle of the night, re-arranging furniture, and terrorizing family pets. Childish storytelling? Or something more supernatural? Either way: Robert and Chucky are kindred, nefarious-doll spirits.

It took a lot of people to puppeteer Chucky ...

It sounds like some kind of macabre joke set-up: How many special effects technicians do you need to operate the puppet of a deranged killer doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer? 

The answer, at least when it came to the original 1988 film, is just under a dozen. "It took like 11 people to make the puppet work," executive producer David Kirschner told Mental Floss in 2019. The puppet featured in about half of the film was radio-controlled, employing animatronic techniques considered ground-breaking at the time. Director Tom Holland tapped 3'6" performer Ed Gale for broader, less subtle, movements. 

"Facially, nothing can beat a puppet," recalled Gale in the same Mental Floss retrospective. "But to make it actually work full-body, running, or jumping, they needed me." Overseen by Kevin Yagher, the designer and executor of the psychopathic doll, one of Chucky's puppeteers was the late great N. Brock Winkless IV (of "Tales from the Crypt" and "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" fame).

The presence of puppeteers, and practical character effects work more broadly, has become an expectation in the series. While CGI has made its way into the "Child's Play" franchise over the years, on-set puppets are, and will hopefully remain, a must.

... but sometimes body doubles were required

If only Chucky could simply be brought to life by voodoo magic. But (fortunately for special effects lovers) the reality is much more labor-intensive, involving puppeteers, animatronics, a sprinkling of CGI, and yes, body doubles. 

Over the course of the series, when action-packed wide shots are required, Chucky has been portrayed by short-statured actors and children. The most prolific performer, far and away, is Ed Gale, who stands at around 3'6" and made his film debut as the title character in 1986's "Howard the Duck." In addition to the original "Child's Play," Gale played Chucky in "Child's Play 2" and "Bride of Chucky." 

"The puppet would move more smoothly, and I'd walk a little more like a robot. We'd meet in the middle." Gale says. "The problem was that I had zero visibility. I'd rehearse and walk through a scene with my eyes closed. It's like taking a drink while blindfolded. You look like an idiot. I was also set on fire." In addition to Gale, one other notable Chucky stunt double in the original film was Alex Vincent's kid sister Ashley, who you can spot sprinting around the apartment terrorizing Maggie the babysitter.

Chucky has a theme song, and it's a bop

Horror fans are suckers for a film that comes with a song recounting the plot of said film. Among the best of these is The Fat Boys' "Are You Ready for Freddy?" from 1988's "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master," the chaotic musical masterpiece that concludes the under-seen Stephen King adaptation "Graveyard Shift," the "Shocker" song from 1989's "Shocker," or The Ramones singing about how they didn't want to be buried in a "Pet Sematary." 

If you're vibing with all of this: great news. There is a lost "Child's Play" theme song and it's incredible. Created by "Child's Play" composer Joe Renzetti and singer/songwriter Simon Stokes, the theme song went unused for some reason. Originally intended to play under the closing credits of the film, it was cut at the last minute and replaced with a less, uh, cheesy track. With lines like "you know, pals are hard to come by/But you'll find that I'm a Good Guy," schoolyard chants, and one hell of a bass line, "The Chucky Song" is bananas, catchy, and will hopefully be revived for some sequel down the line.

The origins of Chucky's human name

Ever notice how killers and assassins tend to be publicly referenced by three names? John Wayne Gacy? John Wilkes Booth? Mark David Chapman? Perhaps it's society's way of attempting to decrease the odds of awkward situations for folks who happen to share the same name. Fittingly, the full government name of the murderous "Child's Play" franchise villain follows a similar triptych format: Charles Lee Ray. That just sounds right, doesn't it?

Abbreviated to the less wordy (but no less sinister) "Chucky" once in doll-form, Charles Lee Ray's human name comes from three different prolific killers: cult leader Charles Manson, JFK's killer Lee Harvey Oswald, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassin James Earl Ray. A nasty moniker cobbled together from the names of three notoriously nasty men, Charles Lee Ray sounds evil for good reason.

Chucky makes a cameo in a Daft Punk music video

For some reason, the union of Chucky and the French, robot-headed techno duo Daft Punk feels like a match made in heaven. Or looking at the above image, maybe hell. 

Yes, if you're a Daft Punk fan, there's a good chance you've seen under Chucky's skin without even realizing it. The video for "Technologic," the second single off the duo's third studio album "Human After All," has Thomas Bangalter's pitch-altered voice chanting technocratic phrases that seem to originate from a malicious televised doll with exposed circuitry and false teeth. As the wire-clad freak barks orders ("plug it, play it, burn it, rip it") a seemingly more naive skinless robot doll looks on in awe, flanked by the robot duo. Or maybe it is the same doll, super jazzed about the techno propaganda he's created.

Given that the music video for "Technologic" came out in 2005, just one year after the release of "Seed of Chucky," it seems likely that this particular, skinless monster was created by Tony Gardner and the crew over at Alterian Inc. Gardner worked on both projects, as well as "The Prime of Your Life" and "Daft Punk's Electroma.

The original voice of Chucky was Jessica Walter

Everybody loves Brad Dourif's raspy, profanity-filled vocal performance as Chucky. But while hindsight is 20/20, Dourif providing the stab-happy toy's voice wasn't always part of the plan. 

The "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" Oscar nominee was indeed cast to play Charles Lee Ray in the original film. But originally, actress Jessica Walter (later of "Arrested Development" fame) was going to voice the killer doll. The involvement of Walter (who passed away in 2020) was mentioned on the "Child's Play" commentary track. According to director Tom Holland "[Walter] could make the threats work, but not the humor. So we went with Brad." Longtime series writer Don Mancini said the attempt at female casting was due to one of the most successful horror films of all time. "Tom's logic" he says on the track, "was that the voice of the devil was done by a woman in "The Exorcist."

Real-life murders have been blamed on Chucky

People love a clear, simple explanation, so you can't blame some for seeing a straight line between violent horror films and copycat crimes. 

The debate over whether on-screen violence inspires real-life violence is an old one. As legendary genre director John Carpenter put it at a 2007 Tribeca Film Festival panel: "real-life causes [violent acts], fake life does not ... Censorship never works ... you can hide, you can try to cover it up, but you can't destroy it." A 2009 study seemed to suggest that horror movies may actually help stop violent crimes (via. The Washington Post), but while science seems to suggest that horror movies do not cause aggression, there are still people in the world who will take life imitating art to disturbing lows.

"Child's Play 3" was cited as the "inspiration" for two murders in the United Kingdom, that of Suzanne Capper and James Bulger. In response to both tragedies, "Child's Play" director Tom Holland told the Independent in 1993 that "viewers of horror movies could only be influenced by their content if they were 'unbalanced to begin with."

Chucky's origin was originally blood magic

In the original 1988 film, Charles Lee Ray uses a voodoo prayer to the sky god Damballa to transfer his soul into the plastic prison of a nearby Good Guy doll. Over the course of the series, other practitioners like Tiffany and Glen employ the chant for similar purposes to aid Chucky in his hellish quest to cheat death.

But Chucky's abuse of voodoo magic wasn't always part of the plan. As writer Don Mancini explained in a 2019 oral history from Mental Floss, at one point, the script was titled "Blood Buddy." Per Mancini, in the older version of the script, the doll was not possessed by the voodoo-transferred soul of a serial killer but was rather "a manifestation of a little boy's unconscious rage." 

To explain how the doll "came to life," Mancini devised an especially gruesome scenario. "If you played too rough with [the doll], his latex skin would break and he'd bleed this red substance so you'd have to buy special bandages," explains Mancini. "So the boy, Andy, in a rite of brotherhood, cuts his thumb and mixes it with the doll's blood, and that's the catalyst that brings the doll to life." The idea was ultimately nixed. As executive producer (and, at the time, new father) David Kirschner puts it: "[he] wasn't sure anybody would buy a doll with blood in it."

Chucky boasts an impressive kill count

Okay, sure, people dying is "bad." And keeping score of how many people die in horror movies is silly, if not mildly disturbing. But hey, that's what slasher movies are all about.

Should you wince, or root on these killers? At the end of the day, it depends on the film, the franchise, and the kill. With eight films, including a reboot, Chucky holds his own with the best (or is that the worst?) of his slasher peers. So, compared to the likes of Freddy Krueger and Leatherface, how does little Chucky stack up, kill-wise?

If this Wikipedia tally is to be believed, Chucky is doing pretty well for himself, coming in at fourth place with a total of 74 confirmed kills. Beat out only by Jigsaw, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees, Chucky is clearly head and shoulders above many of his peers — even if, quite literally, he is not. So, step up your game Pinhead, you're an inter-dimensional Hell Priest and you're losing to a ticked-off serial killer trapped in a 2-foot-tall doll body.

Andy's mom is the real bride of Chucky

Yeah, you all know about "Bride of Chucky," the fourth "Child's Play" film released in 1998 where Chucky infamously "gets lucky."

But did you know that there is another, real, "bride of Chucky?" In the original 1988 film, Catherine Hicks plays Karen Barclay, mother of Andy, and the film's de facto final girl. On the set, she met Kevin Yagher, special effects make-up artist and creator of the "Chucky" doll. They promptly hit it off. 

In a 2020 interview with ABC7, Yagher recalled meeting her on the set. He had been schedule to do her make-up, but when it came time she nixed the idea, secretly afraid of letting a cute guy see her skin up so close. "She didn't want me to see any flaws, so she nixed the idea."

The pair were married in May of 1990, and are still going strong after more than thirty years. They have a daughter named Caitlin, and it's safe to say that no one can beat them when it comes time to tell "we found love in the strangest place" stories.

Chucky has become a queer icon

Chucky was never "gay" by design. But, as a franchise, things took a campy, queer-coded turn with the 1998 sequel "Bride of Chucky." 

For that, we have openly gay Chucky creator Don Mancini to thank. Any subtle queer vibes in "Bride" (including the presence of lesbian fave and "Bound" star Jennifer Tilly) were brought to the forefront in its follow-up "Seed of Chucky." That film saw Chucky fathering a non-binary child named Glen/Glenda, a nod to queer pioneer Ed Wood's film of the same name

"There are always positive gay characters in the "Chucky movies," recalled Tilly in 2017. "Universal said, [Seed of Chucky is] too funny, it's too gay ... Don just basically had a carnival of fun with that movie." 

While the subsequent two sequels in the franchise, "Curse of Chucky" and "Cult of Chucky", played things more "straight," the franchise returned to a gender-fluid space when Nica (played by Brad Dourif's real-life daughter Fiona Dourif) was possessed by the soul of Charles Lee Ray. At the conclusion of "Cult," Nica (possessed by Chucky) kisses human-form Tiffany (Tilly) before driving off into a snow-filled, non-existent sunset. "This is different," says Chucky. "I don't know," Tiffany replies. "It works for me."

Chucky is headed to the small screen for the first time

While Chucky is certainly no stranger to the big screen (or the odd small screen cameo here and there), for the first time in his decades-spanning career the gruesome Good Guy is getting his own TV series. 

As mentioned previously, "Chucky" is headed to a living room near you, premiering October 2021 on both the USA Network and Syfy. 

"Chucky" plans to follow in the continuity of the "Child's Play" movies overseen by longtime series writer Mancini, and will feature old faves including Dourif, Tilly, Fiona Dourif, Alex Vincent, and Christine Elise McCarthy. Speaking with Syfy Wire in 2020, Mancini explained that the show will be more serious, and more tonally in line with the first two films. A trailer for the series reveals that the plot will be set in a sleepy, small town and revolve around a teenage artist named Jake (Zackary Arthur). When Jake unwittingly purchases the possessed doll at a yard sale, a string of murders is quick to follow. 

With Chucky in fourth place in those aforementioned Wikipedia kill standings, here's hoping the series helps him rise to number one — with a bullet.