Producer J. Miles Dale Takes Us on a Tour of the 'Mama' Art Department


One of the coolest parts of our visit to the Mama set was our tour of the art department. Not a standard part of most set visits, we got a sneak peek at some of the amazing visuals we can expect from the Andy Muschietti-directed, Guillermo del Toro-produced chiller. Of course, we can’t show you any photos, so here are some of the interesting tidbits that producer J. Miles Dale was able to share with us.

On the hospital set:

"Hospital...nothing too weird here. We have a bunch of stuff that’s set at this institute for child studies so we’re working at a hospital. There’s this thing called a Gesell Dome where these kids are held. They give them this environment to try to transition them into [modern society] and they’re being watched by this doctor who we’re not sure he’s a force of good or evil. The girls are in here in an environment made up for them that’s supposedly comfortable but kind of sterile. There’s a lot of disturbing video shot in there of the girls in their more feral state."

On Mama:

"The idea is that there is a strong water element, so she materializes with a stain in the wall. Kind of a moldy stain that forms up as she materializes out of that, which is kind of disturbing. She’s also represented by these moths that come out of places -  a swarm of moths. They’ll indicate her arrival, so when we see moths in the movie, we’ll know something is about to happen. She also moves in strange ways as you can see from the short. It’s disturbing to watch her move. Her hair moves a lot. Despite the absence of wind it kind of moves as though it were in water. There’s a water element to her."

On Annabelle’s apartment:

"Annabelle is in a punk band, so we see her in her world at the beginning of the movie, jamming with her band when Lucas comes and gives her the news that they found the girls. That kind of rocks her world and she has to dump the band for awhile, so there’s a bit of conflict there. She’s in her happy, musical, no-kids life, and gets torn out of it which makes us feel for her because she lost what she had. And we get some thrashy music at the beginning of the movie."

On Lucas’s art:

"He’s a cartoonist and an illustrator. He draws album covers and those kinds of things. Comics. He’s kind of in his own world that way, one that is very alien to raising children."

On cherry pits:

"There’s a question as to how these kids survive. Mama has a knack for conjuring cherries, so originally there were going to be thousands of cherries, an amazing amount. At one point it was practically raining cherries and that was deemed to be a little bit too supernatural. So, the first thing that happens with these little girls is a cherry rolls up to one of them out of nowhere. We put two and two together later and we understand Mama has the ability to conjure fresh fruit. The doctors can make sense that they’ve been eating some rodents and things, but they can’t understand the big stack of cherry pits that they find, so it’s a little creepy mystery there. The cherries seem to be an anomaly in this whole thing."

On the woods:

"There is a house in the woods where the girls are found, where their father dropped them off before being taken over by Mama. There’s a backstory to this that is kind of bizarre. It’s not the traditional gothic place that you would expect to see in a movie like this. It’s actually more of a ‘50s cabin, a little more modern. Anastasia [Masaro, the production designer] and Andy designed it with that in mind and we looked around for a little while to see if we could find something, and we couldn’t, so we built it. We’re building it outside in the woods for the exterior, and we’re building the interior, a big glass wall that looks out onto the lake. Some bad things happen there in our movie, so we thought it’d be better to have something that wasn’t traditional. Basically, at the beginning of the movie, the father has lost his marbles, they crash and the car goes down a hill and they’re stuck. They find this place in the woods and the girls are discovered five years later. We don’t see exactly what happened but we know that something bad happened to the father and he’s been sort of consumed by something. When we come back in five years, the place looks the same but the girls are looking a little older and little worse for wear from the last time we saw them looking pretty cute. They’ve survived in this strange environment for a few years. 

"This will be a pretty interesting place, pretty spooky. Our doctor goes looking for clues and he meets up with some trouble in this location. And this ties to the cliff - it’s adjacent to the cliff where the finale happens."

On the finale:

"This is where the finale takes place, here at this cliff edge. This is concept art of it with Mama doing her thing and - not to give too much away - beckoning to the girls here. There’s kind of an epic struggle for the girls at the end between Mama and our protagonist, and we’re doing this in an odd way. We’re doing half of it, this side, on a studio set. Anastasia has built this cliff here where a lot of action will take place. This direction is basically taking place on stage with Mama in a traveling rig on wires, wind machine and blue screen, this side of it, and this side we’re shooting on location. It’s very tricky, it feels like we’ve had about 50 or 60 meetings talking about how we’re going to integrate things, but this is the big finale of the movie."