For the last four months, WWE Superstar Bray Wyatt teased his return with a series of “Firefly Funhouse” vignettes, in which he plays a creepy Mr. Rogers-esque kid’s show host.
As these segments continued, week after week, they got increasingly unsettling and began featuring a monstrous persona known as “The Fiend.” The buildup finally culminated in a legend-making entrance and match at Summerslam, where “The Fiend” took on and destroyed Finn Balor. Wyatt was a ball of energy, but most striking was his genuinely frightening clown mask and his new lantern: a likeness of Bray’s head, with the eyes stitched shut.
Both of these items were creations of Tom Savini Studios. Savini is a horror filmmaking icon, who made his name working on makeup and visual effects for Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). He’s also recognizable for acting in several Robert Rodriguez-directed projects, including the Machete films and From Dusk ’til Dawn.
Jason Baker, who Savini credited as supervisor of the Wyatt’s mask’s construction, moved from Seattle to Pittsburgh to attend Tom Savini’s Special Makeup Effects Program at the Douglas Education Center as a young man. From there, he worked in movies until Savini called him to work on Triple H’s golden mask and crown for WrestleMania XXX. The co-designer of the original WrestleMania 27 mask, Gino Crognale, was busy with his new gig on The Walking Dead. Baker jumped at the chance, and the rest is history.
“[Tom Savini Studios has] been working with the WWE for almost ten years now,” Baker told Gamespot. “We have a great relationship with them. We coordinate with the wrestlers to find out what they want, so we spend a lot of time on the phone with them.”
They’ve since built props and masks for Erik Rowan, Luke Harper, Kallisto, Stephanie McMahon, and more. But for the past year, it’s been all about Firefly Funhouse and Bray Wyatt. Tom Savini Studios crafted the props, puppets, set, lantern, and mask for the vignettes, and Baker actually helped direct the segments. He describes the studio as a team effort. He and his co-workers (Baker specifically namechecks Elizabeth Farrington) are worker bees, and Savini oversees their efforts.
“Firefly Funhouse has consumed my life,” Baker laughs. “I don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining though. I’ve had a blast working on it. It’s like a dream come true.”
Baker gives Wyatt all the credit for the mask and lantern’s concepts.
“It’s all Bray’s brainchild,” says Baker “He had these ideas, and we did some concept art, but it wasn’t really hitting home with Bray. So he got a really, really good sketch artist named Kyle Scarborough, out of St Louis, to do some concept art for him. Those sketches were awesome, and we took those and brought them to life.”
They’re good blueprints, but we put our own stamp on the mask as well,” continues Baker. “It comes down to sculpting, logistics, and comfort. If the guy’s going to wear this while beating the living piss out of people, he should be able to see out of it and make sure it’s strapped to his head.”
But Baker is reticent about any additional details about their construction. He also doesn’t comment about the bigger picture–if he knows about Bray’s greater vision or concept behind the madness we see each week.
“I can’t talk about that,” says Baker. “That’s beyond my pay grade. And even if I did, I wouldn’t talk about it anyway, because that’s the fun of it. ‘Do you want to know what you got before Christmas or wait with your friends to open your presents?’ It’s about waiting every week and seeing what comes next.”
And he offers a tantalizing response, when asked if there’s anything he’d like to tell the WWE Universe.
“They need to keep watching because they haven’t seen anything yet,” says Baker. “If they think this is the greatest thing to ever happen, they just need to keep watching. It’s going to blow them away.”