For over 20 years, Abel Zeballos (pictured above in the blue shirt) was the director for the makeup department at Knottís Scary Farm . An Associate Professor at California State University Fullerton ( http://www.fullerton.edu/ ), Mr. Zeballos shares with his students the wonderful techniques of makeup and prosthetics. The kind and soft spoken Mr. Zeballos took aside a few minutes out of his schedule to share with Ultimatehaunt.com his history at the Haunt (which started in 1974), a history of some of the Knottís Scary Farm characters and shares some outstanding makeup tips for your Halloween. Letís find out when and how Mr. Zeballos started working at the HauntÖ
A.Z.: We started working on Halloween probably at the beginning of October, which certainly is not true anymore. They hired this guy (and I just donít remember his name) and his wife, and he worked in the industry (the film industry) and he had some appliances. He was a good makeup artistÖa terrific makeup artist. They had some appliances for a couple of the characters. Frankenstein for one, I recall that. But, it was just two people trying to do maybe (if my recollection is correct) twenty people with makeup. From which 4 or maybe 3 got prosthetic makeup. So, this guy needed help, and my supervisor, who was Sandy Parker, and she said to me "you are into makeup, so you can help me". So, I did, and a lot of other people helped painting with black and white type of things (ghouls, ghosts). So, I helped that year and then something happened where that next year they asked me to do it. Of course, it was quite small, but then next year we wanted to do a little more. I was here (Cal State Fullerton) part time and I was also a grad student here for a little bit. So, I think I had my first prosthetic class and we came up with maybe 2-3 pieces out of that class and used them. And then the rest is history.
Then I was the director for Knottís until about 3 years ago. And certainly every year it got larger and we got more people, and a lot of the monsters (incredibly enough) and the makeup artists come back year after year. Some of them have been doing it for 18 Ė 19 years. At the beginning we didnít have any money for this. I donít remember getting paid extra other than my regular wages as a technician/stage manager.
So, at the beginning we didnít have any money, but I remember the 2nd or 3rd year I got volunteers from my class. I suggested that we pay people a certain amount because then we could keep consistency and we could commit them to be there. It was so crucial to maintain a schedule because then we suddenly were dealing with more than 50 and then more than a 100 that were being made up. So you needed to have a schedule and the schedule was really tight. This makeup was being done in an average from 5 Ė 10 minutes, and the prosthetic makeup got to be done in an average of 20 Ė 40 minutes. We ran a really tight schedule. Thatís when we started paying them, and then I felt in order to keep these people coming back, we should pay them a little better. And it worked! Because then we had these people coming back and we had the monsters coming back constantly and so it became like a familyÖ.like a yearly reunion for a lot of us year after yearÖ.and I think it still is.
U.H.: Can you give some examples of the earlier characters that were introduced at the Haunt, and then how the more identifiable characters were brought in?
A.Z.: At the beginning, with the exception of certain characters (we had DraculaÖhe was there from the beginningÖfor obvious reasons. That really represents Halloween in so many ways). So, Dracula/vampires were there from the beginning. We had Frankenstein for a long time, but then we dropped Frankenstein because of Universal. We dropped a lot of those famous characters like Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and there were more, but I donít remember. So, we dropped them, and we asked, "How are we going to replace these people?" There is one more character that started from the beginning and that was the witch. And the witch, a classical character could be anything and no one owns the rights. So, we had the witch and Dracula from the beginning until this day. So then, it was adding characters and what we were going to add. Well, different ideas came about. We decided that we should have a wolf. I had somebody in my makeup class interested in making a wolf and thatís what we used. Now what we were using were generic molds that were made in the prosthetic class here at Cal State Fullerton that we would just use on whatever actor they hired. So, we had to make these pieces fit whoever they would hireÖsometimes they didnít so then we couldnít use that piece. But through the class we started developing all these different monsters and we would use the pieces that worked. And so, thatís how a lot of these characters developed.
Some were famous at one time or another and they disappeared. For example, we had the wolf idea, and then we decided that since we couldnít do Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein, we had the Wolf Woman. We had the Wolf Woman in period clothing. The woman that was cast as the Wolf Woman was kind of fun. She was very dignified, she was very somber, and she was very elegant. It really worked. I remember trying to definitely make sure that she looked like a wolf womanÖand I think we were successful. It didnít work when we changed the casting. Which was very interesting. I think that happened a lot of the time. Certain characters worked for years and suddenly these actors couldnít come back and when you tried to keep the same character it was either something else, or it didnít work. So, that was one of the characters, the Wolf Woman.
The pigsÖ. The pigs came from my class again where the idea was sculptured, and I thought that would be great if we could make these grotesque pigs. I believe there were two identical twin girls and a brother to the girls. Then suddenly we had 3 pigs happening. Kind of their idea (the entertainment department who did the casting), and my idea of saying, "Wouldnít if be fun to have more than one pig?" So, then we had three pigs, except that these people were gymnastsÖthe three of themÖ.they were related, so they were very close in age, but more than that they were very close in a psychic way as well. They made the pigs famous. For a few years people would come just to see the pigs because they would scare people, they had their timing well done, they developed all of these tricks and acts, all three were dressed the same and they were gymnasts so they would appear and reappear. So, the pigs became quite famous. Then we changed the casting and it wasnít quite the same, so it became something else. I think that is true with almost all of those characters. The minute you change the casting then you get something else and the actor has to find what there is in that mask and those clothes that we give them.
So, thatís mostly how our characters developed, except for the ones that are in the Hanging, which are written by someone who comes up says, "I need a Freddy" or whatever else. Whoever is not defined is going to be one of our monsters. When the Island of Dr. Moreau (the remake of the Island of Dr. Moreau) came out, we pulled a lot of ideas from that. We tried to make a lot of human people look like half human/half animal. A lot of those characters came from that idea as well.
U.H.: How and when were the prosthetics first introduced to the Haunt?
A.Z.: They were used the first year before I was there, but maybe only one or two. To be precise, maybe the first year (if there was a prosthetic used) it was probably Frankenstein, and that may have been the only one. I think the first year; you maybe only had 4-5 definite characters in makeup. Of course the other ones, Dracula was painted, the Bride of Frankenstein was painted, and then we had the witch with maybe a nose a maybe a chin at that time. But probably those were the two prosthetic makeup spots that we had that first year. And then the year after that, maybe 6 people did some prosthetic makeup, and from there it just grew. Of course, outside the prosthetic makeup, that year maybe there were 20 people in black and white makeup with just a pale base (sunken eyes, sunken cheeks). The second year, we had the same thing except we had more people doing the mazes, so instead of 20, we maybe had 40. And of course, the crew in the Good Time Theater, who were all technicians, they are the ones that helped paint all of these people. Then the third year, we had even more, but then we started separating them because we started getting more than just one maze, maybe we had two mazes. So then we had people that were maybe ghost like, and then we had people that were historic like to bring into the mazes. At the beginning, we had a lot of specific characters for each maze. Then we kind of changed that.
U.H.: Were you given much creative leeway while creating the designs as well as when applying the makeup?
A.Z.: Totally and completely. Besides having Dracula and the witch being there the first year, but pretty much, it was my decision if they were wearing green or if they wearing gray. Actually, if I were getting any notes for these, it was more in the sense of, this person cannot be seen, or you have to come up with something else that will suit and serve a certain concept. But, rarely did someone say you have to have this specific look, until later. Later, we started getting certain specific looks that were demanded that actually was copying movies like vampires and Freddy.
U.H.: Jack the Ripper was one of the most popular mazes of all time at the Haunt. Do you remember any special attributes in the makeup of that particular maze?
A.Z.: There were a lot of makeup spots in that maze. There were a lot of gory makeups that were mixed with dummies or puppets that were not real, with talent in-between. The whole idea was to make them look like the mannequin, and then one of them would be real, and the person would jump out at you. I think there was one scene where Jack the Ripper was cutting someoneís stomach and we actually (kind of) used real guts for a while, and of course, that wasnít really hygienic so we had to change and tried to use liquid latex. We always had a little something that was real, like a liver or something like that.
At the end of Jack the Ripper, we had a faceless character. We made that prosthetic just for that maze. So, when the people were leaving the maze, there would be this guy that was dressed in a tailcoat and top hat and so on. And he would be looking away from the people and as they went by he would turn around and he would have no face. The prosthetic was just covered. There were no eyes, there was a little mouth and he would say goodbye. So it was sort of a melted faceless individual. I remember that working very well. It was a good effect.
There were a lot of good, gory, scary and surprising moments. It was well designed in that sense. The faceless personÖ.I donít know where that came from. I donít know if that came from me. I know I have a book where there was a movie where there was a faceless person, so when we did the prosthetic, I had something that had been done in a movie already. I donít know who came up with the idea.
Jack The Ripper Cast
U.H.: Did the makeup artists have anything to do with the concepts for the mazes?
A.Z.: A lot of these designers were the technicians themselves. Which were again, either my class mates for a couple of years, and then graduated and worked in there as technicians. Later on, they were some of my students. So, we knew each other and we would sit there and we would talk about what the maze would be. Somebody would come up with the concept, and then suddenly we would say what if we have this and we have that, and "Can we do a prosthetic here?", or "Can we have these clothes?" The woman who was the costume designer, Pam Tallman was there from the beginning, and she was the one that kind of came up with all of these looks for the witch, for the pigs (the suits, oversized, big stomachs, big boobs). She came up with all of these looks, and she was there for many years. She was an intrinsic part of the Scary Farm. Certainly, Pam and I worked very closely. We were a team. Her and I were a team because we had the physical look of the individual, and then we would work with the designers. Which again, were people who were there all throughout the year and they would take the position of the managers. So, thatís how it worked.
U.H.: Was there a particular maze that sticks out in your mind as being the most innovative as far as the makeup went?
A.Z.: There were a couple. Jack the Ripper was one of them. Another one was when we started using fake floors, and the polka dot room where you would get lost. After Jack the Ripper, we had a few really striking mazesÖvery well designed, very scary. Some of these people (the designers) are still working at Knottís, but some of these people are working for production companies.
Getting closer to our times, one maze that was really good was the vampire maze. Lair of the Vampire was a really good maze and well designed. I donít know if it was scary, as such, but it was well designed, it was impressive, it had a little thing of being magnificent. Those were the two I was thinking about.
What happens is it gets so hard to get back into those mazes, even though we can go through the back entrance, there would be so many people. We would just go once just to see if the thing is working.
U.H.: What factors determine whether or not there is a particular makeup spot in a maze?
A.Z.: One thing that I started doing through the years was I started counting the makeup that was going into the mazes, because, usually, we couldnít see half of them. They were either not lit well, or these people had to move and the positions were not correct. Suddenly, we were wasting some really good detailed work and people were not going to see it. So, I started saying, unless itís very specific and itís going to be very well lit, then letís not spend all of this effort. Usually, in the mazes, we would have to makeup two people, because they would have to break each other every half an hour. So, one look, two people.
U.H.: How were the airbrushing techniques introduced?
A.Z.: The airbrushing came from people that took my makeup class that were in the art department. We will get a lot of people in the art in the art department to take the makeup class. So, they were graphic artists, they do a lot of airbrushing. So, a couple of them came up with the idea of "Iím going to bring my airbrush, and mix some of this acrylic paint and try it so I can pre-paint my prosthetics, and so when I apply it will be a lot faster". And that was a great idea. And then, the film industry began to use Pros-aid and acrylics paints mixed together, which is the glue that we use mixed with the acrylics. So, you could pre-paint your prosthetics with a mixture of Pros-aid and acrylics, which is called Pax Paint. And you can repaint these prosthetics pieces without them coming off. It gave these prosthetics pieces some strength, so you could use them better.
U.H.: Can you give any tips to aspiring makeup artists that would like to work in the makeup department at the Haunt? Or, in other words, what is the best way to get into the Haunt as a makeup artist?
A.Z.: Most of the people, I would say 90% are comebacks, so you donít have to train these people every year. We donít have rehearsals. Weíve never had rehearsals for makeup. You go on the first day and you start doing it. And the only reason for that is because you have the same people for the monsters, and have the same people for the makeup. So, to get in as a makeup artist has always been tight. I always felt a little guilty about that because I would get hundreds of calls from people that wanted to do makeup at the Haunt. Actually, I did get some people from the outside (meaning the outside, people who did not train with me or didnít take the makeup classes here), but very few. Everybody else came from my classes: my beginning makeup class or my advanced makeup class. When you have an event that is going to involve anywhere from 300-400 people being made-up in about 3-4 hours, and you donít even have a rehearsal. We always used to meet the makeup artist ahead of time, kind of quickly (in about an hour) to tell them what is expected. There would be one or two that are new and the old ones would carry those the first day or the second day. So, when I hired new people (every year I had a few to fill), I would tend to try to get people I know.
It wasnít necessarily based
on how wonderful they were as a makeup artist, but a lot of it was based
on reliability. If I believed these people would never miss and never
be late (that was a main concern for me). There was also personality.
If they could deal with a different person in the chair every ten minutes,
and be nice and listen to these people, and kind of make them feel that
they are the only customer, rather than fighting or disagreeing. Those
were the main concerns. Of course, they had to be proficient in their
makeup, but they didnít have to be brilliant makeup artists. Iíd rather
have the other qualities than a brilliant makeup artist. And of course
I always had brilliant makeup artists in that bunch. But the majority
shared those qualitiesÖthey were reliable, they had a good personality,
and they could work fast and under pressure, and they could be there on
time. So, a lot of those people came and still come from here.
U.H.: For those of who cannot use airbrushes and the other tools that the Haunt has access to, can you give any general horror makeup tips for fans that would like to make themselves up for Halloween?
A.Z.: You know, basic tips for me would be to come up with an idea of what you want to be, and certainly be realistic. Once you have that idea, go to one of the major makeup stores. We are really fortunate. We have tons of places that you can go to in our area. But certainly, there are some that are better than others that have a lot of great material. Not only that, they also have people that know how to use these materials and can tell you how to be safe. There is a lot of stuff that you have to be careful with that you use in certain areas, or donít use them at all. You can be allergic to it, or you can be allergic to the remover, or whatever. So, you do need to know a little bit if you are going to venture. There are places like Cinema Secrets, Friends, Namiís. Just those three have everything you could possibly want, especially around Halloween.
And now, there are a lot of little pieces that you can glue on your face, like liquid latex. You can buy Pros-aid; itís easily available. That glue stays on better, just be aware of the removal, but sometimes you can remove that with mineral oils. Donít put things around your eyes that you donít know of. A lot of the color pigment, reds especially, tend to hurt your eyes. So, most of them are safe, but there is some makeup that say do not apply around your eyes. Donít! Black is usually pretty safe. Pigment you can do that. White is usually pretty safe. The other things you need to be careful.
You can trust that those Halloween makeup kits that you buy in the department stores, Target, and so on are safe. They are hard to use, they do not go on smooth, but they are safe. But I think for Halloween, and youíre dealing with people who donít know how to use the stuff, and most of it is going to children, then maybe stay with that. Itís not easy to apply, but they are fun and they are safe. When you start going to the makeup stores that I mentioned, youíre going to have millions of products, from which some of them are not going to be safe. If you are going to do that, and are going to go to these places, then ask for help on what is safe and whatís not. Most of this stuff is expensive, so money is going to be an issue on deciding what you will or wonít do.
Well, there you have it, A little bit of Haunt history for all of you who wanted to know about the makeup at the Haunt. We at Ultimatehaunt.com would like to express our thanks and appreciation to Mr. Zeballos for his kindness in sharing his thoughts and history with us. We would also like to thank Melanie Smith for her help and kindness. And of course, Jenn (the Killer Bed Sheet) made this interview possible. THANK YOU!
Knottís Scary Farm has a very long history full of entertainment and surprises. We hope that this interview has enabled you to get a better grasp on what it takes to get all of the monsters to the streets and mazes. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time, but most of all it takes a lot of talent.