Dinner for Schmucks’ MICE! (Making of)

I just watched “Dinner for Schmucks”….

…..and if you know me then you can probably guess my favorite element of the film..

THE MICE!!

They are miniature… and cute.. and dressed up….and EVERYTHING.

I LOVE THEM.

I found this article from Fox2Now about the artist who designed the intricate little mice!

Special effects artists and brothers Charles, Steve and Edward Chiodo, from left, look at “Barry” the mouse under the bed, in one of the dioramas they built for the movie “Dinner for Schmucks.” (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)

The Chiodo brothers — Stephen, Edward and Charles — recently crafted more than 100 model mice for the new Steve Carell-starring comedy “Dinner for Schmucks,” but it was a great ape that initially set them on a path to filmmaking: The New York natives as children made 8-millimeter stop-motion animated movies in their parents’ basement, inspired by the work of special effects legends Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien.

They’ve created effects and characters for films including 1985’s “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” 1986’s “Critters,” 2003’s “Elf” and 2004’s “Team America: World Police.” They also wrote, produced and directed 1988’s “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” and currently are developing a sequel.

“We give our characters a life that you might not get someplace else,” said Charles.That’s our Frankenstein complex: We’re bringing life to things.”

Classics reinterpreted: For “Dinner for Schmucks,” the Chiodo brothers are credited with creating the film’s “mousterpieces and dioramas.” Steve Carell plays a character whose idiosyncrasy is building mice dioramas: basically great moments in history told with mice,” said Stephen. “These guys like Benjamin Franklin and the Wright Brothers and Louis Pasteur — these were all mice dioramas we made. Then on top of that, we had to do the mousterpieces. So we have the ‘Mona Lisa.’ We have Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam.’ ‘American Gothic.’ We did ‘Scream.’ All of these classic art masterpieces are re-created by Steve Carell’s character with mice. We had the references, and we had to match all the details.”

Natural habitat: Carell’s society also includes more ordinary mouse citizens. “At a certain point, we see his garage workshop, and they reveal Mouseland,” explained Stephen. “The filmmakers wanted a Central Park feel, but because it’s L.A., I think MacArthur Park became the image. We had to give it green grass, flowers, bushes, a lake with a bridge, palm trees and then the little vignettes of action that they wanted.” Charles added, “We were using railroad miniature parts and railroad scenic devices. We used fun fur that we painted for the grass. So it was a lot of old-school, simple techniques to create this wonderland.” But it wasn’t all prefab. “We had to custom make certain things that didn’t exist in the scale,” explained Edward, “like a Ferris wheel and a playground spinner.”

Mouse trappings: The Chiodo brothers’ mice were head and shoulders above the real thing. “They’re a little bigger than regular mice, because when we looked at real mice, they’re tiny little things,” said Charles. “We would have compounded the difficulty factor by doing actual scale mice. Making the clothing and the props would have been that much more difficult. Their whiskers were single hairs from a very fine paintbrush. To do a sculpt on a real mice hand would have been impossible. They’re tiny. The fingers are the thickness of a pin. Imagine jewelry, the ring on that little finger, the shoe. So we scaled them up slightly.” As Edward explained, “The most useful tool on this job was everybody’s little Magnascope glasses.”

Of man and mice: The Chiodo brothers did their part to hasten the evolution of the diminutive species in other ways as well. “If they were straight taxidermied mice, they were kind of icky and creepy looking,” said Stephen. “There’s nothing adorable or approachable about them. And because this is really a window into Steve Carell’s character in the film, they had to be engaging, empathetic and sort of cute. I sculpted the mice, and in the first attempts, we tried to do it realistically, and it just didn’t work. So we started talking. ‘We’ll make their eyes bigger. Let’s make their arms and legs a little longer. Let’s give them shoulders so they can wear jackets.’ And they became a little anthropomorphic, but they still are mice. And I think that’s part of their success.”

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11 thoughts on “Dinner for Schmucks’ MICE! (Making of)

  1. I’m working on a very similar progect and have been perfecting the mice. I am planning to sell them on ebay soon. my name on there will be ‘the unfortunatebadger’ so if you have a look soon they’ll be on there.

  2. I just saw the movie and i loved the mice as well!!!… Actually, i’ve been looking for images of these mice. I havent found a lot 🙁

    This movie has actually gave me an idea for a present to my girlfriend.

    I call my girlfriend Pinina (its a wordgame in spanish that comes from “Penguin”)… i might build a big Pinino world!!! hahaha

    Nice finding your blog. I’ll look arround a little more 🙂

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