While the Chucky of 1988 was technologically a whole other animal from the pneumatically-powered shark of Steven Spielberg’s ’76 blockbuster “Jaws,” he was just as troublesome for production. “The doll was a pain in the ass,” recalled Howard Berger, one of several Chucky puppeteers on the set of “Child’s Play.” The doll’s motion was under the supervision of special effects maestro Kevin Yagher, who would create Freddy Krueger’s burn-heavy makeup on “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” the same year.
Berger further explained to Mental Floss that Chucky had poor mechanical temperament, chalking it up as the cost of forging into “brand new territory” — that is, putting a radio-controlled puppet in half of the movie. The doll simply wouldn’t work the way it was supposed to, prompting numerous takes just to get a simple action completed. Alex Vincent, who plays 6-year-old Andy in the film, remembered that “having him flip his middle finger was this whole process.” When he did, the servos that powered his movements screeched with every motion. Berger went on:
Everything was a hassle. I remember the scene where Chucky was in a mental hospital electrocuting a doctor. It took 27 takes to get him to press a button. Chucky’s fingers would get worn out quickly. The aluminum fingers would begin to poke right through the latex skin. I had this big bag of Chucky hands and changed them three times a day.
The director couldn’t contain his exasperation with the unruly puppet-actor. “It was no knock on Kevin,” Tom Holland recalled, “but it was all the doll could do to take a step.” Over thirty years later, the doll is still stepping mechanically in Mancini’s USA and Syfy series “Chucky,” the product of the showrunner’s love of practical effects over CGI — a friend to the end.