The Nome king, the most complex character to create physically, ultimately brought to life partially by claymation, partially by animatronics, and partially by actor Nicol Williamson. Williamson’s make-up turned him into a creature “resembling a mobile rock quarry.”
The Nome King’s Set was made of “liquid rock” – a kind of foam layered and painted to seem like the real thing. “It looks hard but is quite malleable,” Hughes says. The actor’s resemblance to the set was so uncanny that Wiliiamson actually startled people between takes simply by moving. “At one point, Jean Marsh, playing Princess Mombi, was seated on the platform of the rock throne, at the Nome King’s feet. Jean is a bit nearsighted, and when Nicole made a sudden movement, Jean absolutely jumped into the air. She thought the set was falling on her.
Nome King's Transition
The actual transition from Claymation to live-action included enormous assistance from makeup expert Robin Grantham – and it was no simple task. “This one character had to be created in conjunction with more partners than normal,” said Grantham. “And the fact that the Claymation people were in Oregon while we were in the UK created a time-warp sometimes. Trying to imagine how people in Oregon were seeing the concept all that distance away was difficult. Making the transition flow smoothly required a delicate touch from the Nome King’s team as well as the use of five separate stages in the transformation from stone to human form. The first three were Claymation, the last two were live action, with the eyes be coming the focus of particular attention in the middle stages – the last Claymation version had realistically portrayed eyes, while the first live action mask’s eyes were made to look hard and artificial.”
“For the rock-like stages,” Grantham said, “I used prosthetic pieces -- foam rubber on the cheeks and brows. I added an expensive real-hair beard, too, which I gradually covered with rock. It ended up eighty percent rock and only a little bit of hair, as though the flesh were just emerging. What we were really striving for was one of those things where the audience never knows where the change takes place.”
In the live action version of the Nome King, played by Nicol, was the most expensive costume in the film. His over-robe, designed to look “very operatic and Wagnerian,” was made from 98 feet of velvet sprayed with paint to match the colorations of the set. On top of this was sprayed the “Rock foam”, which was then shaped into rock-like formations. Fitted into the foam, paint, and velvet, were gemstones – amethyst, industrial diamonds, and mock emeralds, as well as some real moss (for that cavern-like touch).
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