Mummies may be the equivalent of a Halloween course, but when the Disney Channel is involved, the dead animals take their own lives. Just in time for the holidays comes “Under Raps”, a movie about a 400-year-old mummy named Harold (Phil Wright), who was revived by three friends.
Since Harold only spoke through one series, Wright’s skills as a dancer and choreographer were important because he used physicality to define the character. Writer and director Alex Jam gave a personal reference to Wright describing how he envisioned the role, when his son was “a constipated child who walked this path, kicked in front, was always unbalanced.”
Outside of Jam’s son, physical comedians like Harpo Marx and Lucille Ball became sensitive to Harold’s development.
In addition to the wide-ranging strokes of physical comedy inspiration, Harold’s look was created by makeup effect designer Joel Ichialia to allow Wright to adapt as much as possible. Echallier enlarged Wright’s face with thin silicone where the mummy wrapped parts of the dress peeked out. It was chosen as a dense latex synthetic versus to allow more movement and expression during Wright’s performance. He also wore special teeth and color accents for the role. Everything became essential to humanizing Harold.
The body of the dress was designed to give Wright full range of motion, a necessity during a large dance sequence. Participating in general skills like dance also helped to humanize Harold. It involved “music and dance and joy,” Wright says. “So, we had a great time developing that scene.”
When Harold China was dancing to a well-known song by Ann McCain – “Calling All the Monsters” – there were multiple re-mixed versions in the works during filming. The artist agrees to keep the tempo the same, the key is to make sure background actors can all be committed to the same beat. “And I was there, all of a sudden you don’t have music,” Jam said and you keep dancing with everyone in an inconsistent way on the background of the same party. He notes that this could lead to a whole series of editing problems on the road to post-production.
Wright has enjoyed using his own skills to bring dance to the movies. “That scene was very special to me because I’m a dancer, I’m a choreographer,” Wright said.