Nicolas Cage hasn’t starred in a lot of critically acclaimed movies as of late, but that has changed with the release of Mandy. The movie comes from the mind of director Panos Cosmatos who has crafted a bizarre, violent, twisted and downright crazy yet entertaining movie that has helped put Cage back on the map in a good way. But it’s not the Leaving Las Vegas star who actually steals the show. It’s the Cheddar Goblin; a fake 80s mac and cheese mascot that has taken the internet by storm.
If you haven’t yet seen Mandy, there’s a scene early on in the movie, which is set in the early 1980s. After a tragic event, Nicolas Cage’s character watches a TV commercial for a fake brand of macaroni and cheese. The Cheddar Goblin serves as its mascot, who throws up buckets of his product all over some unsuspecting children. He now has his own Twitter account and merchandise is on the way. This whole thing started when Panos Cosmatos knew that he needed something interesting playing on the TV for Cage’s character to watch. Here’s what he had to say about it in a recent interview.
“We needed something to play on the TV when Nicolas Cage goes back into the house. We were going to find some pre-existing vintage commercial that we could license. I wanted it to be a moment where the horror and the absurdity of the universe slap him in the face at exactly the wrong time. And Cheddar Goblin was just a joke I started making in the production office with producer Josh Waller. There was a GIF I really loved from the movie Ghoulies, and we started riffing on a ghoulie that was vomiting green slime. After a while, I fell in love with the idea of a goblin that vomits mac & cheese. And I was like, ‘We got to make this happen in the movie.’ But we didn’t really have the time or money to do this.”
And so, the job fell to special effects artist Shane Morton and creator of Adult Swim’s Too Many Cooks, Casper Kelly, who directed the Cheddar Goblin commercial and put the whole thing together over a weekend. Much of crafting the character’s look was left up to Morton, with Cosmatos using the 80s movie Ghoulies as a point of reference. As Kelly explains, since this was an indie movie, they didn’t have a lot of money to work with and he certainly didn’t fully understand what he was agreeing to.
“I thought this commercial was going to be a little background detail in the movie, in a scene where people were talking. And I didn’t know at the time it was a Nicolas Cage movie, either. I didn’t know that Nicolas Cage would walk in, watch a good chunk of my commercial, and then repeat it, you know? I was working on the demon-workplace comedy Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell for Adult Swim. And they needed Cheddar Goblin pretty quickly, so I had to throw it together over a weekend. At first, they asked, ‘Can you do it for free?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can ask this puppeteer to make a puppet for free. Can you give us a little?’ So they gave us $1,000 to offset the costs, and I asked Shane Morton, ‘When you’re not working on the demon makeup for Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, can you think about what a Cheddar Goblin might look like?'”
After watching some early 80s commercials for reference, finding the right house and kids to act in the commercial, they were ready to shoot it. Shane Morton crafted the sure-to-be infamous Cheddar Goblin using water-based clay in under five hours. Two different puppets were used; one for running around and one with a two-foot tube connected so that it could puke up the mac and cheese all over the children in the fake commercial. Casper Kelly also explained the scripting process and the thinking behind the Cheddar Goblin itself.
“I wrote a script for a full commercial. It starts off, ‘Who ate all the macaroni & cheese?’ Their box is empty. And the kids go, ‘Cheddar Goblin!’ And he’s hiding behind a curtain. He’s sort of like Trix the Rabbit, these characters who are not allowed to eat their own products. It’s sort of like a Leprechaun charm, when they chant his name, he’s forced to vomit back up the mac & cheese for them. And there was a little shot where the little girl was smiling, and she had the macaroni perfectly placed on her eyebrows, and she was lifting her eyebrows up and down.”
Panos Cosmatos ended up with the actual Cheddar Goblin puppet, but the team behind the movie is working to get merchandise out for those who want it. The Cheddar Goblin Twitter account has also been getting a lot of attention and the character is truly taking on a life of his own beyond the movie. Maybe he’ll even end up with his own Adult Swim series. For more from the team behind Mandy, you can check out the full interview over at Thrillist. You can also check out some gems from the Cheddar Goblin Twitter account below.