Aside from driving everyone indoors, the coronavirus pandemic has also elicited a fair amount of creativity from people who now have nothing but endless amounts time on their hands.
One family re-created Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride, a group of friends offered up their take on a scene from Hereditary, and director Mike Mendez battled a tiny Guillermo del Toro.
In a short film entitled "There Can Be Only One," Mendez (The Convent, Big Ass Spider!) attempts to find out who's been stealing his Oreos, only to uncover a conspiracy plotted by a pint-sized del Toro figure who wants to transform the planet into a utopia of fauns and fish people. What follows is an epic struggle between Pacific Rim's Gypsy Danger and Ripley's exo-suit from Aliens.
"I think it started when I got the Guillermo figure," Mendez tells SYFY WIRE. "He was a Comic-Con exclusive, and I thought to myself, 'He seems like the kind of toy that would come to life at night and take my cookies.' And for some reason, that idea just kind of stuck."
It's truly as gonzo as it sounds, but the combination of stop motion, pop culture references, and Mendez's impressive toy collection make the short (originally a multi-part Instagram story) an undeniable masterpiece of the COVID-19 era.
Watch the full thing below:
"For a while, I thought it would be funny, for my friends and myself, if there was an Instagram story that started off normally, but by the end, turned into a giant battle with explosions and guns and giant stakes," Mendez adds. "That was just a fleeting thought, but leave it to a pandemic; suddenly, your time gets freed up ... I’ve got a moment where no one's going to give me any sh** and say, 'Jesus, you have too much free time on your hands.'"
Originally meant to take up a single weekend, "There Can Be Only One" ended up being shot and edited over the course of five days.
"Certainly, the stop motion was going to be time-consuming, but I knew that going in," the director explains. "Much to my surprise, what ended up taking a lot longer than I expected were the sound effects. All the little robot gears, footsteps, plus all the fighting sounds. It just ended up being a much bigger job than anticipated. There was an extra day just doing that."
While del Toro proved to be a perfect "casting" choice, the short might have turned out wildly different if Mendez were in possession of another Academy Award recipient.
"I think [del Toro] just had the misfortune of being turned into an action figure and I had access to him," he says. "I think if I had a Martin Scorsese figure, it might have been him. But there was just something funny to me about that initial idea of Guillermo del Toro stealing your cookies. From there, I was making a lot of it up as I went along, so it would just seem logical that Guillermo is enough of an alpha male, that he would want to take over my apartment."
And if you were wondering, the answer is yes: The shrunken-down version of Mike (summoned via Charles Lee Ray's voodoo chant from the beginning of Child's Play) is an actual toy based on the filmmaker's likeness.
"It was a very thoughtful gift from a filmmaker friend named Mike Merino," he says. "He just figured since I have every other type of action figure, he bet that the one figure I wouldn’t have is one of myself. So, he had commissioned a Mike figure. Awesome present. Really came in handy for this."
Since Mendez posted it on his YouTube channel yesterday, the short has enjoyed a slew of high-profile news coverage and was even shared by the regular-sized Guillermo del Toro on Twitter. Mike admits he had no idea how big the little project would become, but is pleased that it's seemed to "put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces, and that’s a really great thing right now."
Moreover, he hopes to see other people continue to exercise their imaginations while in isolation.
"Make your own quaran-tainment!," he concludes. "When I was growing up, I had to make my movies on 8mm film or my dad’s video camera. Now, we have a movie studio in our pocket, and we take it for granted. I think it’s a great distraction to get your mind off things. This is a strange moment in history and I think a lot of exciting and fun art is going to come out of it."