Digging into the Dynamics of Svengoolie’s New Coffin!

1Photo by Jim Roche

By now most of us have had a chance to see national commercial TV horror host, Svengoolie’s, new coffin which debuted last Saturday on MeTV. My kids and I actually turned it into an event as we prepared snacks and camped out in front of the television set…not unlike when I was a kid and my mother brought my brother and I our glasses for his “Son of” 3D airing of Revenge of the Creature. My fellow Goolies and I kept in touch via Facebook; enjoying a cyber huddle before (and after) the big moment arrived. Indeed, the show had barely begun before Social media became flooded with viewer feedback and public reaction to the new coffin created by Acme Design.

Fortunately, viewer reaction was decisively more positive than that aforementioned 3D show (though I’ll go to my own coffin proclaiming that as one of the best nights of my youth) with well over 95% of fans giving it a thumbs up. Considering how iconic the original coffin was on Chicago TV, and the natural human resistance to “change,” you couldn’t hope for a better response. Prior to Ryan Guenther taking on the dubious task of designing this masterpiece, he’d been warned by Acme’s owner, Clint Barucki, “You do realize this is like redesigning Superman’s costume and could easily backfire on you, right?” Unfettered, Guenther accepted the challenge and it was clear this past Saturday night that his hard work had paid off.

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I was fortunate to be at Elgin’s The Nigtmare on Chicago Street the night the coffin prototype was unveiled. This was the same occasion I’d meet Elizabeth Haney from Acme who’d later invite me to come out and see the actual coffin in its early stages of development. It was a huge honor for me and also an attempt to snag some photos for Svengoolie’s Scary Monsters Magazine Tribute issue. As this was during the time Svengoolie was recovering from his heart attack,  weird as this is going to sound, that new coffin became my symbol of hope that he was not only going to survive but come back better than ever. I can never thank Dennis Druktenis from Scary Monsters Magazine nor Elizabeth Haney from Acme enough for helping me channel my Svengoolie fandom during those uncertain days.

It was a weekend afternoon (not normal business hours) but both Elizabeth as well as the coffin’s designer, Ryan Guenther, were there to show me around. I always get treated like I’m important at that place and there’s never any part of me that feels deserving of it. This is also true during their monthly “model group,” a conclave of talent that rivals anything Hollywood has to offer.

I was permitted to take photos with the understanding that they would not be published before it made its TV debut. The non-Svengoolie pictures were released in a post published HERE and I was allowed to share the coffin pictures with Dennis for the Svengoolie tribute issue. They’d be used to accompany Elizabeth’s story on page 8.

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Before beginning the project, Guenther created a “Vision Board.” This was a collage of images depicting various elements of Svengoolie (past and present) as well as theater, television, and the Windy City itself. I loved the prototype at first sight but, as a die-hard Svengoolie fan, this made me feel even better about the original’s replacement. Ryan had thought through every detail and it became clear that he wasn’t just creating a prop for Svengoolie but a functional “tribute” to him.

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Before the ornamental details could be hashed out, however, they needed to create the right dimensions. The old coffin was created for the original Svengoolie, Jerry G. Bishop, who was a tall man. If you see Rich Koz’s Svengoolie standing in it, you’ll note there’s a lot more extra space above him than when Bishop was inside (Rich, I’m not calling you short, seriously). The new coffin would be designed for Koz while also affording him more room inside.

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The inside upholstery was also given special consideration. Guenther originally wanted green while Svengoolie suggested that purple would be a wiser choice in terms of what showed up better on television. With four decades of broadcasting experience, he knew what he was talking about and even I was surprised at how great the color looked during its screen debut.

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The original coffin would be adorned by the likeness of both Svengoolies (and, by the way, both were painted by Rich Koz) while the new one would be 3D and animated (stay tuned to the show as it’s guaranteed to provide many more surprises). Ryan actually created the teeth to look just like Rich’s…

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Many people noted the skull on top of the casket to reflect Tombstone but there is an even deeper connection to horror host history. The skull is modeled after the same skull that the very FIRST horror host, Vampira, had on her couch when her show ran in 1954.

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Obviously, you can’t have anything Svengoolie-related without a rubber chicken or two and that was also featured…

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Even the coffin handles would reflect his favorite fowl. At the time of my arrival, Ryan had just received an actual old coffin handle from eBay (he said he didn’t ask for details regarding its past) and used it as a model for casting one with chicken hands.

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The handle in front of the coffin is a nod to the original Svengoolie, Jerry G. Bishop, with a loose Latin form of his famous line, “The Time has come for Scary things…”

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Of course NO Svengoolie tribute would be complete without mention of his favorite town…

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During my first visit, only the “mold for the new coffin existed…

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My next visit would show it taking form…

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And voila…

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If you’d like to see even more details as revealed on Svengoolie’s show and the coffin’s first appearance, you can see it all in this video below…

Special thanks to Elizabeth Haney for all her kindness in letting me see the coffin’s evolution, Jim Roche for sharing his photos of the  finished design, Ryan Guenther for giving us Sven fans reason to cheer, and Svengoolie for making us laugh every Saturday night.

Dave Fuentes

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23 responses

  1. Jack Emerson

    Great article Dave, his old coffin should go into the Horror Host Hall of Fame ( if we all live so long).

    September 11, 2013 at 7:57 am

    • Thanks, the old coffin will actually be going to Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications.

      September 11, 2013 at 7:58 am

  2. Looks great ! I saw it on last weeks show. You all did an amazing job of keeping true to Svenghoolie. Love the chicken handles and of course the tribute to Berwyn… Thank You for the detailed workmanship.

    September 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    • Thanks for the comment, Lisa! I agree, Acme Design did a fantastic job!

      September 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm

  3. that is an amazing coffin and great eye for the details.

    September 11, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    • I agree and thanks for the comment, Tanakila! I will forward it to the Acme folks!

      September 11, 2013 at 4:51 pm

  4. Derpy Shell

    Great job! It is truly worthy Svengoolie!!

    September 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm

  5. Rebecca Black

    I enjoyed last week’s show ……for the great unveiling…. I am sure it was a labor of love.
    Love you show Sven!

    September 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

  6. Marta Crabtree

    Love the new coffin!

    September 11, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    • Me too, Marta! Thanks for the comment!

      September 11, 2013 at 7:34 pm

  7. great job on the new coffin love it !!

    September 11, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    • Thanks for the comments Tina!

      September 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm

  8. Kal

    I knew nothing about this story or coffin or character but I really enjoyed learning more about the coffin. I love seeing the design process from beginning to the end. Thanks for sharing.

    September 11, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    • Awesome comments, Kal! I hope this will inspire you to delve deeper into the wonderful world of Svengoolie!

      September 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm

  9. Dan

    The new Svengoolie Coffin is fantastic! The original coffin will always hold a special place for me as I’m sure it does for any fans that have been watching your show since a child. I’m glad it will be in a good resting place for all to see.

    September 12, 2013 at 12:24 am

    • Great comments, Dan! I will pass this along to Sven.

      September 12, 2013 at 8:43 am

  10. OUTSTANDING!!! I recently got turned on to Svengoolie I had never heard of him. We had the Mazzepa Popazoidie Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting back in the 1970’s here in Tulsa. (It actually spawned several acting careers.) I have really missed the old Classic Horror Movie Hosts since then. I watch Sven every Saturday Night now or record it should I actually go out of the house. GOOD LUCK with the New Coffin and the Show. Here’s to wishing you a speedy and full recovery from your health issues.

    September 12, 2013 at 12:40 am

    • GREAT to hear that his going national has been snagging new fans! Love your comments and thanks so much!

      September 12, 2013 at 8:43 am

  11. Bill

    Great job, Dave…thanks for the Jerry G. handle…for us real old school ghoulies…

    September 12, 2013 at 5:58 am

    • Ryan Guenther from Acme clearly took the time to do this right and pay homage to Sven’s roots. Thanks for the comments!

      September 12, 2013 at 8:44 am

  12. ed

    May Sven and the new coffin both “live long and prosper”.
    Is it “Berwyn” or “Kerwyn”?
    So, do we have new glow shirt designs in the works?
    We just bought our Sven shirts for a Halloween trip to Vegas.

    September 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm

  13. Mind Blown!

    September 14, 2013 at 10:12 am

  14. Pingback: Svengoolie Living it... or Dyeing it up... In a New Coffin!

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