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Chicago Family Passes Monster-Making Tradition To Next Generation

Chicago mask-maker Phil Zagone (left) talks with Ed Curran about his family's factory on the Northwest Side. (CBS)

Chicago mask-maker Phil Zagone (left) talks with Ed Curran about his family’s factory on the Northwest Side. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s one of the scariest buildings in Chicago: the Zagone Studios monster-mask studio on the Northwest Side.

CBS 2’s Ed Curran was brave enough to go inside to see how they create the frightening faces of Halloween.

Zagone Studios is one of the biggest, most respected mask-makers in the world. Phil Zagone and his brother started the company 40 years ago, in a garage.

His kids – and now, their kids — run the company.  Their popular innovation is a soft mask that flexes as your jaw moves up and down.

Tony Zagone, wearing an Old Man mask, hisses: “Get off my grass! I hate kids!”

In a normal voice, he explains, “Once you put it on, you’re in character.”

Every mask is made in Chicago, using U.S. materials.

“Every step of the process is done by hand: They’re hand-poured, hand-cut. Every tooth here is hand-painted with a dry brush, and then they’re spray-painted,” Tony Zagone explains.

It starts by filling a plaster mold with latex. After a few minutes the excess is poured off, leaving a thin layer of rubber. After drying overnight, the mask is peeled out, to be detailed by talented artists and finishers.

Because their masks are hand-made, Zagone Studios is busy filling last-minute orders from shops around the world.