Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Dinorilla -A Swedish Kaiju

Last month I talked about the big muppet-like monster I made for Ola Paulakoski's Swedish b-movie epic "Hermit: Monster Killer", which is currently making the rounds at a number of European film festivals. Well, Mr Paulakoski is at it again, this time with a Swedish tribute to classic Kaiju films, or in non-nerd lingo: movies about giant monsters, which are often Japanese. The idea is to create a rubber monster suit, and have the actor in the suit stomp around models of well-known cityscapes. In other words, it'll be done the good old proper way. I might be involved in the making of that suit, but at this point in time everything is at the concept stage, and Ola is working hard at selling the project to potential investors. In order to make this easier I've built a model of the monster, the dreaded "Dinorilla", which can be positioned in various dramatic poses and photographed to create production illustrations in Photoshop. Something like this:

What I have built is one of my standard latex-skinned stop-motion puppets, but it may never be used as such. I might still do a bit of animation just for the heck of it.

To begin at the beginning, I made a few sketches of what the monster could look like. My only brief was that it had a gorilla-like scaly body, and a Triceratops-like head.

We ended up settling on this body for the creature, but the head was still not quite right.

 Ola picked the middle head in this sketch, and I placed it on the preferred body.

Other sketches followed, illustrating specific ideas for the film, including this landing party of counter strike troops. The Dinorilla is living off oils and gasoline the same way Godzilla needs his radiation. In Scandinavia the big Oil nation is Norway, and the monster strikes primarily at this country. A team similar to the G-Force in the Godzilla movies is put together by the Scandinavian countries to deal with the monster, and various scenes of conflict and destruction ensues, budget permitting, of course..

The next step was to make a clay sculpture of the head, which defined the creature more than any other aspect. When this was OKed by Ola I created a mold from dental plaster around it. The mouth was filled up with clay to make the casting easier and the teeth were removed.
The eyes are made by me by simply using plastic balls from a novelty necklace, printing out Photoshopped irises and gluing them to the balls, and covering the whole thing with Glossy Accents scrapbooking plastic. That's a very cheap way of making eyes and it looks great.

I cast the whole head in tinted latex as a thick rubber skin. The corners of the mouth were thinner in order to make the movements of the jaw as easy as possible.

The inside of this head skin was lined with Polymorph thermo plastic. This plastic is melted in small bits with my heat gun, and pressed into the skin cavities as soft blobs. When the plastic cools it becomes semi-hard, and creates a great support for the head. Aluminum wires were also inserted into the plastic at this point to create the jaw joint and the neck.

To create sockets for the eyes, and make the eyes swivel and easy to animate I placed the eyes on the inside of the eyelids, and pressed silicone clay (activated by a blue agent) used by dentists against them. This created eye sockets that allowed the plastic eye balls maximum movement due to the nature of the semi-rigid silicone, which doesn't stick to anything. This also means that the dental silicone wouldn't stick to the latex around the eye, but the layer of thermo plastic held it perfectly in place.

Here's the finished armature for the Dinorilla, made from bundles of aluminum wires and thermoplastic. The chest area is built out to create a stabilizing point on the puppet, a place I can grab hold of as well as a cavity where a bunch of fill-out material would've added unnecessary weight to the puppet.

One important note about the feet of this puppet. Since I knew that the puppet would be slightly bigger than my usual creations, a little over a foot tall, and therefore a bit heavier, I decided to forgo my usual wing nut foot tie-downs in favor of something even more stable. The two things in the photo above are t-nuts, where the threading would go longer into the feet than on a wing nut. I wrapped three 2 mm thick aluminum wires around the t-nuts and added a blob of thermo plastic to secure them there. However, this turned out to not be enough, since I added more stuff to the puppet after the legs were constructed, and I eventually added two more aluminum wires to the legs and feet to make them extra stable and strong.

This was going to be a bulky monster and to add extra lightweight mass to the limbs I hot-glued strips of dense foam seat cushions to parts of the armature. In order to smooth out the angular shapes of the foam I wrapped these bits in thick yarn. You can also see that the fingers have been wrapped with the same thick yarn.

Parts of the latex skin covering was sculpted and cast from dental plaster molds. The piece above is for the shoulders. This sculpture is made in medium grade Monster Clay.

This bit is the chest piece, sculpted in soft Monster Clay. I used a homemade texture stamp to quickly press details into the clay.

These little shell-like bits will become scales on the back of the monster, and they play a rather important part in the story. These are also very quickly made using the soft Monster Clay, which is much faster to work with than the medium grade variety, though it doesn't really lend itself to very detailed work using sculpting tools. Everything I cast with plaster I first give a brush over with a brush dipped in the dental plaster. This irons out (almost) all  air bubbles and air pockets. I clean the brush in water and it usually lasts for at least a year.

Each of these scales are attached with aluminum wires and thermo plastic. In the story of the film these scales open up and energy is released out of the monster. These three rows of scales, with metal wires and the plastic added, put on the extra weight that required adding more wires to the legs.

Time to pad the body with foam bits in imitation of muscles and fat. The bare joints are covered with strips of very soft polyurethane foam.

The chest was covered with equally soft foam, but under this foam sheet is a big bundle of cotton balls. They allow the waist joint to bend freely, which it couldn't if I had added a thick piece of foam instead.

Here's the finished padding for the Dinorilla, except for a little bit that went under the chin, where a joint allowed the monster to swallow visibly.

The specially sculpted parts with horns and peculiar bumps have gone on here, along with scaly skin cast in a skin texture plaster mold made some years ago for another project. Liquid latex is used as glue to fasten the skin pieces.

Here's the finished skin application. Time to paint it.

I used acrylic paints and ProsAide make-up glue to create the flexible so-called PAX paint, which was brushed on with a foam sponge.

Finishing touches were added with acrylic airbrush paints. I also stuck on old castings of various horns and teeth I have in my monster-bits-that-might-be-useful box (where left over cast latex pieces go).

We'll see what happens with the Dinorilla project. Right now I'm snapping photos of the puppet which will be used in those staged production illustrations, and who knows; they might impress the right people enough to actually have this project properly funded.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Swedish B-Movie Monster

Here's a story I think I haven't told you. Way back in 2013 I was contacted by Swedish monster enthusiast Ola Paulakoski about making parts of a big monster for him. I had made a werewolf hand puppet for one of his earlier projects, and this time it was about creating effects for a wholly commercial film venture. After a long haul on one of the bigger crowd funding platforms (can't remember which one) he had gathered the princely sum of $500, for which he hoped I'd be able to create a huge full-body creature. That was impossible, of course, at least for me. Instead we opted for making a head and a claw. The rest of the creature would probably be brought to life via CGI.

"Hermit: Monster Killer", or "Den Gamle och Monstret" ("The Old Man and the Monster") as the Swedish title would be, was to be shot in lush pinewood areas, and the monster would mostly be shown lurking behind trees and rocks, a bit here and there. I did design the whole critter, though, as a guide for whoever would produce the CGI.

To save money on materials as well as space I decided against sculpting big sections and casting them with dental plaster molds. Instead the better part of the creature would have to be built up. But certain details I did sculpt in Chavant clay, like this horn.

And like this bit, which goes on top of the head.

This is the largest bit sculpted; it's basically the face with the eyes. I used a softer hobby clay for this one, mainly because it was faster, and time was of the essence.

Here's the top of the head bit, cast in tinted latex and supported with a mix of latex and cotton.

And this same technique was also applied to the horns, as well as the face cast. 

 I had an old plaster mold of what was teeth or claws, depending on the size of the creature that was going to have them applied. In this case I used the mold to produce a bunch of teeth in latex.

I decided to also sculpt the eyes to make them slightly cartoony, but also quite alien.

Since I had a bit of DragonSkin silicone left in my workshop I made a mold over the eye sculpture, so I could cast the eyes in plastic.

The eyes were cast as hollow plastic domes and painted with acrylic airbrush paints, with red yarn dipped in shellac added for blood vessels. The eyes were then hot-glued to a bit of box cardboard. Shamelessly cheap!

One last sculpture: The testicle-like sacks under the monster's chin. Again, I used that softer hobby clay.

The main structure of the head was built up using polyurethane camping cushion foam; you know those plasticky flat but soft things you sit on during cold days when you're out to watch a game. The yellow and blue bits are very soft polyurethane foam used in furniture.

I dipped strips of cotton in tinted latex and layered this material on liberally around the whole head, filling out gaps between the cast latex pieces. Mostly I simply used an oil paint palette knife to shape the cotton/latex mix into wrincles, folds and warts. I managed to put it all together on a very hot day, so the latex dried really quickly.

Here's the finished puppet head with its base color. I then drybrushed lighter tinted latex over the head to add highlights and various subtler shades. I've also added a couple of acrylic plastic domes over the eyes.

So here's the finished head. Not the most life-like creation, but that wasn't the point of it. If you think the monster has a fleeting likeness to Beaker of "The Muppet Show", you're right. That was a request of Ola's.

The monster head (to the left) was simply manipulated by sticking your hand up the neck and making the mouth flap open. That's it, I'm afraid.

The arm, however, would have a very simple mechanism. When I built these monster bits I had just made a silicone mold from a sculpture of a Velociraptor claw (slightly stylized) and I decided to cast the monster's claws using that mold (again for convenience and speed.)

The claws were attached to plastic tubes, which were covered with latex and cotton. The claws were painted with acrylic airbrush colors.

 The plastic tubes were attached with door hinges to a small round wooden plaque, and the plastic clothes lines were attached to the inside of the plastic tubes using small screws, and then threaded into other tubes running down from the wooden plaque.

 A thick cardboard tube was attached to the wooden plaque, again using screws, and the clothes lines were drawn down through this tube. In the end I only built a forearm, bulking it up with bits of foam and covering it all with more latex and cotton, and patches of cast latex skin, again from old plaster molds.

Both the head and the arm were huge patchwork jobs, done in about three days, but miraculously both items have held up through rigorous filming, covered in slime and blood, up to this day. So hooray for good old latex monsters!
The film is now finished and making the rounds on various genre film festivals, so keep an eye out for it.