Thursday, June 28, 2012

Puppets by Request: King Kong

Last year, British animator and King Kong enthusiast Lee Ashworth asked if I could make him a Kong replica puppet, and I set forth on my mission with some trepidation. Kong is one of the greatest pop culture icons of all time and I figured nailing down his look wouldn't be an easy task. I was right. It took me over a year to get the damn thing finished, and in the end it doesn't really look like Kong anyway. But we'll get back to that. I did blog about this project last year HERE.

After many attempts at sculpting Kong's face, Lee and I finally settled on this look.

Lee had sent me a ball and socket armature for his Kong puppet, but I deemed it to small to work for the hairy Kong puppet; I couldn't find any fur that was short enough. Instead I made one of my usual aluminum wire armatures, built after the same dimensions (though slightly scaled down) as one of the original Kong armatures.

Kong's eyes were plastic beads, which had a filed down smooth flat top surface,with added printouts of Photoshop eye art, and then covered with Crystal Clear plastic from SmoothOn.

Though the original Kong face was built up by master craftsman Marcel Delgado using cotton and "dental dam" (some kind of latex material which creates condom-like skins) I knew that I could never get the same felixibility out of one of my own latex constructions. Therefore the face was moulded in DragonSkin FX silicone. The eyes were inserted into silicone sockets.

The body was simply padded with foam rubber pieces. I added only enough of detail to get some bulging shapes under the fur.

Kong's face had, besides the jointed jaw, aluminum and copper wires inside the brow and the upper lip. Teeth and gums were sculpted in Chavant clay and cast in moothCast plastic from silicone moulds. The tongue was built up with latex and cotton.

Apparently Kong's fur in the original movie wasn't as gorilla-black as the black and white film suggests. It's been said that it was actually brown. I found a soft fake fur of agreeable length, which I decided would work well. It's a very dark brown, and has a slight stretch to it.

The build-up procedure was very simple. I just cut bits of the fur, like I was making patterns for an overall, and glued them down over the foam padding using a flexible contact cement. I also sculpted and cast in silicone Kong's ears and a chest piece.

Adding fur to Kong's head was another matter. Had I simply glued down bits of the fur like for the rest of the body, he would've had a huge head of hair. Instead I had to clip tufts of hair and glue them down a few hairs at a time, gradually making my way up from the neck to the brow.

This is a real low-budget Kong. I can point out several faults with this puppet, including a too thick neck, a slightly crooked jaw, a fur that's too long, etc, etc. But I think of this as "Kong Mark 1". I plan to give this character a go again and again, until I've nailed him down and found the best fur for this project. At least Lee got a pretty decent practice puppet out of this one.


Jeff Lafferty said...

That is awesome! Nice work dude, and what a great way to do eyes, I'll have to remember that one.

Richard Svensson said...

I stole the eye-making technique from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, though they use it to make bigger eyes.

McTodd said...

"I can point out several faults with this puppet, including a too thick neck, a slightly crooked jaw, a fur that's too long, etc, etc." You're too much the perfectionist! Though, of course, I sympathise as I'm always dissatisfied with anything I make - but seriously, to an objective observer it looks bloody excellent!

Mr Black said...

i know the guy who owns the original armature (Bob Burns)and while this is made differently I think it is a wonderful work of art. Great job!

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