Saturday, July 7, 2012

Puppets by Request: Baboon and Greyhound

US filmmaker Mark Beal asked if I could make a couple of animal puppets for his film project "Enchiridion". These animals, a baboon and a greyhound dog, were supposed to look like the genuine articles, but in the film they would be dressed as gangster hit men and walking upright.

I made these puppets fairly large, about a foot long each. Both the greyhound and the baboon armatures had the same dimensions as their real animal counterparts. The armatures were made, as most of my armatures, out of Friendly Plastic thermoplastic and braided aluminum wires.

The baboon skull was sculpted in Chavant clay and cast in plastic from a silicone mould. The teeth were Friendly Plastic, and super glued into the gums.

Only very little of the animal bodies would actually be visible. The rest would be covered up with fabrics. Besides the fake fur added in these photos I also padded the body with bits of polyurethane foam. The baboon face sculpture was created in clay, and DragonSkin FX Pro was used to mould a face skin from a plaster mould. I added a bit of wire to the upper lip and the eyebrows, and two plastic beads for the eyes.

My friend Liz hastily created the costumes; perhaps a bit too hastily, since Mark wasn't really happy with the result. He found another seamstress in the US who totally remodelled them. 

The feet, hands and tail of the baboon were built up with sewing string and latex. The silicone face was painted with a mix of DragonSkin silicone and pigments. I sponged the colours on using very fine sponges and speeded up the curing with a heat gun. The result is never as subtle as when using an airbrush, but it doesn't look too shabby.

The greyhound was another matter entirely. Since these dogs have such a thin and short coat of fur that they need to use sunblock in the summer, there was no question that I had to drop the idea of attaching fur to the puppet. I just tried to simulate the look of fur by sculpting it into the clay used for the head and skin moulds.

I forgot to mention this about the baboon, but both of the puppets had these wires put into their eyes when the plaster moulds were created. Having these wires embedded into the plaster allowed me to put the plastic beads representing the finished eyes into the mould, over the wire ends while casting the latex and silicone faces, creating sockets for the eyes in the process.

The greyhound had a simple latex head, as it wasn't required to show much emotion. As with the baboon, a very basic foam padding was applied.

I think I managed to build a couple of puppets that, while they may seem primitive, still fit into the weird universe Mark has created in "Enchiridion". I'm very excited to see the finished result!


Shelley Noble said...

Such brilliant work, Richard. SHouldn't you reconsider the tagline of this blog from amateur to pro now?

Richard Svensson said...

Thanks, Shelley!! But when I start making any real money from my work, I'll consider myself a pro :)