Thursday, August 7, 2014

D & D Monsters: The Owlbear

The strapping gentleman in the photos above is Hawaiian filmmaker/ prop maker/ costume maker/ puppet maker/ mask maker/ stop-motion animator etc John Hankins. Like me he works out of his back yard, creating highly imaginative and entertaining fantasy films on a truly shoestring budget. Check out his YouTube channel:

John's films are actually a two-person show; his wife Alicia is his ever faithful collaborator and supporter, often appearing in the films alongside John in various guises. I've never met John in person but we've been online buddies for years. It's one of those wonderful situations where, at least in my case, I have found through the Internet what I couldn't find where I live; friends sharing the same feverishly passionate interests, and the opinion that nothing is impossible if you just put your heart into it.

Now we're embarking on our first international collaboration -a humorous and hopefully exciting fantasy short film set in the world of the old-school "Dungeons & Dragons" role playing game. John will be shooting the live-action scenes, as well as providing a hand puppet monster, costumes, backgrounds and almost everything else, and I'll be building and animating the monsters he'll encounter.

Long, long ago, when it seemed that my life held an endless mass of disposable time I became enamoured with role playing games, starting with "Dungeons & Dragons" and following with the Swedish game "Drakar & Demoner" ("Dragons & Demons"), with "Tunnels & Trolls", "Runequest", and a smattering of other games and solo adventure game books consumed along the way. Naturally I also made a couple of games with some friends, which never amounted to much. Now I'm actually there again, with the Swedish children's role playing game "Adventure", for which I'm making illustrations and collectible figures.

This is one of the original D & D monsters, here illustrated in the "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual". It is, of course, an owlbear. Later images of this monster are much more anatomically believable, slickly airbrushed in Photoshop and frankly more fierce-looking. In short, they're much more boring, so this first innocently crude and cartoony drawing is my guide for the owlbear puppet I'm building for the project.

I started off with sculpting the head of the beast in my new favourite material in the world -Monster Maker's Monster Clay. I made the open mouth a solid block of clay to be able to create a one-piece mould for the sculpture. The eyes are glass, and bought some years ago from a Swedish taxidermist supplier. They're some kind of predatory bird's eyes, but I'm no expert on the subject.

Here's the latex cast sitting next to its dental plaster mould. I usually tint the latex for my puppets black or a dark colour to get a good base colour. If the painted-on paint rubs off anywhere I prefer to have a darker colour peeking through under it.

My usual aluminum wire and Friendly Plastic combo for the armature. The yellow finger wire is copper wire encased in soft plastic. The white chest plate is part of a discarded SmoothCast 65D casting. It adds extra support, and a good grab-on section on the puppet when animating.

A mix of variously dense polyurethane foam muscles are glued on with Casco elastic contact cement. The claws are thin cardboard dipped in tinted latex.

And here's the finished brute. The fur is short fake fur, or "teddy" fur, sometimes called "monkey fur". I prefer to make my own feathers, but I've had a small bag of tiny feathers lying around for almost 20 years now, and I figured it would be high time to put them to use. The Monster Manual owlbear looks like he's got a bad toupee on, and I opted for a slightly different look, gluing on the feathers in a semi-circle around the puppet's head using elastic super glue. Liquitex acrylic airbrush colours add a mottled grey pattern to the fur.

Since I didn't have a photo of John in his finished fantasy get-up, my local armoured buddy Martin Merkel stepped in and acted out this staged fight photo with the owlbear. In short, here's how our film is intended to look.


Kelston Hubler said...


That looks awesome. I like the cartoony build and expressive face. The talons look very realistic and the fur looks amazing. The face kind of looks like the Jub-jub bird puppet from your Jabberwocky video.

I was wondering: On your website, you mentioned your short "lost in time", but there was no video. What happened to it?

Antediluvian is currently awaiting to be posted, but I am going to post more on Kyoryu.

Awesome puppetts.

Kelston Hubler

Richard Svensson said...

Yes, I seem to have channelled my jub-jub bird in the owlbear face! Glad you liked the puppet. It is pretty cartoony, but it was the general idea to maintain that from the original drawing.

"Lost in Time" was finished, and the dino sequences are quite OK, but the rest of the film is pretty bad. So I haven't, and never will, post it on YouTube.

By the way, I am in the process of re-doing my webside, so it'll be bigger and look better.

Kelston Hubler said...

Thanks for the feedback!

Ever considered doing another dinosaur project? That would be cool!

Got some new posts on my blog. Glad you're going to update your website, it's really cool.

Kelston Hubler

Greg G said...

Brilliant and creative work.

Mark Beal said...

Richard, this looks like an awesome project!