The last, but very important, part of my Star Trek fan film entourage is the two main characters, of course. I decided to make them slightly smaller than my usual puppets, simply to have the beast of Tanagra look more imposing next to them. It's a case of having one over-sized puppet vs two under-sized puppets. Hopefully it'll all work out perfectly in the end.
The two tiny heads of these characters were sculpted in Monster Clay medium grade. As you can see I sculpted the mouths open, but after casting the latex heads from plaster molds I decided that they wouldn't be expressive enough. I'll get back to that in a bit.
I wanted to have eyes that could be animated, so I had to place them in some kind of socket. I reverted to an old eye-making trick of mine, which would allow me to work comfortably with the tiny plastic beads I chose for the eyes. I simply pushed them about 1/4 into soft clay and added latex on top.
To add stability I soaked cotton in latex and then placed that over the eyes. This will make the sockets leathery -sturdy but still flexible.
Here's the cleaned-up latex castings of the heads. I've cut holes for the eyes using very sharp and pointy scissors, and covered the mouths with tinted latex. The puppets will be getting replacement mouths instead.
Here's how the eyes look with their sockets removed from the clay cradle. I painted brown irises on the plastic beads and put some black paint into the holes that were already there to create pupils. I can rotate the eyes by simply putting a needle down each hole and turning the plastic bead in its socket.
I'm using liquid latex as a "glue" to attach the cotton/latex sockets to the insides of the heads. It's a bit tricky and fiddly working in such a small scale, but after a few tries and a bit of swearing they got in place.
These tiny (it's hard to get good focus in this scale) sausages are the lips and mouths of the characters. These will become the very simple replacement mouths of the puppets.
And here's a selection of latex mouths. I'll be using a couple of drops of flexible super glue to make them stick temporarily.
My usual thermo plastic and aluminum wires armatures are put into use. Each foot has a trimmed wing nut as a tie down. The fingers are tiny aluminum wires covered with sewing string and tinted latex.
To pad the bodies I used a slightly different method than usual. I cut long strips of soft polyurethane foam and soaked them in latex by dabbing them with a foam sponge. The trick is to make the foam strips saturated with latex but not dripping with the stuff. A hot air gun helped the latex dry very fast, but a hairdryer would've worked well too.
This latex-saturated foam takes on a clay-like quality, and it can be cut in bits and almost sculpted onto the armatures by kneading the material. This way you can control the shape of the foam padding exactly, which is very handy when working with smaller puppets.
To create clothing for the puppets I used old castings of latex skins that I had saved. I also dabbed tissue paper with tinted latex down onto a bit of plastic sheet. These bits of latex were then cut into patterns and draped over the puppets.
Darmok and Jalad each has a weapon, one has a spear of sorts and the other a huge knife or short sword. These were made from a wooden dowel and a piece of dentist's wood tongue depressor cut and sanded into shape. These were later painted with a white enamel color to give the blades a sort of ivory look.
So here's our dapper heroes almost finished dressing up. All of it is latex. My workbench is very messy.
The finished puppets with their weapons and a pair of happy replacement mouths stuck on.
Darmok is supposed to be a mythical hunter, so I gave him the spear-like weapon, and a bit of nicely colored fake fur. These chaps belong to a race known as Tamarians, which, as you can see, has very long thumbs.
His buddy Jalad is more of a mercenary/ warrior type. He carries his sword on his back, as good fantasy heroes are want to do, at least they were in the 1980's. The sword scabbard is paper covered with a latex skin.
Hopefully their meeting with the beast of Tanagra will look something like this in the film. The look of the Tanagrians were designed by Michael Westmore for the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "Darmok". I have tweaked their clothing a bit to look more ancient, but the color scheme is basically the same as seen in that episode.