Monday, February 26, 2018

The Age of Invention: Terror Bird

In my last post I talked about a caveman comedy, featuring two guys that were a part of a special needs people media project I worked on a couple of years ago. I also included a shot from the film featuring an animated character. The puppet in question is one of those terror birds, the huge flightless monster birds that appeared after the extinction of the dinosaurs. I decided early on that this film wouldn't have any dinosaurs in it, but rather primitive mammals and other creatures of that age, which are not featured very often in films.

As per usual I'm using monster clay medium grade to sculpt the head, adding bits and taking away bits using loop tools. I actually can't recommend this material enough. It's the most versatile sculpting material I've ever used, and works well for both small and big sculpts. As you can hopefully see I've sculpted the mouth slightly open, and this is so I can cast the whole head, including the jaw, in one piece, having the edges of the insides of the beak slightly visible, which will create a better-looking mouth than sculpting the beak closed. Having the whole head in one piece allows me to control the overall look of it. 
In the case of this sculpture I've added slightly drooping corners of the mouth, which adds a permanently scowling or frowning look to the puppet. Because it's a grumpy bird! Small plastic beads stand in for the eyes. I'll simply paint on the eyes on this puppet and the glossy surface of the bead will create a smooth area in the cast latex head, which is perfect to paint eyes on.

Jumping ahead a bit, I've built up a plaster mold and the clay has been cleaned out of it. I'm adding drops of tinted latex using a pipe cleaner as a brush to get the liquid into all areas of the mold. I'm adding three layers of latex, and then another layer of latex and cotton to most areas. In fact, the only parts not covered with the cotton/latex mix are the corners of the mouth. And after some pulling and prying the cast latex head skin finally comes out. I'm using a very sharp, pointy-nosed pair of scissors to cut away the excess latex in the mouth and around the head.

As you can see in this photo I've added a horn to the head to make the bird look even more exaggerated and primeval. The horn was also sculpted in clay and cast as a separate latex piece. The armature is my usual bundle of aluminum wires, held together with crochet yarn and Polymorph thermoplastic. The screw at the back shows where a flying rig can be attached to make the bird jump when animated.

 The legs and neck are covered with thin polyurethane foam, though I did remove the foam around the neck when I noticed that it would look too bulky when the "plumage" was added on top of it.

 This bird actually has no real feathers at all, but is instead covered by fur from an old fur hat. I figured I might just get away with that look.

The finished bird puppet is airbrushed over the furry sections, but the same acrylic paint has been hand painted onto the latex parts for a more detailed look. The claws on the feet are cotton dipped in latex, and shaped by being rolled between my thumb and index finger.
Soon to come are the other two caveman-era monsters, but you'll have to wait and see what sort they are :)

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