How To Make A Monster

March 30, 2009

As I’m wrapping up principal photography on my new stop motion short, “Bygone Behemoth,” I thought it might be interesting to show the process by which the main character was designed and constructed.

“Bygone Behemoth” tells the story of a washed-up B-movie monster called Al, a relic of the past akin to the fantastic creatures brought to life by special effects artists like Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien.  As such, I decided to create Al using the old-fashioned latex/foam build-up method pioneered by Marcel Delgado.

It all began with the sketch– a rough blueprint of how I envisioned the final puppet, both frontal and profile.

More after the jump…

From this drawing, a ball-socket armature was machined by the very talented Mr. John Deall.

I then covered the armature in upholstery foam, which I cut to resemble  muscles and tendons and glued on with Barge contact cement (nasty stuff, wear a respirator!)

I then proceeded to add a textured latex rubber skin to the puppet. This is a several step process which starts by creating a flat version of the puppet’s body in oil-based clay– basically, what the puppet would look like if it had been skinned and laid out flat. Dinosaur skin texture is then sculpted into the clay using a variety of tools (everything from toothpicks to orange peels).
The flat clay “pelt” is then molded in plaster.
Liquid latex is sponged into the mold in thin layers, dried with a hairdryer, then attached to the foam-covered armature with- yep, you guessed it- more Barge cement!
Note the under-skull of the puppet, fashioned from epoxy putty, complete with rigid teeth. A similar latex skin will eventually fit over this.

The hands have bendable fingers made from steel wire, and are fitted with super-sculpey claws, then detailed with a buildup of latex and cotton.
Al’s face is sculpted in oil-based clay over the epoxy-putty skull mentioned earlier.

The clay head is then molded in plaster and a skin is slush-cast in latex. After removing the clay, I am left with an identical rubber copy that fits perfectly over the under-skull.
Finally, Al is painted with a special mixture of rubber cement, universal pigment, and Naptha paint thinner (which is almost as nasty as Barge).  The Naptha serves to thin down the rubber cement so that the paint can be applied in translucent washes.
Seen here, the final puppet– painted, lit, and ready to act!


2 Responses to “How To Make A Monster”

  1. castlegardener said

    the puppet looks incredible. I have never made a latex skin for the head, I have always used a hard putty head. Your process looks terrific. Thanks for sharing.

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