The Stillborn Stillborn and the Second Draft

Posted by Steve on Dec 28, 2009 in Characters, Prehistory, Production | Subscribe

My first failed baby failed.  Fortunately, an improved design and evolving techniques should yield less cringe-worthy results.

Here’s Andy’s original concept drawing for Phauntleroy — then called Patrick  — as he was to appear in the defunct puppet show for which he and James were originally conceived.  He looked a lot more human back then and, I think, lacked the nuance of character that’s making the new Phauntleroy something more than just a fetus in a jar, namely: a fetus in a jar animated by a tremendous sense of jealously and an impossible longing for life.

For Phauntleroy the First, I made an armature and sculpted up a baby’s body from roma plastilina modeling clay.  He’s got marbles for eyes and I recycled severed doll limbs to save on sculpting time.

I dismembered the model and cast his arms, legs and torso/head separately.  These I painted with layers of liquid latex and cheese cloth, for stability.  The latex took forever drying and when the individual pieces were finally thick enough to pop out of the molds,  joining them up proved more difficult still.

They came out wrinkled, yellowed, plaster smeared, deformed in general and hideous to behold.  That was actually a happy accident, but still I could see him failing.   I tried to run copper wires through him to open and close the mouth and wiggle the arms but these proved clumsy and ineffective.  The little fellow just wouldn’t perform properly.  Besides that he lacks a certain cuddly cruelty implicit in the character and essential to a successful puppet.  Phauntleroy the First was the nail the sealed the coffin on the puppet show he and James were originally intended for.

Here we are a few years later and the second draft is coming along swimmingly.  Above, wee Phauntleroy lays alongside his miniature maquette.  This time I’ve carved him from upholstery foam like any other puppet.  This will be sealed and waterproofed with layers of the same liquid latex, but that will then be skinned in fleece to keep him looking evolutionarily akin to the other puppets that populate Frown Town.

After carving the arms in a rigid pose, I cut into them and embed armature wire so we’ll be able to pose them differently from shot to shot.  This way he can alternate between pawing at his jar and wrapping them around himself in the style favored by fetuses in wombs across the world.

The new stillborn is shaping up nicely.  I’m currently working out a mechanism to get him talking via bicycle break cables, a simple hinge and mouse trap springs.  More to come as his gestation continues…

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