Thursday, September 19, 2013

So you want to be a gorilla man ?...part 4...JAWS!!

All right folks, no drawn out intros, lets get down to business.

When we left off, we had just attached the lower jaw to the upper via the canvas strips we created.
These will be the hinge joint of the jaws, that will make the whole thing work.
The way it functions is this: When you open your mouth..The gorilla mouth opens.
When you close your mouth...the gorilla mouth just hangs open.....until we put the jaw muscles in!

When Chris Walas did his jaw mechanism, he placed hooks outside of the jaws to attach rubber bands to. This is a great method, and easily accessed by lifting away a flap of unglued fur.
Check out Chris's method here.....

We will do this a little different. We'll put them on the inside this time.
Why the difference, you may ask?.....Just a preference..simple as that.
When you wear the suit a lot, like me. the jaws get a lot of exposure to heat, sweat, and mechanical abrasion from rubbing against the hooks.

The biggest thing is the bands just plain fatigue after a good workout and won't pull the jaw closed as effectively. Using rubber bands and hooks, you can simply throw on another band and your done.

OK, lets make some hooks.
For the hooks, I use the small 1/2" long "figure eight" chain from the hardware store. 1 foot will get you enough hooks for 20 masks. The chain I use has a black plastic coating that will keep it safe from sweat. Your body's sweat actually has a corrosive effect on the rubber bands and metal !
To make them, simply insert the tips of needle nose pliers into one of the links where it connects to the next one. Pry outward gently to spread the link just a little bit more than it takes to remove the link from the chain.
If you do it correctly you will only have to open one side of each link. Leave the other side closed !
Now take your canvas cloth and cut 4 circles about an inch across, you can trace a quarter if you like.
You will also need a needle and thread, so get those.
Thread you needle and tie it off the the closed eye of one of the hooks.
Now sew the eye to the canvas as close to the center as you can. Do this for all 4, just make sure it's sewn very strong !
To attach the hooks, lets first determine the best attachment points.
Looking at the mask from the front, find the point you want the back edge of the mouth to be.
(If you put your finger in your real mouth and slide it all the way to the right till it hits, that's what I mean by the back edge.)
Now put a small. inconspicuous mark on the lip of the lower jaw at that point.
now go down 1/2" further into the mouth and slightly back. Mark that.

Somewhere around the point above, as long as it's at least an inch(or more) in front of the canvas hinge joint.
Now, apply a heavy coat of contact cement to the back of two of the canvas discs the hooks were sewn to, and also to the areas specified above, and allow to dry.
As soon as it dries, carefully apply the hook disks (with the hooks aiming towards the top of the head) and press them down HARD ! To add additional strength, and cotton and latex over the canvas and blend it onto the surrounding areas...allow this to dry thoroughly.
 After the lower hooks are completely dry, turn the mask around and reaching in from behind, attach a rubber band to one hook only. Now stretch the rubber band towards the top of the head until it pulls the jaw shut. You may have to move your finger around to find the best spot,and hold it there. With your other hand pull the mouth open and it should spring back if it's in the right spot. mark the point where you're holding the band on the inside. Do the same with the other side.
Now attach the hooks the same way as above, except this time the hooks will aim down.
Let this dry thoroughly . apply some rubber bands to both set of hooks. It should look something like this.

( One note here, do not install upper teeth yet! these photos were taken after the fact!)

Now for the fun part...test it. put the mask on and hold it tightly to your face.
If the mouth doesn't close all the way, first add one more rubber band to each side. If it won't close, and it feels tight against your lower jaw, you may need to carve out some of the EVA foam where it is hitting your jaw. ( Have a care when trimming inside the mouth for your own safety !) 
It should just barely touch your jaw.
Hopefully we haven't had this setback, although it's easily fixed..
Now open your mouth.
If the mouth only opens part way, then we may need to add more foam to make it work.
once again it should just barely touch the jaw.
Hopefully all is well, and you should see something like this in the mirror.


The photo's above have had the finished hair work applied, but we'll get to that a little later.
Last time, I mentioned a heart breaking setback...The upper teeth. When I got the jaws assembled and working, there just wasn't room for the full set of upper teeth with everything (including my face!) assembled. I was devastated!, not really. What i wound up doing was removing the back molars and installing only the front ones. I did this from behind again with the mouth closed. This way the mouth would still close with the teeth in place. When I lean my head back in a full roar, you can see the upper fangs. This works out well for me, because one of the apes I used for inspiration had this same feature! You only saw the bottom teeth most of the time, till the head tilted back.
To fit the mask tightly to you face you can go two ways. You can add padding to the back and sides of the can add a strap system to the inside of the head, with either elastic or Velcro.
Since I need more than one person to wear this particular suit (for some stunt work) I used the Velcro option.
I used web belt strap from the fabric store as a base. I cut two pieces about a foot long and sewed one end of each to a piece of our canvas around 3"x 4".
On the other side I sewed the Velcro, hook side facing out, fuzzy side facing in.
I then glued the canvas to the temple area of the inner canvas face plate we made in the first installment. Now I can adjust the mask as tight as I need to..
Next time we'll finish the paint and fur, and we'll call this rascal done !

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Inside King Kong!

My dear friend, Bob Burns emailed this amazing video to me.
Modern day gorilla man and creature creating super genius Tom Woodruff Jr. animated the original Kong armature in a way that's never been done before. The results are breathtaking, and beautiful.
Bob and Tom put tons of gorilla love into this, and it shows. So as a gift from two great gorilla men to all of you...I give you...Inside King Kong!

So you want to be a gorilla man ? part 3...Monstrous Monkey Molars !

Hey my fellow monkey minions!
We're back with more suit modifying madness, this time to continue the moving mouth tutorial from part 2. One thing to keep in mind here, is that after EVERY step, and only when each step is fully dry, try the mask on to check the fit! If something won't work, either trim it back till it does fit, or remove it. This happened on this mask, but we'll address that when we come to it. Rather than make this a squeaky clean tutorial were everything is perfect the first time, I'll show you all the missteps and set backs...warts and all. This way you'll know what can happen, and how to address it if it does.
But what ever happens, DON'T GIVE UP !!!
OK, enough of the small print...Lets get back too it !

We left off with the lower jaw piece with latex and cotton blending. We covered that with latex a tissue to smooth it a bit.
Now take the heavy  canvas material we used to fit the eyes, and cut two two strips about 1/2" wide, and 4" long.
Fold it in half length wise and draw a line at the half way mark.(it should be 2")
Add contact cement and cover one half of the canvas strip from the line to the edge.
Now apply contact cement to the lower jaw where indicated so the canvas bonds hard to it.

Once the canvas is glued tight, put a layer of cotton and latex over it to lock it down for good.
Now turn the upper part of the head over. If the EVA foam you initially cut to fill out the upper lip does not go all the way to the back of the cut you made to remove the jaw, then cut two more pieces to extend it about an inch beyond the cut.
Be sure to apply contact cement to the parts where the parts of foam join together to form one larger piece.
Now using your sharp smaller scissors, trim the inside edge of the EVA foam until it's about the thickness of your pinky finger tip, and round it off to the back edge of the lip line.( leave the foam beyond the lip line thick and flat to re-assemble the mouth)
At this point you can use 100 grit sandpaper to smooth out the foam, followed by 220 grit to get it very smooth. I didn't spend much time doing the sanding because I'm trying to go for a nasty looking critter.
After you get it were you like it use your latex and cotton to smooth and blend it all together again.

 While this is drying, lets turn our attention to the teeth.
for this you can review Chris Walas's tooth step here:
For mine, I wanted to get the feel of Corrigan's White Pongo carved wooden teeth. To get the look I was after there was no sanding. I just used the scissores and left all the small facets.
Then I tacked the teeth onto the lower jaw very lightly, and checked it against the upper jaw for fit.
When everything worked correctly I used more contact cement to bond it down hard.
The latex still wasn't dry on the upper face, so I applied paint to the lower teeth.The paint is cheap acrylic paint from the craft store, with a little latex added to keep it flexible and not crack off.. The steps were the same as Chris Walas used, with the addition of a very dark reddish black around the teeth to make it look like there was a recess around the the teeth.

I would normally break here, but because my buddy Hal has his mask all taken apart, we'll keep going so he can finish up. ;)
I did make a full set of upper teeth, but attached to a separate piece of foam, sort of like a denture.

The teeth were made so the large canines would interlock like real teeth. The odd thing here is that on nearly all the classic suits, the lower canines were on the outermost position and the uppers on the inside. This is the opposite of a real gorilla.
In order to fit the upper teeth, we have to permanently attach the lower jaw. Apply a heavy coat of contact cement to the canvas strips we bonded to the lower jaw, and to the remaining exposed EVA upper lip at the back of the jaw.
You may have to make adjustment as I did here in order for the front of the lip to close  properly. I had to raise the rear of the jaw so I glued on an additional piece of foam to get it to fit right.
when all is well, apply your contact cement to the properly fitting EVA and glue the canvas strip down.
if you have a gap at the back of the jaw, don't worry ! This will work to our advantage later on.
Now laminate the cotton and latex over the canvas, mask, and EVA.
Allow to dry for at least a day We'll continue shortly while we get all of this figured out. As stated earlier, each mask is individual and presents it's own set of problems. I'm about to hit a monster setback on this one but we'll leave that til next time !
Don't worry gang, the steps up to here are pretty universal to all the masks and it's a matter of little tweaks along the way. The setback I had, was not caused by any of the assembly steps here so you're in good shape !
See you next time !
and I'll make it sooner this time Hal !

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

So you want to be a Gorilla Man...Part 2...Me and my BIG mouth !!

Hiya gang !
 Old Bongo is back with more Gorilla building madness! After Chris Walas's brilliant series (which I urge you to read!) I thought it best to take a breather in the suit building tutorials.
Now that we've caught our respective breaths, We will return to the series I started here :

That first part covered modifying an off the shelf mask to fit your eyes nearly seamlessly.

Now we turn our attention to the next most dynamic feature...the mouth !
I must first state the following; this is a very individual process.
Each mask has it's own contours, and sizes, and shapes that determine the outcome of this tutorial.
Some masks may not work as well as others, and that's a matter of the original sculpture.

The mask I am using is fairly "middle of the road" in terms of shape.......But it was still a phenomenal pain in the ass.
This  is difficult from the standpoint of...You don't build OUT from the wearers face..You build IN from the mask face. If the mask is fairly small and tight to your face, you way be extremely limited in how for you can take this.

OK...Enough sniveling. Lets get this ugly monkey some molars ! After part one of the series we left off with this warped lower faced mess.
In order to determine the shape it needed to be, I cut a strip of EVA foam about 1/2" wide in an arc.
( EVA is the same foam those gray floor mats are made of. It is also the same stuff you get from craft supply stores called Craft Foam. You can get it in many colors and thicknesses.)
Using a Q-tip or throw away brush, put a coating of contact cement on the outer edge of the foam and inside the upper lip of the mask.
Let this dry a few minutes and working from the center,carefully press the foam into the inside of the upper lip.
Now the main distortion should be pulled out by the tension of the EVA foam, and it looks like this...more or less.
OK, moving on...Now take a piece of paper of any type. Put the paper into the mouth as far as you can. Trace the opening of the upper lip onto the paper. This will be your pattern for cutting out the lower jaw.
Trace the pattern onto the EVA and carefully cut it out with sharp scissors.
With your scissors, trim away the edges on one side of the foam to make the rubber skin of the mask snug against the foam.
Test fit the foam to see how it looks.
Make any adjustment necessary to make the lips look the way you want them to.
Now using your sharpest scissors, cut the mouth along the crease line in the lips and continue past the mouth about 2" and then straight down to remove the jaw.
With the lower jaw removed, brush in contact cement, inside the lower jaw, and the surface of the foam that contacts it. let stand 15 minutes and then carefully press together, once again starting from the center.
Follow this up with more contact cement to tack down any loose edges.

 This is the main construction part of this mod, and it's an important one. This will be the staging point for all the work to come. Now to continue...Take a few cotton balls and push on the centers to make them unroll into narrow strips.
Take the lower jaw piece, and using a Q-tip dab a good wet coat of liquid latex along the edge of the rubber lip you just glued down.
Take the cotton strips and lay them into the wet latex to cover the seam line between the EVA foam and the rubber lip.
Wet your Q-tip, and with it VERY wet, roll the Q-tip down from the center of the cotton piece towards the outer edges. This keeps the Q-tip from lifting the cotton back off.
As you can see, at this stage the cotton looks a bit rough. To smooth this out, tear (don't cut) small pieces of bathroom tissue into small irregular shapes.
 Wetting the surface again Lay down the tissue into the latex. Apply latex as you did with the cotton , then add the next piece.  Overlap the pieces as you go.
It should start to be looking quite a bit smoother, but maybe a little wrinkled. This  is OK. Just let the latex dry overnight then it will smooth out quite nicely with more tissue. Since this ape is supposed to be ancient, I left the wrinkles.
 This is the end of part one. Anywhere along the line, keep checking the fit against the upper half of the mouth.
Next time, we will start detailing the teeth and get this bad boy's mouth in order !