Here are seven short (under 10 minutes) films about obsolete occupations. I think as prop makers and prop masters, we are called on to do the work of each of these occupations at least once in our careers.
The TK560 discussion board is geared towards making stormtrooper armor from Star Wars, but they have a large section devoted to general tips and tricks for vacuum forming (including instructions for building vacuum forming machines of all different sizes and budgets), molding and casting, and working with plastics in general. There is a treasure trove of useful information here.
I’ve seen discussions of dying plastic in the past as an alternative to painting it, especially with plastics that refuse to take paint (such as polyethylene). Here is a good step-by-step description (with pictures) of dying the case to a MacBook computer.
Last night was the 65th Annual Tony Awards. As longtime readers of this blog know, there is no Tony Award for props, whether it’s props design or prop mastering (actually, there is very little recognition of the craft and labor of backstage theatre overall, but I digress). Instead, I will look at the Tony Award winners for Scenic Design, which encompasses the world of props.
Congratulations to Scott Pask, designer of The Book of Mormon, for his Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical. Scott is the designer for both Shakespeare in the Park shows this year, which began preview performances just this past week. I couldn’t find his acceptance speech online anywhere, so in lieu of that, here is a video in which he talks about the scenic design of The Book of Mormon.
The winner for Best Scenic Design of a Play went to Rae Smith for War Horse. I highlighted some video of the horse puppets from this show back in 2009 when it was still on the West End. It’s worth watching again, because the puppets are really, really cool. The link also has some information on the puppets’ creators, Handspring Puppet Company, which incidentally, won a Special Tony Award last night as well.
Her acceptance speech is online, though I can’t seem to embed it. You can browse to it from the Tony Awards video gallery though.
War Horse is currently playing in London’s West End, and is tentatively scheduled to open in New York in 2011. In “Making Horses Gallop and Audiences Cry“, Patrick Healy gives more in-depth information about the show and the amazing puppets, designed by Adrian Kohler:
The basic construction material for the horses is cane, which Mr. Kohler soaked to make it more moldable. “It is light, flexible, and the figure increases in strength as more and more struts are bound together,” he said. The struts create the look of joints in the horses’ legs and necks.
Silk patches were then applied to gauze to suggest the animals’ skin patterns and also partly to conceal the two puppeteers inside each adult horse.
The article also has a great number of photographs showing the puppets.
The puppets were constructed by the Handspring Puppet Company, a South African puppet group. It was founded in 1981 by Basil Jones and Mr. Kohler. On the website, they give a little more information about the horse puppets:
Some of the horses are fully articulated with two interior and one exterior manipulator and because they have aluminium spinal structures, they can carry human riders. Other horses are more abstract with no legs and only one manipulator.
The horses are based on the designs first used in Handspring’s production of Tall Horse, about a giraffe. Elsewhere on their website, they describe this puppet:
The puppet was constructed from a frame of carbon fibre rods and takes two puppeteers, on stilts, to operate it. The puppet is fully mechanical – its head, ears and tail can be manipulated by the puppeteers, through a complex system that allows the puppeteers, inside the body frame of the giraffe, to manipulate the appendages through bicycle brake cables.
The giraffe can turn its head, flap its ears and tail and walk with the swaying, graceful gait that anyone who has enjoyed the sight of the magnificent creature in the wild will recognise. Manned by two puppeteers on stilts, the giraffe is the central character of Tall Horse, which is a magical tale of the discovery of Europe by Africans.