I made the heads in much the same way as I did last year. I sculpted a mould over a wig block in bubblewrap, then covered it in tin foil and heated varaform over the top with a hair dryer. I actually used the same mould for all three types of animal, just padded out the jawline a little more when doing the squirrels, and made the snout pointier for the mice. The ears were also made from varaform and added afterwards.
The effect we were going for with these was much more 'cutesy' than the evil rats from last year, so this time I gave them big, innocent eyes, which were made from half a plastic bauble each, painted black on the inside. The lights bouncing off the plastic give them a really lovely life-like effect.
Snouts and inner ears were done in felt, and the fur was attached with hot glue. Whiskers were made from fishing line and the nostrils drawn on with a sharpie.
I don't have any good behind the scenes photos of the bodies to share here, as the best I have are photos from the fittings with the junior chorus, and it wouldn't be right to upload these. I created the structure for each body out of fibre glass rods, and reinforced a lot of these with galvanised wire as I was ultra paranoid about them snapping during the run! I haven't heard otherwise though, so I assume they all survived it.
|Excuse my thumb!|
I made the mice tails exactly the same way as the rat tails from the year before. The squirrel tails were a much more time consuming beast. I used a wired foam tube for the base of each one, then ruffled up many many yards of net and attached them in a spiral from the base to the tip. I didn't trust hot glue to hold them in place by itself, so this meant a lot of awkward hand sewing with a curved needle. Finally, the net was slashed and chopped into to rough up the look. This photo shows one prior to roughing up.
|Me wearing a squirrel frame, surrounded by the bodies of woodland animals...|
Overall I was very happy with the heads, but in two minds about the bodies. The fibre glass framework had the advantage of making them very lightweight and minimised how hot the performers got in them - but their rigidity wasn't ideal. The choreography was fairly minimal but even so, I thought the performers did look a little awkward when trying to kneel down on stage.
The other, more widely used option for full body suits is to pattern the base in plastazote foam, although this obviously makes them a lot warmer to wear. I'd like to give this a go in the future just so I can compare both styles, and in the meantime I'll continue to mull over other ways of creating the ideal animal suit that's both lightweight AND flexible. One day I'll crack it!
In other news, I may be making a cow for Jack and the Beanstalk this year, so stay tuned for that!