I am fairly new to the stop motion model making and want to be an animator as a professional career. I have wanted to make a puppet for a long time now, the past experiments used wire and foam. Now that I have liquid latex I am thinking of making a puppet of a gorilla to star in a King Kong movie. The plan is to make the armature out of strong wire with wooden blocks for the head, hands and feet. The armature will be held together with epoxy putty and then muscles created using foam rubber. Over this then I will apply many coats of liquid latex. The face will be sculpted with epoxy. Don't know about the fur though.

Sound like a plan?

The two images show the sculpts of the face and chest plate.

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Hey Strider,

They used red sponge foam, that was cut into pieces and glued to the armature over the cotton batting. They then covered that with dental dam, and then textured the dental dam to make the finished skin, then painted that. I do not know what glue or paint was used, or when latex rubber was brought into the process, more than likely Kong used latex.  This was the way O'Brien probably made all his puppets prior to Lot World as well.

Marcel used the same techniques for Kong and Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young to I believe. None of the faces were cast, they were all built up as well, with the exceptions of the lions and probably horses from Joe Young.

Excellent - thanks Tim! Sponge foam eh? I thought that was just another name for foam latex - guess not. 

Why would they use cotton batting under the sponge?  Why didn't they just glue the foam directly on the armature? I wonder if using cotton was just to get the general shape of the body?  Maybe I should try that on my next puppet. Make the armature,pad out the shape with cotton,then glue cut cushion foam shapes over that. ...Hmmm

Did they? That could be, but they did not use latex on the cotton, that is where they are way off, plus that armature doesn't seem like the same size as either Kong puppet, so that is another weird thing about the Documentary.

David Tomasiewicz said:

I'll add some more info.

They also used sewing thread or something similar to shape the muscles on the cotton and dental dam. Peter Jackson said they used a "jelly" (I have no idea what that is, maybe rubber cement?) to glue down the surfaces that would otherwise unravel. Then they began the latex build-up process.

Tim Smyth said:

Hey Strider,

They used red sponge foam, that was cut into pieces and glued to the armature over the cotton batting. They then covered that with dental dam, and then textured the dental dam to make the finished skin, then painted that. I do not know what glue or paint was used, or when latex rubber was brought into the process, more than likely Kong used latex.  This was the way O'Brien probably made all his puppets prior to Lot World as well.

Marcel used the same techniques for Kong and Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young to I believe. None of the faces were cast, they were all built up as well, with the exceptions of the lions and probably horses from Joe Young.

Why indeed?  I think the original puppets they made using that technique were human puppets, and not so big, but on huge puppets like the ones in Kong, I don't know why they would use the cotton, unless the cotton just was easier to move than all that foam around the joints, so it might have been an armature thing.

A friend of mine once built up a puppet with cotton and use string to hold it together and shape it, then covered it with 1/4" sheet of foam, and that worked pretty well.  If one made an ape that way, once it was covered with fur no one would be the wiser.

rick gibson said:

Why would they use cotton batting under the sponge?  Why didn't they just glue the foam directly on the armature? I wonder if using cotton was just to get the general shape of the body?  Maybe I should try that on my next puppet. Make the armature,pad out the shape with cotton,then glue cut cushion foam shapes over that. ...Hmmm

Angus, how is your puppet coming along? 

I also think you need thicker wire now that I see how big the puppet is.

Angus Lamont said:

I have made a latex mold of the head. Also bought craft aluminium wire and quick setting glue.Just need the epoxy putty and the fur.

I was wondering the same thing about the cotton batting wrapped around the armature. Oh, and after making my last post it occurred to me sponge foam probably just means they cut up regular household sponges, like you'd do the dishes/wash your car with - d'oh! 

It is fine. I have inserted tiedowns in the feet and the model stands perfectly well. It is very sturdy so the wire seems to be holding. 

Tim Smyth said:

Angus, how is your puppet coming along? 

I also think you need thicker wire now that I see how big the puppet is.

Angus Lamont said:

I have made a latex mold of the head. Also bought craft aluminium wire and quick setting glue.Just need the epoxy putty and the fur.

OK. Disaster just occured. Kong's right arm just snapped when I picked him up (round about the wrist area). I had the wire 'braided' together as well to add strength. Do you think it is possible to fix it without taking the whole puppet to bits? 

Just make a new wire wrist, and then epoxy putty it to the arm where the bones would be, so nothing should be bending there anyway. 

I would still suggest, since you are not that far into the puppet, to redo the armature with thicker wire, since when you put the foam on, it will change the conditions under which the armature will have to act.  I had to add another strand of wire to the legs to my latest model cause it was too week to hold up while the body was being built up, it happens.

What gauge wire were you using for the Kong armature? I think Nick said that he uses two strands of  3mm twisted together. 3mm is roughly the same diameter as 9 gauge wire. I am asking because I may try the twisted strand technique vs the single strand method that I have been using. I have used up my existing wire stock so I am contemplating what to order. Did you use aluminum or copper wire? Most of my humanoid puppets range from 8 to 10 inches tall.

That looks like what we call 1/16 inch wire, what he needed for a puppet that size is 1/8 inch wire. I don't see that puppet moving to much once it is foamed and furred. The aluminum wire I buy doesn't come in gauges as far as the packaging is concerned. For legs and spines I have to double the thicker wire, but I don't twist them together, as that seems to be to strong.  This is a simple armature with two spine wires.

I find that doubling up the thinner 1/16 wire works to a point, and then they stop getting any stronger, so it's easier to use one strand of 1/8 wire. The tail and jaw are made of 1/16 wire and the ears out of 24 gauge Gavinized steel wire.

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