Saturday, October 31, 2009

S.P.D. - Part 4

SPD Blog part 4

Okay, so I lied! I didn’t do it on purpose, and there are several reasons why it ended up this way. But first, you may be wondering what I am confessing to! Well, I ended SPD part 3 by mentioning that my next entry would focus on the cast. So this is the next entry, and it does NOT focus on the cast! And for this I apologize to all the fans that love those SPD rangers as much as I do.

I will get to them, but I honestly don’t know how to lay it all out! I made some notes on subjects that I want to talk about, and tried to break them into categories. I pulled my favorite pictures of every cast member and tried to organize them. But there are so many overlapping stories and events; I have yet to figure out a coherent rant I can go on without constantly backtracking and/or jumping around. But I’m working on it. One of the most frustrating parts is that I realized there are a large number of photos that didn’t make it into the 30,000 images on my laptop, so I have to seek the missing ones out to really tell the story I want. Which means scanning through several dozen Terabyte backup drives, and rechecking a pile of image cds that could be a landmark in Pisa. It also means that my fun little walk down SPD memory lane side project has become a quest of epic proportions. But I guess it had to be done sometime!

The other reason I skipped the cast topic, and this is the reason why I don’t absolutely hate myself, is that I received a lot of requests to dig deeper into the alien side of SPD. I know many of you are curious about my secret mission into the high security storage facilities to rescue a ton of the old monster costumes and Frankenstein them into new aliens. I didn’t personally take great records of that process, but I do have some charts and images from Mark, the monster department head, in my filing cabinets. As I am in New York, with a little down time to blog, I will work with materials I have on hand for the moment and continue this “Aliens of 2025 Earth” again when I am in LA.

Photo 01: I know I mentioned this before, but one of my main goals on SPD was to actually inhabit this future Earth with aliens. It is a pet peeve of mine when sci-fi shows hint at the promise of a future world, then shoot downtown Vancouver with extras holding tinfoil wrapped water guns and call them aliens. I figured if we were going to tell a story about Earth being an intergalactic spaceport to ALL KINDS of life forms, we better commit to showing ALL KINDS of life forms. Of course, the concern was always budget and schedule. I think the original numbers allowed for something like one actor to be in alien prosthetics for 6 out of the 38 episodes! It took some creative juggling to make it possible for Gruumm and Piggy to appear as much as they did, and a heap of patience and a few miracles on the part of producer Sally Campbell to allow for the alien “guest stars” on an almost weekly basis. But it was still important to have the headquarters and the streets littered with aliens and humans other than the main characters. So, as Piggy would do, I started by alien dumpster diving.

Photo 02: You would think after 20 years of making monsters and aliens, populating a small screen world would be easy. There are dozens of creatures, probably hundreds, just lying around my studio. It makes for a great tour. But copyrights and trademarks, and work for hire contracts restrict the use of most of the products I have designed or created. But I was able to pull out around half a dozen creature heads that were for personal projects, and that gave us a bit of a head start for mass alien population.

Pictured here are three citizens from the world of Alley Baggett. Not a bad place to call home! Alley is Playboy’s Lingerie Model of the Millennium (Its true!!!) and we did several projects together in the late 90’s- early 2000’s. I owned the rights to the designs, so I thought it would be fun to use them again.

The squid creature on the right was made for a photo shoot with Alley for her 2000 calendar. It was a sci-fi themed, 14-month calendar, each month featuring the beautiful Alley dealing with a not so beautiful alien! This squid man was wearing a tuxedo and dancing with Alley on a moonlit beach! Who new aliens could be so romantic. I feel bad for the guy, now that I think about it…from playboy nights to Piggy’s worm soup for the rest of his life. Bummer…

Photo 03: The guy in the middle is your basic Grey, or EBE alien. He, too, is from the Alley calendar. One of my favorite shots: Alley being carried out her bedroom window by a group of almond eyed Greys. Random trivia: Several of the aliens were played by my friends who coincidentally were the make-up FX guys from X-Files!

Photo 04: The creature above was a demon from the screen tests we shot for a feature film entitled “Alley Cat”, based on the comic book of the same name I created with Alley and Matt Hawkins of Top Cow fame. I removed the horns, added dreadlocks (Yes, again with the dreadlocks!) and did a technique affectionately called “Foam schmearing”. You quite literally smear a fresh batch of foam latex over the existing piece, shaping it within the few minutes you have before it gels, then press texture into it and bake it again.

Photo 05: This guy, who made his main appearance in SAM part 1, was an altered relic from an old B-movie I worked on. Well, literally an old Bee movie I worked on.

Photo 06: Turtle lady was the very first make-up I sculpted and painted for a secondary character. She was the beggar that shows us Jack and Z’s generous intentions in BEGINNINGS part 1. I wanted her to capture the essence of the woman who sings, “Feed the Birds” in Mary Poppins. I chose a painted box turtle as the design premise in order to set a tone for multi-layer, organic paint schemes.

Photo 07: The premier episode of SPD really defined the inhabitance of future Earth, and this character, designed by Dan Perry, really help show the diversity of aliens among us. There were four separate pieces, brow, muzzle, and ears, all pulled from Dan’s generic box of magic parts left over from past projects. They really came together to make a cool creature. The stunt guy was very into it, allowing Dan to shave his head and slime him up for a perfect, complete look.

Photo 08: Scot Erb, who you met earlier working on the Cruger head, joined in on the fun by creating and wearing this make-up for the first day of shooting. We were doing the scene where Jack and Z are handing out the goods from the back of the truck and the Troobians show up. Scot is the last one in line, and we dubbed in a strange voice saying, “Thank you!” which still cracks me up every time I hear it. It’s like the movie clip where PeeWee plays the bellhop at the end of “Big Adventure”: Paging Mr. Herman!

Photo 09: Here’s Scot and I on set. I don’t even think he got wardrobe! Those are HIS clothes! Note the rain. That’s a story for another category…

Photo 10: Would you eat a pizza delivered by this thing? If you are still ready this blog, probably!!!! I love this little guy. At this point in the season, the “mix-n-match” technique was in full swing. Many of the background aliens were created by taking pieces of one design and mixing them with parts of another. I sculpted this nose and forehead, while the ears are Dan’s sculpt for Kat. The paintjob unified everything, but the most impressive part of this whole costume is the silk-screened pizza logo! I so want that on a t-shirt! Gavin was always pulling surprises out of thin air, and this one still floors me. Such an amazing detail.

Photo 11: Here’s another version of the mix and match alien. This one has many of the same pieces as the Pizza Boy, but this time he was painted different. Dan had worked at WETA on LOTRs, and he brought a little of that painting style into some of these aliens. It follows many of the same principles as my painting style, but also contrasts it in many ways. Which was good, helping create a larger vision for our ever-expanding universe!

Photo 12: Our corral of aliens was definitely becoming a sausage fest! I really wanted to create some female aliens, but there weren’t too many opportunities for main characters. This design came along after several conversations with YELOW RANGER Monica May. She really wanted to experiment with acting under make-up. She loved the freedom Barnie had as Piggy, as they shared many scenes in SPD. I made several attempts to sneak in an alien cameo for her, but being a star of the show, constantly needed by both first and second unit, it never became a reality.

Photo 13: But the attempt was not in vain. It yielded one of my favorite background aliens. I called her “Whale Rider”, after the famous NZ movie. Originally I dreamed of a floating, glowing orb suspended just above her whale tail at the top of her head, but it became too much of an ordeal for an background “extra”. Oh, well, next time! This, by the way, is not Monica! But when she saw this, she was convinced that she had to play an alien someday, somehow. Hence, “The SUIT” was born, which became “BATTLE PLANET” on the Sci-Fi channel. Monica’s portrayal of the beautiful extraterrestrial Jun’Hee is TRULY my favorite alien!

Photo 14: Back to reality! Here I am sculpting Sergeant Silverback in LA. As Rene and John continued to argue which was tougher, full prosthetics vs. mechanical head, I decided it was time to let John see the grass from the other side. He had wanted to play a character that got him out from under the big blue dog head, and this maroon monkey seemed just the trick. I was home on Xmas vacation when we decided to go forward with this, so I sculpted the appliance on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as it was the closest face cast I had to match John. I then molded it, did a polyfoam run, and shipped that to NZ to cut down on the cost of shipping a stone mold. Dan and Terry hogged out the polyfoam back as necessary to make it fit properly on John’s face cast, then molded it again. They did the foam latex runs there in NZ, and I did a color rendering which was emailed for paint reference. Originally, I had designed the white pattern on his forehead to be an organic marking, like on a horse. But someone in production panicked, and had Dan paint a black outline around it so it looked more like tribal paint. You just can’t leave the shop for a second! Not even for Christmas!

Photo 15: The spider walrus. He probably ended up with the least amount of screen time of any of the aliens I made for SPD, but he will always be remembered in history as the first alien Ranger! He went by so quickly, I don’t even have a photo of him finished!!! If anyone out there does, please send it to me!

Photo 16: Well, they can’t all be “my most favorite alien”. Commander Birdie was, well, dumb. At least I thought so. Hopefully some of you out there dig him. This was a case of people wanting to cling too tightly to the Senti version. They did a blue dog, so we did a blue dog. They did a dumb bird, so we did a dumb bird. Cruger I understood, because of future cross overs, merchandise, Shadow ranger. But Birdie could have been anything. I kept saying, “If the supreme commander of SPD is a bird, why is the SPD logo a DOG!!!!” Hello? Is this thing on? Well, apparently this was an argument I did not win. So I focused on making the bird as cool as I could.

Photo 17: As evident in this picture, I’m not sure that even the BIRD feels that I did…

Photo 18: At least the bird could kick this guy’s ass. Again, the wacky wizard could have been anything. But the consensus was to create a non-human human, so kids could relate more easily than they could with the “aliens”. I’m not proud.

Photo 19: But wait! It gets worse! As if Isinia wasn’t a brutal enough blow, her ultimate appearance and reuniting with Cruger made everyone in the writing office feel bad for Kat. It just seemed like the noble thing to do, giving her a love interest to ease the pain of losing Doggie. I wanted to push the make up, creating a much more cat like creature than Kat, because I felt like a Kat-man, just ears and lenses, wouldn’t sell the point. But in the end, everything pushed too far, with the tiger stripping and the David Lee Roth wig. The show was definitely an experience for me, highs and lows, great successes and terrible failures. Things I fought for that went no where, things I let slide that still wake me up in a cold sweat…

Photo 20: But I would hope the fans agree, the victories of SPD far outweigh the defeats. When ever I am feeling down about something I could have or should have done better, I think about certain highlights of the show, like these emerald eyes, and everything seems right in my world. Whether it be the future world of SPD, or the one we are sharing right now…