Peppermint Coffin

Instant creative gratification is nice. Here's quick little Halloween project I made last night in under a half hour. It's sort of a craft doodle while I watched TV.

Empty mint tin...

A little paint, some glued on leather shoelace pieces, a small cut-out drawn character and Count Mintula lives...

Outside of being a little toy- sliding the lid up and down, it serves no real purpose. I guess it might be good to keep a skeleton key in or your arsenic for when unwanted guests stop by.

2008 Halloween Countdown #9

Final plans are on the drawing board. It feels nice to keep it a traditional Halloween theme. As I mentioned in a earlier post, I'm pushing the eclectic further. I'll be adding more classic holiday icons this year I never have before (such as a witches, etc.). I have one fun idea for a element that reworks some old props into a homage to a particular old Aurora monster model kit (anyone born after 1980 probably don't know what I'm talking about). All to be revealed soon once I finish sketching it.

Some inspiration for today. These promo videos by musician, artist, animator Voltaire have a very "off center" traditional Halloween look and feel I like. I've read that the pumpkins in the first video are actually carved, dried up apples. Just like folk art dolls or "shrunken head" making kid projects. Pretty clever. I love simple but effective tricks like this.

2008 Halloween Countdown #8

A bit of Halloween inspiration (or anytime).

Disney artist, animator, designer, imagineer Marc Davis has always been one of my greatest influences. I could spend hours looking at his work. If you don't know who he do know his work. He basically designed almost everything for the Haunted Mansion and the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Here are some 1964 concept sketches of his for the Haunted Mansion. These are from a series of postcards I picked up at Disneyland and are framed hanging in my studio.

The Evolution of Me

A bit older, a bit wiser, but the belly remains the same...

2008 Halloween Countdown #7

Life sidetracked me from Halloween planning the past few weeks. But, I'm back to it and refocused. Shortly before the hiatus, I was still locking in a theme. Well, a decision has been made.

It's going to be an amalgam of all my ideas with a classic holiday theme. Two big reasons for this, tight budget, I need to reuse some older props and more so, I just love all the ideas. It's hard not to have a bit of everything.

Now, the real trick will be what got me thinking about the various themes in the first place, making it all tie together and less a random collection of props. If it's going to be a eclectic mix, then I'm going to push it all the way. I've mentioned this before, but I think the secret will be making the house a character as well. The master plan is still being worked up. In the meantime I've locked in 3 definites for the yard so far. Here a some quick Photoshop mock ups.

The crashed UFO on the roof is going to happen.

Spirits haunting the interior. The old "ghost bride" will work great standing in one of the windows and I plan to create some spooky friends for her as well.

We have 2 trees out front and they'll become characters.

Believe it or not, I've not given up on adding a touch of the "King Kong" idea. More on the final plan soon.

Neil Gaiman's CORALINE and the Brother in Law

My brother in law Kirk and sister Monica live in Portland. Kirk has been working on CORALINE. It's a stop motion animated feature from Laika Studios by Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman. I had a tour of Laika studios while visiting Kirk and Monica last Thanksgiving.

It was, at the time, a highly secretive project. To get such an "insider" tour was a great privilege. I was driven in the direction of the studios. A bag was placed over my head 5 blocks away. I felt the car gain speed as Kirk said...

"That's where I work"

The ride lasted miles with many twists and turns. We finally stopped for lunch at a diner called Shari's. Only then could the blindfold come off. I was honored to have seen such amazing work in progress.

There are five CORALINE "making of/behind the scene" videos at

Olympic Fever

A classic video which still cracks me up no matter how many times I see it...

powered by

"I'll need more E.T. fingers"

Edgar Zamora was designing the 20th anniversary E.T. the Special Edition premiere party at the Shrine Auditorium. He asked if I could make a costume E.T. finger that would light up. He explained it was crazy idea, but they would be worn by servers so guests might easily find them in the planned mood lighting of the event. He added...

"I'll need 30, no wait...I'll need more E.T. fingers...maybe 50 or more".

My heart skipped a beat because I really didn't know how I was going to make them. He asked for a quick prototype. I made the version above from a thin key chain flashlight capped with a small clear plastic dome. I sculpted the finger around the flashlight with Crayola Model Magic. I left a seam at the tip so the light could be twisted on and off. The final versions would obviously need to be more durable and a bit lighter in weight, but Edgar liked it.

A short time later, I was working on a revision, thinking about molding and casting them in foam or even using Halloween costume alien hands I could cut the fingers off and modify. Edgar called and nixed the project.

This stuff happens.

In the news today...

Really Cheesy Facade

An old photo find cleaning the garage. Made this with crackers and cheese whiz for Fox Family's The Basement. One of the best parts about working on a network kid's show is mature people have important discussions about silly props like this. There are many issues of concern... size, shape, cracker colors and cheese adhesion strength.

Saturday Night Distraction

Since I've already created a ton of projects for myself this month, why not get distracted by a new one, right?

I was daydreaming today about making some animated shorts based on my Para Abnormal web comic. Here's a impulsive, very quick experiment I did this evening in I-movie. It's nothing special. I'm not a vastly experienced, highly skilled or fully trained animator in anyway. Making more of these would be a great way to grow in that department.

Crazy Garage Find

While trying to organize and clean the garage I found this guy. He was made while working on the Carol Duvall Show well over 10 years ago. I thought it was long lost. He's a nice memory. Carol gave me a little "nod" on the show because of him. I also have a mention on for this episode.

From the website...

"Duvall took some of the shapeless dolls back to the production staff to instill the spirit of dressing dolls. From a proper penguin to a silly sideways bug to a creature from outer space, everyone enjoyed the possibilities. Duvall's favorite design came from prop man Dave Lowe, who used scraps from crafting projects on earlier shows to put together a crazy doll that tied itself in knots! "

A Star Trek TV Special's Unknown Lost Twin

Here's another tale from my Sci Fi Channel set design days in the 90's. Star Trek: Voyager was soon to premiere. Dick Crew Productions needed a simple set for a promotional making of special called " The Launch of Star Trek Voyager hosted by Majel Barrett Roddenberry ".

I'll bet even the most die hard Trekkie doesn't know the special was a do-over. It was originally hosted by Marina Sirtis.

Because of some giant corporate franchise legal stuff that I was not privy to, Ms. Sirtis' segments went unused and was re-shot with Mrs. Roddenberry.

Like all the Sci Fi Channel sets I did, it was another fun project for a fanboy. I loved original Trek and was a real Next Generation junkie. I 'll admit it... I also had a trekkie crush on Deanna Troy.

I designed the set from the start to be simple for aesthetics and the usual tiny budget. It was far from the most original of ideas and was actually the biggest visual cliche' of all possible Star Trek environments... outer space.

I won't bore you with how the set was created. I think my TV design inexperience at the time is obvious. Painted dodgeballs for planets and cobbled together set pieces borrowed from other sets are stories told often on this blog.

One interesting memory was during a segment using props. She held up ordinary Star Trek action figures and books talking about the merchandising of the franchise. After the take she made a immediate beeline for me and gave them back as if they were burning her hands. I thought it was a little quirky but didn't give it much thought then. I did hear a story just last year which might explain it.

Back when the show was in production, Paramount learned of the huge and lucrative collector's market for any and all original Star Trek props. They were seeing the most insignificant of things, even trashed items, being sold at auction. In fear of internal theft, the prop people became more like security guards. The actors made of habit of handing back props to them quickly so none went missing, even in brief moments between takes. True story? I don't know?

I'll post pictures of the Roddenberry version once I dig up the tape. Sorry that the pictures above are just screen grabs, but I was lucky to get them. I never had a copy of the Sirtis version and camera man Piers Bath was kind enough to e-mail me these just recently.

6 Random Things

Vickie Howell tagged me today on her blog. Well, since I'm behind on Halloween plans, procrastinating on today's Para Abnormal cartoon and have nothing else more exciting to post about, here goes (besides, I'm also a sucker for this stuff).

First....the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Here's 6 random things about me...

In grade school, I was tired of this kid who always made fun of me. At recess, I "sucker" punched him. Just then, the bell rang. I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling his glare across the classroom. There was a countdown to 3 pm by the other kids to see me get my butt kicked. Hoo boy, did I. Just the impression on my back from the chain link fence I was beaten against lasted for days let alone the other bruises.

I was taking the garbage out one night and nearly killed by an unholy demonic raccoon with teeth the size of steak knives. As it climbed from the trash can, it stood up 9 feet high. Acid drool dripped from it's tentacle like tongue. I held the Hefty bag in my hands up as a shield and ran away.

That's the way I remember it.

A cheese sculptor was a guest when I was a prop guy on ABC's Home Show. He had carved the show's logo into a huge 12" thick block of cheddar. After taping, it was passed on to "craft service". No one touched it. As a cheese lover and hating wasted food, I took it home and lived off of it for weeks.

I went to Disneyworld for the first time as a little kid. Most of my memories are things seen from between my fingers. I was scared on all the indoor rides like Snow White and Peter Pan. The Haunted Mansion was off the list early. I remember feeling panic just seeing it on the map even before we went into the park.

I forgot my keys one day and tried to get into my house through the doggie door. Like a cheap TV sitcom gag, I got stuck. I was more in the house than out so I continued to squeeze my way through. My pants came off in the process.

Many years ago, I was far "stupider" than today. One day, my Mom needed a ride home from work. While wearing a Star Wars t-shirt and a Mickey Mouse ball cap, I got pulled over. I found out I had an arrest warrant issued due to ignored traffic violations. Not being a threat to society, I was chained to a bench at the station until I made bail. Thank God, because my geeky outfit wouldn't of helped me make friends in "lock up".

So, as the rules state, here's who I tag...

Friendship Night
Sweater Surgery
Monica Lowe
and anyone who reads this blog and wants to play along (yea, might be cheating but what the heck).

A wretched hive of scum and....PRYOR?

Just when I thought I've seen every odd, off beat Stars Wars TV moment ever aired I discover this...

2008 Halloween Countdown #6

I mentioned in countdown #1 that I wanted this to be a real journal of my yard haunt progress. Well, sometimes a journal can be mundane and boring like this post. Here's where I'm at right now and what's in my mind.

- Already behind my own schedule. I hoped to have all my theme ideas sketched out and made a decision by now. Wanted to start making stuff this weekend. Oh well. Going to get idea sketches done and posted within the week (keep a look out for them).

- It's a blessing in disguise actually. Really should use the weekend to catch up on other home chores and projects so I'm more free to focus on Halloween making. Also need to be finish cleaning and organizing garage/workshop for a good start.

- Take some time to go through my materials and stash at hand. Rethink some designs to work within what I have. I've got a ton of stuff I can use and should not have to spend any money this year. Impossible maybe, but if I don't have what I need...creative alternatives, dumpster diving and checking the Craig's List "free" listings.