Wednesday Inspiration: Castaway Creations

When I think about people who helped put me on course to what I do for a living and fueled my love of cobbling together found objects, the Professor was a huge influence. Like many of my generation, I grew up watching daily re-runs of Gilligan's Island. Whenever I saw one of the many goofy bamboo gadgets or coconut husk contraptions, I was inspired. Two obvious reasons why...they were fun looking and had that great slapped together, handmade look which made me think I could make one.

I was thrilled when I discovered a small chapter in Russell Johnson's memoir HERE ON GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (1993) about his appreciation for the talent and skills of the "prop guys". Often props (and the people who make them) are taken for granted, especially when they are designed to look cheap. Intentionally making a prop look clunky and handmade with fun visual appeal is, I believe, a whole art form unto itself. Props like this look thrown together in haste and may fall apart any second but they can't, needing to withstand hours, days or weeks of filming, especially if a hero prop. Something as basic as a drinking cup can often be challenging to create. As the Professor wrote...
"At first, the prop guys gave us real coconut halves to drink from. The only problem was that these hairy coconuts became soft and began to leak under the studio's hot lights."

He didn't mention what the solution was, wish he did, very curious. Here are some fantastic concept design sketches from the book showcasing the thought and care that went into the castaway's silly creations (click image to enlarge).

I should thank the people who actually were the genius Professors for their inspiration. Gilligan's Island art directors William Craig Smith and Malcolm C. Bert and the set decorators James Crowe, Ray Molyneaux and Hal Gausman.

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