Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dragon Head Dilemmas

supplies to make the armature for a Mushu costume head
This year I am making not one but two different dragon costumes.  One is a single-person dragon costume - the dragon in Mulan, who is called Mushu (voiced in the movie by Eddie Murphy).  The other dragon is, as far as I know, just called "Dragon" and she is the dragon in the Shrek movies.  I'm not complaining, I like this sort of challenge, but it's a little daunting.

Mushu is a tiny dragon - if you remember the movie, you might remember that Eddie Murphy says he is "travel sized for your convenience."  He's a fraction of the size of the main character, Mulan, and I picture him more like a slithery lizard with legs than a typical dragon.  I don't really care for Mushu costumes I've seen online - he seems too thick and cumbersome compared to the dragon you see in the movie.  My goal is to make a costume that's a bit more form fitting, but with recognizable scales, large but not goofy feet, and a head that has a dragon shape but does not look overlarge with a thin, lithe body.

"Dragon" is the dragon in Shrek.  She is a female dragon with a HUGE presence.  She has wings and flies in the movie.  After doing my online homework, I've seen this dragon created in multiple forms.  There is the single person, conventional costume, but that does not have a huge presence, there is the multi-person dragon-puppet on sticks that literally hovers in the air above the actors' heads (this is MY personal favorite, but admittedly, probably the most expensive and most technically challenging to make AND maneuver), and then there is the multi-person costumed dragon, in which multiple people wear parts of the costume, and together they create the whole dragon.   The Shrek director wants to go with this last option, and the nice thing about it is that it will give a small group of students a chance to be seen on stage, in costume, and have an important job to do.  For Dragon, we'll make a large headpiece that will be worn by the main Dragon actress, there will be Dragon wings, a Dragon tail, and maybe others - not sure about those - they would have dancing parts.

So my first challenge for each dragon is the head.  Mulan is the first play (by two months) so I'm making that head first.  Since it's a smaller presence on stage, I think I should also make the head smaller, which should be technically easier.  At first I thought I'd go with the Attach-it-to-a-baseball-type-hat idea, but I scratched that idea when I realized that due to the long snout/mouth, it will still be front-heavy enough to still be constantly tipping forward.  To counteract this problem, I'm going to make the back of the head long enough to stretch down the actor's back a bit and then strap around the arms on each side, or across the chest under the arms.  The body of the costume will have a crew neck and should cover this support piece on the head and keep it concealed.  This part is going to be double cast as well, and since the two actors chosen are very different in height, I won't have to make two completely different costumes to accommodate their different heights, maybe just two different pairs of pants (or maybe not, but more on that later).

The parts you see in the picture above are for the armature for the Mushu dragon head.  My plan is to form a rough shape with the aluminum screening (gluing the pieces together with the glue gun) and add rounded bulk with the pool noodles, which are fairly inexpensive - $2.00 each at Walmart).  The plastic Christmas balls are going to be cut in half for the eyeballs.  I was thinking of lighting them up on the inside with battery operated lights, but that will be my surprise if it works out - Shhhhh!!  Today it also occurred to me that this might be a good use for Great Stuff - that spray foam insulation, but since it's SOooooo messy, I'm going to see how good it looks without that stuff first.  

Off to work for me.  I can't procrastinate on this one, since other people are depending on me!

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