Saturday, November 21, 2009

props of the past: big momma pumpkin monster

I made this prop in 2007. It was one of my early animated props, utilizing an inverted crank arm, a head that bobs slightly up and down as it goes side to side, and a cable and lever system to move the arms. Even though this prop is just a memory to me, I still get comments and questions on how i got this particular motion. Video can be seen here.
It is not my intention to try to go into detail to explain the inner workings here...if I were to rebuild this prop I would do things very differently now. There were several major flaws with the design.
First off, the head was an attempt at mache using cheesecloth and carpet adhesive. I know many folks swear by carpet adhesive as a corpsing medium, but for me it did not work out. It took forever to dry, it was heavy, and it was never very rigid, easily deforming and collapsing in on itself. I would go with straight paper mache now...lighter, stronger, easier to work with.
Next, the mechanism was not thought out very well. When it was working, the effect was pretty neat...unfortunately the cable system had undue stress and was continually snapping, rendering the arms stationary. I would redesign this using separate motors and cranks for each arm, attempting to balance the weight so as not to over-stress the motors. A lighter weight outer skin would also help to keep this motion reliable....again I used carpet adhesive, latex paint, cloth, and cheesecloth to get the outer was very heavy.
The motor running the head was fine.( for a while) I believe the basic mechanism here was fundamentally sound. I would opt for something more reliable than the rotisserie motor that I originally used. Also, i would design access into the prop so if something did happen to go wrong it was easier to work on. (without looking like I was giving some sort of demented gynecological exam)
Finally, the major flaw is that the overall size of the prop was huge. I had trouble getting her through standard doorways, and she gobbled up the storage space in the off season. I have learned since then to make large props that come apart for storage.


  1. Ah, the ever important props that teach us our preferences, and what to do to make it better. Sure does look creepy in the picture though!!!

  2. This is one of the first props I saw when I started on the forums. I always liked this one Dave. I hear you about emgineering props to come apart. I'll have to do have this year or I'll be sleeping in my car while props snuggle down in my bed.