The Making of Guizhou: Part I

I am in the process of creating a stop-motion puppet. I’ll use this journal to share my detailed progress and pictures. I may digress into a discussion of the technical problems I encounter, which may be of interest to fellow puppet makers.

Let me begin by sharing my concept drawings.
Guizhou Face Sketch

Guizhou is a wild-eyed, ginger- furred primate. I am making him for a music video for the track ‘Primate’, written and produced by WilderBeast in preparation for his album release.

The character of Guizhou is named after the province in southwest China. Guizhou is home to the golden snub-nosed monkeys of which my puppet is loosely based. Guizhou is not like other monkeys, of course. The video will see him undergo a transcendental experience. Aided by hallucinogenic plants, Guizhou will travel through multi- dimensions to the subconscious subcontinent of his mind’s eye (without giving too much away!).

I wanted the puppet to encapsulate a monkey who has perhaps ‘seen too much’, who has been thrust along his evolutionary path at an alarming rate. Therefore the eyes were an important design asset to this project. They had to look somewhat haunted, pupils dilated and a ring of fire surrounding the iris. I have also incorporated a light-up gem into the forehead which will be lit by an LED from within and will indicate Guizhou’s status of ‘enlightenment’.

Annotated Puppet Design

Guizhou is somewhere between a gibbon and man (hence the elongated arms). The inside structure is a ball and socket armature. I used the Anibuild TWO intermediate armature, although it is an older version with slightly different hands and feet.

Assembled Armature

I’m not sure whether I would recommend this particular armature. Though it certainly wasn’t cheap, I’m starting to think it’s a ‘go big or go home’ situation when it comes to ball and socket armatures. In the past, I’ve worked with simple wire armatures made from scratch. Flexibility has not been a problem with these models and they don’t tend to break easily either. I wanted to move into ball and socket because the incremental movements of joints makes for a much smoother and naturalistic animation (goodbye herky-jerky!)

However, upon building this armature I have encountered some issues. The steel rods between joints are strong and robust, however the joints are subject to unscrewing (even after using thread-locker). Some of the joints had to be replaced with simple wire parts as they became obstinately loose and unable to hold up (notably the arms).

Reinforced hand

You’ll need an Alan key to fix together this armature, and of course patience! Here I have reinforced the hands with gold floristry wire. The silver wire is included in the kit but I would recommend double twisting the finger lengths for durability.

Padded Armature

Next, I padded out the figure with upholstery foam. I did this by sticking two sheets together on body parts with a hot glue gun. I then snipped and carved until I was happy with the overall shape.

Stay tuned for part two of this series, and watch Guizhou as he comes to life!