Friday, April 28, 2023

From the Archives: Spider Monster - Angel Season 4

I am still surprised that after twenty years, I still have not shared everything that I worked on during my time in the film industry working in Los Angeles. When I am looking through my archives, I have to cross reference this blog to see if I had or had not shared something. To my surprise, I found a large build that we did that I have not shared yet. I am genuinely baffled that this has not been shared, as it was such a massive project that required all hands on deck. From the archives, I present to you from season 4 of Angel, episode 20, the Spider Monster (more on this name in a moment).

Before I go too far, I must remind everyone that this work is a collaboration of many talented artists and technicians. I was one of many that brought these things to life. This time, I was involved with designing, various shop duties, and set work for this creature. After twenty years, I only still possess a couple of the names of the others involved with this work. Therefore I am unable to properly give credit to the others involved. I am sorry, but people's names were the first to go after I left LA. 

This particular monster was linked to two others I designed and worked on. There was a story arch in season four that took Angel to a temple and portal that had him interacting with the High Priest and the Keeper of the Name. If you look closely at the photos in the latter post, you will see a sculpture that might remind you of a particular Spider Monster.

As I have said, this was a massive project, and we only had a couple of weeks to complete all the work. The Spider Monster was known to us at the Centaur Bug, Centerpede, and the Centaurbug. I have no idea when it became known as the Spider Monster, but that appears to be the official nomenclature. Not only did we need to design and build a suit and makeup, but this creature also required articulated extending legs that were puppeteered on set. There was also a stool that connected to a socket of a seat base built into the suit so that the actor could sit while in the suit. From my experience and the reaction of the actor, this was not the most comfortable suit that we made, but at the end of the day, no suit is comfortable to wear. I have a lot, and I mean a LOT of images for this creature. I had to be selective about what I shared, so without further yammering from me, here is the Spider Monster. 

Spider Monster on set. The digital team removed the human legs in any shot they were visible. You will note the control rod from the boot to the tip of the foreleg. This assisted in making the movement more natural and realistic.

This masterpiece (j/k) was the beginning and end of the official design work I put into this monster. In an earlier version, the entire body shape would be different and more centipede-like. This was the nasty tip of the tail. This direction was scrapped, and other designs were made.

Although I would remain in LA for another year and a half, things were already becoming problematic at work. I will leave it at that for now. I was removed, against my wishes, from design duties on this monster after the first version was shelved. I still wanted to continue working on designs, so that is what I did. On top of my other duties, I was creating more designs for this monster. Some of these I did at home on my own time. The two images above were my first explorations of the new direction. 

This version had different options for the arms. These are my favorites, so I will spare you the other versions. I displayed these at work to show that I was still a needed team member. These designs only enlisted derisive comments from the shop's leadership.

My final design was by far the strongest of what I created.

There were three or four sculptures that tackled the suit all at once.

Looking back, I am always amazed at how much the shop could get done on such tight deadlines.

And the back side of a Spider Monster.

There was only one leg sculpted. It was cast four times and made into different legs. Work smarter, not harder!

If I remember correctly, both hands had to be their own sculpture. There was an effort to see if we could get away with only one, but in the end, they needed a left and right.

Actor Jeff Ricketts expressing his option of the test fitting. His opinion of all of this remained unchanged.

A better view of the stool that clicked into the monster's butt.

I still really like the color scheme and look of this suit. I have no memory of painting on it, but that is not to say I didn't. If I did, i would have been shadowing the lead painter.

And the back of the suit with the interchangeable butt cover. The nubby tail would cover the socket for the stool.

A photo to show off just how bad of an edge the cowl and suit made. This was on set between takes.

A better photo of the face, teeth, and cowl. The face was silicon, and the rest was foam latex.

I have no memory of the shirt I am wearing or what I am doing to the monster's butt.

Monster on set between takes. This shows off the overall form of the suit and legs very well. This is still some quality work. It is nice to look back on and to have been a part of it.

This is still one of my favorite photos of the monster. It has a very human feel for something very much not human - a theme that can be seen in my work ever since. The blurry fellow next to the monster was the cool assistant director. Sadly his name is lost to me.

That is all for another exciting week on the blog. See you back here on Monday! Until then...

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