THINK BIG! TCS excels in Large Scale creations...

There's something about playing with scale that fascinates audiences. Oversized creatures, puppets, and items inspire awe in human observers. Over the years, we've become known for designing, crafting, installing, and operating some very large scale creations for Films, TV ads, Theatre, and other Installations and Events. Key to successful overscale creations is to select someone who will be mindful of proportion, someone who has the experience, and, of course, someone who can think BIG!

On this page, we'll highlight some of the very successful overscale work we've done, and describe how we met some REALLY big challenges.

Early on in his career, Rick Lazzarini was given an opportunity to prove that his skills matched up with his oversized ambitions. Back in 1986, Lazzarini, while working for the late Stan Winston, had a significant hand in designing and creating the animatronics for the first 17 foot-tall Queen Alien for Jim Cameron's "Aliens":

The Alien Queen began as an illustration by Cameron, which Lazzarini used as a template while designing the internal armature, laying out a central aluminum plate that hung via a clevis and supporting tube, which in turn was suspended from a large crane. Initial lightweight mockups were suspended from a Chapman camera crane, but for filming, a lightweight truss-based mobile crane was used. (Later on, other companies such as Royal DeLuxe would also adopt this practice of using existing and modified cranes to support their puppet creations.)

One of the most iconic movie creatures ever produced, an impressive element of the Queen was her sheer size. She stood up to 17 feet tall, and measured over 25 feet long. The Alien Queen was so large that she contained two stuntmen inside, who provided movements for her two main arms and stunted forelegs. Her head was a huge 10 foot long element that required hydraulics to provide up/down, tilt, and pivoting motions, while Lazzarini used push-pull cable mechanisms for her inner head, jaw, and telescoping tongue movements. In the famous scene between the Queen Alien and Sigourney Weaver in her Power Loader, it's Lazzarini actually puppeteering the Queen's face a, jaw, and inner tongue, thrusting out and stopping mere inches away from Weaver's face.

Rick Lazzarini's work on "Aliens"

Post-"Aliens", Lazzarini spun off his own Creature Effects company, The Character Shop, where he continued making a name for himself by tackling some pretty huge challenges.

For Columbia Pictures "Radio Flyer", Director David Mickey Evans' script called for an immense Buffalo; not just any Big Buffalo, but one 4 times regular size. Lazzarini and the Character Shop were chosen to create this massive beast, which ended up standing over 8 feet tall; the size of an Elephant.

The Animatronic Buffalo came to life via air-over-oil pneumatic/hydraulics, electric linear actuators, and radio control servos. This Buffalo, as with the Alien Queen before it, was suspended from the top, rear, or either side via a large wheeled crane and custom crane arm.

TCS' Giant Buffalo

The next huge-scaled animatronic creation challenge for Lazzarini and The Character Shop came in the form of "Operation Dumbo Drop", wherein 2 full scale, fully articulated animatronic elephants were created, as well as a herd of non-animatronic stunt versions.

A massive operation, everything about creating an elephant is huge: the sculpting (requiring its own 8 person crew), the moldmaking, the casting of skins, the mechanizing, and the painting.

Of course, then there's the shipping! The Elephants had to travel to Thailand, along with all their support supplies, tools, and equipment. The logistics of this part of large-scale creation is something that requires careful consideration, and other companes might overlook. Here at The Character Shop, we take it quite seriously; getting it there and making sure it performs is just as important as building it.

TCS' Animatronic Elephants

Not long after the the completion of "Operation Dumbo Drop", Lazzarini and crew were tasked to create pair of 16 foot-tall Gorillas for permanent installation at a different Hollywood Casino venues. They were lightweight, consisting of a tubular/modular SpeedRail inner frame, lightweight carved foam, and NFT fiber fur. The hands, feet, face, and chest were sculpted in clay, molded in fiberglass/resin, the skins cast in pigmented polyurethane, and then finish-painted. These creations, while oversized, were non-animatronic, but still required clever methods of breaking down, shipping and order to fit through the Casino's loading doors!

Among TCS' more recent oversized creations, we received a comission to create a giant-sized pair of Adidas sneakers:

Lazzarini and crew spent 3 weeks to create the gigantic pair of shoes from scratch. Exquisite in detail down to the "x" pattern on the toe shell, stitching, and sole texture, the shoes measured over 5 feet tall and 15 feet long. They were created for an Adidas Web and Print campaign. Upon completion, the white kicks served as a blank canvas for different teams of artists to stylize with their own interpretations:

The shoes now are installed at Adidas America Headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

TCS Giant Adidas Shoes

Even more recently, Lazzarini and TCS' reputation for quality built, overscale animatronics landed them the job to create the 17 foot tall Dragon for Broadway's "Shrek The Musical":

TCS' Dragon boasts an impressive array of features: Eye Up/Down and Side/Side Movement, Winking/Blinking Eyelids, Glowing Eyes, Jaw Action,  Head Up/Down, Side/Side and Twist motions, full Neck Up/Down (all the way down to the stage floor, and all the way up to 17 feet!) and a rolling, mobile base.  In addition, she sports a Co2 "Smoke Breathing" system, as well as a sophisticated video camera and monitor setup that lets her operators see where she is, and what she's looking at.

Details on TCS' Shrek Dragon

Our most recent creation is also our biggest to date. She's a 20 foot tall marionette, created for Unigroup's Mayflower Moving new advertising campaign.

Meet Audrey:

Audrey is a custom-created puppet, a marionette, to be precise. But she's not just any marionette. She stands 20 feet tall, from head to toe! Because of that scale, everything about her is big: her knees stand taller than a six-foot person, her hair measures 8 feet in length (and weighs 100 lbs!), and altogether, she weighs just under 700 lbs. Yet she's one of the slimmest plus-sized models you'll ever meet! She's also lighter than you'd think; because while she's made to appear as if she's made from wood, her body is actually constructed from a lightweight foam, and her head of fiberglass and resin; both were then coated and painted with an incredibly authentic-looking wood grain finish.

She is suspended as any marionette is, by cords. However, because of her size, mass, and weight, rather than being puppeteered from above, a special rig was designed and built to support her. The overhead rig provided various anchor points for pulleys, which redirected her cords (and thus the control of her arms and legs) back down to the ground, where Mayflower Movers not only help her *move*...they also help move *her*!

There were many challenges in creating this marionette. We had to make her huge...but keep her light. She had to have several puppeteers, moving oversized limbs..but her movements had to be smooth. She had to be mysterious, yet young, but not too young. She had to look as if made from wood...but we used no wood. She had to be a unique creation...from both artistic and legal viewpoints. Technical challenges abounded for our magnficent crew, who solved every one. Finally, it had to be a humongous a fixed price!

For more detail about this project, see our Audrey Page 

Here at The Character Shop, our greatest strengths lie in our innovating, combining traditional and non-traditional methods, materials and techniques, our incredible resourcefulness, hiring the most talented, reliable crews, and our out-of-the box approach to solutions and challenges. We strive to produce original creations that take a new, fresh approach to combining all of a customers' aesthetic wishes and technical specifications, while optimizing all the inherent variables: cost, schedule, weight, speed, setup, crew needs, operation, and breakdown.

As you can see, The Character Shop has the experiences, resources, skill, and creativity to turn even the wildest idea into full-scale reality. Perhaps you have a need for a spectaular, oversized animated character for your next Event. Please contact us; we'll help you create your dream!



What's New | Features | Commercials | Resume | Realistic | Whimsical | Scary | Animatronics | Prosthetics | Puppets | Waldo ® | Publicity | TCS Fun | FX FAQ | Reference | Contact Us

Except where noted, all contents are the property of The Character Shop, Inc. and copyright 2010
Photographs and text may only be re-published with written permission. All rights reserved.