Classes #17-18: Garage Monsters (Stan Winston School Diary #14)

The two classes of Garage Monsters combined total over six hours! We really are getting into the longer classes, aren’t we?

This dynamic duo of lessons is taught by Jurassic Park/Men in Black’s Shannon Shea. Ever wonder how the Jurassic Park lizards looked scaly? Lots of clay baking, painting, foam, cotton, putty, and mold making. Mr. Shea says his puppets take on a process of days or more.

Getting an introduction to 3D software in Maya and Blender, if you take things seriously following along with the storyboarding lesson Stan Winston School offers, if you really dig into it on your own terms once the lesson is over, you learn how 3D animated characters are based on skeletons. Coming from 2D, I wasn’t used to that process of working in a skeleton if you want something to move. I drew whatever it was in multiple poses. 3D doesn’t work that way. Skeletons, away we go. The garage monster skeleton bases look like Maya 3D skeletons built to life. Like Maya, you won’t catch the hang of it naturally without working on it.

My garage monster goal was a gecko based on this real gecko I met a while back.

I cut out a small, narrow block of foam.


With a yellow highlighter like the first puppet class trio from Stan Winston School, I drew a test drawing of what I wanted my gecko to look like. The shape wasn’t the final design measurements–that’s OK.


My original gecko design, seen below, came out too chunky, almost iguana-ish. Cutting and reshaping this guy down resolved that.

The Stan Winston class offerings later on do include molding and casting. The Garage Monsters classes are your first introduction to that. In my studying right now, I am not ready to go down to the store buying all kinds of casting supplies until I know I am ready to work more with it in constant classes and/or stop motion needs. What I did instead: substitute Homax Wall Texture from the hardware store for a quick DIY scale effect. The product naturally creates a scaly texture I made have cracks and designs in it with a plastic knife and pressing down the pattern from a puppy wee wee training pad.

My gecko has a yellow stomach and toes with a 90 percent green body. His yellow was the same can of yellow I have been using on other puppets. His green paint was a standard green spray paint. From there, I glued on a rolled up tongue and eyes. Garage monsters don’t need to be scary. Your fav kawaii cartoon characters themselves are monsters! My gecko is ridiculous looking. Certainly not one to make a Jurassic Park T-Rex tremble.

The finished gecko went out to catch a few flies at lunch.

And now, a zoom in on the final lizard-y skin! The wall texture spray was an unexpected smashing success. His midriff sides have a nice roughed up look like a pet shop lizard. The upper cracks dried very authentic for a foam puppet. Were I working on a big budget lizard/dinosaur movie FX team, I would ask my boss for permission to use the wall texture spray seeking advice from him/her on how I could improve on it for scaly closeups with better scale carving tools or pattern stamping. Think of the time you would save on production and costs paying for products and staff members’ work days.

Take a look at these wrinkles and crackly scales!