We first told you about Legacy Effect's amazing addition to the As You Wish Project in this article:
Now we carry on the story by talking to Cari Finken, the co-creator of this piece.
TDH: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Cari: I am a special fx artist - that's a pretty blanket term that covers many things. Mainly, I make puppets, costumes, and special props. I also am what we call a showrunner, project lead, art lead etc. It’s my job to track a project, make artistic and logistic decisions, and ensure that everybody on the the team is all on the same page.
I’ve always loved movies. Growing up, I was especially drawn to films with creativity and imagination. Films like Empire Strikes Back, or The Dark Crystal where you encountered a whole other world, filled with fantastic creatures.
When I was in school, I was always drawing creatures and making puppets instead of doing my homework.
Somehow I figured out how to turn it into a job!
TDH: What drew you to the As You Wish Helmet Project?
Cari: At the time, I was considering taking on some more volunteer work. I was happy that a project appeared that allowed me to use my skills for charity.
Also, I’m a huge star wars fan, so I was really interested in the project (and others like it in the past). I remember when the Vader project was making the rounds on the internet, I thought that it was really cool. I enjoy seeing how far other artists stretch their imaginations.
Lastly, Make-a-Wish has a special place in my heart. My brother Eric passed away from leukemia when he was only five, so I know how difficult it is on a family when a child is desperately ill. Make-a-Wish is a beautiful organization, full of beautiful people!
TDH: What was your inspiration for The Scavenger?
Cari: Alan Scott asked us for ideas that represent what we do at Legacy... I was looking at the helmet, looking for ideas, and it occurred to me that some creature might want to live inside of it... and that got my imagination running along Boba Fett’s storyline. What if some alien creature found the helmet after the battle at the Sarlacc Pit?
The first drawing I did was just a sketch of the helmet with a large, alien eye peering through a jagged hole in the top. That was enough to sell the idea to the group. I ended up doing a number of sketches, but that first image of the eye remained through the design process.
TDH: Tell us a little about the process of creating this helmet.
Cari: It’s actually quite a process, because we ended up building an entire animatronic display, with sound, video and other bells and whistles. If you look on the back of the base, there is a plaque with all the names and departments that volunteered for this project.
It all starts with an idea, and then a design. A number of people submitted concepts, and I was honored when my sketch won the group vote. More sketches, then some of our sculptors jumped in and created some maquettes.
Since we created a monster from scratch, it had to be sculpted out of clay first.
Mike O’Brien was the Lead sculptor - which means he did most of the work! A number of us jumped in and helped rough out some legs, but Mike did all the beautiful, final detail.
It took both of us a least a day or two to build all the armatures, I believe we had eight separate sculptures - and that's not counting all the tentacles, teeth and all the leg joints! The armatures were tricky, because the whole thing had to come apart in pieces for the molding process, and we wanted to be able to flip the sculpt upside down while working on it. Lastly, it had to hold about 50-60 pounds of clay.
Mike and I continued to finalize the design while he was sculpting, and many of his ideas contribute to the final look of the creature.
Also, Mike sculpted the bones and skull stuff you see on the tableau.
Early in the design process, I met with Dave Covarrubias(Lead Mechanical Designer), and Alan Scott about the mechanics. I’m not a mechanical designer.... really all I can say is artistically, what the character is supposed to look like, and what it might do. So it was really up to Dave and Alan to figure out how to bring our creature to life.
This project was a bit different than what we are used to. Usually, we are building for a film, for a specific shot. Dave had to design some pretty robust mechanics that could run full-time during Comic-con. All-in-all I can’t believe what he accomplished in such a short time.
I think I’m most impressed with the fact that Dave has to start building his mechs before the sculpture is finished. It all has to work and fit together at the finish line. Dave has an amazing ability to do this blind.
That being said, the mechanical team really went all out. Movement, video, a lighting system, audio and sound effects. It’s just cool.
All of those individual parts and pieces that make up a sculpture must be molded. Sometimes more than once.
Easily half of the labor is in this process. We did every kind of mold you can think of, from complex matrix molds with a sectioned core, to simple block and gang molds.
I was most touched by the generosity of the mold-makers at Legacy. Mold-making is not glamorous, and it’s hard, hard work. Almost the entiredepartment helped out, working late nights and weekends. Allan Holt especially - he really dedicated himself to this project.
Also, the pieces and parts have to be cast. We wanted to use a flexible, translucent material for the body, so we went with a silicone skin. The leg shells are resin. The eyes are acrylic.
I can’t ignore this department, because they did so much work on the final piece. Basically anything we make out of hard materials passes through this department. All the custom detail work you see on the helmet, the “crab shell” legs, as well as the desert tableau itself would not have happened without the model shop.
Toi Ogunyoku Jr. was our lead model maker. He also happens to be a world class sculptor(He works a lot on our Sideshow projects). He spearheaded all the work on the tableu, which included sculpting the rocks and terrain.
Toi really put in some time and dedication.
Derek Rosengrant painted the helmet and the eyes. He and Rob Ramsdel did a fantastic job on the paint distressing, which I think sells the whole thing.
I did most of the painting on the creature and the rest, with some help from Mike and John Cherevka. When I worked out the paint scheme for the creature, I knew I wanted something bold, eye-catching and fun. So we went with reds and oranges to contrast the helmet, and reflect a desert environment. And some iridescent blues for an otherworldly look.
We went and shot a little movie that you can see through the rangefinder. Tom Ovenshire, a mold maker on the project, already had a Fett costume. We went out to the sand dunes with some giant rubber tentacles and shot the “black box” footage.
I asked Alan Scott if he wanted to direct it - and I’m so glad he made the time to do it. He’s been directing Legacy puppeteering crews forever, so this was perfect. There was one shot where he wanted the camera to roll head over foot, so he welded up a special hand-held rig to get the move!
Shooting this was the most fun I had on the project. We got to drag Tom around in the sand and smack him with rubber tentacles all morning. Can you think of a better way to spend a Sunday?
Assembly always sounds simple, and never is... All of our access panels and points have to be well hidden. Imagine trying to assemble a toaster inside a dark rubber balloon with a pair of tweezers and an L wrench, and you get the idea.
At this point someone from almost every department is desperately trying to finish some last minute detail. So you’ve got four or five people climbing over the whole thing like a race car in the pit.
But then the dust clears, and you’ve got a animatronic alien creature!
TDH: Now that the helmet is finished, if there is one thing you could change or do differently, what would it be?
Cari: Oh man, what you end up making is rarely what you originally envisioned. We had a whole wishlist of things we wanted it to have or do, but we had to make cuts for budget and time.
I think the one thing I would have changed is something you don’t see. It’s too complex and boring, so I won’t go into detail, but it’s how the leg joints go together. That was almost a mini-nightmare getting that to work. “It seemed so simple in the beginning...”
TDH: With your helmet finished, what is your next project?
Cari: Like everyone in this town, I’m working on a screenplay. Ha! As far as personal art goes... I’m working on some designs for a series of whimsical puppets based on sea-life.
Legacy Effects was kind enough to share dozens of photos of the process of their creation with us. Click here to see the entire build process!