Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Gary's Hitchiking Ghost Sculptures

Happy April Fools Day! Did playful spooks get you today?

I'm so pleased to share another fan's collection and this guy is no joke!

Meet Gary, from Michigan, an artist who has never taken an art class and has made over 35 animated Halloween props. Of course, no self-respecting haunted house would be caught dead without Hitchhiking Ghosts or the Organist from the Ballroom. So Gary decided to add some Disney magic to his "haunted yard".

Gary describes his first trip to WDW!

"My first trip to Disney World was in 1991. (I got a late start) Ann and I were there for our wedding anniversary. I had never gone prior to that because I had thought Disney World was for kids. But was I wrong!!!

I have never been to any place that fills me with such wonderment and awe. Corny as it sounds I DO feel that it is a truly magical place! Anyhoo.. Ann had been to Disney World before and she wanted to ride the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride. ( I liked it better before they changed it to parallel the movie!) Anyhoo again...That ride was being renovated so we went on our way. A few shops and snow cones later we rounded the corner and there it was!

The Mansion. 

Looming large and ominous in the distance. With each advancing cautious steps we made, the sounds of laughter and joy were slowly, yet inescapably being replaced with the sounds of a storm blowing in. Wind and thunder. And was that a cat screeching? Or a muffled scream?? Past the iron gates to the graveyard. Surrounded by memorials to lost friends and family. A rose placed lovingly on a tombstone pays grim testimony to the loss still felt. But where are the smiles? Where is the warmth? Where is the bright, warm sunshine? An invisible weight has been placed on your very soul. Your heart beats fast and loud in your chest. The beginnings of doubt, fear, nay TERROR start to overtake your thoughts. Should I go on?? CAN I go back??? Then you are in. No turning back. TOO LATE....Too late..........Then you are greeted....???......


That was the beginning. Since that time we try to get back to Disney at least once a year. But of all the attractions...All of the shows...All of the MAGIC that is truly Disney. The Haunted Mansion has been, and always will be, my favorite!!! It has inspired me and given me many, many, ideas for my Halloween yard display. Plus it has been upgraded since last I was there. So it will be a NEW experience! A new thrill!" 

Its hard to believe that Gary hasn't had any training in sculpting!  I'm insanely jealous of his talent!  I asked him to share more about the process of making these really cool props.

"It starts out as a clay sculpting that I do during the winter months. I only work on it for an hour or so a night. I usually have a sculpting done in a week. (depending on the detail). That would be for one head. Then I needed to sculpt the hands. Head and hands are all that were needed for Phineas and Ezra. Gus was another thing. Since he is dressed in a nightshirt (or is it a mental hospital gown? ) his arms and legs are visible. Also he is barefooted. So it takes more to sculpt.
When spring finally arrives a mans thoughts turn to......Mold making!!! The sculpting is molded in a very hard plaster like compound. Hydrocal or Ultracal is usually used. Think of it as plaster of Paris on steroids. The molds are usually made in two or more pieces to help with removing the finished product. After the plaster has hardened the sculpting is removed. This always breaks my heart! You see, You usually (almost always) have to totally destroy your sculpting to get it out of the mold. Technical stuff like undercuts and entrapment's and other annoying stuff. You tend to grow attached to your creation and then have to rip it to shreds just to make another identical to the one you already have. That makes a lot of sense does it not?? Perhaps that is why artists are always depicted as , shall we say, MAD!!! I do not classify myself an artist. Having never taken an art class. But the MAD part.....

The mold shells are cleaned, dried, and reassembled. You now have in essence a giant Jello mold. Liquid latex rubber is poured into the mold. The mold soaks up water from the latex and a thick wall of latex forms against the mold sides. In about a half hour the remaining rubber is poured out and the rest sits overnight (or more) to cure. (vulcanize). When all that has taken place you can open the mold and remove the rubber copy of your sculpting. Yah... Like it's ever that easy!!! But if it were no challenge...Where would be the rewards?

Now you have yourself a Jim Dandy set of hands and a head to go with them. You could put them in the freezer and wait until someone goes for some ice for their soda. Or you could make a body for them. I chose the latter!

My job title is "Sheet metal model maker". A fancy way of saying that I bend, pound ,grind, weld, pry, cut, assemble, and in a word "fabricate" Metal from it's crude base shape to a finished and hopefully usable product. I know!! Sounds GLAMOROUS!!! But I get paid weekly....VERRY WEAKLY!! But I am straying.

I use tube steel to form the basic "Skeletons". Welding it together. This is faster than bolting things together but the downside is that ...it is what it is....After making many props comes another problem. Where do ya put 'em?? But that's another problem! The skeletons are animated using gear reduced electric motors. Real "hi tec" stuff only!!!! My motors of choice are B.B.Q. rotisserie motors or can openers. Nothing but the best!!!

Then foam padding to give it shape.....Some hair.... A little paint and a prayer..... Plug it in..... And if you do not smell ozone or hear the sound of approaching firetrucks you have yourself an animated Hitchhiking Ghost!

So to answer the question....About three weeks each to make the ghosts. (All that explanation and I could have summed it up like that????...Sheeesh!!!"

Funny, artistically talented, and drives the coolest little car I've ever seen. Some people have all the luck!  Gary, I hope you and Ann can make it to Disneyland sometime!  I would love to visit the Haunted Mansion with you guys! In the meantime, I look forward to progress reports on the band you're making to accompany your Organist. Please keep us posted and thanks for sharing! I've got a special gift to send your way to say thanks...

If you would like to share your Haunted Mansion collection, please email me at hauntedmansioncollectibles@gmail.com!

Hurry baaack!