Projects: Animated Werewolf

I've started work on another prop for 2007. It is a Werewolf animated by means of a oscillating floor fan. There are many such props on the 'net including sites like The Monster List and Haunt Project. I plan on having him hooked up to the motion sensor rig I built last year but never used. When activated not only the head but his entire body will move back and forth. I'm also going to give him light-up LED eyes. I'll be posting photos as I go along.

The frame is made from thin-walled PVC pipe meant for central vacuum systems. I found this to be a bit lighter than your standard PVC piping. I used a variety of couplings - in particular the one for the neck/shoulder attachment is unique in that it allows the shoulders to sit back from the neck rather than have everything in straight line alignment. I feel this will give a more realistic pose to the prop. I also used angles other than the standard 90° coupling - especially at the elbows. This too will give the arms a more naturalistic appearance.

For the arms I'm using a pair of monster hands I've had for a while. I used them with my werewolf costume back in 2002 and at that time tried to glue some fake fur to them using liquid latex. Bad move - they latex reacted with the rubber of the hands and they have stayed tacky ever since. I'm now going to be painting them to match the grey tones of the mask so that should solve that problem. I filled the hands with Great Stuff expanding foam and before it had a chance to set embedded the PVC forearms into it. Once it was finished expanding I used an utility knife to trim the foam.

Here are some shots where I temporarily set it up with the mask and then the shirt to see how it was going to look. I'm pretty happy with the pose and will now go ahead and build up the arms and body using chicken wire. I don't plan on building a lower torso or legs for him as I plan on having him positioned in behind some bushes beside the front walk so the TOTs will not be able to see the lower half of him. It will look like he's crouched there ready to pounce!

Here are shots of the completed armature for the werewolf. The chicken wire has been built up for the arms and torso of the figure. I rolled the chicken wire into a large tube for the torso and connected the seams to each other by bending over the cut ends of the wire and braiding together. Make sure you wear work gloves for this as the chicken wire can give some nasty cuts. The chicken wire was also attached to the PVC frame with electrical zip ties. The arms also started as rolled tubes which were then bent to shape and attached at the shoulders. I really tried to make the armature look as organic and lifelike a pose as possible and avoid a stiff & linear (i.e. fake) structure.

The base for the head stated out as just a plain wig head but adapted to include glowing eyes. For the glowing LED eyes I cannibalized a fibre optic angel someone gave us for Xmas. I briefly considered painting it all black with an upside down cross in blood on its forehead but thought that might be a bit extreme for some folks! So I smashed it with a hammer and took out it's guts - the lighting! :) The fibre optics in the wings I couldn't salvage but they were powered by 3 high intensity LEDs - red green & blue. The 3 LEDs pulse on and off at diff. intervals so it looks like it is softly fading from red to green to blue. I mounted the lighting unit in the back of the Styrofoam wig-head and drill a hole through to about half way through the head. I then drilled from the 2 eye sockets on an angle in to the centre to meet the hole from the back. The light comes from the unit in the back and then diverges to each of the eyes in the front. For eyes themselves I used 2 of those cheap glow-in-the-dark plastic eyes that I cut in half and glued to the wig-head. They are translucent so will let the light from the LEDs shine through. The effect will be the werewolf's eyes will pulsate diff. colours. I think it'll look cool. The unit is powered by batteries and I can turn it on and off by means of a switch which will be hidden behind the back of the werewolf mask. I also had to build up the bridge of the nose on the wig-head so that when the mask is in place you can't see from one eye hole through to the other. As a final note the hands have been roughly painted grey to match the mask - I'll be painting them further as I go along however this really went a long way to making the prop come together and look like a complete creature rather than a collection of stuff on an armature.

The Finished Werewolf:

Here are a few pictures of the "finished" werewolf. I never did get a chance to finish painting the hands and the fur still needs to be permanently attached but it didn't really matter come Halloween night. He turned out great and worked perfectly - I did need to anchour him with 2 big sandbags on the base due to the high winds as he's a lttle top-heavy. The motion detector/sound board rig worked great and due to the fact the weather was cold and there was plenty of air-flow under the armature the fan motor never over-heated. It also helped I had the motion sensor set to only stay on 10 seconds once movement had stopped. How it would work was that he'd come on the moment a trick-or-treater stepped up to the front steps into the beam of the motion detector, the red spot light would come on, the fan would start moving the whole torso back and forth and the sound board would activate with huge roars and howls coming out of the speakers. I had more than one kid, even the older ones, jump and step back when he "came to life"!

Animated Werewolf Video

Click on the play button below to view a quick 1 min. video showing the werewolf in action.

UPDATE!

Last year the motor on the oscillating fan burnt out. It was not due to the motor heating up as the design of the werewolf - leaving the bottom open to the air ensures lots of air circulation - but stupidity on my part. I was trying out a remote control power bar and left the Werewolf plugged in. The power-bar also had a photo sensor on it so unknown to me it was turning on at dusk and running all night. It must have done this for three solid nights or so when I happened to go down to the basement and couldn't understand where this horrible shrieking noise was coming from! Then I noticed the Werewolf lurching back and forth. I had completely destroyed the internal bearings on the motor.

So I now need to replace the oscillating fan. Luckily the prop is built in such a way that it came apart relatively easily and I was able to attach it to a new fan with little trouble. However the new fan was not made as well as the old one I had - it was mostly plastic - and did not hold up well. It started to lean almost right away and soon snapped off altogether breaking the fan housing. So I am back to a static werewolf for now. :( I am working on drawing up plans to modify him using a proper heavy-duty wiper motor to provide the motion. I'll post more info as I go along.