DISNEYLAND – DISNEY WORLD
I made the Doors of Gozor (22 feet high) for the Ghost Busters live action show at Universal Studios, Orlando, Fla. Initially, someone had drawn the image on a wooden backdrop to speed up the process. However, they had used an opaque projector to project the two foot tall blueprints to a twenty-two foot tall image. This created parallax, which means the bottom of the projection was accurate, but at the top all the lines converged inward, making the whole image curved toward the center.
I started from scratch by gluing 6 inch x 8 foot x 4 foot 6 lb. urethane foam to the backboard, which I laid flat on the concrete floor. The reason for using so dense a foam was so I could walk on it while carving it because most of it would involve cutouts and gluing one section on top of another. When the first layer was down, I drew a grid with one foot squares across the entire 10 foot x 22 foot surface. I made a scale grid on the blueprints, then drew the doors onto the foam.
I cut out each layer with a keyhole saw, working from the background to the foreground. On each layer I redrew the shape onto the foam. Everything went together well, but took longer than I expected because of having to start again, and just the shear area that had to be covered. This was the only job I ever under-estimated the time. Since I had bid the job, the monetary loss was mine, but on the other hand, the shop needed their floor space. They had envisioned that the whole project could be made up against the wall, which really was not possible.
Still, when all was said and done, everyone was happy. They sprayed a urethane hard coat over the whole thing, painted it antique gold, and bolted it to two massive steel door constructions that were in turn mounted to a massive door opening mechanism.
The life-size cartoon characters were for the Dudley Do Right water ride. I led a team of a half-dozen sculptors over several months to sculpt a couple dozen or more of these figures. I was initially hired as a sculptor, but was soon assigned to oversee the entire operation. I created a system for making the armatures in foam, then built a machine to cut the foam out of blocks to the shapes necessary. They were then glued together and covered with water clay. Execs from Universal came in weekly to put in their two cents, as the figures had to be exactly like the production drawing.
LOTTE WORLD – SINBAD WATER RIDE
Lotte World is a huge department store and theme park in the heart of downtown Seoul, South Korea. I made many things for this park, but don’t have photos of everything. Missing are some shots of a really cool Jules Verne Time Machine.
This was a strange project because the company didn’t want to pay what I charged to make the sculpture, so they hired an outside firm. That firm then hired me anyway, so it cost the company 50% more to do the same job. This happened more than once.
KNOTT’S BERRY FARM – KINGDOM OF THE DINOSAURS
I sculpted most, if not all, of the mammals in the dark ride. I made them out of urethane foam blocks using a secret technique taught to me by Carl Surges. These were all life-size, meaning they were all huge. After I sculpted the bodies, a crew covered them in fur.
OTHER THEME PARKS
THE LUXOR HOTEL
Not all the items I made for the Luxor actually made into the Luxor. Plus some had their fair share of controversy. I sculpted the Great Baboons that stand at the bottom of the giant obelisk in front of the hotel out of urethane foam. They’re about 8 feet tall. When installed, they caused quite a stir because of the exposed genitals. Finally the hotel relented and chiseled off the offending extremity. However, the outline still remains, and from a distance, the unnatural wonder still appears to be there, fully intact. I wonder if any laws were broken when they defaced my artwork?
The Ram’s Head Sphinx’s still remain lining the walkway of the Avenue of the Sphinxes. That was also sculpted in urethane foam. The original sphinx was carved out of urethane foam, about 8 feet long. As with all the Egyptian pieces, I had to roam many libraries and books stores for photo books, because back in the day there was no Internet. In the case of this sphinx, I had to piece together a half-dozen pictures to get an idea of what the whole sculpture looked like.
The most ambitious, and maybe the hardest sculpture I’d done to date, was King Tut’s Middle Coffin. The Egyptians had 20 years to create this coffin, after making similar ones for two thousand years. I had a month. No Internet then, so I had a day to scour nearby libraries for very limited reference photos. The first few days were lost when the foam foundation disintegrated because of a poor factory mix. For reasons unknown to me, the finished sculpture never made it to the Luxor, but was sent elsewhere. If anyone has seen it, please drop me a line.
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THE FLAMINGO HOTEL
Sculpting the flamingos was pretty straight forward, though I did the different version for different companies.
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THE MONTE CARLO HOTEL
A dozen sculptors worked on a dozen or more giant figures (12 feet tall), sculpted in Roma Plastelina clay over a finely-carved urethane foam base. My job was to detail the anatomy, sculpt all the hands, feet, and breasts. I also sculpted the wings on one figure.
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CAESAR’S PALACE and other HOTELS
The jester woman sculpture was for a hotel-casino to be built in New Orleans, which as far as I know, never came to be. I’ve no idea where the Tiki head went, and the lifeguard chair went to Caesar’s.
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OTHER COMMERCIAL PROJECTS