Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Project Dianoga (Star Wars Trash Compactor Monster)

"Garbage chute... wonderful idea... What an incredible new smell you've discovered!" - Han Solo

Eventually I'd love to build some sort of sea monster rig to spit water from my small pond out front, but that's a bit too amphibiously ambitious right now. Still I can't resist having something scary coming out of at least one of my fountains for Halloween. So I'm settling on cranking out a Dianoga...also known as that creepy eyeball monster in the trash compactor scene in Star Wars.

Dianoga... Yes I had to look up that name too...

Maybe after this I'll bust out my vintage Rancor monster, and make it attack my Ewok tree fort play set just like old times. No... no there's almost nothing sadder than a grown man playing with his action figures. Except maybe playing with them while also wearing full blown storm trooper armor... Bonus points if the "armor" is actually painted cardboard.

Breaking it down
It doesn't matter if you're drawing, painting, sculpting or recreating an obscure monster from a popular science fiction franchise whenever you set out on an artistic project it's always good to break things down into simple shapes then build up from there. To my eye most of this garbage dwelling cyclops consists of two sphere's and a stick.

Nope totally not scary yet.

Please note I'm only replicating the head and neck portion of the monster. Apparently the rest of the creature according to wookipedia looks like a periscope strapped to an octopus.

Now I've attached a few pieces of foam to thicken out the neck as well as applied a thin sheet to connect the two spheres. Most of my foam comes from packaging or old bedding materials. Better recycled as part of a Star Wars reference then in a land fill.

Archeologists recently unearthed man's early Nerf weaponry

We need a smooth surface to create the eyeball and the porous styrofoam just isn't cutting it. So I've sealed the surface of the ball with primer then applied a round piece of smooth polymer clay. The tricky part here is using the heat gun to harden the clay in place without melting the foam ball or burning down the house.

Insert random pink-eye joke here

Now lets wrap this bad boy
I'm using about 5 pieces of torn T-shirt material to cover most of the dianoga: 2 covering the head and neck, 1 to add more details to the sides of the head, and finally 2 folded pieces that make up the eyelids.

OK now we're starting to get creepy.

The monster also has some funky tendrils coming off it that'll need to make out of bits of weather stripping and rags. To put my own spin on things I'm making these limbs a bit more spider-like and articulated rather than the loosely hanging spaghetti strands as seen in the movie. The whole thing makes me want to make a facehugger alien or some sort of nasty spider monster next year.

Now we coat the whole thing with a healthy dose of liquid latex.

The nasty ammonia smell from the drying latex brings a level of authenticity to the trash compactor monster.

The creature apparently has nasty brown-ish skin which helps it blend into it's natural habitat of discarded spaceship debris.

My base coat came out a little redder then I'd like but I think I can work with it. Then we'll be moving from dark paints to light starting with black and dark brown spray paint. The rest of the skin tones and highlights we'll finish off with acrylics.

Do the tendrils get in the way when he tries to eat soup? How does he handle chop sticks?

Painting the eye
This is probably the most challenging part of the whole project. Iris's can contain a myriad of both subtle and distinct colors but given that our subject is a monster cephelopod we've got some leeway. As far as I can tell the eye is mostly angry red with hints of green at the center.

Basically it looks like a cat's eye with a bad case of conjunctivitis.

Mordor the early years

OK now get my good side...
Adding a comb over
The monster also looks like it's sporting some straggles of hair so we're gluing some old wig hair to it and melting the tufts down a bit with the heat gun.

A comb over is not advised regardless of species.

Making this thing stand up
I struggled with this part as they don't exactly sell aquatic monster stands at the local Walmart. And lets face if they even made such a thing I'd be buying them in bulk at the local BJ's. I tried everything from various containers to an old Christmas tree stand, but I really couldn't find anything that had a low enough profile and could be submerged in water. Eventually I cobbled together a makeshift stand: cut a small plastic paint bucket in half, wedged the creature in the bucket with some Styrofoam, wrapped it in a plastic bag, glued it to some spare wall tiles for added surface area and weight, then finally duct taped the living hell out of it. It's not exactly an elegant solution but it's sturdy and it's standing. Also the fall weather has left most of my fountains filled with muck and leaves anyway so it's not like you're going to see it.

If you can't duct it. It's a cliché.

"Oh yeah the landscaper really freaked when he saw this..."

The little net I use to remove leaves from the pond just not cutting it anymore.

Visine's new aggressive ad campaign just got weirder

Fun Nerd Fact: In early copies of Star War's scripts the Jedi were actually referred to as the "Dai Nogas" which got shortened to just "Dai" then swapped out entirely for "Jedi". Somehow the alien equivalent of Oscar the Grouch was then assigned the proto-Jedi name.

It helps if you read the above paragraph in "comic book guy" voice from the Simpsons. Source: Star Wars Databank

The monster only appears in one film, in one scene, and you only see it for a couple seconds. Still it managed to scare the crap out of 80's children everywhere.

I brought in my Yoda for fall/winter maintenance so the Dianoga monster is taking the place as the token nerdy sci-fi reference in my yard. Maybe this winter I'll justify building an AT-AT and put a Santa hat on it.

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