Narnian horns

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 17.05.08    

With the release of the latest Chronicles of Narnia film, I wanted to go as a faun again (I have a weakness for dressing up, especially for Lord of the Rings and Narnia films). For the first film I wore full fur pants, hooves, custom costume, and horns. Since finding out how dangerous the hoof extensions are to ankles (and without a workshop to develop something more stable), I had to give up up on that… and by extension, much of the rest of the outfit. The old horns I had were also pretty rough, and if they were going to be the only real costume piece, desperately needed an update.

I found some nice translucent Fimo clay (I usually use Sculpey, but Fimo was on sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics), and started sculpting some basic horn shapes a month ago. The first three tries weren’t great, and I didn’t get back to it till this weekend. My fourth attempt turned out to be too smooth (though the shape was fairly goat like, thumbprints showed up too easily during the painting process), so I tried again using a stiff hair trimmer cleaning brush to texture the surface. Though the results are perhaps more antler like than horn like, the painting was a lot easier and turned out surprisingly natural looking, for how simple it was (just one wash of a custom brown paint / matte finish combo, with some brushed water and finger rubbing to blend and wear it down a bit).

(more on Flickr)

Super glue is not the smartest choice, perhaps, but it does work beautifully. I have some water-proof (and non-toxic) glue that seems to work well on skin and prosthetics, but I wasn’t sure it’d hold up to an evening at the movies, or if it would work with the larger horns (it’s important to note that these are still a good 3 and a half inches shorter than the original pair I made in 2005, which at that length caused much pain and trouble when getting in and out of vehicles!).

Unfortunately, the paint job around the horns didn’t turn out so well. It was shiny, and way too prominent. Next time I may try gluing the horns to my head without any blending done on the skin at all. An abrupt growth of horns would probably look more natural than something as poorly blended as this was.

After a few photos to prove to my friends I really did grow horns, it was off to the theatre! I thought the movie was… ok. Some people like it more than the first, and it is a decent second movie, but overall I’m just not sure I felt it.

The writers did a good job on a tough assignment. Prince Caspian is a difficult story to translate to film, and the added storylines and character flaws only seemed to accentuate many of the themes C. S. Lewis was writing about. Tyler Smith wrote a longer writeup on the story, so you can read more about it on his site.

The visual effects, on the other hand, seemed off to me. Aslan comes across flat, both in performance (which, in its defence, was also nicely subtle) and in shading (which did seem especially flat and overly-CG). Rythm and Hues, the studio that so brilliant brought animals to life for the first film, was replaced by Framestore CFC this time around, and sadly the characters seem to suffer. The badger, the bear, and others were hardly as lifelike, or loveable, as the beavers were in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe_.

Due to new leg rigs for the actors playing centaurs, they move around a lot more in this film. Sadly, the movement just looks weird! I think I liked the more stationary centaurs of the first film better. Walking around, they just look silly; it becomes painfully obviously that they move nothing like horses. It isn’t entirely a problem with the visual effects, but just in how the performances were captured on film. As written up in the CGworld article, the actors were able to change direction in ways a horse simply cannot.

It might have just been me, but fauns (and even fully digital characters like Repicheep) also seemed to have foot placement problems. People balance using their toes, and it felt like the hooves were placed roughly where the heel of the actor had been, causing them to look completely off balance, and in danger of falling on their face. Perhaps I should withhold judgement till I can watch it again when it comes out on DVD or Bluray, but I was not particularly impressed by what I saw on screen at the theatre.

This all does sound rather negative; I actually enjoyed the movie quite a bit, and the music is great! Hopefully the next one, Voyage of the Dawn Treader (currently filming), can step it up in terms of realism and quality. A new director is at the helm this time, and it’s going to be interesting to see what he brings to the series.

And just in case you were wondering, I removed the horns by… pulling on them. Hard. Next time I really should try something other than super glue!