The vulture is a minor character in my film, adding to the sense of peril for Walter as he treks across the desert, and also adding some comic relief by virtue of his almost unnatural predatory stare! Though the vulture is seen flying in my film, I intend to add this as a 2D animation due to time restrictions, which will be added in postproduction. There always exists the potential to animate a puppet later on, and composite this atop the previous animated footage.
For the two main scenes where he features, the vulture simply tracks Walter as he walks along (off screen), his head panning across from right to left (and vice versa as Walter returns home). The model, as per my designs, consists of a solid sculpt for the head and body, painted by hand, with a wire/foam/latex neck blended seamlessly between them, enabling his head to be moved.
The solid sculpt components were created with air drying clay- though I have expressed my preference previously for sculpting with Super Sculpey, I knew that the vulture would have thin legs, and be sitting stop a thin branch. It was imperative therefore that he was as light as possible, and the air-drying clay I use has an excellent strength to weight ratio.
As with Walter, to avoid having to create the head in multiple parts, I sculpted the beads for the vulture’s eyes into his head.
The body was sculpted with a recess allowing the neck to be inserted and glued into place. I created a makeshift tool with plasticard to press a feather pattern into the vulture’s body for added detail.
For the tree, I was fortunate to find a stick the perfect size! I trimmed off the bark and allowed it to dry out in the sun to achieve the dry weathered appearance I desired. The branch on which the vulture sits was actually added separately, pinned/glued in place with the join smoothened over with Milliput.
Since I would be holding the vulture’s body to support him when animating his head, I needed his legs to be sturdy, so not to snap off. I recognised them as a weak spot, thus decided to create them with Milliput around a wire core- held in place with strong epoxy putty. I wasn’t taking any chances with this! I made sure to leave a little exposed wire on the legs to plug into the body.
The components were painted individually enabling me to reach into the difficult spaces. The feathers were given several soft highlights to emphasise the detail and give the bird a more natural fluffy and feathery appearance. Lighter colours appear less reflective, and so adding highlights, coupled with a fine drybrush, helped to reduce shine. You can see above that the branch Milliput has been painted to blend with the main ‘trunk’.
The neck consists of twisted wire, glued firmly into square K&S tube segments. These help attach the head and body by providing a bigger surface to glue. The neck was padded with cushion foam, before I applied several layers of liquid latex (coloured using the same paint as used for the vulture’s head).
With the vulture complete, I was ready to animate his scenes. I clamped the base to the set surface to ensure it wouldn’t move whilst animating. I am pleased to say that the puppet was nice to animate, and worked exactly as I had hoped. The latex on his neck did crease eventually from holding a bent position, though this was expected. The puppet lasted as long as it needed to for my film, and is still in a perfectly good condition to show off at my graduate show!