Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Darkride Show Scene Simulation Experiment

About a year I had an idea to create a working miniature of some of Bill Tracy's classic darkride gags.  If you don't know who Bill Tracy is, well he's "the greatest designer and builder of dark attractions the amusement industry has ever seen." I got that quote from the home page of The Bill Tracy Project were you can learn more about Bill Tracy's career if you wish too. 

Anyway I toyed with this idea, and then dropped it.  I didn't think anything new would be learned about Tracy's legacy.  And frankly, I didn't know where to start, or what I'd do with what I created when finished.
I mean, how big will this thing be, and where would I store it.  I've got enough clutter in the basement.

Then I had the idea of creating my own original darkride scene.  Obviously the appeal of this is doing something I designed, and not aping someones existing work.

I gave this some thought.  Sketched a few ideas.  Then I wondered how to do it, how much it would cost, and again, what to do with what I created when finished. 

There would certainly be a steep learning curve. I've never built anything like this before. The mechanics of getting my scene to work would take some serious R&D, and building miniature the sets and figures would take time with plenty of trial and error.  I eventually procrastinated long enough that I basically lost interest in doing it at all.

Wrapping up long winded intro, I finally came up with the idea to do something quickly, and on the cheap.  This "spooky darkride show scene simulation experiment" (it just rolls off the tongue) was built pretty much entirely with stuff I had in the house, and was constructed in about 8 hours total spread out over a few days.

Hopefully this looks like it came out of a small amusement park's haunted house...

Postmortem: Behind the Scenes...

The only real pre-planning I did for this scene was drawing one sketch for the Frankenstein Monster.

I liked the idea of doing a Son of Frankenstein costume mixed with a I Was a Teenage Frankenstein look.  I manged to get the Teenage Frankenstein, but didn't have the sewing skills or the fabric for a Son of Frankenstein costume.  I settled on the bandages look because that was something easily doable.    

I sculpted the head out some old air dry clay I bought years ago.  The clay had become pretty dry, and hard to work with but I managed.  I had some sculpting tools from a high school ceramics class that I wanted to use, but unfortunately I couldn't find them.  I ended up using toothpicks and my fingers to sculpt with.

The body is made of scrap wood, wire and duct tape.  If you notice I remade the legs. The originals were way too small. 

Once dry I gave the face a black base coat.  I thought the green florescent paint would really pop on the black, but the florescent spray paint was old and wasn't very opaque. 

I did spend about $13 on fluorescent paint.  I thought I was smart when I found this Puffy Paint Neon 12 Pack...

... but I didn't look very closely and notice that "& Bright" under the "Neon."  Only 5 of the 12 colors fluoresced under black light, and I had to pick up a separate bottle of blue florescent paint. Later, I saw this company makes a glow-in-the-dark color 12 pack that I really wish I had used instead.  I'm sure that set could have worked a lot better.

Also if anyone else reading this ever thought about using "Puffy Paint" like regular paint, well, it kinda works.  As you can see above the paint is streaky and isn't very opaque when brushed around.

Now with the "work lights" on...

Show Lights On

Work Lights On
You can see how extra crappy everything looks with regular lights on. The black light hides many, many sins, and for that I'm very, very grateful.  


The lab machine are various food boxes I raided from my pantry.  I spray painted them white, glued on some plastic junk, and then dry brushed them with the florescent paint.  I was thinking the dry brush technique would make them look like old corroded metal.  Mixed results on that idea.  I put night lights in two of the boxes hoping to achieve a 
LITE-BRITE effect, but I don't think the tiny plastic "lights" I used really show up very well.

Another thing that didn't show up very well was the tree outside the window.  The tree needed its own black light, and the strobe I was using for lightning should be brighter.   

Here's a nice close-up of the Monster...

...and a side-view just for the heck of it.
Now since this thing basically didn't cost anything I can chuck the whole thing in the trash without any remorse.  Well I'll hang on to the Frankenstein Monster for now, but the rest goes.   

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monster Playing Cards

This is the Halloween post I've been most eager to write, and ironically it's something that most people probably won't care about.

To the best of my knowledge this is an Internet exclusive. I don't have the box they came in, and therefore I don't know the correct name of this children's card game. So maybe there is something lurking out there in the dark corners of cyberspace about these cards that I don't know about.

Although I think it's a very safe bet this is the only place to find these cards. I can barely find any information on the "Russell Laff 'N Learn" brand or the defunct manufacturer Russell Manufacturing Company of Leicester, Massachusetts.

Back of Cards

I don't know if this is a full deck, or how to play the game.  I think it's safe to assume you probably had to spell out the word "M-O-N-S-T-E-R"

What I do know these were made in the late 1960's or early 1970's, and the monster graphics are fun and colorful.

Lastly, a couple of wild cards.

Well I hope you liked it.  If anyone reading this knows anything about these cards please leave a comment.  I will greatly appreciate any kind of feedback.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lost In Space No One Can Hear You Scream

Irwin Allen's 1960's TV series Lost in Space doesn't get a lot of respect.  I can understand this.  It can be very silly and juvenile with episodes about space hippies and a carrot man, but it could also sometimes be scary. Well scary to a little kid, and scary in a fun way that wasn't bedtime nightmare material.

For Halloween I thought I'd take a nostalgic look back at a show I'd religiously  watch weekday afternoons on our local UHF channel, and pick my three top scariest Lost in Space episodes...

Season  Three
Space Creature 
Original Air Date: 11/15/1967

Or an alternate title might be called "A Special Trip Into the Power Core" which is a lower level of the Jupiter 2 never shown until now.

Our story starts when blueish fog envelops the Jupiter 2, and one by one the Robinson family start to mysteriously vanish. When I re-watched this episode I was stuck by how completely terrifying this situation would be, but while concerned, Space Family Robinson pretty much take this all in stride. 

At one point a there's a horrible pounding sound as if a giant it trying to smash its way in to the ship.  The sound effects in this sequence sound a lot like the loud supernatural pounding in 1963 haunted house movie The Haunting.

Will makes an attempt to find the missing members of his family by searching the power core.  It's clearly labeled "Danger Radioactive Area," but Will doesn't bother with protective gear.  It's possible his space-age purple velour provides protection against deadly radioactivity.

Will first enters a warehouse space where the Robinson's store the food and other supplies.  Hopefully their food is protected against radiation contamination by those space-age cardboard boxes.

Eventually Will climbs down a ladder to the power core...

Not 3 Wills, but 3 frames stitched together

... and this panoramic shot above clearly shows how spacious the area is.  It's hard to believe the Jupiter 2 was large enough for such a sub level.  It makes me wonder if Lost in Space lasted for another season we might have seen some sort of attic-like level.  Much like Dr. Who's Tardis the Jupiter 2 is larger on the inside.

Anyways when the Robinson's disappear they end up in a kind of foggy limbo, and meet a grey sheet ghost, a.k.a. the Space Creature, and the one responsible for bringing them here.

Here's grey sheet ghost close-up. The ghost speaks in an extra deep voice provided by actor and VO artist Ron Gans.

Back on the ship Dr. Smith is possessed by the Space Creature.  Jonathan Harris gives a great evil performance here, and at one point even strikes Will.

Ultimately Will has a confrontation with the "Ghost" in the power core. Without giving too much away, there's themes from classic Sci-Fi film Forbidden Planet at play here. Will stands down the ghost who takes a tumble into the power core...

... and appropriately explodes in a nice sparkly blast.

The haunted house-like elements, and the vanishing family make this one of the creepiest LIS episodes.

Now for my favorite part of this post.  Through the courtesy of Hulu I'm able to embed the entire episode below...

Season Two
The Astral Traveler 
Original Air Date: 4/12/1967

When caught outside by an unexpected storm, Dr. Smith and Will seek refuge in a nearby cave...

... that just happens to have a dimensional portal which looks like a revolving door accented with Christmas lights.  Naturally, Will walks through the portal without any apprehension.

Will is transported to what appears to be a Scottish castle on Earth.  To this viewer, the castle appears to be stock footage.

Within minutes of arriving a horrible seaweed monster who shrieks like a banshee shambles out of the water towards Will.

Will is stupefied by the sight of this horror.

Will runs away, but the seaweed nightmare give chase.  The shrieking of this creature is non-stop, and really quite chilling.

Will is able to lock himself behind a sturdy castle door.  The creature relentlessly pounds and shrieks on the other side.  I'm sure Will now regrets walking through that revolving door.

Luckily the creature is lured away from the door Will is hiding behind. Will meets a friendly "ghostie" named Hamish, and learns the seaweed creature is his Uncle Angus who can be pacified by playing the bagpipes.

Dr. Smith caught in mid faint.

Later in the episode when Dr. Smith get an eyeful of "Uncle Angus" he promptly faints.  Dr. Smith is a notorious coward, but this is a completely reasonable reaction to the sight of this monstrosity.

Now dare to listen to the terrifying shrieking of Uncle Angus for yourself by watching the episode below....

Season One
Wish Upon A Star
Original Air Date: 11/24/1965

This episode starts with Dr. Smith at odds with most everybody for basically being a jerk.

There's an alien space shipwreck behind all those spooky trees.

Dr.Smith takes a self-imposed exile in hopes to gain sympathy.  Luckily he finds the wreck of an old alien spaceship in the middle of a haunted looking forest.  Well, the haunted forest part isn't so lucky I guess.  I'd be wary of the alien spiders that created all those webs.

Even more lucky is the discovery of an alien "thought machine" that can materialize almost anything user can wish for.

Soon Dr. Smith is living the good life with the help of his wish machine.  The set of the skeletal wrecked spaceship looks like it's made of crumpled aluminum foil and cobwebs.  This is something that would have looked awful in color, but in B&W it looks great.

There is only one flaw with the machine - it can only grant two wishes a day, and this causes problems once Dr. Smith brings the machine back to the Jupiter 2.

Penny and Will get into a tug-of-war with the machine over who gets to use it next. This is were the episode gets bogged down with a lot heavy handed moralizing courtesy of John Robinson. Lighten up John, you have an honest to goodness wish machine here.  Think how useful it would be if someone should ever need life saving medicine.

Anyways Dr. Smith finally crosses the line when he wishes for a personal servant, and the original alien owner appears to take the machine back.  The alien's entrance is great as a creaky door slows opens and he steps out of the shadows.

This alien is scary with a face that looks like a ball of oatmeal, and makes an awful muffled moaning sound.

The alien moves really freaky also.  It has a stiff legged walk, and keeps the palms of his hands facing outwards.  I know this sounds kinda hokey, but it works. It's very classic horror movie monster stuff.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Once again enjoy the full episode of Lost in Space made available by Hulu. The scary alien make its appearance near the end...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Scary Animation Demo

I animated this a few years ago for some guys I've never talked to since.  What exactly it was intended for was always confusing, but I think it was never used.

It's a quick motion comic kinda deal that's a little scary, and fitting for Halloween...

Scary Motion Comic Demo from David Witt on Vimeo.

I was only the animator, and had no other role in this short.  If the creators/owners find this post, and would like the animation taken down just let me know.  As it stands now I'm purely posting this as a demo of my animation skills.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Shining Exposed!

Spoiler alert!  I'm going to reveal the final shot of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).  Avert your eyes, and click away now if you don't want to have the ending of this famous horror film completely ruined.

Consider yourself fairly warned.  Counting down to the big shocking reveal...




Okay that wasn't a very big deal.  Most everyone has seen this.  At least I hope you've seen it - the movie is 32 years old for goodness sake.  Also much better versions of this photo suitable for desktop wallpaper can easily be found around the internets.

But what cannot be easily found is the original untouched 1923 photo.  You know, before Jack Nicholson's head was inserted over some unknown guy.  So here we go ladies and gentlemen, the man who's head was covered by Jack's head is at last finally reveled...

The above images are found on a page from The Complete Airbrush and Photo-Retouching Manual by Peter Owen & John Sutcliffe originally published in 1985.

It's interesting the movie The Shining is never credited for some reason on the above page from the book. 


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