Drury Lane Theatre came to us asking for a commercial to promote their production of Little Shop of Horrors, and being the Little Shop of Horrors we wanted to do it with a puppet!
Before creating the puppet and the stage in their physical form, we decided to build them in the computer. The thought behind this was that it would help us to plan the actual shoot a little better.
So, after building the puppet and stage in the computer, we took to physically constructing it. The main elements for the structure of the stage were built out of drywall and wood.
A cool hack we came up with for the walls was using scrapbook paper with a really small pattern on it. We then rolled it with a decoupage medium and stuck it straight onto the drywall just like real wallpaper! One other element we built to give the walls more texture used tongue depressors to look like shiplap. Building a set design on a small scale sometimes means you have to get creative!
Creating the floor definitely took some time and effort. We needed a black and white checkered pattern for the floors, and you wouldn’t think that creating a floor could be so difficult, but three tries later might tell you differently! Our first attempt at this we used a paper that was pre-checkered that was stuck on the floors with the decoupage medium, which looked ok, but when it dried it curled up at the edges. We tried to flatten it and reapply onto some Masonite, but it just wasn’t working. So, after those two attempts, next we tried to use colored tape to create the pattern. The Masonite was completely covered in white masking tape and then rows of black masking tape were applied, and two inch squares were cut out. What was nice about this is that we only had to lay down black tape every other row because we would use the two inch square we had just cut out of the previous row for the next. While this wasn’t the most time efficient way to get the desired look, as Sean puts it, “anything tedious is worthwhile”!
For all of our doorways and windows we used a jigsaw to cut out our desired shapes. Once those were in place we added trim and crown molding to make the space really look like an interior room.
For our shining star and hero, Audrey II, we wanted to create it as a puppet! Any kind of incarnation of Little Shop of Horrors has always had Audrey as a puppet. Therefore, we thought it would be strange if all of a sudden Audrey was a 3D model that we animated.
We modeled each of the halves of Audrey’s head out of clay and then used paper mache on top of that.
The teeth were modeled out of sculpey, baked and then hot glued into Audrey’s mouth.
We then took a gardening glove attached to a tight sock and hot glued that to the two halves of Audrey’s head, so that we could get the movement needed for the puppet.
In the corner of the stage there was a whole cut out so that the Audrey puppet and arm could fit through and seem like a seamless part of the design. This also allowed the puppeteer to sit underneath the stage so that they were unseen.
While the puppeteer was under the stage, they were able to look at a screen of the set so that they could tell what was happening when they were moving the puppet around.
For final touches on the set, we added in some flower pots and over grown greenery pieces to make the interior look like the inside of a flower shop, since that is where most of Little Shop of Horrors takes place, and is Audrey II’s home. For the vines that act almost like Audrey II’s arms, we used fishing line to pull things forward and then did some fancy tricks like run it backwards and post.
The last thing we needed to worry about before filming was the lighting! We knew that lighting was going to be a challenge and that we wanted to set the shoot at night time, but we still wanted a lot of color. So, we brought in colors as if there was a neon sign outside and some street light coming in.
This gave the set a sketchy night time feel, which was perfect for the spook factor. We added in a little dry ice to amp up the creepiness.
We shot everything in slow motion to give it a sense of scale, but ultimately that proved to be pretty challenging because we had to puppet three times faster knowing that it was going to be slowed down later.
So, this was basically the process for making the Little Shop of Horrors commercial. We had a lot of fun making puppets and miniature sets! Check out the full behind the scenes video and the final commercial!