DINOSAURS AT THE ZOO!
When we found out the Chiodo Bros. were building “Lily,” a full-size walk-around Parasaurolophus puppet for the Santa Barbara Zoo, we immediately approached them about doing a spotlight feature. We believe there’s a huge future for character creators in live entertainment, and our mission is to encourage this trend by shining a light on the coolest stuff happening out there.
Pictured above: Stephen, Ed & Charlie Chiodo with their dinosaurs.
MEET THE CHIODO BROS.
ED CHIODO: You may know us from some of our special effects work from CRITTERS, ELF, KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS and TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE.
CHARLIE CHIODO: All of that.
STEPHEN CHIODO: What’s cool is in addition to doing stop motion, makeup effects and animatronics puppets, we're also building live attractions at the Santa Barbara Zoo. And it's really great to see our creatures come alive and actually interact with an audience.
Pictured above: The Chiodo Bros. creations on display in their conference room.
CREATING A DINOSAUR WITH CHARACTER
ED: The Zoo came to us and asked us was it possible to make a dinosaur character that can interact with kids. We said, “Absolutely.” Because they bring out live animals all the time, but they don’t do what you want to do when you want them to do it, so what could we do? Basically create a character, a puppet, a large puppet.
Pictured above: Charlie Chiodo's design for Lily the Parasaurolophus.
A GIANT PUPPET
CHARLIE: What's interesting, it's actually a giant puppet; a guy in a suit... a six foot, seven foot tall creature; we've seen all that. This is a 10 foot tall creature. She’s almost 20 feet long. They're giant puppets and they come to life with mechanical articulation and eye blinks and stuff. We even have a voice box that actually makes a human voice sound like a dinosaur growl.
Pictured above: Stephen Chiodo puppeteers Lily as Charlie and Ed explain how she works.
ED: It's all built around a lightweight harness, aluminum understructure, foam construction, muscle structure with a pretty sophisticated skin put over it.
STEPHEN: We worked with our project supervisor, DBH [David Barrington-Holt], and we've designed this perfectly balanced dinosaur. The performer [is] inside, although you see his visible legs. The creature is balanced right on the guy’s [hips] … between the tail and the head.
Pictured above: Lily can crane her neck up & down, turn her had left & right, and even rotate it.
10 FEET TALL, 20 FEET LONG AND ONLY 75 POUNDS
CHARLIE: 75 pounds is a good weight. We’re trying to improve that. If we can get down to 50, that’s great; a 50 pound backpack is a basic backpack if you're going hiking or something like that. 75 is a little sturdy, but it seems Stephen’s able to manipulate it very well.
ED: [The performer wears] a backpack assembly over his shoulders and on his hips that supports the entire structure, and then there's a mechanism inside the cockpit that allows him to do all the head movement; crane the neck up and down, move the head left and right, it can rotate.
STEPHEN: It's pretty light. DBH [David Barrington-Holt] did a great job in designing a really elegant interior. Like a Piper Cub cockpit. And it's very easy to operate. A lot of college kids, maybe high school seniors will be operating it at the Zoo, so it's gotta be really easy.
Pictured above: Though 10 feet tall and 20 feet long, Lily only weighs 75 pounds!
A DURABLE DINOSAUR
CHARLIE: If [Lily] were a motion picture effect we would use foam latex or some other short term material, but this is a character that performs four or five times a day, seven days a week for years, so we needed to develop something that would last and be lightweight, so we developed a special silicone spandex solution that creates a very flexible, lifelike, not only looking, but tactile; it actually feels like a real skin texture.
Pictured above: The Chiodo Bros. fabrication team sews together Lily's special silicone/spandex skin.
STEPHEN: And it's very durable. I think we have Duncan [the T-Rex] working for almost three years now [at the Santa Barbara Zoo). It hasn’t faded. It hasn’t ripped or torn. It's a very, very versatile and durable fabric.
ED: Like Charlie said, it's colorfast and UV protected so it doesn’t fade. Duncan looks like the day he walked out of the shop.
Pictured above: The Chiodo Bros. T-rex "Duncan" at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
BRINGING MAGIC TO THE ZOO
ED: Yeah, for the Zoo, it's able to bring people in to get that one-on-one experience that they're not getting other places. The Zoo, again, is a little safe haven for this interactive experience.
CHARLIE: Magic has always been in the movies. Now we’re bringing the magic to the live venues. And the magic I think is the key word. It's what people want to see.
STEPHEN: Yeah and the magic comes from, you’ve got a real elephant, you’ve got a real lion, real alligator, now you’ve got a dinosaur. Well, because of its association with the rest of the Zoo, it's just as real; so that’s magic.
Pictured above: David Barrington-Holt (aka DBH) feeds Lily before her trip to Santa Barbara.
CHARLIE: What was great about the Santa Barbara Zoo, their Director of Marketing Dean Noble and CEO Rich Block, they get it. They came to us with an idea that was exactly in line with what we should be doing, bringing it to live audiences. And we're pleased and thankful to the Santa Barbara Zoo and Dean and all his supervisors and the people involved with the Zoo for giving us this opportunity to do this.
STEPHEN: Hey, we’re the Chiodo Bros. and I'm glad you guys had a chance to take a sneak peak at our Lily from Santa Barbara Zoo.
ED: And make sure you get out to the Santa Barbara Zoo to see our dinosaurs.
CHARLIE: Yeah, there's always something cooking at Santa Barbara Zoo. Don’t miss it.
FOR MORE ON THE CHIODO BROS. & SANTA BARBARA ZOO:
Chiodo Bros. Website
Chiodo Bros. on YouTube
Santa Barbara Zoo Website
Santa Barbara Zoo on YouTube