Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pinocchio's nose- Part 1

I'm working on a production of Pinocchio and have been challenged with making a magical nose that can grow and shrink on demand. It had to be operated by the actor, and there's nowhere to hide any tricks because the theatre is in the round. The director also mentioned several times that she didn't want too big a mechanism on the actor's face (apparently the last time they did the show the rig that they had on the nose was so large that it distracted from the actor's face)
I decided pretty early that I wanted the nose to telescope like a miniature version of those old cheap plastic collapsible sword/light saber toys. The trick was to find a way to control the telescoping action. I did a lot of research into pneumatic and motor options until my roommate Adam gave me the perfect answer, cable.   The system works very similar to bike hand breaks. The wire can push and pull around corners and being a mechanical solution isn't subject to the same types of problems as motors or pneumatics.
This prototype is made of posterboard with masking tape to hold it to the face. I used picture wire attached to the tip piece of the nose, run through the nose, across the face (which will be partially covered by a mask), over the ear and down through the actor's costume to his pocket where he will be able to push and pull the wire to extend and retract the nose. 
The challenge right now is to find the correct material to build the nose from. I need something light, thin, as seamless as possible, and fairly smooth so that the pieces will slide easily. Right now I think I'm going to try sculpting a nose out of clay and then using that as a base to create my hollow cone out of paper mache. I'd love your advice though. Do you know of any products that might achieve a better result? I'm particularly concerned about something that will hold up over a long run.

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