Jump to content

Creature Suit Analysis - Part 1 - Fur


Recommended Posts

Creature Suits Analysis - Part One The Fur

These notes are part of a series that I offer to the forum simply to help seperate fact from fiction in the ongoing debate of whether the figure in the PG film is a suit worn by a human. The same analysis can, of course, be applied to other sightings.

Comments, criticisms and questions are welcomed.

Bill Munns

Everything starts with the fur, and the generalization that what's available today wasn't available in 1967 is true, but perhaps under-appreciated. I've never seen anyone breakdown exactly what kinds of fur and hair were around in 1967, and how they might be used for a suit. So I think the right place to start is to set up a fur/hair analysis.

Forget anything about NFT's stretch-based spandix weave furcloth (the industry standard now), because they didn't get is well developed until the early 80's.

In 1967, here's what you had to choose from:

A. Real fur, like the bear skins used on the 1976 Kong Suit A "Maybe", in terms of being used for Patty. Price: a few hunderd per good pelt or bear skin rug, and you'd need 4-6 to make a full suit (with color matches and getting hair lay correct from piece to piece).

B. High grade artificial fur, used in the garment industry for fake fur coats A "Maybe" Price: Usually $15-$20 a foot on 60" wide bolts of cloth. Need at least 10' for a suit, maybe 12' . Problem is most fabric shops usually stocked the lower grades in terms of quality, and the really good "fur coat" industry type furs (with guard and base fur components) were generally wholesale only to manufacturers of the coats, sold by the bolt or roll, and sometimes needed special order from Europe. I had a lot of trouble finding really good fur types back then, even from the biggest fabric shops serving the studios in Hollywood. So, while it was easy to get fake looking stuff, it was very hard to find highly realistic versions. And we didn't have the internet to do global or even national business searches for furcloth manufacturers. Back then, all we had a fat book called "the yellow Pages".

C. "Fun Fur", a truly wretched material "No way" for Patty

D. Crepe Wool, good for beards, torturous to apply on a full suit, and the amount of glue needed both glistens in a messy way and stiffens the suit horribly. "No way"

E. Yak hair - pricy and hard to get, and you still gotta glue it on, not good for the density seen on film. "Not likely"

F. Human hair - real pricy, and same as above, if you glue it.

G. Hand tied ( or ventilated, as the process is often described) human, yak, or synthetic hair - Saves the glue, but just a toupee costs a few hundred bucks and up. Multiply that by a hundred or two, to cover a body. To do a "Patty" suit, Josephine Turner (the grand dame of wigmakers) could have paid off the mortgage on her house from that job alone, if you hired her. She was the "go to" wigmaker for any serious veltilated lace custom hair work (as Rick Baker did for the Sidney suit in "Incredible Shrinking Woman"). Doubt if Patterson could afford her.

H. Wefted hair sewn into a suit - Only good for shaggy fur designs, with hair more than 6". Costly too. Forget it if you want short dense Patty fur.

Realistically what's on film, if it's a suit, is either some real fur pelts or the high grade artificial fur. Nothing else gives you the consistant density shown.

Now comes the bitter pill to swallow: Those two options are solid backed. They don't stretch. So forget about even trying to design a moving muscular padding under them. It won't move. It won't bulge, and it won't do anything but hold the suit fur in the form it was tailored to take. And short, dense hair laying relatively flat and smooth will bend and buckle exactly like stiff cloth, because it has no potential for compression or elongation.

It is in fact so stiff and resistant to twisting or torquing motions that the head mask couldn't usually be secured to the torso section, because if it were, the actor's head couldn't turn much, or would turn inside the mask so the actor can't see out and can't breathe well, because the face mask is still facing forward but he's not. With a detached mask not fully secured to the body suit, you have better head mobility and turning range of motion, but the wardrobe assistant or makeup crew person attending a suit spends time after every film shot brushing and grooming the head/neck fur blend into the torso to try and make them blend smoothly. Real high maintainance.

That's why you almost always see longer shaggy hair on fur suits. It covers the head/neck to torso transition much better, and allows some head movement, turning, etc. The long hair hides a multitude of sins caused by the underlying structure and the suit closures, and thus makes the fabrication process easier and less costly, because there's less precision in tailoring the fur and hiding closures and seams. If Patty's a suit, the fabricator's did not take the "easy way" and just use longer, shaggier hair. They chose the hardest hair medium to look good, move well, and the costliest to build (requiring the most hours from the most skilled people).

An "amateur" could in fact, in 1967, have taken wefted hair from wigs, or just bought the wefted hair in 1/4 pound bundles, and easily sewn the wefts to a pair of long johns, and made a nice fur suit, with a Chewbacca sort of look. But it wouldn't match Patty's shorter, more dense fur. It would have been long and straggly. That's the 'easy way. The shorter the fur, the more critically skillful the tailoring has to be to make flat sheets or furcloth (or real fur on flat tanned hides) drape smoothly over the compound curves of a human body. With hair in the 1" range of hair shaft length, and dense, irregularities (in the joining of two sections) of 1/8th of an inch at the base (where two sections of fur meet and are joined) produce noticeable irregularities in the surface look.

I've made a silverback gorilla full body (shown in my "visual resume" attached to my introduction post) that's pretty close to perfect, and used standard solid-backed furcloth for the back and rear legs, and the precision of the tailoring of the fur sections to get a flawless blend of the many curved fur segments was challenging even for me. And frankly, it's a static figure. It won't move and it would look horrible if the fur were mounted on a moving body or robot and tried to move.

FUR TRANSITIONS

Fur Transitions - Here's another aspect of fur suit fabrication often lost to the amateur mind. No real furred creature has the same kind of fur across it's entire body. The fur varies in density, length, color, and somewhere trickles off to bare skin. These are the transitional aspects of hair that drive every suit maker to distraction trying to perfect. Now, modern NFT custom fur can actually be woven with specified transitions of hair quality in the weave, but once again, they weren't doing it in 1967.

You had the fur/hair options I already mentioned, and transitioning one into another was always one of the hardest parts of the suit.

Say, for example, you go with bearskins or quality fake fur for the torso. And it's thick. You can't put that same type of hair on the neck or you'd lose the neck entirely. If you add an inch of bulk to the torso, is seems small. If you add the same inch of bulk to the neck, it fattens it way too much. If you shave or trim the fur to be shorter, you lose the natural variety of hair length allowing the hair to thin as it extends outward. It looks different. And you get closer to the base fur, which is a different color than the outer guard hairs, so cutting the guard hairs shorter allows the base fur to show more, and you get a color change you don't want. (Just to note, the high quality artificial furs do have both base fur and guard hairs of different colors and fiber textures to look more real).

Transitioning hair length from long/ thick to shorter/ thick generally looks bad except in the hands of a real true master of haircutting. No amateur will pull it off.

Transitioning hair from thick to thin usually requires you to switch mediums, from say furcloth to hand-laid crepe wool or human hair, or hair punched into a latex skin. Making one hair medium, like synthetic fibers in fur cloth match the color, texture, and light reactive properties of another hair medium, like anything natural like crepe wool, human hair or yak hair, is a lot harder than you may think, because you work under floresent shop lights usually, and them when you get your work in sunlight, discrepencies of color or texture suddenly become glaringly obvious. So using any transition of one hair medium to another in a suit requires you to test the blend of hair types under the lighting it will be eventually seen in, to check that your hair colors balance. You'd be amazed how a strong backlight or strong singular light source glare can react to hair, and synthetic reacts one way while real fur, hair, wool, etc. reacts another way.

Any good suit, replicating a real living mammal, must have these transitions and almost any hair material readily available to use for a suit is consistant overall in color, density, texture, length, and proportion of base and guard hair. So the real skill that seperates the proverbial men from the boys, the professional from the amateurs, is in the mastery of transitions from one hair type to another, changing the color, density, length, or texture, or any combination of those attributes.

I'm hoping to see some of the highest resolution prints from the PG film one day, to better appraise the transitions, but let me just say if you've got breasts you can clearly see the skin contour of, and fur as dense as that on the back and leg, you've got some serious hair transition work if you're the suitmaker. And for the bulk of the body, that's a real small neck, so there seems to be some transitional length and density between the fur on the torso and the fur on the neck. Better get somebody real talented and pay him well if you want to fabricate this.

REWORKING AN OLD SUIT

I do recall something on the various threads I read about possibly Patterson got an old suit and "re-worked" it. Well, if it's a fur suit, "re-working" generally means hair replacement and matching. And matching artificial fur of any high quality is so frustrating, just trying to find the same source hair, that most people would rather just scrap the old and build anew. If you gave me an old suit and said "match this hair/fur and change this section here", I'd probably pass on the job because finding the exact fur match would have been so much headache. Unless you want to just patch it with any old fur and rub black shoe polish into the entire suit, finding the same fur to patch somebody else's suit isn't easy, even for a pro.

WHERE ARE THE SEAMS

I read in a post by Chris Walas that he described a suit structured with a "pants" section, and then a "shirt" section. I did that with Swamp Thing (both suits), but they were foam latex. For fur suits, everything I've ever done was a one piece jumpsuit, zipper up the back, plus headpiece, gloves, and boots.

I've done form-fitting suits patterned directly from actor's bodies (no padding) and extensively padded suits to significantly re-arrange the apparent muscle mass (making a chimpanzee into a mature male gorilla, for example).

But you need to consider two types of seams. There are "closure seams" where the zippers, velcro, snaps and hook/eye devices close the suit around the person wearing it, and there are "tailoring seams", which are the seams where cloth parts are joined, sewn, glued or otherwise permanently attached.

As a general rule, stretch fur cloth of today allows you to use far less tailoring seams, but that wasn't around in 1967. Non-stretch fur cloth and real fur pelts of the time required far more tailoring seams. Watch the opening of "The Tailor of Panama" and see Geoffrey Rush lay out a man's suit jacket from flat cloth, and you'll get a good idea of the complexity of tailoring a flat material into a curved form, and that's for a suit where it's allowed for you to see the finished seams. So the complexity you see there is even more sophisticated when tailoring material fur to look seamless.

And the more rigid the material base, and the more varied the compound curves of the end result multiplies the complexity of the job even more.

With stiff-backed furcloth, you need to use multiple smalled contoured sections around any compound curvature of the body, meaning lots of darts, wedges, and tailoring seams. The challenge humbles the best of us, when rigid furcloth (or real fur on a tanned hide) is used.

Additionally, how well the tailoring seams blend again is dependent on hair length, the longer hair being forgiving and the shorter, dense hair being ruthlessly unforgiving. Sewing two edges of rigid furcloth actually doesn't give a smooth join in general, so a cloth "gusset" or joiner is glued to the underside of both joined sections, allowing them to butt up against each other, and allow the fur "lay" to consistantly shingle from one to the next. But that added gusset of glued cloth also stiffens the seamed area even more that the fur cloth was alone, making it not only impossible to stretch or compress smoothly, but even interfering with the fur's ability to bend. So it makes a beautiful smooth seam, if the fur cloth doesn't move. It gets pretty ugly if the fur cloth does move.

One note of interest is that John Chambers is often quoted as saying, when first shown the footage, that he couldn't do it as well (or words to that effect). First, I can't vouch for the quote being real, but I did meet John in the 70's and he seemed to be a man of integrity and humility, the opposite of Bud Westmore who loved to take credit for all his staff's work, and inflate his importance.

So while I don't know if John actually said such, I believe he did because it's true. If Patty's a suit, you must consider that of all the hair technologies of the time, creating short dense fur on a realistic animal or human anatomy, and having it move like furred skin instead of rigid furcloth, was by far the hardest challenge any suit maker could be given. Longer shaggy hair was always easier, more forgiving of hiding seams and the shaggy hair was reactive to gravity in a way that gave some sense of reality to the motion.

If the suit designer has any imput in the design, he's more likely to suggest or use longer, shaggier fur materials simply because they offer a higher probability of success in producing a full furred body that you can't see any seams on, and the designer does want to show a success, not a failure. And there weren't any real R&D budgets then, not like today. So what I'd say to any director or producer who wanted a real dense and short hair (like, say, the silverback section of a real lowland gorilla), "if we go with the real short fur, it'll cost more to make, we may need to make several versions of the suit with closure seams in different places (like the Gort robot suit in Day the Earth Stood Still, where they had two suits, one with the foam seams in the back, and one with the foam seams in the front, so he could be filmed coming or going, but not both in one shot.). And the motions of the mime may be restricted by the buckling of the fur in unnatural ways. If we go with a longer, shaggier fur, you won't have those problems." Suffice to say, any time you give the producer and director those options, they always go with the shaggy fur. So would John Chambers in that era, so whatever he made would look great. So would any respectable creature guy putting his name and reputation on the suit.

So if Patty's short dense fur is the very worst type to try and make a great suit with, the hardest to succeed in doing, and there's no precise anatomical stipulation of how long bigfoot's hair is, anybody trying to fake it would likely op for the easier way, longer, shaggy fur. And that's probably why John said it was beyond what he could do. He knew how maddeningly hard it is just to shape rigid-backed short dense fur into a smooth curved natural form, much less put that on a walking human mime.

Some of you have apparently done a lot of research on suits from old films and even Hollywood archives. Has anybody seen pictures of a suit with short dense fur like Patty's? If so, I'd love to see it. If not, it's likely because it's so hard to do, it's a near guaranteed recipe for failure.

And that would be one of the strongest arguments Patty isn't a suit. If you can't find a Hollywood suit of the time or earlier, where the fur was very short and dense as on Patty's back, form-fitting a apelike, humanoid, or even bear-like anatomy, then it speaks volumes for the fact of how hard it is, and maybe it simply couldn't be done.

More to Come (and soon to be posted):

Creature Suits Analysis - Part Two The Muscle Padding

Creature Suits Analysis - Part Three The Mime inside

Creature Suits Analysis - Part Four Rebuilding Patty

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
Incorrigible1

Bill, your expertise and experience provides an entirely new level of revelation, regarding the possibility "Patty" could be a man in a suit. Thank you!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Crowlogic

The Patterson Gimlin film the only thing that keeps me considering the reality of Sasquatch. I'm impressed with the information you are sharing with this forum.

Thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest nightscream

It has always been my feeling just from the naked eye that there is no way in my mind that Roger could have had someone create a suit like this in 1967. Wonderful to hear opinion from someone who knows.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest RedRatSnake

Hi

My son has this bear suit if i remember right it is from the late 50's, he bought it off Ebay to use in some films for school, take a look and see what you think, there are no zippers or seams really, it fits on like a jump suit, the fur has not been combed and is a little dirty, just thought it would be good to show it on this post, the close up shots are from three different places

Peace

Tim

Link to post
Share on other sites
bipedalist
BFF Patron

When are you going to publish this in scientific american Bill? :blowkiss:

Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, the length of the hair on Patty - never even crossed my mind as an obstacle for making this a suit that was believable. Seems to make sense though. One suit that is brought up often here - is one that was used on a taping of (I believe) the Andy Griffith Show, and I think that was made by Mr. Chambers - and your right, it is a longer hair type suit..

Question, comments are made about the patty suit being created using horse hide.. Your thoughts please. And, do you have any thoughts on the way the sunlight hit on the fur of Patty? Does that in anyway lend to the credibility or take away? Is that something that is or was easily duplicated with man made type furs at that time?

You have given me much to consider and think about. I appreciate the time you have taken to lay this out so well. Its truly an education thus far. :blowkiss:

Link to post
Share on other sites
bipedalist
BFF Patron

Looks like a cross between palm tree fronds, shag carpeting, hemp, Joe Biden's hair transplant and a burlap sack,

but hey if it works and doesn't have a can opener hanging from the waist....go for it? :blowkiss:

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest mike2k1

Thank you for postin Bill, but sense this is a discussion of Patty it would do better in the proper forum. I am moving this to the Patterson film forum.

Mike

Link to post
Share on other sites
bipedalist
BFF Patron

Thanks Mike, I'll try to keep it to the serious side,

got a little out there on that last one. The bear suit

should work well in the school play RRS for sure,

cute muzzle to the Bruin too!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Flashman, Husker1911, Crow Logic, plaidlemur, nightscream,

Thank you all.

redratsnake: The photos look to me like a normal artificial fur suit, tailored like a human pants and long sleave shirt, pretty much the normal process for a costume fur suit.

bipedalist: The science magazines like people who have phd. or the like after the name when they accept something for publication, and I just have my diploma from the school of hard knocks.

Melissa:

I once bought a fur bedspread at a garage sale and I was told it was "icelandic horsehair" and I believed it was for many years. But may have been "icelandic sheepskin" instead. Never found out for sure which. I did use parts of it for the forearms of the big silverback gorilla seen in my "visual resume" attached to my introduction post. As far as suits go, any horse or sheep pelt would generally fall into the same category as bearskins, a real fur hide, and all the tailoring rules would still apply

As for analysing the PG film, I haven't seen the best quality enhanced version yet, so I can't comment difinitively on how the hair interacts with the sunlight.

Mike: I wasn't sure about which forum to post this. Obviously, I'll respect whereever you think it belongs.

Bill

Link to post
Share on other sites
bipedalist
BFF Patron

Bill, one thing in examining the quality digital images I've seen is a mysterious looking fold of skin

near the beltline on the upper back right hip that looks like it could be strange, ?maybe could be the

crease of an outfit bunched up on the hip, thats the only thing I can see besides the patchy hair and

fat deposition/distribution on the

gluteus maximus that is questionable IMHO

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • gigantor unpinned this topic
×
×
  • Create New...