How To Build Your Dragon

   by Alejandro Angeles for Build A Dream (2014)

The construction of the dragon started out with the head using the plastic egg for the shape and sculpting some horns using the modeling clay. Templates for the horns were created using the cardboard box, and once they were cut and glued together, the horns were glued onto the plastic egg and coated with plaster from the plaster cloth wrap. Once the plaster dried, it was sanded smooth to integrate the horns with the head. A portion of the egg was cut out to create the mouth, and using the aluminum wire spool, a lever was created to allow the mouth to open and close. The body was created using the majority of the wooden mannequin body parts. The mannequin was disassembled and the arms and legs were transformed into a new turbine and part of the dragon’s body. The mannequin springs were set aside to later be used for connecting and tensioning parts of the dragon’s arms, legs, head, neck, and tail. The spine was created by cutting the square basswood and threading some aluminum wire thru the smaller pieces of wood. The “engine” of the dragon was formed by cutting some wire mesh and shaping dowels for the fuel tanks and various other pieces such as a small yellow oil filter. To add detail to the engine, bent pieces of wire spool were used to act as fuel lines for the engine, which were later painted in yellow and black with some green lines. The wings were built by re-assembling the arms of the mannequin to create the supporting wing structure and then using the canvas cloth for the rest of the wings. Cardboard strips were also used to create the form, and reinforcements were added for rigidity and structural integrity. The tail was mainly built from the cardboard box and reinforced with more pieces from the box. A long aluminum wire was then threaded through each section of the tail spaced evenly with enough space to be able to pose the tail as needed. The arms and legs of the dragon were created using different pieces of the mannequin and aluminum rod that was provided. The aluminum rod was cut and attached by using the wire as a connection dowel. The feet were shaped from the square dowel and connected to the aluminum rod piece creating the arms. The back legs were constructed from the small square dowels and cut to fit together. To be able to move the legs, aluminum wire spool was cut and slotted into different parts of the leg to join and create an articulated leg. Having the mannequin and all the associated springs made it possible to build a dragon that would be able to be posed and moved to create a stop motion animation film.
One of the final pieces needed was the rider and creator of the dragon. Using the small and large square dowels, his head, body, arms and legs were carved out and joined with pieces of wire spool. Because the rider was much smaller than the dragon, attention to detail was needed to get the right proportions and to be able to manipulate his hands, legs and head. The rider’s goggles were made by flattening some wire spool pieces and then forming them into circles and joining them with a string from the canvas cloth. His skull cap was created by cutting small pieces of the canvas cloth and fitting it on his head. Finally, the set was created using the hampered hardboard for the base and cut pieces of the mannequin box for the laboratory equipment and details. The packing peanuts were used for tubes connecting the laboratory machines, and also for the clouds in the flying scenes. After hammering away at the aluminum wire spool to accent the arms, legs, and tail, the dragon was painted, and decals using the piece of paper provided were applied around the body of the dragon. The set was painted using various metallic paints to give it an old rusted patina look. And so, the construction was complete, and the production of the stop motion animation film started.

I wanted the inspiration for this project to be something universal, something every person could relate to when they were a child, when they used their imagination. While looking up at the clouds, a child might imagine how everything looks from up high in the sky, he/she might wonder about discovering a way to fly with the birds and about creating something that could come to life to take him/her there someday. The story told in the video of the creator and dragon rider reminds me of my imagination as a child and my passion for building things. I wanted my character to tell the story of a boy who has a dream and a creative idea and who works hard to make it possible.