Building the rest of Billy

Once I was reasonably certain the armature and mouth mechanism was going to work I started building up the rest of the Billy puppet. This started with filling out the head with a 3d printed skull, then covering in fur.

Finding the right fur was a challenge and what i ended up with wasn’t ideal. I wanted something with a reasonable amount of stretch, It’s hard to find fur in the UK that will stretch in 2 directions, especially on a budget, so I ended up with a quite rigid fur material. This did limit the movement on Billy’s eyes a bit more than I’d hoped (you’ll notice he doesn’t blink much) but hopefully I’ll get away with it.

I knew from the start that there would be a good amount of ‘boil’ on the fur from me handling him for animation, I think this is part of the charm of stop motion so made no real effort to hide it. Perhaps in the future it’s something i’d like to reduce, but wasn’t a concern for this project.

 

Sewing the fur together was a real challenge, I have very little sewing experience, or ability and was thankful for the fact the thick fur covered badly sewn seems quite well. I used aluminium foil over the head to get the basic form then flattened it out and cut slits to make a basic pattern. This I transferred to paper and then to the fur.

The fur is attached to the head at the eyes and lips. The rest is left loose to help movement. Once I’d got the fur all around the head I gave it a trim to bring his face out again.

The rest of the body was done in a similar way. covered in blocks of low density foam that was carved into the basic body shape then covered in fur and sewn together.

The eyes, nose and claws are the only 3d printed parts on Billy that are on show. These are all finished to different levels of detail. The eyes were sanded back to remove all of the build lines, then spayed with a filler primer, sanded again then sprayed with a gloss enamel paint. The claws were just sanded back to remove most of the build lines and the nose was sanded then painted with acrylic paints to give more colour variation.

The tie was made from a scaled down net I stole from the internet for an actual tie. The flamingo material I stole from my girlfriend’s material collection. I thought it would really help give Billy that retro detective vibe.

That was Billy pretty much complete. And if you’r wondering why he looks nothing like he does in the film, it’s because I decided I wasn’t happy with the shape of his face so rebuilt the head from scratch.

James is the writer/director of Billy Whiskers, scribbling haphazardly on this website to document and share the experiences of making a stop motion animation.

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