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  • Writer's pictureDominique de Leon

Creating a Guardian

When I first saw Trico in the previews for The Last Guardian, I knew I HAD to recreate this gigantic, adorable creature. I wasn’t happy with the idea of just carrying around a stuffed animal though. The whole point of the video game is to interact and bond with Trico to escape the ruins.

In the year prior, I had meet an artist (Nymbol’s Secret Garden) at the Makers Fair in San Mateo who created puppets. Not the kind of puppets that you would use for a puppet show where the puppet handler is hidden but the puppets that he created were more part of an interactive performance that gave the illusion of the puppets being alive. Inspired by what I saw, I made several sketches of how I could implement this with my own puppet. I decided on having him sit on top of my shoulders with one arm puppeting his neck, head and mouth.

I knew from the beginning that the most challenging part of this build was going to be creating his face. I was not going to be able to create his face out of the usual materials that I work with like eva foam. There were too many curves and details in his face to do that. I was going to have to sculpt and cast his face in resin. The first step was to sculpt his face. I chose to try out Monster Clay and was very happy with the results! It is a wax based sculpting material which was new to me but I found it to have a quick learning curve and had a final sculpt that I was happy with.

Funny side-note, I created a perfect sphere eye with ping pong balls. I picked them up from a local big five on Superbowl Sunday. When checking out the cashier muttered something about beer pong. Taken back I explained that, no, I was actually using them to help sculpt a giant furry puppet from a video game. He looked at me and said “Suuuuuure you are.” I don’t think he believed me.

Even after watching countless YouTube Tutorials on mold making and casting, I was too nervous about wasting money, materials and time to try it on my own. Luckily, I have a wonderful friend, Katie (Feast of Dreams), who is very experienced with mold making who generously offered to help. She suggested fast setting Smooth-On resin and silicone for the mold. With her help, my first mold turned out beautiful! The silicone shell was nice and thick and the two part resin shell separated super easily.

When the sculpt was removed from the mold, pouring the first batch of Smooth-On Onyx resin into the mold was so exciting! After two weekends of work, I was holding a perfect first pull from my first cast ever! Over all the whole experience was great, but it did not come without some drawbacks. Two days later I developed a horrible skin reaction to the casting materials that looked and felt like mild poison oak (SUPER ITCHY). I was not 100% sure that the resin had caused the reaction since it didn’t develop until two days later, so I brushed it off. Unfortunately, I learned that the resin WAS the cause after casting a second Trico face and I got the same skin reaction two days later. I reached out and developing a reaction like I did is very rare but it just goes to show that you should always be cautious when using new materials.

Disclaimer: I was wearing gloves and protective gear while handling the resin. The rash developed on other parts on my skin that were not covered, mostly my arms.

Next I dremeled his lower jaw apart from his head and dremeled his eyes out. I sanded his face where there would not be any fur. I used grey fur that was adhered with hot glue, which actually sticks to the resin very nicely. I had to glue the fur down small section by section to make sure that the fur was adhered to the cast well. The ears were created with eva foam. Once I had the fur glued down I hot glued loose fur to the edges of the material to hide the raw edges. And finally I took a electric hair clippers and shaved his fur down to the desired length.

His horns were hand sculpted with glow in the dark super sculpy. Once they were baked and hardened I took a blue acrylic paint and dry brushed blue onto the horns from the bottom and worked my way up. I didn’t completely cover the sculpy with paint because I wanted to preserve the glow that it gives off. Finally, once that paint dried, I covered the horns with a glossy sculpy glaze. Once the horns were dried they were hot glued into place. I dry brushed acrylic paints onto parts of his face and fur to add more depth of color.

His eyes were very complicated to recreate. In the game his eyes are mostly seen as pure black. But every once in a while, especially in the dark, his eyes are reflective green like a cats. I caste his eyes in green resin and then painted the black around a masked off circle to create that look. To make the eyes extra reflective, I painted the back of them metallic silver.

Trico’s body and neck were very easy to make. Basically, I just made a bunch of eva foam rings to act as a skeleton and glued fur around that. His body was also filled with stuffing and the ends were closed with an eva foam disk. His tail was sewn up with one seam, filled with stuffing and capped with an Eva foam disk.

His legs were a bit more complicated. The base was cut out of eva foam with couch foam glued to the top of that and then shaped by rounding it with scissors. Once I was happy with the leg shape, I wrapped it in more fur with hot glue. His little chicken legs were shaped with tin foil and hot glued to the foam leg. I made his claws using a sculpting material called Magic Sculpt.

Then I created layers of craft foam to cover the tin foil with that looked with scales. Those scales were then glued to the foil using hot glue. Once all four legs were completed, I painted the legs with acrylic paints. I shaved down the fur where the legs would attach to the body and attached them with hot glue.

Trico’s wings were made the same way as the legs, creating an Eva foam base wrapped in fur. I poked holes in the fur and hot glued two different length feathers into the foam base. Then the areas where the wings would be glued to the body were shaved and the wings were hot glued to the body.

And so Trico was born! I learned so much during this build. Everything about it was outside of my comfort zone. More than that, I am so blown away by the reactions that he gets from everyone who sees him.

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