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Cow in Fools (Need Help!)

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by themuzicman, May 10, 2007.

  1. themuzicman

    themuzicman Well-Known Member

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    Although I am lighting designer this show, My stage manager/set designer stuck me with the cow in Neil Simon's Fools. For those of you who don't know, one of the town idiots drags a cow across the stage and when asked why she is doing it she goes "the best cream is on the top" or some such remark. I need to make this cow.
    I already made one attempt at it, but I need all the suggestions I can get short of stealing a real cow from the farm down the street from my school.

    I know there is a more simple way than what I did, and I know my attempt was a bit "amateur".

    My Attempt:
    I made a 6 foot spine out of 1"x2". Cut on a 30 degree angle I attached a two foot segment to make the head brace. To the very back I tacked on a 3 foot 1"x2" to make the hind brace. A foot behind the head I put on another 3 foot 1"x2" to make the front brace. To the front I attached two 3 foot 1"x2" to make the front legs. To the back I attached a 3 foot 1"x2", but a foot up I made a 15 degree cut to replicate a real cow.

    As I said, that was an attempt and I got to the part where I put the hind legs on and they gave out (due to the angle, we had to glue them with liquid nails).
    After that I was going to take 4'x8' half inch foam board and cut it to various cow shapes (back, stomach, legs, etc.) to get basic 3D shapes. Over that I was going to lay chicken wire and put down some papier mache over that to finish it. Although the entire cow needs to roll on it's back, I was going to put it's legs on casters so it can be used both ways.

    Quick 2D:

    O..........O
    ||..........||
    ||..........||
    || ^^.... ||....//
    ||=======//

    quick key:
    double lines (= or ||) = 1"x2"
    O = casters
    ^^ = udders
    periods (.) = spaces..the board won't let me put more than one space in
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Got anything bigger then 1x2? I think you have the design for what you want to do, but you need some more meat behind it. I would go with either 1x4 or 2x4. Something you can actually screw into with is splitting all over the place.
     
  3. themuzicman

    themuzicman Well-Known Member

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    I thought about using 2x4's, but decided against it just to the fact that the 1x2's make a huge frame just themselves, and now that it's out of comission, my director wants me to scrap it and do something sturdier, lighter, and better.

    I found this article (after going through 20 pages on google):
    This was essentially my first plan, because it seems the easiest. I think I'll give it a try.

    The question was how to make Milky White for Into The Woods...
    I would suggest you start by making a very basic armature out of some strong but pliable wire. (Fencing wire is ideal). Take the wire into all the extremites to form the shape of the cow, a skeleton almost to represent the backbone, neck, chest, legs, head and tail.

    The next thing do is to fill in the skeleton. What you use is a matter of choice. You could use chicken wire which you can bend and scrunch into shape. Tie it onto the skeleton in various places with small pieces of thin wire. Or, you could fill in the bulk using carboard.

    If you are using chicken wire, wrap some strips of masking tape around it to give something for the papier mache to adhere to. If using cardboard, it will help to stop disortion if you first seal it with a watered down white (pva) glue.

    The opening mouth is a bit tricky, it will mean the head will need to be made in two sections, then perhaps loosely bolted together when both parts are finished so that the mouth can be opened and closed.

    When building up the paper layers, start with the legs and let a few layers dry before putting any on the top. Papier mache is very heavy when wet and legs can so easily give way under the pressure. Build up your layers gradually over the whole body and to make it nice and strong (as it is going to be used in your productions) make sure you use 6 or 7 layers of papier mache.
     
  4. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Or perhaps going with 2" x 2" ? Short of building the Whole thing out of foam, I think beefing up , <ouch> your original build concept is sound. You could get some really big strofoam stock < like 2'x2' > for the torso and start carving down from there. But I do think your original idea is good. Coating it in Papier Mache' is a good finsh, you could also go for finishing it with VSSSD, < run a search on here I've posted a lot of recipes apparently:oops: > Also, when you put together the legs, use an 1/8 in drill bit to drill through the joint so you can sink a good 3 - 3 1/2" drywall screw to hold the joint together. Liquid nails s not going to hold it by itself, no matter what the commercials say.
     
  5. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Here's a thought...

    I've seen Fools done very effectively simply using a very nice plywood cutout on wheels... reminiscent of a toy my dad had as a kid of a dog on wheels. Just a nice big full size cut out in 5/8 or 3/4 plywood painted really nicely with a bit of a friendly cartoonish look on the face. Put it on a cute wheeled base with a rope to tow it. The show is already so crazy that the ridiculous cow cut out really worked quite well. The audience went right along with it.

    I know that's not what you were looking for but it's a cheap and easy solution that builds a different joke into the show. Before you kill yourself off doing foam build ups, talk it over with the director.
     
  6. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    You might even be able to borrow something - I've seen many a lifesize Nativity scene during Christmas. Perhaps a church? Maybe a dairy or Ice cream store.


    Joe
     
  7. timokay

    timokay Member

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    Look around to people who have performed Gypsy. I made a full cow suit for that show. I have seen it down with cows that did not look too cartooney.
     
  8. dvsDave

    dvsDave Benevolent Dictator Administrator Senior Team CB Mods Fight Leukemia

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    Fools was my favorite play I've ever done. We did the cow with recessed wheels only a quarter inch off the deck. Wood frame.. can't remember what size wood, covered with chicken wire, and cloth then paper mache. Used a broom handle sawed into 4 pieces for the udders. Leather strip for the tail.



    ||..........||
    ||..........||
    ||^^==.||...../\
    ||O===O||==//
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2007
  9. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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  10. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Sharyn, a cow costume would be hillarious. Have everyone play it straight like it's a real cow and have the actor in the costume look disgruntled about getting stuck in the roll.

    Sometimes taking a joke a little too far in the absurd direction can make for a much better joke than building the actual prop.

    When I did Wizard of Oz, I slapped a stuffed animal dog onto a small remote control race car (discretely covered in a similar color fabric). I had everyone play the whole thing really straight like it's a real dog. Every night that brought the house down and years later people still say it was the funniest thing they had ever seen.
     
  11. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    Great minds run along the same track ;-))))

    Many times you need to realize that theater is to entertain, and it is all an illusion, and that realism has its place, but sometimes the absurd has its place also ;-))

    Sharyn
     
  12. themuzicman

    themuzicman Well-Known Member

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    So I got the Cow finished, and we open tomorrow night!

    I ended up giving up and buying a massive roll of 2'x25' chicken wire. I then cut it into a huge tube, added a neck, behind, and added legs. I didn't feel like I had the artistic ability to make the head, so I shoved it on someone even less artistic. It ended up looking like a pig, but whatever. It looks alright, my papier mache skillz weren't really up to the task. I took full sheets of newspaper, used a paint brush to put glue on it, and stuck it on.
    Once I finished the entire thing I learned that the star of our play likes making sculptures, so she helped reverse the damage a tad, but it still looks pretty funny.

    Here is my conceptual drawing, Picture is coming later (yes, everything is exactly the same):

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    cool..Good job. Don't you love it when you find the lead in the show has skills you didn't know about?
     

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