REIGN OF FIRE - Crouching Dragon-01
This beautiful maquette is one of my all time favorite pieces. It was one of 6 maquettes created by myself and a very talented team of sculptors over at Disney's now defunct 'Secret Lab' in Burbank which was formerly Lockheed's 'Skunkworks', where they developed the stealth bomber amongst other things.
Anyooo, this sculpture is the labor of myself (who helped design the pose), and Bill Basso, who worked out the pose and did the heroic work of creating the armature for this thing. There was much suffering as he had to make the wings twice due to an error on the part of the late night janitorial crew, who thought the wings were garbage, and threw them away. A trip to the dump actually proved successful in finding the wings, but they were so crushed and mangled that they could not be salvaged. Bill did a great job of roughing in the basic sculpture before he had to pass on the baton.
Along came big Jim McPherson, rugged Scottish Highlander, prone to wearing tartan, to fill Basso's fine Italian shoes and take the maquette to a very nice, detailed finish. This also included sculpting a rocky base for the model. Along the way I stepped in and did little bits here and there, but my job was chiefly art direction.
Jordu Schell painted the final maquette used as reference for the film. The glory of this piece, for me, is that it looks great from every possible angle. This is a very rare thing to achieve, and, aside from the design of the creature itself, is the ultimate goal of any sculpture.
Many people tell me that they like this film quite a lot and that they loved the dragons. I have mixed feelings about both. Mostly I can just say that we were trying to do a modern take on the dragon 'Vermithrax' from the 1981 film DragonSlayer, which I have always felt was one of the best dragon designs put on celluloid. However, Vermithrax had the body of a snake with tiny little chicken legs, and our Dragons needed to be more robust. We incorporated a bit of dinosaur anatomy into our interpretation. Our Dragons were more a cross between a T-Rex and a giant Pterasaur of some kind, with a little classic dragon design in the head and neck.
I had hopes of making these dragons more exceptional, but there was a lot of 'design by committee' that happened on this politically difficult show, and my role became that of the guy who fought to keep the dragons from becoming so generic that they would have no character at all.
The difference between the smaller male 'Bull' Dragons was supposed to be more dramatic from the Queen Dragon 'Ashley', but in the end, they all essentially looked the same.
Note to producers and execs: "Please just leave the artists alone. They will come up with something far better without your input, and in the end, it will make you all a lot more money".
It's an uphill climb to argue against that I think.