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U.Va. students creating movie monsters

Wednesday - 9/12/2012, 3:54pm  ET

Daily Progress

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - University of Virginia students are creating winged monsters and gnarly creatures with gaping maws this year.

It's part of a program that teaches them about the art of making movie creatures.

Called the Stan Winston Arts Festival of the Moving Creature, it involves Hollywood experts who knew Winston, a UVa alumnus and influential movie creature creator, coming to UVa to work with students, to be capped with a parade of the student-created creatures come April.

On Tuesday, creatures were starting to come together in a workshop on Grounds.

The creatures have frames that often include wood or PVC pipe. Chicken wire, foam and other materials will eventually help fill out the rest. Some are mounted to backpacks, while one looked like to involve stilts and another had two students lying on their backs on wheeled dollies.

The project involves the departments of drama and studio art and the School of Architecture. The industry experts come from the Stan Winston School of Character Arts in Los Angeles.

"Any chance I can get to help be a part of ... keeping his memory alive, I'm so happy to do it," said Shane Mahan, who worked with the elder Winston for decades. Mahan is the man behind the "Terminator" skull and the spitting dinosaur in "Jurassic Park."

By putting such disparate disciplines together the organizers hope to spark creativity, Matt Winston, Stan Winstons son said. The skills covered will range from engineering to art, he said, and will tie into fields including dance and biomechanical engineering.

"The whole monster approach just gives them a fun reason to learn all that stuff," Matt Winston said.

Actual Hollywood creatures are created through a long period with large budgets, but "having less is sometimes the best way to invent," he said.

Creatures aren't just about the physical construction, either.

"If you put it in broad daylight, any creature, no matter how cool ... is going to look fake," Winston said, adding that lighting and "cool, fluid performance" are keys.

"It's the art of the moving creatures, not the art of the static monument," said Melissa Goldman, the fabrication facilities manager at the School of Architecture.

One group worked on a low and long eight-winged beast. Late Tuesday, they were using sand and a heat gun to bend PVC pipe, working out how best to make frames for the creature's wings.

"This pretty much corresponds exactly with what I could be doing," said graduate student Mark Gartzman, pointing to a range of conceptualization and engineering work.

The festival features a lecture at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Campbell 153 at the School of Architecture, followed by a creature bash, presenting the creatures the students have worked up.


Information from: The Daily Progress,

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