FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
"Are the pieces in photos and videos on your website for sale?"
No. What you see on our website is usually the intellectual property of our clients. They are here as examples of our past work to illustrate the range of what we can do for you.
"Do you do rentals?"
"What are the first steps in getting a custom characters made?"
It all begins with your artwork or design and time frame you need it in. From that, we give you a quote and, if it's accepted, take a deposit to get started (normally 2./3 with the balance due at completion). We usually generate scale renderings for your approval before any actual fabrication begins.
"I am outside the Los Angeles area. How do I know I'm getting what I want?"
Many of our clients are from other cities, states, and even countries. We provide design sketches, photos, and (sometimes) videos to show them the progress of their project while we interact with them via phone or email. This allows them to "sign off" on them job prior to delivery.
"How much does one of your pieces cost?"
Since all our work is made-to-order, we have no catalog or price list. Cost is based on the individual requirements of each job - labor, materials, schedule. Remember, this is custom work, not a mass-produced product. Tell us what you want and we’ll be happy to give you a quote. All custom fabrication is done on a non-refundable basis.
"Do you approach movie and TV characters differently than a mascot/walkaround for promotions or theme parks?"
The usage absolutely dictates the approach. Film and television characters need a wide range of realistic movement and expression, which require more flexible materials and even animatronics. That makes them delicate, requiring skilled on-set maintenance. Character costumes for live venues have to last longer - years sometimes - with little or no maintenance, so their durability is most critical.
"What exactly is a 'walkaround'?"
"Walkaround" is an all-encompassing term that has been used for decades to describe any character or mascot costume used in live venues such as theme parks, parades, trade shows, and point-of-purchase sites for "meet and greets." Normally, the performer's identity is completely concealed. They are also made to fit a given size range, making these costumes somewhat "generic." A "walkaround" is not an inflatable costume.
"Do these costumes get hot inside?"
The answer is YES! While we do everything we can to make them "user-friendly," the design often dictates limited vision and ventilation as well as the use of non-porous materials. Even under the best circumstances, a performer will need to take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water.
"How long can a person stay inside one of these costumes?"
The length of time depends on several things. First, there's the design of the costume itself. There's also the stamina of the performer to consider. Generally, we recommend giving a costumed character a break (where he can at least remove the head or mask) every 20-30 minutes. Hot outdoor and stuffy, crowded indoor conditions can reduce this time further.
"What should I consider when hiring a suit performer?"
The person's ability to handle the physical discomforts of being in this type of costume is critical. Someone who has had mime or dance training is a plus because they can make their movements "read" through layers of foam and fur. However, even a talented performer in good physical shape can be claustrophobic. If possible, try to find someone with prior experience in a character suit. We can recommend a number of such performers in the Los Angeles area and throughout the United States.
"Do you use high-end animatronics in your characters and puppets?"
Sometimes, yes, but we only advocate the use of computer and/or radio-controlled animation for film or TV and even then, when it is the only alternative. A puppet or costume directly motivated by a performer’s body movements is more reliable, versatile, and realistic than most costly animatronics.
"Will computer-generated effects completely replace what you do?"
It is true CGI has had a major impact on the industry and the cost is constantly coming down. However, as long as filmmakers use living actors, there will always be a need for artists who do makeup, costumes, and props. We also build many things for live venues, where a character has to be seen "in the flesh."
THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS ARE FOR PEOPLE INTERESTED IN PURSUING A CAREER IN THIS INDUSTRY:
"What is foam fabrication?"
This technique, frequently used on the SyFy series "Face Off", combines sculpture with geometry and pattern-making. It involves cutting shapes out of sheets of flexible foam and gluing them into 3-dimensional forms. We use many different types of foam, depending on the properties required. We have employed this method to create everything from a simple hand puppet covered with fabric to a fully detailed, life-size dinosaur.
"If I wanted to do this kind of work, do I need formal training and where would I get it?"
While there are many colleges that offer courses in costuming, makeup, and related crafts, talent and experience are more important than a degree. There are also a great number of books available on these subjects. Total Fabrication is now offering hands-on workshops in foam fabrication - Foam Fab 101. If you can’t make it to one of our classes, create a project for yourself, figure out an approach, set a schedule, and do it. The best way to learn is by doing.
"What skills do you look for when hiring employees?"
If a person does not have a large body of professional experience, we look for a positive attitude, ability to work with others, and willingness to be versatile. It helps to have a proficiency in a variety of tools and materials, including fabrics, foams, wood, metals, electronics, etc. There are very few skills that aren’t useful in this work.
"Are there lots of job opportunities in your field?"
Good people are always in demand but there is a lot of competition here in Hollywood (and elsewhere) for creative jobs. Many start out as volunteers or interns, then earn low wages for years before they establish themselves. Most shops hire on a free-lance basis, so permanent, full-time positions are extremely rare. Talent alone is not enough. If you have the perseverance to deal with rejection and unemployment from seasonal industry slowdowns, you may have what it takes to make it.
HAVEN’T FOUND THE ANSWER YOU WERE LOOKING FOR? EMAIL US WITH YOUR QUESTION AND WE’LL TRY TO HELP.