Keeping with the holiday cheer, December’s Costume of the Month is Discworld’s Death as The Hogfather! You may have seen this gent wandering around Dragon*Con 2010. Artist Chris Brown of Chris Brown Designs and Macabre Enterprises was kind enough to sit down and give us a bit of character background, construction history, and a glimpse at some of the horror he’s up to now!
I would like to begin by mentioning that Fantasy is not normally my first choice for costume theme; mainly, I’m a big lover of Horror and classic horror movies, good, old-fashioned blood-and-guts slasher films, zombie movies, and good horror fiction, especially H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Stephen King, etc. That said, I’ve always loved the work of Terry Pratchett and this character—it’s Death, dressed as Santa Claus—what’s not to love?
The costume itself is inspired by a character by Terry Pratchett called The Hogfather, from his Discworld Series books. The character you see is not truly The Hogfather, but Death dressed up as The Hogfather; when the Hogfather (the Discworld’s answer to Santa Claus) is kidnapped, Death steps in to take his place. I based the look of the character in my costume on the Paul Kidby illustration, which is a little more sympathetic than the version portrayed in the television movie, and personally I feel it’s much truer to the original concept and character.
Design difficulties… if you look at the illustration of the original character of Death, he has a beautifully stylized and elongated head. The problem is, how do you fit this to human proportions? If you look at the live-action BBC production, they did a beautiful job of doing the elongated skull; but if you view out of the eyes as they set it up, then he has no neck—and they spent the rest of the production concealing the fact that he had no neck. I approached this issue from a different direction: I put the viewing underneath the cheekbones, which raised the whole head up—now he had a neck! Problem solved!
Wanting to give this costume a great deal of presence, I felt he needed some extra height. Now, I’m 6’5”, and the mask gives an extra six inches from the top of my head, plus the hood—and I added six-inch stacks to the mix, making Death as The Hogfather a little over seven-and-a-half feet tall. Needless to say it was an adventure moving around in heavy crowds.
Do I wear the costume anywhere during the holiday season? Currently not… to date, I’ve worn the costume primarily at conventions, but given the right opportunity, Death as The Hogfather just might turn up. I should mention that it kind of sucks that most of the conventions where I’d wear this costume – which, having a winter theme, is really pretty heavy and warm – are primarily during the summer months. I think I would welcome an invitation to attend a cold-weather convention for this costume!
When I’m not making horror costumes, I’m primarily building puppets, usually for children’s entertainment, and mascots, costumes, and horror makeup effects for theatre, television, and film. Currently I’m working on a project which will be opening April 14th at Dad’s Garage Theatre in Little Five Points here in Atlanta. This is a musical I’ve written, called “Scarlett’s Web” (“Where madness meets your childhood”), a sort of dark continuation of the classic children’s book, Charlotte’s Web. This production is definitely not for children. The best way to describe it: it’s Charlotte’s Web meets “Delicatessen” with a dash of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and a pinch of “Sweeney Todd”. “Scarlett’s Web” originally came out of years of building for children’s entertainment and having a dark and twisted sense of humor to begin with, I’ve always been a big believer that children’s entertainment is something that children should remember twenty years later, drenched in sweat and curled up, rocking back and forth with night terrors — good, quality entertainment that sticks with you! I am also very fortunate to have a very talented group of friends and colleagues who are lining up to help make my vision come true.
About Macabre Puppets… Macabre Puppets is my username on Facebook, which came out of all the dark and surreal puppetry I’ve done for late-night puppet slams around Atlanta. Readers can see photographs and follow my projects on Facebook.
Chris Brown Designs
(aka “Mister December”)