Enthralled by the aesthetic of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” Victoria Rose knew early on that she wanted a career creating the same kind of puppets that came to life on the big screen. And today, she’s doing just that.
Since graduating in 2007, Rose has created puppets for such films as “Coraline,” “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” and Phil Tippet’s “Mad God” as well as advertisements for Brisk Iced Tea and Planters Peanuts in addition to launching her own company, Rawrz Toys.
“I love growing as an artist, and continuing to improve as an artist and puppet maker," said Rose. "I am also lucky enough that while producing the vision of others, I now get to create things for myself with Rawrztoys.”
Rose’s first professional experience in puppetry began when she moved to Oregon to work on “Coraline” at the invitation of director Henry Selick—even though she had not yet completed her degree. It was her fully stop motion portfolio, containing two films she completed as part of her junior review, that caught the attention of Laika, the Portland animation studio behind the film.
“My persistence paid off,” she laughed. “They told me that my portfolio revealed I had the skills they needed and the capability to learn fast… Those qualities are crucial in this industry.
“For two years, my involvement with ‘Coraline’ consumed my whole life. First, we created silicone and foam casts in a three-part mold, then went back and erased the seams to make everything look flawless. The puppet Coraline only stood about 8-inches with hands the size of my fingernail, so you can imagine what it was like to paint each of her tiny finger nails!
“For people to finally see what I had been working on was the most awesome feeling. I had seen snippets of the film during production, yet I was still captivated by how the story came together on screen.”
Rose is also collaborating with Pixar story boarder Jim Capobianco on his film "Leonardo" as well another studio project she can’t reveal at this time. She worked on another of Selick’s feature films “Shadow King” before Disney ended production. She is also in the process of working with Athena Studios on an animated version of “Auntie Claus”, a popular children’s book. Their work was recently featured in a video from Make Magazine http://makezine.com/2013/09/27/make-believe-crashes-the-set-of-auntie-claus-at-athena-studios/.
"Athena Studios is a new, start up studio, and we're in the process of getting the funding we need to translate Auntie Claus into a feature film," she said. "For this project, I made the puppet for the lead character. This included all molds, silicone casting seaming and painting, and the costume. I even made little metal buckles for the shoes...
"Athena has been an amazing place to work and grow as an artist. They've even let me use their facilities to create and cast my toys as well."
Rose is the creative force behind RawrzToys. She came up the name in 2007, and mostly created felt animals and paintings. Then in 2011, she met Ann Sidenblad and they co-created a new and improved line of miniature creatures. Instead of felt animals, they created a line of plastic toys. Her new designs premiered at last year’s Art Murmur.
She announced, “We recently premiered a giraffe, and elephant and next up is an alligator.”
Whether she’s creating a character for the big screen or designing her next Rawrztoy, Rose often recalls lessons she learned from animation and digital media instructors such as Larry Larson who gave her the inside scoop about working in the industry and taught her how to handle criticism professionally.
“The most valuable lesson I learned was the importance of sharing with other artists, whether it is teaching someone how to use a certain technique or improve on their work” said Rose. “In this industry, people want to save their best ideas for themselves. You should never be afraid to share your comments or teach someone because it will help you in the long run too.”
Rose will be offer a stop motion presentation at the Detroit Institute of Arts on December 15 from 1 to 4 p.m. To learn more about her work, visit www.victoriarosepuppets.com and http://www.rawrztoys.com/. You can also donate to Athena Studios Auntie Claus here http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/athenastudios/auntie-claus-the-movie.