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How I made a fierce Lunging Dog prop out of the gentle motorized reindeer decoration!

11151 Views 21 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  Nickthetoyguy
Next year will be my 10th year haunting and hanging out on the forums, and this is my first tutorial. It's not so much an exact step-by-step of what you should do but, rather, how I approached this prop. I do a great job of copying others work, and not so much creating my own, so your mileage will certainly vary. I'm more lucky than skilled (LOL) but I hope I can help somebody out there to do an even better job on something like this.

My inspiration was the Zombie Guard Dog animatronic. It's available from thehorrordome.com for $1200. I don't have that kind of scratch so I had to be creative. The original prop is much more animated and scary, I suggest you check it out!

I started out with the animated buck reindeer from Kmart, bought on clearance after last Christmas. I removed the motor, but kept the rod that moved the head. I also removed the stops on the back legs so the legs would have the full range of motion for a lunging movement.

For the lunging mech I had to google various sites and found something close on frightprops.com in their pneumatic section. It's called "attack mech" so I fiddled with the length of the arms until it was perfect to hold my dog in a level, standing position and still give a good range of motion for the lunge. The base is scrap wood, the bottom mount is 2x4 scrap and the arms are 1x2 scrap. The mounting arm is 1x2 turned horizontal to give a mounting surface. The lengths of the arms will vary depending on the size and position of the frame you use and what kind of movement you want. It took me maybe three hours of tinkering to come up with the final build that worked for me.

I attached a mounting board to the frame and then screwed down the reindeer frame.

I wanted to use an air cylinder to move the head side to side and the arm is perfect for that, so I built a bracket out of a steel bar to hold the cylinder and fiddled around until I found the perfect spot to mount it.

If anybody remembers the surplus buy of box movers that was here a few years ago, that is the cylinder I used for the head. I think the throw is something like 5 inches which is perfect for maximum head turn without the neck hitting the framework. Here is the cylinder mounted and attached.

I had to shorten the neck of the reindeer frame to look more dog-like. I just snipped out one section of the framework in the middle of the neck, slipped the remainder of the head form down inside the remainder of the neck form, bent the remaining framing to connect and wrapped duct tape around the connections. It was pretty sturdy.

Here is how I ran the air hoses to the solenoids

What helps to sell the whole thing is the dog skin. I got hella lucky at the last yard sale of the year when I found this lifelike stuffed pooch for $5!

I am no sculptor and I'm not sure how I would have created a dog head that didn't look sh*tty so I want to thank the woman who sold me her stuffed dog. Honestly, this prop would not have been finished if I hadn't found this stuffy!

So I cut up the stuffy. I cut his head and neck as one piece to help cover the open movement area. The head had a styrofoam form inside that fit right down over the reindeer head frame pretty well. I used zip ties to secure it down as well as the neck (loosely) to the neck framework. The dog feet went on the feet, the butt end on the back and the stomach trimmings on the underside.

What was left of the exposed white framework I wrapped in black plastic and melted with a heat gun. Loose edges were zip-tied to the framework. Remember to leave the belly of your creation wide open for the mech to move.

Then I took Great Stuff and, with gloves on, smoothed it over the plastic. Yes, it's messy but it gives a rough, infected skin type look. I smeared silicone throughout the dog hair to mat it down and hit the 'skin' with flat black paint and red spray blotches.

I used tstraub's 4-button learning controller for the programming and after a lot of trial and error I got the thing to run great on about 25 psi.

FUTURE UPGRADES: I plan on rebuilding this for next season and adding teeth, blood and hopefully a chomping mouth animation.

DURABILITY: It's not as sturdy as store-bought folks! But that's why we are here. You can expect to lose pieces of great stuff 'skin' and some plastic just from the violent shaking. The first night of the haunt it probably triggered 150 times and the head looked funny. I took it home and found that a section of the neck frame right above where the movement-arm connects had snapped. I don't know if that was from stress or when a kid punched the dog (seriously!)

I used JB Weld on the break and wrapped it over and over with duct tape. On the second night it triggered maybe 220 times. The JB Weld repair broke but the duct tape held tight and we survived. One more night to go so I'm letting it ride.

That's all I have for now. Feel free to ask any questions you might have, and give me a 'like' if you like my tut.

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The final prop "on-set"

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I am impressed. Very good job!
Love it. Not surprised there is breakage considering the violence of the head shaking.

Typing out loud here, but in my head I'm envisioning a zombie chained to a table by it's legs, then when activated it "tears" itself in half and thrashes its arms at you.
Simply amazing movement and the sound is spot on. I think your prop is a hundred times better than store bought for several reasons. But the main one is that your establishing a knowledge base of animatronics that will allow you to build stuff that could never be bought and could only be dreamed up in your own mind.
I love it, awesome job. I want something like that too for my next years party :eek:
gr8 execution!

although, i personally wish mean dog props weren't made ... there are many tots that, for whatever reason, have a fear of dogs and this just reinforces that fear

guess, i'm a softie for animals

again, dw, amazing action on the prop ... this wasn't a personal attack against you ...

wanted to give you an update from last night at the haunt. The proper triggered close to 200 times. No damage and good movement throughout the night. Not too bad for home build I guess. Looking forward to read doing a rebuild for next year.
Great job. Let us know how the re-work with the mouth movement works out. I was going to attempt the same thing with a giant stuffed gorilla for our Carnevil theme but couldn't come up the right solemoids
I LOVE this!!! I'm hoping it's not too difficult for my husband to tackle, because I REALLY want one in my yard haunt. I'm just imagining the screams. :rolleyes:
Very nice! It looks great. I might have to figure one out for a zombie dog next year. If I hit goodwill or thrift stores after Christmas then I might could get some cheap reindeer.
I really wanna build one of these. I lucked out during the Wal-mart clearance and grabbed a animated Doe... got home and noticed it's not the same one you used... Until I pulled it out of the box and it was boxed wrong! Inside was a Buck!

Prop looks awesome. I may have some questions for you once I get this underway.
Man that looks GREAT wish I had the skills to build stuff. I want to try and build some sort of prop this year.
Fanfreakintastic!!! Amazing movement! Like Col Fright said...store bought doesn't touch what you've created...
..here puppy puppy
Thanks everybody! I'm usually not that active on the boards during the "off-season" but I'll try to keep checking and help out anybody who wants to try this. It's not that tough. I'm not mechanically inclined but the help on these boards is fantastic.
Nice build! Although not a fan of pneumatics (for cost reasons) this is one prop that really makes a case for using it. No way I could get that nice head thrashing movement with a wiper motor. The audio if great, and having it straining against the chain really sells it, too!
OMG Cujo! Loved your concept and it sure looked great and ran great in the video. Kudos on the build!
What the ?? Wow! Had not seen this thread, this is awesome, great execution, so jealous, wonder if you had to put a price, how much would it go for?
I featured this on the "Mad Props for Props" segment on the Hauntcast: Post Mortem episode which was released last week (and is free, like all the rest of the archives.) The segment is at around the 2:24:45 mark.

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