Community Spotlight:

ChozoBoy

Creating Ridley
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We managed to have a chat with Dan Cattell (a.k.a ChozoBoy) about his latest art project. Dan has been doing these projects for three years and you may have seen some of his work before, such as the pixel perfect Chozo Suit and Varia Suit cosplay. This time however, Dan has taken on a much larger and more ambitious project in the form of a giant life sized Ridley! This piece of art is pretty huge and very detailed. Dan tells us more about the project and how it all came together.

SS: Hey Dan, thanks for joining us for this interview! Please introduce yourself to our users and tell us a little bit more about your project.

CB: Hey guys! I’m Dan Cattell. I am a mixed media artist with a primary background in computer animation, a mixed media art in itself. Metroid fans might be familiar with my user name “ChozoBoy” from Wikitroid, where I’ve made some substantial contributions and probably edited nearly all of the 3,400+ articles at least a few times. (Edited for the improvement of the wiki… to make the distinction from the depreciative style of editing occasionally employed by some on wikis, haha.)

SS: I was really impressed by how detailed Ridley looks! Not only that, he is absolutely HUGE! It must have taken you a fair while to put him together. Can you tell us what is required to start a project like this and how long did it take to create him?

CB: Last year I stated in Nintendo Power that I would tackle Ridley next, so I began preliminary studies of sprite rips of his individual body parts from the game and applied for a research grant from Rutgers University. I received the $500 grant to reimburse my research in January and began looking into materials. A few months of high-density polystyrene research later, I instead settled with canvas on black coroplast (corrugated plastic) which is basically plastic cardboard, which created a better continuity from the previous pieces in the series.

This was my final semester as an undergrad, so I was also hammering out a lot of work for my senior thesis while our dragon was progressing in an independent study course for sculpture alongside a couple of other large pieces by my friends. The surmised creation process involved gridding the plastic, mapping and cutting the piece shape, adhering the canvas, trimming it, redrawing the grid onto the canvas, marking the shades of purple, and lastly… carefully painting thousands of little squares. I was really fortunate to have some awesome friends both on campus and others willing to come out and help paint, who you can see in the time-lapse production video. After the thesis show in May, I made the mistake of starting another set for his left side… so the full timeline ran up to the end of July.

SS: You spent $500 to create and research Ridley? Wow, that’s a fair amount of money!

CB: Yeah, that went towards 10 sheets of black coroplast about the length of his head (I had to grid that sucker diagonally), two rolls of primed canvas, paints, adhesives, sticky hooks, and shelving brackets to mount him on the wall from the ends of.

SS: This isn’t the first time you’ve taken on a project like this by any means, you’ve previously created a Chozo and Samus pixel costumes, how does the Ridley project compare to those?

CB: Bluntly, he’s enormous. Too big to brawl, some even say! I wanted Ridley because his shape was decidedly not human. My goal with these has partly been to create disbelief. If they think that the CosPIX can’t possibly conceal a human, or can’t possibly have been a physical work (in the case of photography)… that it had to be Photoshopped in because nobody would make something that huge and elaborate when it would take a minute to create a similar image with digital editing… then I have created an effective illusion and they never stop to question what they are looking at. The internet is a world of Photoshop and untrustable images. People create digital images to look real, never the other way around!

Problematically, it’s often too effective for the audience to ever realize the significance of it or start to unravel what the content of the CosPIX series is. I’ve shown and explained it to relatives in the past and heard weeks later that they then learned that it was not a digital manipulation. I imagine this happens online as well, with users taking a cursory glance at what seems to be a basic Shop and never guessing for a moment that there might be a more interesting story..

SS: I can imagine that a project of this size must have had moments where things got a little bit crazy for you. Can you tell us about some of those challenging and rewarding moments during the project?

CB: Yeah, I would usually watch the time-lapse video and then assemble the pieces that were done on the floor in the sculpture lab at the end of the day . That was always satisfying, but I had doubts about how to support it upright or whether one of the pieces I was working on might suffer while dividing time between the giant CosPIX, the tarantula animation, and other responsibilities. Seeing it standing for the first time even managed to surprise everyone who had contributed.

SS: It must have been quite something!

CB: It was astonishing for all of us. I had the plan but didn’t know what to expect. I was always prepared for it to fail or not be allowed in the gallery space due to size, and that was very nearly a big problem. “Failure is always an option,” as a very intelligent person once remarked.

SS: You displayed Ridley at Stedman Gallery and then to Otakon in Baltimore where he was seen by a variety of different people. What were the general feelings from the people who saw it and how was the project received overall?

CB: I think the reactions were similar to the other CosPIX, though exaggerated. The people who saw it pre-construction thought I was nuts. The people who see it fully constructed tend to stare, smile, and say something unexpected and funny. Those who see the photography tend to share their disbelief in the image’s authenticity.

Mounting Ridley in the gallery alongside the best works of my graduating class at Rutgers was exhilarating. He just towered over absolutely everything. I requested that he be put in the back so that the attending audience might have the chance to see some of the photography in the front first, but he was even taller than the movable walls and cast a huge pixelated toothy shadow that could be seen from the entrance! Otakon got a great crowd as well, but the staff decided after a few hours that the people looking at him were somehow part of him and thus he was a fire-hazard because of the crowd… so he spent his last hour or so outside by Otakon’s famous Ice Cold Water guy before being dismantled.

SS: I bet Ridley wasn’t too pleased having to sit outside for an hour! Did he take any damage?

CB: Yeah, the plastic doesn’t take direct sunlight too well and the pieces start to become less rigid. Not permanently, though. We learned this during the outdoor photoshoot, so we knew to keep him in the shade in Baltimore’s heat.

SS: Now that Ridley has been completed, what is his purpose now? Where does he reside these days and what do you have planned for him in the future?

CB: Ridley’s been at my girlfriend Krystal’s house in the back room since Otakon. He probably won’t be able to attend any more conventions unless I can get permission first, because it really wouldn’t be worth the effort to bring him and set up if he gets booted from the premises in record time. I’ve got a few crazy ideas for things to do with him, but nothing definitive. I’m open to suggestions or even collaborations!

SS: Your work is awesome dude! I’m sure lots of our users would agree and love to see more from you. What do we have to look forward to from you in the future?

CB: I’ve been turning over a few ideas in my mind. A set of 8-bit NES heroes seemed like a nice next step, but someone was already inspired by my work to do Link from Zelda II and I’m not big on doing things that have already been done. I’ve been thinking about doing Paper Mario and a child-sized Jumpman. Krystal came up with an idea at Otakon to do the Punch-Out!! training scene with Doc Louis and Little Mac. I think that would be a fun one.

I was thinking about doing props like swords and other iconic items but then I started seeing Minecraft swords being sold about a year ago. Perhaps I won’t let that stop me though… Maybe the readers could tell me what they want to see? Do you like these ideas or do you have your own?

SS: How about re-creating Zebes in its entirety?

CB: I’d really love to. I’m always thinking “You haven’t done a Space Pirate or Mini-Kraid. Gravity Suit wouldn’t take too long if you just trace the parts from Varia and you wouldn’t even have to make a new head/torso or arm cannon… I wonder if I could get a Ki-Hunter to work? Just take a day or two to make the Worker Robot, man… it’s only six pieces.” A friend of mine has been asking when I’ll do Mother Brain’s second form. I also spent some time solving how to do Crocomire as a one-person costume, even though I promised myself that I wouldn’t do any more big ones after Ridley.

I think I just need a team to make these after I create the design documents… that might be the only way they’d all get done. I’d like to try coming up with some creative ideas to do in the 3D software that I work in. Again, a lot of my background from the last few years has been in animation and I’m getting pretty good, but I’m still trying to crack the medium creatively. I’ve done good works in it, but nothing yet that matches the pure creativity the the CosPIX exude, however I’m already coming up with ideas just thinking about it!

SS: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Dan! Do you have any closing comments you would like to make?

CB: I’ve been looking more into general costume design recently and I’ve noticed that while prosthetics designers for film strive to create things that push at the boundaries of seeming non-human, it is often cosplayers who are forced to go over that edge. They have a favorite character and they need to be that character, so their predicament forces them to solve challenges that designers of original costumes wouldn’t even dream of. That’s why I’m really proud of the CosPIX series, because I think it really represents a pinnacle of leaving the person inside far behind and allowing the identity of something that was never meant to exist in this world through.

I’d really like to thank Krystal, Yasirys, Steve Skoufalos for wearing Ridley at Otakon and everyone else who put a hand or two into this! I’d also like to give a shout-out to NeroKarasu who was featured in Nintendo Power for her Luminoth costume earlier this year. She’s since created a Golden Torizo and Zero Mission Chozo Statue since then after being inspired by my first Bomb Torizo CosPIX. She’s been keeping me updated on her progress and I’m excited to see what she’s going to do next!

We would like to thank Dan for taking the time to chat with us about his great projects and we wish him luck in his future projects. If you’d like to check out more work from ChozoBoy, be sure to check out his website and his profile on DeviantART.

© 2012 Darren Kerwin and Dan Cattell
Interviewed 23rd August 2012