|Written by Pune Dracker|
|Monday, 01 October 2007 00:00|
âIâm a doll!â exclaimed Nicole Blonsky, the 18-year-old ingĂŠnue who tears it up as Tracy Turnblad in the film. Upon seeing her likeness for the first time, Blonsky was more than thrilled. âItâs adorable!â she told USA Today. âThe first thing Iâm noticing are the chubby hands and short fingers. That may sound weird, but I have very small hands, and those are my hands!â
John Travolta, who plays Tracyâs mother, Edna Turnblad, in the musical comedy, had quite a bit to say about his tiny alter ego, according to an interview with AccessHollywood.com: âIn the movie, I had a smaller waist, and my butt was bigger.â Apparently, this isnât a bad thing; the actor told USA Today he thought the Edna dollâs outfit was âperfect.â Or, as we like to call it, bouffant-tasticâŚThe actorsâ thumbs-up came as no surprise to the dollsâ creator, artist/puppeteer/Renaissance woman Kamela Portuges. âI usually hear that everyone is really happy with their dolls,â the artist notes. âItâs fun to have a mini me!âPortugesâ long list of celebrity doll portraiture includes Rita Hayworth, Pamela Anderson, Venus and Serena Williams, Britney Spears, Kate Winslet and the Spice Girls. You may have also seen her work in the film Being John Malkovich, for which she sculpted marionettes of Malkovich, John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener. Are you thinking about now that it probably takes a lot of work to depict faces that are so famous? Youâd be correct.
âI start by creating a photo file of the celebrity,â Portuges says. But not just any photos, mind you. âThe same person will look amazÂingly different in a reÂtouched photo, so I like to see natural pictures of people, pictures that arenât retouched.â And if this enÂtails hopping on a plane in search of unaltered archival material, as was the case when she was sculpting Hayworth and needed access to fan club archives in Minneapolis, Portuges is game in the name of art. ReÂsearch materials may also include magazines, DVDs and information gleaned from the Internet.
The photos are scaled to the size of the dollâs headâabout two inches highâ before Portuges cleans off her desk, gathers her tools and begins sculpting, using her own special formula of wax. âEach doll usually takes a couple of weeks for the initial sculpt,â the artist explains. Upon approval from the toy company, the piece goes back to Portuges and her company, Images in Motion, for mold making and casting. âThe castings are then sent off to the doll face painter and the wig makers,â Portuges explains. âThe celebrity usually sees the finished sample, painted and coiffed. Of course, if they want any changes, itâs back to resculpt. The whole process can take a month or more.
âOr less, as in the case of the Spice Girls figures she sculpted for Galoob Toys.
âSometimes you donât have the luxury of time,â Portuges says. âThe Spice Girls were hot, and they needed a very quick turnaround. I remember sculpting around the clock, all of the Spice Girls in a week. It was when Princess Diana died, and I remember sadly sculpting as I watched the funeral.â Other sculpts of note include T-Boz Watkins, Left Eye Lopes and Chili Thomas, the members of the â90s hip-hop/pop girl group TLC. âAll the three faces were so intriguing,â Portuges recalls. âThey turned out so well that I was looking forward to seeing them on the shelves, but the band broke up and they never made it through production.â
These days, Portuges has more than enough work to keep her in creative bliss. âA typical day for me is about ten to 12 hours, unless weâre busy, then itâs more.â And her workdayâwhich starts out with a latte at her favorite coffee shopâis always varied. A month before our interview, the artist had created animations for Mattel, sculpted lamps for Pottery Barn, prepared notes for a sculpting workshop sheâs teaching at a national puppet festival and sculpted changes on the Hairspray dolls.
When we spoke with the sculptor, the dolls from the musical motion picture were about a month away from hitting store shelves. âThey were so refreshing to sculpt,â she says. And judging from the word on the street (OK, actually from comments on the official blog on www.hairspraymovie.com), the dolls should be delighting fans everywhere about now. Wrote one fan after getting a sneak preview of the dolls, âI want all of them, especially Tracy! Theyâre very realistic-looking and I canât wait until they come out. Itâs Christmas in July!â
For more on the Hairspray dolls, visit www.playalongtoys.com/hairspray; for more on Kamela Portuges and her celebrity dolls, visit www.imagesmedia.com/sculpture.
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