READER SUBMISSION: A Dragon’s Tale

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Local artist Derek Ball has created a giant Smaug dragon sculpture to wow the crowds at Motueka’s State Cinema.

Derek has created a number of sculptures for cinema manager Mark Wentworth including Gollum and Gandalf for previous Peter Jackson films.

“Mark wanted something special to publicise the upcoming Hobbit films, so we sat down to discuss the possibilities.  It was obvious the best effect would be obtained by siting the Hobbit characters on the theatre roof, visible from the road and to people as they made their way from the car park to the theatre,” Derek says.

The sculptures had to be weather resistant, able to withstand gales, light enough to be lifted by hand and made to a limited budget.

“To meet these requirements I decided to use foam to form the figures sprayed over a framework of welded steel and wire netting.”

Derek says he was dreading making Smaug due to the size of the model. He says he had to split the sculpture into two peices for each side of the Cinema’s sloped roof.

“The main bulk of the body could be omitted as it would be hidden from view.  The head, neck and claws would appear out of the roof on one side and the tail on the other side.”

The wings were omitted as they would create too much wind resistance.

Derek says he concentrated on the scary aspects of the dragon head instead including an open mouth with fangs, a tongue and a coloured light representing fire coming out from the throat.

“Weta Workshop’s version at Wellington airport avoids these complications by having only a head with the mouth closed. Motueka has ended up with considerably more dragon for a lot less money, but that’s how we do things here, isn’t it?”

The characters are only intended to be temporary and lasting the duration of the films.

“Public opinion seems to favour keeping them on the roof.  How long they will last is anyone’s guess, but so far so good.”

More of Derek’s work can be found on his website.