* (Halloween countdown post #11)
‘Bo Bruns, Unit 70 Studios’ founder/owner, started making latex monsters in his parents’ basement at the age of 14. A few of these early first molds are still in use in our studio today. He is a graduate of the Columbus College of Art and Design and began his career as a professional monster maker at age 20. Today he is honored to lead an amazing core group of artists and dedicated seasonal employees.
‘We are a team of hardworking and passionate artists and technicians. Our goal is to continually improve our products by listening to our clients and experimenting with new components and styles. Over the years our staff has developed many unique and innovative processes, and have been early pioneers in the use of many materials and techniques that are now considered industry-standard for professional haunted attraction props. The core group of artists at Unit 70 have been working together for many years, and use that experience and talent everyday to create the most realistic and reliable props in the haunted attraction business.
‘Working together with two different chemical labs, we were able to develop a new fire retardant foam that has proven to be superior to all foams we have used in the past. We are very excited and intend to use it exclusively starting March 2016. We feel that this change would not only advance the safety of our products and potentially save lives, but also alleviate some of our clients’ stress involving annual fire safety inspections. Our new FR foam meets flammability standard requirements cal bulletin 117 and fmvss 302.’ — Unity 70 Studios
Unit 70 Studios 2008
Unit 70 Studios 2020
‘Ever since he was a kid, Coldwater, Ohio native Bo Bruns loved making weird monsters and sculptures. It started when his parents took him to see “Star Wars” when he was four years old. The movie “blew my mind,” he said, and he became obsessed with how people made the monsters and aliens seen in films and in theater. Decades later, Bruns has been lucky enough to become a “monster maker” in his own right.
‘After graduating from the Columbus School of Art and Design in 1998, he worked for a few years for a company that designed horror and monster props. In 2003, Bruns founded Unit 70 Studios in Columbus, and since then his company has become one of the most highly regarded producers of animatronic monsters, Halloween horror props and haunted house creatures in the world. “It was a childhood dream, and I got really lucky to be able to do it,” Bruns said.
‘Growing up in Coldwater, Bruns admitted that at times his creepy doodles and creations would freak out his teachers. His then-art teacher, Nick Wenning, however, figured out early on that he was “mostly harmless” and allowed him the creative freedom to make the most of what Bruns could imagine. When he first started making props, it was to play pranks on the local mailman. Bruns would craft crude cut-off arms and hands and leave them on the ground, watching from his bedroom to see what reaction he got. “Thank God he never called the police,” Bruns laughed.
‘Though the mailman may not have entirely appreciated his props, Bruns, who graduated from Coldwater High School in 1994, now has people all over the world putting in orders.
‘Unit 70 Studios has clients in the “haunt” industry in several states, from Ohio to New England. If you’ve ever visited King’s Island during Halloween Haunt season or gone to Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends, chances are you’ve seen some of Bruns’ creations. The business also serves international haunted houses and amusement parks in places like Canada, Columbia, Mexico, Spain and China. “It’s kind of like Halloween year round here,” Bruns said.
‘October, the spookiest time of the year, is actually the quietest time for the studio. By then most clients have their props. As soon as November 1 rolls around, though, the calls start coming in from people planning for next year, he said. Some of their clients from overseas don’t necessarily celebrate Halloween, so they may place orders year round. Bruns explained that as the haunt industry has grown, so too have the budgets and planning that go into the haunted houses. Orders can come in for Halloweens years down the road.
‘Every year, Bruns and his employees get together to plan out 15 or 20 new designs, but it can be hard to predict what people will want. Pop culture can have a big influence on what will be a hit – zombies have been consistently popular, for example, but when the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise was popular, Bruns and his team found themselves making tons of zombie pirates to meet demand.
‘Making monsters involves different procedures. For something more human, like a zombie, the artists at Unit 70 might start out making a body cast of a real person to create a mold, Bruns said. For something like a dinosaur, the design starts off as a clay sculpture, built up piece by piece. From there, the artists can change the facial expressions or carve out areas for gore. The final props are created from latex rubber or foam. Body details such as hair are usually some of the last add-ons.
‘Bruns majored in computer animation, which he says helps him when making some of the animatronic props. The animation software he learned to use is somewhat similar to what is now used for engineering the robotic parts in his monsters. When setting up a character in computer animation, he thinks about how the character is going to move and how it will look, which translates well into programming his creations, Bruns said.
‘Of course, the haunt industry has a dark side. Unit 70 Studios is rather well-known and widely respected in the industry, said Bruns, in part because they’ve survived for so long. As fun as it can be, Bruns said he’s found the competition can also be cutthroat. When Unit 70 was just starting out, a larger prop supply company was trying to make life difficult for the start-up, which became public knowledge in the haunt industry, according to Bruns. Aside from the quality of their products, Bruns thinks a lot of the respect has come from making it through that early rough patch. Persistence is key, he noted.
‘”Don’t let anyone say you can’t,” Bruns said. “I always wanted to do this stuff for a living, be a monster maker, and it seemed like a really weird or exotic thing to do, like wanting to be a rock star or astronaut, but somebody’s got to do it. Somebody’s got to have that job.” And for any kid out there who might have an unlikely passion or an obscure interest they want to turn into a career, Bruns offered this advise: “Just do it, and don’t be afraid to dream big.”‘ — Sydney Albert
The Exorcist Animated
Silicone Face Impaled Animated
Biker Chic 2
Silicone Face Piked Zombie Animated
Evil Seated Nun and Child
Giant Pumpkin Monster and Child Animated
Burnt Naked Male
Spider and Pod Animated
Silicone Face Little Michael
You’re Too Late
Howling Wolf Animated
Psycho Killer 1
Feasting Walker 2
Dead Bathtub Girl
Bad Porcelain Doll 1
Tomb Mummy Scare Animated
Prancer and Dasher Custom Reindeers
Krampus and Caged Child Animated
Frozen Child 1
Child Chain Gang
3 Maniacs Animated
El Diablo Animated
Dirty Warden 1
Drill Table Animated
Demon Birth Animated
Silicone Face Little TJ
Possessed Bed Thrasher Animated
p.s. Hey. ** David, Hi. I don’t know grouse chocolates. Name intrigues. Oh, I missed your masks. I’ll hunt backwards. Glad you liked the post. What’s your Thursday? Mine is, uh, work, coffee with my friend Andrew, hang with my friend Cornelia, work. And eat, smoke. ** Misanthrope, That’s why I like watching blockbusters on planes’ crappy little screens. I don’t want to go to their churches, I want them to live or die. The Willy Wonka thing is complete idiocy. Chalamet is in danger of becoming the hetero (albeit more initially successful) Ezra Miller. I might watch a ‘Dune’ blooper reel if that ever leaks, but that’s it. ** Dominik, Hiiiii, D! Von Trier seems to be a love or hate proposition. That’s interesting: I’m the opposite. I’m only interested in films’ direction and how they’re made. I never care about who’s in them. I’m not very interesting in acting. Or in the characters in fiction I read either. I don’t know why. Strange. Thank you for saving me from homelessness. I don’t think I could do homelessness very well, even in a dream town. France is pretty strict about vax pass scanning, although I’ve noticed that cafes are starting to get kind of lax. A lot of the time now they ask for your vax pass, and then when you start to reach for your phone, they just say okay and take your order. Ha ha, nice love. Caught me unawares, that one. Love sneaking into your apartment when you’re out shopping and replacing all of your lighting fixtures with strobe lights and all of heating vents with fog machines and all of your furniture with Unit70 props, G. ** Steve Erickson, Amazing you saw ‘Labyrinth of Cinema’. I’m dying to. Mm, well, you’re overthinking, and that’s blocking your intent with stress, and that’s a tough one. I would just let yourself start writing randomly in the chosen area and let yourself write crap for a while but keep going until you relax due to the concentration and find an idea that’s exciting and keep going from there. That’s what I’d do, I guess. I’m gonna miss the VU doc tonight because I can only see a visiting friend this evening, but the Wes Anderson opens next week here, so, as soon as this consuming Haunt event is over, … ! ** David Ehrenstein, I just read somewhere that Kevin Spacey has a small part in some biggish movie that’s being filmed right now, so I guess he’s backish? ** Okay. Every year come Halloween time I always use a post to celebrate the works of the world’s greatest scary prop making enterprise Unit 70, and here’s this year’s, full of new things and a few golden oldies. Please enjoy and buy me as many of them as you can. Thank you. See you tomorrow.