- Prop house Dapper Cadaver in Los Angeles specialises in “death-related” props.
- They taught us how they make fake bodies, which have appeared in many TV shows and movies like “The Revenant.”
- These bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and some are even durable enough to withstand the impact of being tossed off a tall building.
The following is a transcription of the video:
Narrator: Have you ever been watching something on TV and thought, “Hey, where’d that dead body come from?” “How does it look so real?” “And how did it fall off that tall building?” We went to Dapper Cadaver in Los Angeles to learn how they make fake bodies and body parts for TV and movies. Dapper Cadaver bills itself as a death-related prop house and prop fabrication shop.
BJ: If it’s dead or can die, we can make it.
Narrator: This is BJ and Eileen Winslow, co-owners of the prop house. Their work has appeared in many different movies and TV shows. They showed us how their fake bodies are made and how they give them such realistic injuries. We also put one of their creations to the ultimate test.
Joe: A loose testicle here, right?
BJ: That’s an eyeball.
Joe: No, I think it’s a testicle.
Joe: I’m just kidding.
Narrator: Most of their bodies are made in these giant molds. They pour the materials, usually poly foam, into a mould. Hard to believe that this becomes this. They have molds for just about any kind of project that gets thrown their way. Whichever mould they decide to use depends on the project they’re working on. They even have a pig-shaped one in a butcher shop display. They also specialize in organs, which might appear in an autopsy scene. Then, they just pop right out of the mould. Soon, they will be painted and detailed. The heads are typically lifecast from actual people but are often resculpted and given new features over time. When working with clients, sometimes they will get a photo of an actor or a sketch to help make the model. But most of the time, they have to work completely from scratch.
BJ: Once we start changing hair and beard and skin colour, those guys can really just completely transform from looking like nobody in particular to looking like two completely different people.
Eileen: And if you see an arm painted flesh tone with no shading on it, it looks like a rubber arm that you would see in a Halloween shop.
Narrator: They have bodies of all shapes and sizes, like a baby made out of silicone. The material allows it to be more flexible and more detailed.
Joe: This feels like a ba-, I mean it’s not as warm, but the weight of a baby.
Narrator: Not all fake bodies are made in the same way.
BJ: This is our Lucy body. She’s what we call a half-anatomical, which, that means she’s lifecast from the waist up, and then she is a posable dummy body from the waist down, and that gives her a high degree of both detail and flexibility.
Joe: Yeah, for real, it’s a sharp shirt.
BJ: He’s not like the silicone. You’re gonna want to move it to bend the wire.
Joe: Hey, hey, hey, hey.
Narrator: Besides dressing them, there’s still a lot more they have to do with these bodies to make them look realistic. You’ve got to be imaginative with your injuries. This body was made to look like it succumbed to frostbite. This one got impaled, and this one is just a head.
BJ: I refer to science books and anatomy books, police photography, and just anything that can give me a realistic understanding of anatomy and the processes that we’re working with.
Eileen: We both have an appreciation and love of science. When BJ went to college, he started, actually both of us started out as biology majors. He started out in biology. I started out in biophysics, but it’s funny because both of us then ended up in writing degrees over our college time. And so these days, we really get to marry our love of both biology and storytelling.
Narrator: They’re especially good at making a body look burned. Some of their charred bodies popped up in “The Revenant.” They demonstrated this technique for us using just an arm. They add layers of paint and spray paint.
BJ: And what happens on top of the burn is that your skin gets crispy, wrinkled, wrinkly. It starts to deglove from the hand itself. So to represent that, we’re just using ordinary shrink wrap.
Narrator: Then they cover it in an ashy-looking burn mud. After that, they use a heat gun to shrink the shrink wrap. That’s when the details really come out.
Joe: This looks incredible. Look at the detail on this.
Narrator: We couldn’t leave Dapper Cadaver without seeing one of these bodies in action. They were kind enough to throw a stunt body off a 14-foot-tall roof for us. Bodies used for these purposes are usually made from a strong Dura-Rubber and filled with foam or another kind of stuffing and covered with a fabric material. This makes the bodies both impact- and tear-resistant.
Eileen: This particular model is designed to have some type of swinging arm motion.
Narrator: But could it survive the fall? That was cool. Let’s try that again.
Joe: How’s it look?
Eileen: Just the tiniest bit off the nose on impact. Everything else is perfect.
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