MASTERS OF THEIR CRAFT: COSTUME AND MAKEUP DESIGN AT BUSCH GARDENS®
10/11/2013 9:17:00 AM
WILLIAMSBURG (October 11, 2013) – An unassuming brown building is tucked in behind Busch Gardens’ Trapper’s Smokehouse. Its plain exterior belies the fantastical world inside. A ringlet wig made of springy wire sits just inside the front door. Ornate puppet heads fill tall shelves and bolts of fabric intermingle with rolls of wire sheaths. Sketches of recent Howl-O-Scream creations are still taped to a nearby white board.
Erik Rojas and Jenn Pinkos are the creative team behind this crafter’s paradise. They work so closely that they sometimes complete each other’s sentences. Once they even claim they ate the same type of sandwich, at the same time, despite being hundreds of miles apart. Yes, they affirm, that really happened.
A crafter’s job description at Busch Gardens® in Williamsburg, Va. looks like something out of a Hollywood studio human resources office. In addition to maintaining the park’s crafting supplies and its collection of walk-around characters, Busch Gardens’ crafters design custom costume pieces and special-effect makeup applications that are on display every day for park guests’ entertainment.
The debut of Terror-tories™ at Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream® kept Rojas and Pinkos especially busy this year. The duo created custom wings for the demon deejay in Demon Street™, headless “mourner” puppets for Ripper Row®, and customized makeup designs for the hordes of victims and villains that roam the park each night. Even the sparkling cape used by Count Vlad in Vampire Point™ was designed by the crafting team.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” said Rojas. “People don’t realize it’s just us.”
Rojas started out as a costumed character at Sesame Place® in Langhorne, PA. He came to Busch Gardens in 2009 to help open Sesame Street® Forest of Fun™. Eventually, his familiarity with the Sesame Street costumes helped him transition into his current role as Costume Production Captain overseeing costume characters, puppetry and specialty builds.
“I grew up on the street (Sesame Street) with Jim Hensen, and as a kid I would always shout Big Bird! Big Bird!,” Rojas said. “Eventually I became Big Bird, a character I loved as a child.”
Rojas performed as the yellow feathered bird at Sesame Place, Busch Gardens’ sister park.
Pinkos, an Entertainment Costume Technician, has been with the park for two seasons. She studied costume design in school and helped create costuming and puppets for her senior class’s production of Alice in Wonderland.
Both Pinkos and Rojas cited childhood memories of theater productions as inspiration that drives their creative endeavors.
“When I was little, my family took me to see Peter Pan,” Pinkos said. “I don’t remember the play, but I have this crystal clear memory of Peter Pan flying across the stage. I remember that feeling of experiencing something special.”
Rojas shared a similar experience.
“As a kid, my parents took me to the theater to see Winnie the Pooh. It was the stage version, but with puppets, and at one point Pooh flew with a balloon. I vividly remember that moment, but I don’t remember anything else about that day.”
For Busch Gardens’ crafting team, creating lifetime memories for guests makes all of the long hours and hard work worth it. They relish observing guests react to their creations as they take in a show or stroll through the park.
The pair feeds off each other’s enthusiasm and positive outlook.
“We love positive attitudes,” said Rojas, “If you’re in a bad mood, walk through the park and see people enjoying themselves and having fun. It puts you in a better mood. I feel like everything we do touches upon the core values of the (Busch Gardens) Entertainment Department: To entertain, excite, engage and inspire.”
So what makes the craft department stand out?
“The ability to take anything from anywhere and make it into something – things you wouldn’t normally think to use as materials,” Rojas said.
Pinkos added, “We then make these fantastical designs out of them.”
That means making a wig out of springy metal, using paper towels to give demon wings the appropriate texture or using wiring sheaths to form hair on the Big Bad Wolf head used in Entwined: Tales of Good and Grimm.
Neither Pinkos nor Rojas ever imagined themselves in this unique career.
“I always wanted to become a doctor when I was a kid,” said Rojas, “That changed a couple of times, but you know, I’m happy. I’m happy with what I’m doing, I’m happy with the company I’m with.”
Pinkos agrees, “That’s honestly the best part, it’s just being able to create, to take people and immerse them in these worlds.”
Want a first-hand experience with Busch Gardens’ crafty costumers? Guests who book the Howl-O-Scream All-Access Insider tour will get a chance to be transformed into a ghoulish character by the dynamic duo.
Pinkos and Rojas are two of the many team members who worked tirelessly to complete Busch Gardens’ whirlwind transformation into Howl-O-Scream. Howl-O-Scream runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27. For more information about Howl-O-Scream or the Howl-O-Scream All-Access Insider tour, visit www.howloscream.com/va.
SIDEBAR: More crafty creations ...
What does it take to transform an idea into a finished product? Jenn Pinkos explains the creative process using the headless mourners of Ripper Row® as an example. The craft team is given an idea or rough sketch from the park’s creative director. Pinko’s team then takes over from initial brainstorming to mock ups and, finally, a finished design.
“We love brainstorming,” Pinkos said, “It’s playing, really. One idea sparks another and it helps morph it into something better.With the mourners, it just happened. I think I knew exactly how it should look and how to create it. Usually, we go through several versions.”
With their looming figures and eerie grace, the headless mourners of Ripper Row have become a favorite photo opportunity for park guests
“I’m very proud of them,” said Pinkos, “I was walking through the park one evening and this lady saw the mourners and shouted “Oh wow! You have got to be kidding me!” Her jaw was literally hanging open and she just kept yelling. It made me so happy, I just wanted to shout back to her, ‘I built that.’”