Bagdad Diorama: Dolls, Characters, Costumes, Oh MY!

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Now the really fun part. With only long week to go, I had to come up with costumes and finished characters. Early on I established that I needed The Thief, the Princess, the Magic Carpet, the Evil Handmaiden, the Evil Mongol Prince, and maybe some common people. 

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The Thief of Bagdad story is basically the Aladdin story we are all familiar with. Here the Thief tries to return something to the Princess he stole before he steals her heart. Without sound, the actors had to evoke every thought and feeling in their face and exagerated gestures. Make up and costumes were very much a part of this.

Once the city was pretty much done, I knew at first what the Thief would look like on the flying carpet with his Princess. I actually took this photo from the movie as a screenshot as they flew along the city scape. How can you smile while flying through the air 40-60 feet above the ground by wires?

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The carpet was also a character in this scene, but look at that smile through her veil. No wonder Julanne Johnston was considered a great actress. Doug (the Thief) is magnificent in that cape---oh how I wanted to know the colors of this scene. I imagined the carpet in reds, her in blues and him...I had no idea.

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In 1924 there was no such thing as color film, but there was color printing---and this cardboard cutout for the theatre was done in gorgeous color. This is where I took my inspirations from. Everything revolved around that cape.

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Here's the couple before they take off and make their get-away on the carpet. 

Gold crushed velvet for his shirt-and of course the trademark Fairbanks bare chest...and that grin. She's young and adorable and dripping with jewels on shiny fabrics.

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They zoom up a staircase with the carpet's fringe waving in the air...this maybe a bit tricky.

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I have two of these girls, and I chose the one with longer hair---which I could not make curl for anything. But it was long and dark and flowing and she had an open mouth smile. She's a TNT I put on a MTM body.

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 Here she is in black and white and in color! Her pantaloons are actually from some 'doll' genie outfit(thrift store find), not sure if it's Barbie or Disney. I duplicated the color for the top with turquoise covered in one layer of the gold sheer. Trims and accents were kept minimal with and some added jewelry.  I upped her coloration, ruby lips, and eye shadow and of course 1920's rouge. 
I used Golden Flow acrylics...very smooth and easy to use, I'm not sure at this point if it's removeable, more on that later if I ever decide to remove it.

I needed a jointed body on a male doll with an open mouth smile to catch Douglas Fairbanks personality.
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I actually have three of this guy with various hair treatments. I thought the face structure would work for Doug.

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Since I had the color picture of Doug---I enhanced the doll with pain, he's a Stephan doll that is jointed, I really needed Doug to be posable.  And of course those bright blue eyes---and a snub nose... a pretty good match for Douglas Fairbanks. Here he is in his bare-chested glory.

The red cape will be a post on it's own, at this point it was just a piece of red cloth waiting to be stenciled. Nothing like leaving the best for last!

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Another character was the Carpet that Flies. 

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From the movie, I saw the original was patterned carpet in some scenes. So, I searched for something colorful  with contrasts and definitely Persian. Printing the carpet on paper as large as I could go, roughly 8x10.5.. this ended up being the perfect size to support the dolls.

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Of course I MP'd this to some textured fabric and added two coats of MP on the top. At this point I'm into my second quart of Modge-Podge for the entire project. I trimmed the edges off, cut a piece of thin masonite to fit and glued it on over the fringe glued to the edge.

I drilled holes in the two front corners and the center back for wires and also holes to wire the dolls onto the 'flying' carpet. Tilted and posed the Thief and Princess do look like they are flying through the air (suspended from the wood panels on the sides and back behind the main tower! (By 10# fishing line with wire in it)

Now the supporting characters. 

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Who could believe Lynn Manuel Miranda as a Meanie Mongul Prince. 

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He had the best facial structure and coloring for the Evil Prince. I honestly don't know where I got the gold outfit, other than I think it was in a bag of thrift store doll clothes. Perfect for the Evil Prince...and the colors worked for the overall scheme. I added jewelry, gold leggings and a Mongol leather hat.

 Face painting on the doll was done with the Golden Flow paints again. I'm hoping it can be removed...but the doll is aged and made fearsome at this point. The character had many costumes in the movie and head pieces, I chose to simplify his look a bit for this one scene in his defeat.

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Next in Cast listings was the Evil Handmaiden

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My fingers weren't up to beading an entire costume---so I used a length of ribbon in silver gray tones and accented it with silver black fringe. Her hair piece was made from the same ribbon MP'd on to silver card stock, attached with glass head pins and a bobby-pin into the back of her knotted hair.

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She's a BMR 1959 doll with purple lips I redid in coral. I added more rouge and pouty cherry red lips of the 1920's. I will probably leave her lips as this, now.


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She also needed a guard to stand over her 'Meaness;.

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The four principals in the story in black and white. 

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The two guards were fashioned after this closeup from the movie.

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They are older Ken's, one a skater 

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and another Ken. They were fun to paint and design the costumes...tricky- the boots with the exaggerated toes.

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The breast plates are MP'd scrapbook paper, some shiny fabric around the waist and wrapped cone shaped turban hats. The Pantaloon pants are of black chintz scraps and  made from a Chelly-Wood altered pattern.

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Before painting, you can see they are pretty normal looking. I Added some shiny tape armbands and some wicked looking swords (shiny tape on cardstock) and you have a couple of threatening looking dudes to keep tabs on the evil Handmaiden and Mongol Prince.

While the movie was filled with hundreds of extras, I only had room for two, an old peddler and a woman to be amazed by the flying carpet.

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The Peddler is another Stephan doll, jointed, stuffed to look fatter and with a beard and costume in earthy tones. His wares are pieces of copper and aged brass on a striped carpet.

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A woman dressed in muted patterns of dark and textured fabric with a gold belt stands in the background.

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I chose to remove her face scarf, as she is waving to the Princess and Thief. She's a playline doll my son bought for $1 at a thrift store. 

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Can you imagine working on a movie like this?

I think I can...as I dream in fabrics, Modge Podge, and pints of paint.

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My Final display at the National Barbie Doll Collectors' Convention in Rosemont, Illinois. Entered in the "Scene from a Silent Movie". (I was the only entrant in the category, but received a First Place and a perfect score.) 

Thanks so much for you interest and may all your 
Magic Carpets and Dreams FLY!

My information sheet posted on the outside wall!

NOTE: Photos in this blog series from the actual movie and photos from the sets are from various movie sites: TCM, Books, Blog articles, Pinterest and the Internet in general. My apologies for not siting exact locations. I did research for months and simply stashed images and did not keep a record of the sources. Apologies to all sources, I will be happy to give credit. 

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Bagdad Diorama:Painting and Details

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Once I am the throes of creating, I literally forget to take photos. So I'm going to do some closeups with explanations and materials of how I completed this diorama.

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When I reached this point, I knew I was on a 'good' track for completing a cohesive look paying homage to Menzies' original sketches. A certain amount of simplicity mixed with some memorable details and textures became the goal. 

The entrance panel with the 'black doorway' was fashioned from a 1" thick scrap of foam covered in mustard mottled contact paper. With the deep contrast of the black entrance---this would become a defining feature to the story diorama's story and showing there was a city beyond this walls.

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I counted on overhead lighting at the convention to help create shadows and depth from all the textural elements I created. A last minute addition was the rope wood trim--shown on the left which was painted white, then glazed in gray and silver and wiped off, leaving the grooves darker. This was from warped long lengths of wood trim we had purchased for the basement and didn't use.  

The plan was to apply all the extra pieces and trims with double stick tape to the edge of the board and also as another piece in the diorama. I also planned on using long pins to secure anything that wavered stuck into the foam parts of the construction.

I do have to say I used all my painting tricks and treatments in each of the many elements in the city. I stenciled, stamped, glazed and dry brushed layers again and again to create the finishes. 

Surprisingly my list of paints was very short, I'm giving specific brands on products I've found successful---not selling or promoting any item, nor am I reimbursed for my opinions.

White satin acrylic wall paint (I use leftover home project paints whenever I can) 

Black acrylic craft paint and Artist grade acrylic tube paint.

White acrylic craft paint for mixing with other colors of the same (I do buy this by the pint). 

Yellow Ochre (artist tube acrylic) Perk: artist tube acrylics are more intense than craft paints and go farther.

Blue craft acrylic mixed with white and bit of black for a slightly grayed blue

Grays were made from White and black (a bit of ochre or blue added) 

Concrete Gray craft paint

Delta/Ceramacoat Gleams acrylic craft paints---Gold, Silver, and Pearl (Mine are ancient(over 10 years old), I believe Michael's still carries them-excellent coverage and quality)

I also used computer printed papers for the wood side panels in gold tones and grayed tones, these I printed/altered from the computer and of course MP'd onto the painted wood.


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This is the first setup of the set---Here you can see the Battenberg lace treatment on the arched door...I think the MP was not yet dry on the arch lace. Old pieces of new stock lace worked well in many places and covered up seams and irregularities. I also used wedding lace trims to enhance the minaret towers and cover the seams of sticking multiple cardboard tubes together.

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Here you can see the alternate use of the gold, silver and pearl dry brushing on the details. Upside of MP'd surfaces is they are sealed and great for receiving paint and wipe off treatments.

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I did a glazing/wipe off on the tower in the center of the photo--with the doily that created the elaborate window. I then detailed the 'window' in black with a very small brush. 
The minaret on the left has a sewer pipe fitting 'landing' one-third of the way down and a wooden $1 store birdhouse top. Background buildings are faintly suggested on the wall panels, some with a bit of stenciling or free-hand details.  

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The rampart above the doorway really throws shadows which was the goal to add the illusion of depth. The small black door on the right will be the exit from the plastic stairway. Tiny bits of black were used as port-holes to a city beyond. The metallic gold around the entrance was hand painted, this accented a bridge between the light and dark as well as adding dimension. 

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The 1"x6" wood board on the left is mustard gold and treated the same as the base. The three part paper motif is MP'd on in golden tones. This is where I'm placing my information on the movie, as well as providing a solid place (at the top) to screw in a cup hook to hang the wires to the flying carpet.

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The wood 1x6 panel on the far right outside is done in gray and silver...same print done in gray tones. On the top of this piece (4 inches higher than the other is the second cup hook for the carpet wire.)

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I worked hard to balance out the color to make a background that would be interesting and yet not detract from the characters in the movie. The plan is to use some darker fabrics and accents in the doll's costumes to provide interest.

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I re-used the paper print on the right from center distant tower. I added a few more accents later.

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The stair base was stenciled in a tile pattern which was also used above the arch wall and rampart. A larger tile stencil used on the wall behind the main tower, along with some more wood rope trim. The lace accents were brushed in metallics to show the details.
Hint: Whenever you add motifs, color or details, echo them throughout your design/room in some way. 

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Quitting was the hardest part. 
Always quit before you think you are done...!

Last thing---testing for Black and White by transforming photos to black and white.

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Here's where I decided to up the details and contrast a bit here and there! And I forgot to add the silver staircase...Laters! 

Painting Techniques Used and Defined:

Stencil---to apply paint in a daubing motion with a brush or sponge through a cut out stencil. When removing the stencil (when paint is wet) completely clean before using stencil again. Less is more in this technique to keep seepage to a minimum.

Dry-Brushing---to dip a firm brush in paint and then daub into paper toweling until only a dusting of paint is left to brush back and forth. Apply to textured or grained already painted/sealed surfaces. Used to highlight textured surfaces. I used metallics to enhance surfaces and also give a sheen on the domes.

Glazing or Staining: Mix 1/3 sealer with 2/3 paint apply to a textured surface and wipe excess away--leaving accents within the texture. The sealer extends the paint and gives it a translucent quality. Used on the lace/doily finishes. Gel paints are also sold specifically for this technique.

I'll be happy to answer any questions on specifics. 
Thanks for following along.

NEXT: Dolls, Characters, Costumes...oh MY!

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I have not been paid or reimbursed in anyway for my opinions or products shown, or from where I shop. 

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