Though they’ve yet to demand a giant trailer or fancy craft services, the puppets used in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” have all the hair and makeup needs of much taller stars. And that’s where puppet groomer Deborah Cook and her case of custom-made tools come into the picture.
“I use tiny chalk and clay sticks to brush away the oil from a puppet’s clothing after someone has handled them, or tiny eye drop bottles to keep special cleaning fluids,” says Cook of the items she’s collected over the years. “I have to do things like comb through Mr. Fox’s fur or apply tiny bits of face powder so that the silicone face of a puppet won’t reflect too much, and I’m always looking for something that will help me do those kinds of tasks.”
Cook — who keeps children’s toothbrushes, eyebrow brushes and surgical tweezers on hand — was head of costume design on “Coraline” and a costume maker on “The Corpse Bride.” The art school grad credits her obsession with detail and understanding of scale for her success with styling cinema’s smaller stars.
“Everything has to be proportioned correctly,” Cook notes. “You need finely patterned materials to make their clothes because if you use material that’s on human scale, it will really look out of place.”
The Bristol, England-born artist also strives to protect the puppets from wear and tear by constantly checking their look in the camera.
“They really are so fragile, and they’re under constant siege,” Cook says. “I’m in a battle against the sweat from the animators’ hands each day.”