Magic Mentah is a feature film that is currently in post production, written and directed by John Higbie.  Principal photography was completed in late August 2006.  The DVD release is scheduled for... when John gets it done.

I was head of special props, which means that I supervised the construction of or constructed myself props which were particularly odd. The full prop list is:
  • Recapitator: a device which kept a severed head alive (constructed)
  • Severed head: one of the main characters loses his head (supervised and assisted)
  • Trachea puppet: The character who loses his head still has an extra-long trachea that was puppeteered like a tentacle (constructed, puppeteered)
  • Vidion: A portable audio/vidio unit (constructed)
  • Portal: A gateway between the real world and a collective fantasy one. (supervised and assisted construction)
  • Broken Portal: (constructed)
  • Broken Dark Matter Beams: (supervised and assisted construction)
  • Pylon: Reminiscent of lane dividing pylons in Amsterdam (supervised and assisted construction)
  • Leelyah: A bizzare animal that sniffs out people who have absorbed dark matter into their bodies (constructed)
  • Baby Leelyah: Oversize and actual size: Rod puppets.  The actual size one was under 4" long, the oversize for closeups was about 11" long.  (constructed, puppeteered)
  • Basteroid: statue of one of the characters.  (constructed)
  • Liver Pup: A cable puppet of a liver, offered for sale in a pet store. (constructed, puppeteered)
  • Meat Bird: A bird that appeared to be made of scraps of meat and organs, also for sale in the pet store. (constructed, puppeteered)
  • Neurons: Giant floating neurons (constructed, animated)
  • A700 Mining Hammer: A device used for mining dark matter (stayed out of the way while Richard Jacobson built it)

The vidion prop.  This was used where characters communicate with each other and in public information displays.  Due to a problem getting the thing built, the prop wasn't available during shooting and had to be added in post.

The grille was made to be reminiscent of the cast grilles found on drive-in theater speakers.  In was made of pine.

The controls needed to have unique symbols and, like many other things in the film, look retro.  These were made from '50s era knobs I found at a local electronics store (Purchase Radio).

Vidion Test Composite

This is a test composite of the vidion prop, shot several weeks after the live action, composited in with the live action.  The prop was shot twice, once per position on the desk.

Vidion Element

This is an element that will be used for "news breaks".  A video element will be added to the screen, and the vidion itself will travel across the screen against some background.

This is a grainy shot of the recapitator prop.  I started with a 3-legged robot with a center post, and then added a working bellows, light, and dressed it with a bottle of fake blood, hoses, wires, and weathered it.

Recapitator on set

This is the recapitator with the dummy severed head on it.


The leelyah was essentially an industrial tool.  It sat in a cage and the head was puppeteered from below and sniffed people to see how much "dark matter" was absorbed in their bodies.  The beast is a bit deformed due to the genetic engineering process that focussed on the parts that enhanced dark matter detection and allowed nonessential things to be deformed.

The mouth opened and was used in closeups.

Baby Leelyah

A baby version of the above. It was a rod puppet that had to crawl a short distance. It had head and mouth movement like the adult version.

Actual size version used in long shots. It had only head movement.

Liver Pup ("Spot")

One of the scenes happens in a pet shop, but the pets are things that aren't quite right.  Some of the offerings are medical plugin seconds, which means that they are organs "grown" or whatever for use as transplants, but the organs aren't quite right.  So rather than throw them away, the organs are sold as pets.  Now, in this movie's universe the organs are living, disembodied things with a personality.  Don't ask why, there isn't an answer, and even if there was you probably wouldn't like it.

So this is Spot in the bed basket.

Spot is a foam rubber puppet with cable controls that allowed the "nose" to move back and forth, up and down.


This is a portal between the fantasy world and the real world, designed to look like a rusty old cast iron piece.  In reality, it's made from MDF board, PVC pipe, fiberglass and bondo, wood, and urethane castings.  The glamorous background you see is the storage facility where many of the movie's props and equipment are being stored.  The door opens inward, and actors went through on a few occasions.

Closeups of the door and the exaggerated claw feet.
That's a pinecone on the door, not a pineapple or artichoke.

Meat Bird

This is a rod/marionette/radio control puppet. There's a tiny servo in the head to operate the jaw, the wings were on strings from above, and the whole thing was wrangled with a rod from the body and one on the head.  It's mostly silicone.


A motion control prop. It's about 4' tall and looks like one of the characters. The body is sculpted from Trymer, textured with a mix of nearly dried out joint compound and paint. The head was sculpted from clay, molded with GI-1000, and cast with an expoy shell and filled with expanding rigid urethane foam.


A CG element prop. I took a crude model and rebuilt it, rigged it, and animated it in Carrara. In some shots they had to interact with the live action.