Artem, the special effects company, recently created a giant animatronic dog for Frontline’s latest health campaign, which was launched at Crufts, the competitive dog show.

The campaign, fronted by Titch – a giant, five-foot tall dog, was designed to get pet owners to take a closer look at the issue of flea egg infestations in the home.

It took a team of 10 people more than 2,000 hours to construct the giant Cavalier King Spaniel which moved realistically. The team spent days studying dogs of similar breeds to ensure that the suit could move in an anatomically correct fashion and so that operators could mimic the movements. Artem used an array of materials, including modacrylic especially imported from the USA to replicate animal fur.

The giant dog was operated by one person inside the suit as well as three other operators who helped activate the animatronic elements such as the tongue and eyes. The animatronic giant dog was assembled directly at the event and was operated by puppeteers from the play War Horse.

Nigel Swift, designer at Artem, commented: “Making the dog costume was a fascinating job. We first had to make a computer drawing, which was then sculpted in polystyrene on our multi-axis robotic arm. The complex lightweight support structure was modelled on a computer, which let us try the best configuration for the mechanical movements that were required. In addition we needed to make sure the model was correctly proportioned and all the internal components fitted within the costume correctly. Once we had determined these parameters we used the polystyrene body shape to produce the patterns for the fur.”

One of the key challenges in the construction was adapting the human proportions of the operator inside the suit to the proportions of a dog. The team overcame this by using items such as leg and arm extensions to give the performer  more dog-like proportions.

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