Hi peeps! Tina and I were recently asked to build a giant version of the old hilarious squirting flower prank, except that this one would be interactive and spray slime. We needed the victims to get close to the machine (which we made to look like a big terrarium) so we included a bunch of buttons that would bring them close enough to prank them. In total we needed the machine to have three sets of buttons that would drop "plant food" onto the plants, water the plants and turn lights on and off. We also needed speakers blast an alarm sound and we needed to have bulbs on the plants expand and then explode with slime, plus we needed some slime cannons hidden inside that would burst a large volume of "plant slime" on cue.
What's happening here? This is for a hidden camera prank show and the victim is asked by a scientist to look after his prized plants while he steps out of the room. Suddenly, the plants get angry. Fog starts to rise from the moss. The victim must desperately water and feed the plants to calm them down, hitting buttons on all sides of the machine. Can they do it before the plant gets so angry it explodes? (nope).
Here's how we did it:
Step 1: Build the Frame
The machine would be placed indoors so we designed it to come apart into two main sections (and thus fit through most standard doorways and be lighter to carry).
To build the windows I ran 2x4 stock through the table saw and made 1x2 stock. I know I could have just bought 1x2 stock but sometimes I just don't think so brightly. I dado cut the 1x2 strips to make slots for pieces of plexi that I bought. I cut the corners at 45 degrees and pin nailed the frames together after painting them black (in the end I realized I could have just bought IKEA plain frames and used those - but where's the fun in that?).
The frame is crown-stapled 1x3s, the top of the frame was a ridiculous mix of me trying to cut angles and get them to fit together (I ended up with 30 and 60 degree angles and they sort of worked).
Once the frame was assembled we skinned the frame with lauan (or 5mm virola), mudded and sanded it. I also made some exterior boxes out of G1S ply so that I could put the buttons, speakers and a hidden GOPRO camera on them.
Step 2: Start Figuring Out the Special Fx Rigs
Our next step was to start building the functions for the interactive buttons. When the person hits the "FOOD" button we wanted pellets to drop from an upside down bottle mounted to the roof. The build for this was pretty simple; we made a spring-loaded plywood sandwich that we could pull the middle board back. That action would align a bunch of drilled holes and the pellets would fall through.
Next we got to thinking about resetting the rig and how to make that easier for the operator. Because there was going to be a lot of water and slime involved we decided to make a catch basin out of Rubbermaid bins (we cut slits in the lids so the water would drain into the boxes). The fake plants would sit on moss that would sit on a towel that would sit on the bins.
Next we decided to tackle the WATER button. This became a slightly complicated series of hose lines running from a valved manifold; when they press the water button we release the appropriate valve and water sprays out from a ceiling garden sprinkler.
Step 3: Adding Details
Now, we've wired up the ceiling lights to turn on when the victim hits the LIGHT button, the FOOD button drops food and the WATER button delivers water. Now we start to add details to the build to make it look slightly more authentic. This process often involves gluing random objects to builds, painting them and making them blend in. For us on this build we added pieces of scrap MDF that we chamfered the edges, bits of scrap copper pipe and random schwaz that we had laying around the shop. It's funny to watch some movies and catch a flicker of something added by some crafty prop builder from the corner of your eye - here's the best example:
"To the untrained eye, one on-screen ship from RETURN OF THE JEDI might look less like the Millennium Falcon that something far more ordinary – a tennis shoe – but it played its part in arguably the greatest space battle ever filmed. The pitched warfare over Endor was the most demanding assignment George Lucas had presented to the artist at Industrial Light & Magic up to that time, and it remains the standard by which all others must be measured. That a flying tennis shoe could remain unseen amid the tumult and chaos of some 50 ships careening into combat is a testament to the acheivement of former ILM effects virtuoso Ken Ralston, who supervised the sequence…..
…..Which brings us back to Ralston’s tennis shoe – among other things – and the fact that it’s an amazing accomplishment just to see how many ships there are buzzing around the moon of Endor, or how many ships there seems to be. “I was always trying to stick stuff into shots,” Ralston laughs. “JEDI has my tennis shoes and also a yogurt container as part of the ships in the background! Who would know? It’s like there’s all this stuff going on – and I thought, ‘Hey, it’d be fun.’ It was my way of just saying, ‘See what you can get away with?’ Some people noodle this stuff so much, fretting about it, but it’s like, you know, you can’t tell what this stuff is – just stick it out there!” - http://furiousfanboys.com/2010/06/the-best-star-wars-easter-eggs/
Step 4: Paint It and Wire Up the Exploding Slime Bulbs!
We gave the terrarium a coat of green, thinking that we would go back and add more colour and texture later (we ran out of time and couldn't finish the scenic painting job :-(
Tina dressed the interior of the terrarium with mats of fake moss, then added plastic plants and a few live ones. She ran a manifold of six lines to different plants; each one had a small water ballon filled with slime attached to the end of it. She ran the manifold to an air pig that had about 100 PSI in it; the bulbs expand and burst pretty quickly.
The major slime blasts were also attached to hoses; they ended in hidden cups filled with slime. These were activated by hitting a button that released a sprinkler valve and permitted a blast of compressed air to shoot out. It sprays a lot of slime!!
Step 5: Final Step: PRANK PEOPLE!!
Annnnnnnnd........ huh? I can't show you the prank in action! Seriously, I'm not pranking you; it's because of laws and such stuff that I can't show you a shot of the slime burst (I don't own the right to that footage). So I will try to describe it: the victim is frantically pressing buttons, trying to water and feed plants that they've been told they have made angry. Suddenly the plants start to stretch and then BOOM! They burst into large goops of goo! A pause. And then BA BOOM! The entire inside of the terrarium is leveled with a coat of slime! The scientist walks back in the room and loses his beans - what did you do to my plants!???!!
And hilarity ensues!
The world's biggest squirting flower machine.