We are thrilled to work on ITV’s The Masked Dancer. We talk to Plunge’s Managing Director and Costume Designer, Tim about the masks and costumes we’ve fabricated and answer all your questions on what designing for such a big and exciting show entails.
How did you come to be working on the Masked Dancer?
We literally got a call out of the blue. The producers had seen our work on Big Heads and the Cartoon Network Live show and thought we might be the ones to help with their new show. I’d never heard of The Masked Dancer at the time but a quick Google search later we were all getting somewhat excited about what it might entail.
Which costumes have you designed?
I’ve designed almost all the costumes for Masked Singer UK season 1 and 2 as well as those for The Masked Dancer.
Which was your favourite?
Though it’s hard to pick a favourite I think it’s still Tree. For two reasons, we got the eye position slightly off when making it and he ended up staring skywards more than we’d intended, but the result was that he had a magical faraway look in his eyes that gave him a somewhat ethereal quality. The other reason is that my 10-year-old son Ted made a number of origami creatures which we secreted in amongst Tree’s roots and branches.
Where did the inspiration for the characters come from?
The inspiration can come from almost anywhere. For Carwash I was inspired by the Kukeri costumes of Bulgaria. They are huge hairy costumes traditionally made of long furs, sometimes from yak and musk ox. I wanted to find another way of creating a massive furry costume and Carwash was the result.
Beagle was intended as a bit of a play on the name Biggles who was, for those old enough to remember, a famous fictional airman and adventurer from the 1930s.
Knickerbocker Glory? Well, I was eating an ice cream…
How does the whole project work, from inception to design and who else is involved?
The ideas generally start as a pencil sketch or a mood board. From there it’s a matter of teasing out the character that is going to bring the costume to life. Lots of the ideas get rejected but I kind of know when I’ve nailed a costume. It just all comes together and you can kind of imagine them on stage.
The next stage is working with the team at Plunge to actually get down to the hard work of making the thing! This often begins in the sculpture department, working in clay to create the head, taking a 2D image on the page to a 3D form that is going to be wearable. There is quite a process of fabric sourcing, which has been harder because of lockdown, during which the colours and textures of the character come together. Unlike on the Masked Singer where we fabricate the whole costume, for this show Plunge made all the masks and we worked alongside Nicole Atkinson and her team who made the bodies of the majority of the costumes.
What is the most complicated aspect of the process?
The most complicated aspect of the whole process is not knowing who you’re making a costume for. We get sent measurements but it still feels like we’re working in the dark a bit and it’s sometimes not until we’re on set with the performer that we finally get to property fit the costume. We’re getting more used to it but it’s still tricky.
What is your favourite part of working on the characters?
If the character has eyes (and not all of them do) then my favourite part of the making process is adding the eyes. It is when the mask finds its true character. In this series of The Masked Dancer we had one hell of a time with Squirrel, she still looks pretty bonkers but there was a stage when we fitted her first eyeballs when she looked completely unhinged. We had to make a lot of changes before we all settled on the nutty look she now has for the show.
Do you know who all the Masked Dancers are?
Not at all. I did get the pleasure of working with a couple of them in rehearsals but because we had such restricted numbers on set for Covid reasons I didn’t get to meet most of the cast. Those of the team who did meet members of the cast don’t even share their inside knowledge with the rest of the crew so most of us are completely in the dark and are guessing away with the rest of the viewing public.
Are there any behind the scenes tidbits of info or things you saw that you can share?
Not really, except to say that it really is a secret who the celebs are. There are hardly any of the TV crew who actually know who they are and we all know not to ask.
Do you have a favourite costume? The costume I’d most like to wear is Carwash. I think I’d need to brush up on my dancing skills but it would be a great costume to take to a festival.
What happens to the costumes afterwards?
The costumes and masks are locked away in a secret vault. Some of the previous Masked Singer costumes have had new lives on the international Masked Singer series’ and there is the possibility of a national tour of some of the costumes so that members of the public can see them in all their glory.