Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chris Kastner's Backyard Terrors and Dinosaur Park

Halloween is just around the corner so for today I thought it would be cool to share with you the work of my friend, Chris Kastner, who has experience building props and models for Halloween attractions. Chris has also put together something else that is truly extraordinary and it's right in his own backyard!  It is a walk-through dinosaur park with life-sized models of many impressive dinosaurs (which he makes all himself).  What I like the most about his park is the fact that Chris actually does the right homework and ends up making models that are really accurate to science (which is more than I can say about so many other, more famous dinosaur attractions out there!).   

 Chris and his park have even been on the news!

Chris and one of his louder creations, a Parasaurolophus.

My name is Chris Kastner.  I think I've always been into art of some form. I believe I started drawing from a desire to capture what I saw on tv, movies and other places. I felt a need to make them mine and possess them perhaps ? Probably a part of why I collect things come to think of it. 

I'm not sure exactly when Dinosaurs became a main staple of my art but I believe my first one was a plush toy of some sort my mom gave me. Then it was models, t-shirts, Halloween costumes..a genral interest in the past also developed in me.  I was an average student in school, things like math didn't interest me. It was science, art and reading I enjoyed..though I found a way to draw in every class much to my teacher's ire. My mom's passing had a profound effect on me in 98' . She was my ever constant supporter of whatever I chose to do. After being taken in by my grandparents there was of course a sense of loss and depression I still feel to this day. So  I dove head first into my art, books, and anything I could express myself in.

When I graduated I didn't really feel drawn to any particular area..I had always considered being a paleontologist, but my weak ankles and flat feet pretty much prohibited the field work I would have preffered.  So I continued to draw, and sculpt a little doing odd jobs.  Me and some family members put togehter a haunted yard event each Halloween which continued to get more elaborate each year. Finally we were asked to assist a local pro-haunt and created things for them til I actually took over the event for 5 years. When the time came and that was over I knew I still wanted to create things that were big and impressive. We went out and joined up with another haunt and created our own branded show, The FUNHOUSE Haunted Attraction. I also decided to go into business for myself and thus Backyard Terrors was born. We're still starting out but we can create or put together anything one might want.  This also leads me to the Dinosaur Park. I created our first life size dinosaur in 2007. I had always wanted a 1:1 dinosaur of some size for my own and finally got up the nerve to try it. Of course being a HUGE Jurassic Park fan I picked a JP Raptor.  He took 6 months to build and finish. Then I made a couple pteranodons and a dilophosaur. 

The first dinosaur Chris ever made, a Jurassic Park III male Velociraptor.  Here you can see it terrorizing the local boys.  Pretty normal.

It wasn't long after that I noticed a decay in my I had to find a new way to make them.  With a new material  almost literally stumbled across I now had free reign to make more dinosaurs without the worry of their quick decline outdoors.  My next dinosaur was the Brachiosaur juvenile and then the styracosaurus and so on..this past year we have added 7 new species to our Park, including a small  giftshop.  The really cool thing I've been told is that the Dinosaur Park is totally free admission. We do accept donations if offered but it's not required.  The choice to do this came from my experience as part of a low income family. I didn't want to charge 8.00 and have a family of four not be able to enjoy this place because they only had 25.00 on them.  I think every kid of any age should be able to see a big impressive exhbit regardless of how much they earn. So this Park is always available for afternoon stops after school, weekend trips combined with other local attractions birthdays parties for small donations and even school field trips who are always hard pressed to find something affordable to do.  We plan to keep adding to the Park and even do events like a Trick or Treat with the dinosaurs, easter egg hunt, Christmas lights, even a Dino Park in the Dark event next summer.  We've had so many people thank us for providing something of this nature for everyone and it's been our pleasure to do it. My desire to keep growing and building for as long as I can and share my creations with everyone.

How long on average does it take to complete a dinosaur ?
CK: It depends on the size of dinosaur and complexity of course..our first one took 6 months. But I have the process now down to about a month, month and a half.

A very colorful juvenile Spinosaurus

 What is the biggest one you have ever done?
CK: Most of our dinos average 20' or so...many in the sub-adult or juvenile range.   I think the largest would either our Allosaurus, Big Al or our cannibal Carnotaurus.  Certainly the biggest will be our upcoming 1:1 T-Rex .

A Cannibalistic Carnotaurus is one of the more aggressive residents of the Backyard Terrors Dinosaur Park.

Which is your favorite one you have ever done?
CK: That would have to be our mascot, Big Al..I've been partial to Allosaurus since I was a kid. He was like T-Rex but had boney bumps on his head and three figures instead of two...clearly superior to this kid. lol

"Big Al", the Allosaurus and jewel/mscot of the park.
What are they made of?

CK: We start with a treated wood frame, sometimes using metal or fiberglass to strengthen it.  Then we used heavy gauge steel fencing to get the rough shapes. That's covered with poultry fencing aka chicken wire to round out the forms and give us larger scale patterns.  Finally the skin itself is a type of heavy duty vinyl material that has to be super heated to piece together and shrunk to the framing. 
Nothing says relaxation like manual labor in the snow.  It's dinosaur manual labor though, so its worth it.

So if you are ever in Tennessee be sure to swing by Chris' place and check out his Backyard Terrors and Dinosaur Park!  Also be sure to check them out on facebook

Tune in Sunday for a Halloween-related dinosaur of the week.  (nobody guessed it yet by the way)

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