Bronze Armory-An Interview with a Company Above the Rest
The biggest Comic Convention in the world is happening this weekend. One company to look out for is Bronze Armory, a studio that specializes in costumes and props for anything nerd including but limited to Marvel, DC, and SciFi and have worked with different studios including G4 and Skywalker Ranch. Their costumes are amazing to admire. At last Wondercon, during a Marvel costume contest, I had the privilege of meeting one of their consultants, Douggary Grant, who agreed to an interview with Armory’s head honcho, Allan Lavigne.
Tell us a little about Bronze armory:
The Bronze Armory Studios is a property, costume and special effects studio with credits from Lucas films, Sony Pictures, Marvel Entertainment and television production companies such as G4 and many others. We also prototype items for companies such as Museum Replicas, DC Direct as well as industrial firms, laboratories and government contracts.
We’re best known for our commercial wing that sells our own line of film props, collectibles and costumes.
When did the company start?
We started selling to the public in 1999, though we’ve worked in the film and television industry since 1977.
Who founded or runs the company?
My name is Allan Lavigne and I am the Studio Head of The Bronze Armory Studios.
Where are you based out of?
We have offices in San Francisco and our studio is in the East Bay in Concord California.
Why begin a company like this?
We began our commercial sales when we observed at comic and Sci-Fi conventions the large fan base looking for quality costumes or collectibles from their favorite genre film or T.V. shows.
The 80’s and 90’s saw a large upsurge in garage kit manufactures of various quality and we saw an opportunity, given our board experience in genre films to bring some needed professional quality and marketing cache to the fans.
I became interested in Sci-Fi and Monster and Horror films when I acquired my first copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland, edited by one of my latter mentors Forrest Ackerman. I purchased a subscription with a coupon I had obtained with my “Aurora” Frankenstein model kit with box art by the great cover artist James Bama. The cover story of my first edition of FM featured the 1964 B film classic “The Flesh Eaters”.
But more intriguing than the articles were the ads in the back of the magazine. Adds for “Live Venus Fly Traps”, Giant Rubber Bats and Shrunken Heads. I spent much more time musing over the selection of horrors for sale than anything else in the magazines. In fact as soon as I received each new edition, after a few minutes of wondrous gazing at the cover art of the magazines I quickly flipped right through the articles to the back of the magazine to see what new and incredible unworldly item was for sale. They certainly didn’t have any of this stuff at the stores where I lived.
I remember my first mail order purchase; I’d saved for months, ordered my items, and waited the prescribed 4 to 6 weeks for them to arrive (no Amazon.com overnight delivery at that time)
When the package arrived at the mail box, which I had waited at every morning at 8am sharp for the delivery, I could hardly contain my excitement.
I raced into the house and carefully opened the box slowly removing each new treasure with awe and wonderment.
I had purchased four items; a giant rubber bat (which I actually still have), a giant fly that you could stick on the wall, a 6 foot inflatable snake and novelty called “Horrible Herman” a small pale green box with the name on it and holes poked in the top to appear as though there was something alive inside. And there was, a small one eyed insect looking creature that could be manipulated with a lever on the bottom of the box with your finger.
Herman was a clever illusion, it was simply a black feather glued to the lever with two threads of elastic for antenna and a large red sequence for an eye.
Still, to the unsuspecting when flaying about in the box it appeared to be quite alive and scared the heck out of many of my friends.
When we decided to begin making our own line of collectibles my vision was to bring the same awe and wonder that I had in years past for new items. To create a similar mystique, excitement and enthusiasm for the fans to experience.
Do you have more than one person making the products or a full contributing staff?
We now have about a dozen different artists working with us in varying roles at the studio. The extremely talented Andrew Vanderkarr is our lead illustrator. He’s doing the cover art for our next PDF catalog, Douggary Grant whom you’ve met is our acting Media rep and IT consultant. Jill Sherman is head of our tailoring department and we enlist a number of art students from local art academies for our manufacturing.
I do much of the product R & D, sculpting and prototyping.
Do you make and provide product for certain companies? If so who?
As I shared, though the bulk of our work is in the genre film collectible and costume market, we do prototype for other companies.
We’ve done a number of things with Museum Replicas and just two years ago we prototyped a manufacturing production model of the Star Wars Storm Trooper armor for eventual commercial sales and Lucas’s traveling museum exhibition.
We were the first studio to be allowed to work with the actual armor worn by Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford at Skywalker ranch in the Lucas Archives.
But we’ve done many other things as well, during the Iraq invasion we were tasked with creating a ballistic armor system for Hum V’s. We designed a modular system that could be assembled on the Hum V’s in the field and shield them from improvised explosive devices.
We also created a full scale study model of a multi threat metal and bomb detector for a Palo Alto laboratory firm “Qlylur”
What sort of conventions do you attend?
We began attending conventions years before they were mainstream. The first one I attended was in 1977 in Phoenix Arizona called Iguana Con. That led to my attendance at the World Sci-Fi convention then my first San Diego Comic Con in 1978. Though at that time it was called the “Great Western Golden State Comic Book Convention” and was in the old San Diego Convention Center where it didn’t even fill up ¾ of the convention floor. It’s come a long way since then.
Do you have models who wear the products at the conventions?
As to models wearing our costumes, more and more women are gravitating to Cosplay and we’re more than happy to accommodate them and now have more and more wearing our work on the convention floor.
We’ll be rolling out a couple of new female costumes this year at Comic Con; our highly anticipated Wonder Woman costume and The Huntress.
Can anyone purchase from Bronze Armory, such as convention cosplayers? Or do you stick to a more professional cliental?
Yes anyone can purchase from us. Though we are a working studio it’s the genre film fans and their love of Sci-Fi, Superheroes and horror that we really enjoy creating products for.
For nearly 10 years we did have a store on EBay and still maintain a link in EBay stores, though after Halloween season this year we decided we wanted more control over our site than EBay offered
Currently the studio is in the process of launching an all new web site with the assistance of “Dreamlabs Marketing” in southern California which will have the widest verity of props, costumes and collectibles available anywhere. We will also have another section that will have on-line classes on how to create props and costumes for those who haven’t had an opportunity to attend any of our lectures at San Diego Comic Con.
In addition the site well have a section for independent and professional film makers as well as industry manufactures that require proto-typing of props and products.
Until the site is launched all our regular products and many more are still available for sale via PayPal. For inquiries about what we have you can contact the studio at our general email box firstname.lastname@example.org Many of our products are also carried by MonstersinMotion.com
We will also be issuing a new PDF catalog very soon as well. If there are readers that would like to get a copy of our new PDF catalog when it comes out they can send us their request with their email address to email@example.com
Below are some more pictures of some of our award winning costumes and collectable props. And to see some of our film work you can view these two shorts we did with our good friends at “Attack of the Show” on G4.
Many thanks to Douggary Grant, Allan Lavigne and the Bronze Armory Studio. I for one am really excited to show off what Bronze Armory has to offer. I’ve seen their work first hand and they don’t dally on the details. The above images only scratch the surface of what they’ve done and what is available. I would absolutely love to wear one of their pieces one day! Interested in a prop or costume? Contact the studio at firstname.lastname@example.org