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DEATH TO SMOOCHY

Design Work For Smoochy
So what exactly should a singing, dancing rhinoceros look like? 

To answer that question – as well as create the wardrobe for the entire Death to Smoochy cast – the filmmakers tapped costume designer Jane Ruhm, who designed and oversaw the physical construction of the Smoochy costume, built by a half a dozen artisans at Chip's Creature Creations, a premiere Hollywood specialty shop.

Guided by director Danny DeVito's initial vision of a friendly and benign rhino that kids would trust and respond to, Ruhm drew copious versions of the rhino suit. "I put the basic shape of the costume onto Edward, and he gave us notes,” Ruhm says. "He had done a lot of research and brought in nature photographs of rhinoceroses. Inspired by the photos, he asked me to make the face less round, and more angular and rhino-like.”

Comprised of handmade layers of foam covered in fake fur, the eight-piece Smoochy costume consists of the headpiece; a sleeveless torso, which fits over a separate tunic that connects the arms; the legs, fashioned as loose trousers; two slip-on feet; and two slip-on paws. To give Smoochy maximum options for conveying his emotions, Ruhm outfitted the rhino with "a whole tray of eyes” that could be applied and removed with Velcro to affect a range of expressions. 

To ensure that Smoochy would be a hit with kids, Norton (who plays guitar) tested Smoochy's act on his target audience before filming began. "We had this big moment when Danny introduced me and I came out in the costume. He said, ‘You know who this guy is,' meaning, ‘It's Edward Norton, the actor.' And all the kids shouted Smoochy! Their reaction felt so pure and real. Apart from the movie, it felt like we managed to create a character in a show that kids were really responding to.”

The rhino ensemble is so vivid and cumbersome, Ruhm and her wardrobe team referred to the costume as "the sofa,” prompting the on-set battle cry "Get the sofa!” whenever it was time for Norton to suit up for filming. 

"Normally, a male actor of Edward's caliber wouldn't agree – let alone suggest – that their rhino wardrobe be hot pink,” Ruhm enthuses. "And most actors would've complained about wearing such a bulky, awkward costume. But Edward was fabulous. He was actively involved in the design process, and not only danced and played guitar in the suit – he ice-skated in it! He was a dream to work with.” 

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