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The Fifth Element

Full Size Mondoshawan

Every five thousand years, when the planets align, the entire galaxy is threatened by a “great evil”. With the next attack imminent the alien race of Mondoshawans visit earth in 1914 to retrieve the four elements, the only weapon that will save the universe. The Mondoshawans are huge, clanking creatures that appear to be robots, giant gold coloured organic looking machines seen at the start of the movie they remain many peoples favourite characters.

The Mondoshawan was initially sculpted by Mark Godderidge and a team of sculptors including Mark Coulier who also designed and fabricated the arms and articulated fingers. The first form of the head was done by John Coppinger under direct consultation from visionary director Luc Besson. The head was later refined by Steve Wright. The elaborate facial movement, light up eyes and moving breathing vents, was undertaken by animatronics wizard Chris Barton. The whole head is remote controlled and is also fully interchangeable and is easily removed by sliding it up off a plate when the costume is apart, a different head with different actions can then be added.

This imposing robot stands an impressive 7ft 8 tall and measures more than 5 ft wide. The vast majority is made from fibreglass with an integral overlay of material which gives an unusual effect under direct light. Large areas are made from mesh which helped with ventilation. Inside the body is a harness for an actor to wear, it difficult to appreciate that this is actually a costume not a mechanically controlled puppet. The actors feet clip into ski boots and there is a safety bar between each leg to stop the legs moving too far and too quickly. There is a camera housed in the centre above the head from which images were relayed to a monitor inside for the performers benefit. There is no other way for anyone to see out. Each Mondo required 4 people to control it and no actor spent more than 15 minutes at a time inside it simply got too hot.

The spikes across the shoulders are unique to each creature and define rank, they are supposed to be the creature’s ventilation, communication and recording devices. This Mondo is the first to approach Professor Pacoli (John Bluthal) and shakes his head when questioned if he is German. This creature is also the one that ultimately stuns the professor as the Mondo’s proceed into the inner chamber. The Mondoshawan has now sought refuge at the Prop Store and we are still trying to work out what he eats – hopefully not props.

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