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NIDA Lecturer Tim Chappel shares his Masked Singer illustrations

NIDA’s Senior Lecturer in Design for Performance Tim Chappel shares the illustrations for the costumes that won him an AACTA nomination.

Photo: Tim Chappel’s costumes in action on the set of The Masked Singer Australia. (Photo: supplied)

NIDA’s Senior Lecturer Tim Chappel been nominated for an AACTA award forThe Masked Singer Australia costumes. TheAcademy Award and BAFTA-winning costume designer is NIDA’s Senior Lecturer in Design for Performance. He’s also been booked to create the costumes for The Masked Singer Sweden. We caught up with him in the NIDA café as he was busy mentoring students to prepare for the opening of EXPONIDA, the October Student Production Season and the upcoming Festival of Emerging Artists.

Tim, we were excited to hear about your AACTA nomination! Congratulations. Can you tell us about the Masked Singer?
Thank you. I’m excited about the nomination too! I haven’t got one of those yet! The Masked Singer is a singing competition show that has taken television by storm, and in which celebrities from all areas – including sport – face off against each other in lavish costumes with full facemasks to conceal their identities. It’s a gameshow format, which was originated by the South Korean television programKing of Mask Singer. In Australia, Network 10 is hosting the franchise

We understand that you are also working with some NIDA students and alumni on the show.
Yes that’s right. NIDA Bachelor of Fine Arts (Properties and Objects) alumna Megan Ashforth and Zoe Rolfe, current third-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Costume), were also working on the show.

How did you get involved in the show?
I was working with Warner Brothers on Dancing with the Stars when they approached me to design the costumes and masks for the first series in Australia. The development, creation and schedule air was all incredibly top secret. An initial 20 characters were originally designed then whittled down to 12 to be manufactured. I had to design and develop them super quickly as we only had a total of 11 weeks of pre-production. The costumes had to be designed and made before we had cast which was challenging. It was only problematic once as we had made the Monster in a small/medium size and the person wearing that had to squeeze into it! But it all worked out well in the end.

Why do think the show has been so successful?
I think that part of the undeniable appeal of a series likeThe Masked Singer is the kind of animism that the masks and costumes themselves seemed to develop, adding to the mystery of the singer. It’s a big show � it’s like a variety show of professional singers in wild costumes. And it’s a lot of fun. It’s the number one show in the US and is a huge hit all over the world.

Where did your inspiration come from for the costumes?
I went into what I call ‘full immersion’. I was doing 16-hour days of research and went into the worlds of cosplay, video games, anime and cartoons. I went down the rabbit hole to see what would come out the other side! I adapted the costumes slightly for the Australian market. It was a dream job to invent so many new original characters. I was also required to reference several characters from the US show. I did my own version of the Unicorn, the Lion and the Monster – fortunately deconstructing the existing and teasing out something fresh is an aspect of my job that I really enjoy.

I also wanted it to represent the cultural diversity of Australia so the lion had Asian characteristics. I wanted all the different cultures of Australia to see each other on the screen, as we are very diverse. It was subtle but there was something up there for everyone.

How were the costumes then made?
I discussed with Meg about the materials to use and how we wanted them to be manufactured. Some of the costumes were cast in fibreglass and some were made from foam. They are very sturdy and robust, but one problem was ensuring that there was airflow inside them and making sure that they could see and sing from inside them. We had to work with an audio engineer to get the acoustics right.

Are you happy about the results?
All designers are the same. All we can see is what we are not happy with of course! But the show is amazing, and the results are incredible. It was a fantastic job to work on.

What do you do at NIDA?
I work with all the NIDA Design for Performance students in different capacities, a lot with design, research and illustration. I am now working with the students on the upcoming Festival of Emerging Artists. I love working here. I always wanted to work at NIDA and was thrilled to be offered a place on the faculty. NIDA does a great job of producing internationally-recognised designers and artists. The standards are super high and students graduate equipped not only as developed artists but as creative professionals.

About Tim Chappel

In 1995 Tim won an Academy Award, a BAFTA and an Australian Film Institute Award (AFI) for his costume design for the feature film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of The Desert. He later revisited this work in the stage show Priscilla, Queen of The Desert, The Musical which has been performed worldwide and won the 2011 Tony Award for best costume design in a musical. Tim spent many years designing for feature films including Today You Die, Lovewrecked, Miss Congeniality, Into The Sun, Red Riding Hood, Mojave Moon and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to name a few. His TV credits include; V.I.P, High Society, and The Kathy & Mo Show, as well as a number of music videos for popular artists such as Missy Elliott, Cher and Matchbox 20. Tim designed for the encore presentation of The Sapphires, produced by Black Swan Theatre Company and Company B. Tim designed the costumes for PJ Hogan’s latest film Mental, earning him a Best Costume Design Nomination for the AACTA Awards. He also designed for the 2012 TV series I Will Survive, for Channel 10 and Fremantle Media Australia, Channel 9’s Australia’s Got Talent, and Channel 7’s Dancing With The Stars in 2014 and 2015.

In theatre, Tim designed the costumes for Gypsy, directed by Gale Edwards in 2013, co-designed costumes for The Pirates Of Penzance in 2013, and designed the costumes for the 2014 production of Guys And Dolls and Sweet Charity. Tim won the Broadway World and the Sydney Theatre Award for costumes for Luckiest Productions/Tinderbox Productions’ season of The Little Shop of Horrors.