Frank the Rabbit from Donnie Darko – Mask History

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Art Andrews

Community Owner
Community Staff
I was introduced to Donnie Darko in 2003 and was immediately captivated by the quirkiness of the independent film. As with many others, I found the role of the guide, played by “Frank” (often referred to as “Frank the Rabbit” or “Frank the Bunny” particularly interesting, not only as a character but in concept and design. Frank’s look is wholly unique, a bit creepy, and completely fascinating. I loved the look of the character so much, I commissioned a sculpt of Frank’s mask as well as a full rabbit costume. While the sculptor did an amazing job, especially considering how little reference material was available at the time, the sculpt was not a perfect match to what is seen on screen (which, in retrospect, would have been a nearly impossible task since Frank’s mask is so organic, and is only seen under dramatic lighting in the film) and being the perfectionist I am, I wasn’t satisfied, sold my costume and accepted that I was unlikely to ever own an accurate representation of Frank.

Below is information I have been able to put together over the years regarding the original masks used in Donnie Darko's production and the lineage of the replicas which followed:

Frank as Seen on Screen

frank-the-rabbit-unplated-mask.jpg

The "unplated" Frank Mask as seen on screen in Donnie Darko

There are two versions of Frank’s mask seen in the movie, the first is the one that is shown throughout the majority of the film, which is a silver mask, with painted eyes, teeth, and inner ears. This mask has a faux fur hood attached to the back of it. From here forward, I will refer to this style of mask as the “unplated mask” (you will understand why in a moment).

frank-the-rabbit-plated-mask.jpg

The "plated" Frank mask as seen on screen in Donnie Darko

The second version of Frank’s mask is only seen once during the movie, at the very end of the film. It is seen as an unfinished Halloween mask, in the human Frank (James Duval) ‘s bedroom. This mask is quite different than the unplated mask as it appears to be chrome plated (actually nickel, not chrome), is VERY shiny, has fewer details than the unplated mask, assumingly due to the plating process) and is all one color with no paint on the eyes, teeth or inner ears. This mask also lacks the faux fur hood. As you can see from the photos, while the sculpt is clearly the same, the details are not. From here forward, I will refer to this style of mask as the “plated mask.”

Three Unplated Frank Masks

In the years since I created my costume, a number of replicas have been made, none come even close to the original. However, in that time three unplated masks, all appearing to be virtually identical have surfaced, all claiming to be screen used and all apparently originating from Pandora, the company that produced the film. Two of the masks included a hood and one was just the mask alone, but even this mask has faux fur still embedded in the glue on the back of the mask, indicating it too had a hood at one time. These three masks will be referred to by the name of their owners. They are the Kirk Hammett mask (originally owned by Jason DeBord), the Oz/Wesley/Dirk mask, and the Jack Morrissey mask (originally owned by Dan Lanigan).

Unplated Frank Mask #1 - The Kirk Hammett Mask

The Kirk Hammett mask appeared on eBay in January of 2006 with a starting price of $250. The seller was “wuertemburg” aka Marc J Wuertemburg, the VP of Pandora, the company that produced Donnie Darko. This mask was purchased privately (the auction was ended early) and then resurface on screenused.com where it was purchased by Jason Debord (owner of the Original Prop Blog). Jason, in turn, sold the mask through Profiles in History via Live Auctioneers Hollywood Auction #32 on Aug 1, 2008. The mask was assigned Lot #1023, with a starting bid of $10,000 and a final sales price of $25,000. Kirk Hammett, of Metallica, purchased the mask during the auction and to the best of my knowledge still owns it today.

It is important to note that the Kirk Hammett mask, like the other unplated masks is clearly painted/tinted silver and is NOT plated. The details in the sculpt are very prominent and the color of the eyes, inner ears and teeth are very strong. Also, it appears that the eyes and teeth are painted with a brush as opposed to being airbrushed (the importance of this will become apparent later). While it isn’t seen in these photos, the Kirk Hammett mask has a facial imprint in the back of the mask (which can also be seen on the Oz/Wesley/Dirk mask).

Below are photos that were taken at each sales point of the Kirk Hammett Mask.

frank-the-rabbit-kirk-mask-auction1.jpg

Kirk Hammett Mask as originally sold on eBay in January of 2006.

frank-the-rabbit-kirk-mask-auction2.jpg

Kirk Hammett Mask as sold by Screenused.com in January of 2006.

frank-the-rabbit-kirk-mask-auction3.jpg

Kirk Hammett Mask as sold by Profiles in History, August 1, 2008.

Unplated Frank Mask #2 – The Oz/Wesley/Dirk (OWD) Mask

The OWD mask appeared on eBay in December of 2007 and sold for $9,000. The seller was “sexyhotchocolatemaker” aka Jerry Wallace. The mask included a signed COA from Marc J Wuertemburg.

The OWD mask, like the other unplated masks, is clearly painted/tinted silver and is NOT plated. The details in the sculpt are very prominent and the color of the eyes, inner ears and teeth are very strong. Because the mask is missing the faux fur hood, the facial imprint inside the mask is very clear. Also, note the little bits of fur around the edges of the back of the mask as well as the glue marks inside the back of the mask, indicating that this mask at one time had a hood attached. It is also worth noting that there is some slight warpage to the OWD mask, probably due to storage. The face has widened and flattened out a bit and due to that distortion, the ears have pulled together and appear slightly more parallel than the Kirk Hammett mask. This doesn’t really detract from what the mask is, but it does make the two masks appear slightly different.

frank-the-rabbit-oz-mask.jpg

OWD Mask as sold on eBay in December of 2007.

Unplated Frank Mask #3 - The Jack Morrissey Mask

I don’t have much to say about this mask because we don’t have much information on it other than it exists, it is virtually identical to the two other masks, it includes the faux fur hood like the Kirk Hammett mask and it also originated from Marc J Wuertemburg of Pandora. This mask is accompanied by the full costume and belongs to Jack Morrissey. A custom case for it was created by Tom Spina Designs.

entertainment-weekly-frank.jpg

The Jack Morrissey Mask from an EW article about Frank from 2017

Donnie-Darko-Frank-Bunny-Mask-Costume-custom-mannequin-display-case_1.jpg


Donnie-Darko-Frank-Bunny-Mask-Costume-custom-mannequin-display-case-2.jpg

The Jack Morrissey Mask/Costume in a custom case by Tom Spina Designs.

Plated Frank Masks

According to Dale R. Brady, the artist responsible for producing the Frank masks, 7 masks were created for the production with 6 actually going to production and 1 mask being kept by Brady himself. According to Brady ALL of the masks he provided to the production were nickel-plated (more on this later). Interestingly enough, one nickel-plated mask did show up at Profiles in History, consigned by Dale R. Brady (see photo below for tag), and planned to be sold in Profiles Auction #42 (Nov 2010). For reasons unknown the mask was pulled from the auction and has not been seen since.

The mask offered to Profiles by Dale has striking similarities to the plated mask seen at the end of Donnie Darko but also has a number of differences. While the mask does appear to be plated, the plating seems to be darker than what is seen on screen. This is not definitive as the difference could merely be a matter of lighting and filters. However, the mask offered by Brady to Profiles has the inner ears, eyes, and teeth painted, unlike the plated mask seen at the end of filming. It is also interesting to note that the style of painting appears to be airbrushed, not hand painted and the colors are quite different than the paint seen on the unplated masks. Like the unplated masks, this mask has a facial imprint on the backside.

To date, this is the only plated mask we are aware of being in private hands. We have never seen the other 6 masks Brady claims were produced for Donnie Darko.

frank-the-rabbit-plated-mask-profiles.jpg

A plated mask cosigned by Dale Brady with Profiles in History in 2010.

Original Frank Mask Mold

In Aug 2012, a mold which was claimed to be the “mold used to make the Donnie Darko (2001) Frank the Rabbit Mask” was sold on eBay (and bought by me) for $3,400. The seller was “auctiondoctors” who often sell items for Jerry Wallace. It is believed that Jerry Wallace was ultimately the seller of this mold, which is not surprising since he also sold the Oz mask and had a part to play in the selling of the Kirk mask. This is clearly a professional mold with dozens of match points to both the Kirk and Oz masks.

When I asked Dale Brady about this mold, his response was; “Sorry to say the original mold was destroyed by my own hands.” From there began a bit of research on the history of the Frank masks, by talking to both Dale Brady and Rob Burman. While a bit confusing, here is what I have found.

frank-the-rabbit-original-mold.jpg

“Original” Frank mask mold sold on eBay in August of 2012.

The History of the Frank Mask according to Dale Brady and Rob Burman

The task of creating Frank’s rabbit mask fell to Dale R. Brady who contracted Rob Burman to create the base sculpt.

According to Burman, “The original sketch was a quick scribble jotted down on paper by the director [Richard Kelly] after having a dream about it. I kept thinking that it was the silliest thing I’d ever sculpted and Dale kept telling me it was what they wanted. I gave it back to Dale and he molded it – I hear there were some minor changes but it is basically what I gave them.”

Paraphrased from several of Brady’s posts on Facebook, “The Frank mask was a slam dunk. It took two days to sculpt, based on the original drawings. I contracted Rob Burman to block out the sculpture, which he did at lightning speed, like overnight. After Rob blocked it out the director Richard Kelly, who designed the mask, and I worked on it the next night and into the next evening detailing it and making a few changes (the director’s choice, I thought it was perfect). I did the mold work out of my shop and farmed it out once again to have it metal-plated (yep, real nickel plating) I then finished it with some airbrush colors and dropped 7 original pieces off to Drew and her crew. Three of the masks were used on-screen. The others were given as gifts to the Producers, etc. I’ve heard that there are many copies floating around, but you can’t miss an original as they are heavy due to the metal”

In another Facebook post, Brady stated: “I used real nickel to cast it, only a half dozen were ever made and all but one went to production as trophies.”

When questioned on whether all of the masks were metal or metal-plated, Brady responded, “All masks made for the movie were metal plated with nickel. No other versions were delivered to set by me, but hey, someone else could have come to the party that I didn’t know about. The original mold never left my shop. No other castings were made, guaranteed. The mold was destroyed.”

When asked more about the original mold he destroyed, Brady offered the following information:

“The original mold was Ultracal 30 and the way I cast the few originals can never again be repeated due to the urethane no longer being available. They were then plated (thick) which washed out much of the sculpture. This is why I had to change the sculpture after Rob Burman blocked it out. The details had to be accentuated.

The original mold was three pieces. The core that the sculpture was blocked out on and then the front and back pieces. The back or third piece was for the ears.

The guy that did the metal plating has disappeared and the formula for plating soft urethane went along with him. It was shared with Stan Winston when I worked for him on a Cris Angel effect, and I believe the technique was used on the robot movie they did some years back [Real Steal?], and maybe even Iron Man.

The funny thing about this job was we were all very busy working on other projects. It was just an evening and weekend job.”

Based on Brady’s statements, the existence of a professional mold and the original masks which aren’t plated, there is clearly some discrepancies.

Three verified screen used masks (the ones listed above) have been sold which clearly are not nickel-plated, but instead appear to be painted a bright aluminum/silver color. Upon asking Brady about these masks, he offered the following:

“I would have to talk with the Director to see if another version was made. At the time of the release of Donnie, I was contacted to make 70 quick masks for opening night cast and crew. I declined the job as we would have had to start over with molds and the budget and time didn’t permit. I, at this time, would say they [referring to the non-plated masks] are fake and misleading the collector markets.”

Upon being shown photos of two of the non-plated masks as well as a third photo of the plated mask that Brady cosigned to Profiles in History, Brady responded;

“The third one [the plated mask] looks like an original. What could have happened (but not 100% sure) is that the masks were too heavy and the metal was stripped off during filming due to the reflective problems, not to mention the weight. The other possible thing is that they painted over the metal to reduce the shine, which in turn makes them look like aluminum paint. This would have to be confirmed with someone that was on set. Mostly, the Director would have made this type of call.”

Again, this leaves us not really knowing if the mold I bought truly is an original mold used during the production of the movie or not, but then again, according to Brady, the three screen used unplated masks are in question as well and they match my mold perfectly. In asking Rob Burman a bit more about this he verified that the original mold was a stone mold and offered the following:

“My memory was that [the masks] were all cast in a self-skinning, flexible urethane foam and dusted in silver powders. I remember the plated ones being four that were made for the Producers, Director, etc. AFTER the film was made. I’ll guess that what you have is a mold made from one of the screen used foam ones.”

This brings up an interesting point and one that I had already considered. Either the mold I bought created the three unplated masks or was created FROM one of the three unplated masks. Given that the OWD Mask was the last mask sold and came from Jerry Wallace, that is the first place to look. It only took a cursory glance to find something interesting. In the left eye of my mold are two dots of off-white paint. When looking at the OWD mask, there are two dots of paint missing in the same spots as those seen on my mold. Clearly, either the OWD mask came from my mold or my mold is a copy of the OWD mask.

oz-mold-compare.jpg

Note the two paint chips in the mold corresponding with the two chips missing on the OWD mask.

More Molds and Masks

As if all of that was not quite confusing enough, since acquiring this mold, I have been told by multiple parties that ANOTHER mold exists, have been told of 3 pulls from that mold and have even seen one of them. The pull I saw had similar distortion issues to the Oz mask but the distortion was greatly exaggerated to where the mask was almost completely flattened, making the face appear very wide and the ears very straight and close together instead of in the “V” configuration seen on the Kirk Hammett mask.

Final Thoughts

In researching this history of the masks and molds, I am not sure if I have found more answers than I have raised questions, but hopefully, I have helped shed some light on what is out there and the sources of some of the masks we see as well as a bit of history, albeit not entirely consistent, about the creation of the original masks. The search continues and if you have any information on the history of this amazing piece of movie memorabilia I would love to hear from you!

NEW INFO!

Please see the updated information in post #8!

-Art

Originally published on artandrews.com, September 28, 2012.
 
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Cbstudios

Well-Known Member
This was a thoroughly interesting read. Frank the Bunny is an amazing mask design, and having a complex and distorted backstory makes it even more intriguing.
 

AssortedCreations

New Member
This is fascinating. Thank you for putting all of this together. It seems oddly fitting that such a definitive prop from a warped movie like Donnie Darko would have a weirdly warped backstory.
 

Mr Mold Maker

Master Member
I have always wanted one of these, especially after seeing the one George owns!

Has anyone ever replicated the plated mask from your molds? A self skinning urethane foam with some Imperiflex and Alumaluster treatment would do wonders.. and I just so happen to know a perfect guy for the job!
 

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Art Andrews

Community Owner
Community Staff
After eight years, an individual who has asked to remain anonymous stepped forward with the following information regarding the Frank mask mold. He emailed me June 13, 2020, copying quotes from my original post (which are in italics below) in this thread and responded to them. I am copying and pasting his email, only leaving out his name and any information that might be used to identify him. I want to publicly thank him for coming forward and providing this info.

In Aug 2012, a mold which was claimed to be the “mold used to make the Donnie Darko (2001) Frank the Rabbit Mask” was sold on eBay (and bought by me) for $3,400. The seller was “auctiondoctors” who often sell items for Jerry Wallace. It is believed that Jerry Wallace was ultimately the seller of this mold, which is not surprising since he also sold the Oz mask and had a part to play in the selling of the Kirk mask.

Jerry Wallace was indeed the "original" owner of the mold you purchased on eBay.

Jerry paid to have a mold made from what he claimed was an original Donny Darko mask.

I am the individual who created the mold, and a duplicate Donny Darko mask from the mold.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide a very accurate timeline of when this occurred. (All I remember was that the shop was extremely slow.)

My best guess is sometime between 2003 - 2009.



This is clearly a professional mold with dozens of match points to both the Kirk and Oz masks.

Thank you, I appreciate you calling my work "professional".

The molding process was extremely difficult since the original piece was made from self-skinning polyurethane foam.

I do remember most of the mold fabrication details.

Since the mask didn’t have a core, I had to create one.

I lined the inside of the mask with Saran wrap, and aluminum foil, and then slowly filled the entire back of the mask with water clay (EM-210)

This was a very slow and methodical process since I was trying to minimize any distortion to the mask.

I started the clay-up on a Friday and ended up taking the mask home to do the majority of the clay-up over the weekend.

On Monday, I created the front half of the mold.

The mold making procedure was pretty much industry standard.

1/2" layer of EM-210 clay over the mask.

Alignment (strip) keys added as necessary.

Aluminum shim stock and metal tape to divide the two mold halves.

The clay was sealed with Krylon Crystal Clear.

Bondo/resin mixture applied to the clay.

Mud coat (polyester resin/ cabosil) mixture applied to create fillets for the strip keys.

Four layers of fiberglass mat and polyester resin added to the front of the mold, and an extra two added to the flange area of the mold.

On Tuesday, I created the back half of the mold using the same process as the front.

The back half went much faster since the front half of the mask was properly supported.

On Wednesday, I trimmed the mold edges, drilled the bolt holes, and opened half of the mold.

I don’t remember which half of the mold I cleaned out first.

Small bleeder holes were drilled into the fiberglass jacket to allow air to escape from the mold during the molding process.

I then drilled a hole in the fiberglass jacket and added a fill spout. (Paper towel cardboard tube.)

The tube was held in place with hot melt glue.

The "clay seam edge" was carefully smoothed out.

Dimples and acorn nuts were added to the "clay seam edge" to register what would eventually become the two halves of the silicone mold.

I was incredibly concerned about the silicone sticking to the urethane, so I reluctantly sprayed the piece with a mold release. (Epoxy Parafilm 2 or 3.)

The mold release was applied just prior to bolting the mold back together.

The silicone used was Vi-Sil 1065 originally manufactured by Rhodia.

On Thursday, I basically repeated the same process for the second half of the mold.

However, a combination of ME-301 (spray Vaseline) and Epoxy Parafilm was sprayed on the silicone flange prior to bolting the mold back together.

Friday, the mold was fully opened, and the original mask removed.

The original mask was slightly tacky from the mold release, so I ended up dusting the mask with aluminum powder on the front of the mask, and talc on the back of the mask.

There was one small area on the back of the mask where the silicone did manage to leach into the foam and leave a small blue stain. (This stain uniquely identifies which mask the mold was created from.)

The urethane copy presented another challenge:

How do I paint this?

Urethane foams usually require special paints, and my painting skills are almost non-existent.

The solution was to use a combination of ground-up artists chalk, and metallic powder.

I believe the metallic powder used was from the Crescent Bronze company. (#7 Brilliant Aluminum.)

The powders were applied directly to the inside of the mold using both brushes and Q-tips.

Generally speaking, the powders tend to fuse into the urethane skin and bond better than most paints.

I am pretty sure that the eyes of the original were painted with some type of gloss paint. (This is an easy way to differentiate between the mask Jerry provided and the replica made from the new mold.)

The self-skinning urethane was most likely from BJB.



This brings up an interesting point and one that I had already considered. Either the mold I bought created the three unplated masks or was created FROM one of the three unplated masks. Given that the OWD Mask was the last mask sold and came from Jerry Wallace, that is the first place to look. It only took a cursory glance to find something interesting. In the left eye of my mold are two dots of off-white paint. When looking at the OWD mask, there are two dots of paint missing in the same spots as those seen on my mold. Clearly, either the OWD mask came from my mold or my mold is a copy of the OWD mask.

As I said earlier, the mold was created from one of the unplated masks.

I am not 100% positive, but it looks like the mask missing the two paint chips is probably the mask Jerry provided. (The "OWD" mask.)

I would need a high-resolution photo of the backside of the mask to see if it has the "small blue stain").


In summary:

I wish to remain anonymous!

I would never create a matrix mold from a self-skinning urethane part ever again.

It was one of the most miserable molding jobs I have ever been assigned.

My employer was paid by Jerry, and I was paid by my employer.

I was paid poorly and was not paid for any of the weekend hours I spent on the mold.

I had no idea that the providence of the mold and copy would be misrepresented by Jerry.

I respect Rob Burman and would never take credit for his work.

The other thing that concerns me is that this was not the only item that was molded and cast for Jerry.



When I asked Dale Brady about this mold, his response was; “Sorry to say the original mold was destroyed by my own hands.”

I believe you now have multiple sources that confirm that the mold you purchased was indeed a copy.
 

MM101

New Member
I'm so grateful for the anonymous mold maker to come forward, this clears up a lot about this mystery. Thanks Art for sharing your journey into this rabbit hole, it is a real gem. When I read through your original post again there was a thing I noticed in this quote you shared of Rob Burman

“My memory was that [the masks] were all cast in a self-skinning, flexible urethane foam and dusted in silver powders. I remember the plated ones being four that were made for the Producers, Director, etc. AFTER the film was made. I’ll guess that what you have is a mold made from one of the screen used foam ones.”

I'm mostly active on the Donnie Darko subreddit and someone over there had a question about the Mad World scene and why we see Frank with the drawings and the (metal plated) mask. Since I like to provide some context for my response and the fact that I'm currently transcribing the audio commentary tracks, I went through the scene in the theatrical cut. Now in the first track, with Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal, here is what Kelly says

KELLY This was a reshoot that we did, we couldn't get in time for Sundance, but I always wanted to get it. Where you see Frank, you know, the beginnings of the mask, that he has just molded and his Halloween costume he's putting together, and he's just gotten back from dropping of Elizabeth, and trying to remember, figure out what happened and he touches his eye. This metal mask here was a gift for Nancy Juvonen, we molded from metal, from the original rubber mask suit.
(audio here)

So the memory of Burman that the metal plated ones where made AFTER the film was made is probably correct, because the film was premiering at Sundance Festival WITHOUT the 'Frank with metal mask' scene. Kelly even mentions that the onscreen mask was a gift for producer Nancy Juvonen. Furthermore, Kelly refers to the 'original rubber mask suit', which seems to indicate that the onscreen masks were at least not the metal ones with a paint coating, but that's still open for debate I guess.

Now let's listen to the same scene in the 2nd audio commentary track. This one has Richard Kelly, producers Nancy Juvonen and Sean McKittrick, and other cast members including Drew Barrymore and James Duval. I've transcribed the most relevant bits, because a lot of people talk at once during this audio commentary

KELLY This is...I'm so glad we got to get this shot...
DUVAL Yeah, I still got my eye
KELLY He's just dropped Elizabeth off and he's driven home... and he's just remembering...."I was a pawn in all of this, I was chosen to be a guide of some sort in all this"...he's just a kid
BARRYMORE And that's something you put in later
KELLY Yeah this is the one [..]
JUVONEN There's the mask I have in my house
DUVAL [..]The one shot reshoot
BARRYMORE It's funny that to you tell your story one shot can mean so much
MCKITTRICK Well actually Rich wanted that, while we were shooting, we just couldn't possibly do it
(audio here)

Not only do we hear Nancy Juvonen confirm she indeed has the onscreen mask at her home, we also hear it is the ONLY reshoot they did for Donnie Darko. So this probably why Burman remembered it the way he did. Maybe you knew all of this already, but I think it's a nice addition to this thread.
 
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