For the artists nominated for 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, the biggest thing on their minds is probably winning one of those special KAWS-designed Moonmen. Not coincidentally, the trophy will also be the biggest thing on the stage.
That’s because this year’s stage at the VMAs features a 60-foot tall inflatable version of the KAWS Moonman.
The enormous decoration is the latest work from Airworks Inflatables, a company based out of the Netherlands that specializes in creating very unorthodox balloons for events, concerts and music festivals.
MTV News spoke with Matt Whitehead, a co-founder and creative director of Airworks, about the work that went into creating the huge KAWS Moonman, a project he called “one of the best ones” the company has done in its 15-year history.
The inflatable began as a 3-D model, sent from KAWS’ office in Brooklyn to Airworks in the Netherlands. From there, it was scaled to the enormous size, and the printing process could begin.
As surprising as it might sound, the biggest challenge of creating the inflatable Moonman wasn’t the size of the project; it was the color. Moonmen — the KAWS edition being no exception — are plated in chrome, a look that is hard to fake with the fabric used on Airworks inflatables, but as their own technology improved, the illusion became more and more attainable.
“The fact that it’s chrome really works well with the techniques that we have. I think it’s probably the most realistic metal we’ve made,” Whitehead said. “Every year our techniques get a little more advanced, a little more accurate in terms of getting the print right and portraying the illusion. Obviously, it’s a balloon, but we’re trying to get the balloon to look like it’s made out of metal.”
In all, Airworks used nearly two miles of printed cloth for the inflatable Moonman, making up 6,000 separate pieces that were then numbered and assembled, but putting the giant statue together is another complex process entirely.
An inflatable like the Moonman comes together, literally, piece by piece. “You blow all the body parts up separately. We started with the left foot. We put that together and blow it up on its own to check that it’s good,” Whitehead said. “Once you’ve got the whole thing together, you can’t change or get to things any more now that you’ve got a whole scaffold around it. You can’t reach anything.”
As you can see at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, the big version as just as impressive as its iconic little brother.