The original Oscar statue was hand carved by Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley. For decades the statuettes have been made by a Chicago trophy company and gold-plated.
But last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided they wanted to return to the original bronze figure made using the lost wax process. The Academy chose Polich Tallix as the foundry to cast the bronze figures.
3-D Scans Merge Previous Versions
They started by scanning a classic Oscar from 1928 and the 2015 model and entering the information into a 3-D printer.
“We have the three different versions,” said Daniel Plonski, the 3-D artist and the head of production. “We have the classic statue, the recent 2015 version and the third version which we created.”
The new design is then 3-D printed in wax and a mold of that statue is made to make another wax figurine for each statuette.
Plonski says the 3-D printing makes the process much quicker, but just as faithful to the Art Deco original.
“So before it required a great deal of hand-sculpting and carving,” hei said. “And now all of that can be done completely with a digital environment. Once we have our design created we can send it to our 3-D printer which produces the 3-D wax patterns.”
Lost Wax-casting Process
The new Oscar is then dipped in a ceramic slurry, and once it is cured, fired in an oven at 871 degrees Celsius. Molten bronze is then poured into the ceramic mold and allowed to cool.
Production manager Paul Pisoni says the molds are not reused – that each Oscar is a brand new casting.
“One mold is only good for one Oscar and then it gets cracked and destroyed so therefore we have to make one of these molds for every piece of metal that we cast in the foundry,” he said.
After some cleanup, the bronze statuettes are polished to a mirror finish and electroplated with 24 karat gold at another firm in Brooklyn, New York. The base of each Oscar is also cast in bronze, and is given a smooth, black finish.
Pisoni says since they don’t know who wins, they have to engrave a bronze plate with all the nominees’ names.
And the Oscar Goes to…
When the actual winner is announced, the correct plate is attached in the center of the base.
The whole process takes about three months. The final product stands about 34 centimeters tall and weighs about 3.9 kilograms. And the gleaming statues will be on full display at Sunday’s ceremony in Los Angeles.