I’ve been fascinated with automata ever since playing Syberia and reading Gaby Wood’s intriguing (if not occasionally out-of-focus) book Edison’s Eve nearly 10 years ago. There’s just something weird and peculiar about automata that goes beyond your average robots. I think it’s because most are meant to imitate human life, and often do so in very uncanny ways.
These hand-cranked, clockwork machines have recently garnered mainstream attention thanks to the film Hugo, and the above video is a short tour of the works of Dug North, who appeared in one of the movie’s behind-the-scenes features.
In it, you can see a variety of North’s automata, including a monster that pops out of a top hat, and a beast reminiscent of King Kong fighting to escape his shackles. “My work is more of a contemporary form of automata,” North says, “there is a hand crank in which you actually turn the mechanism, and bring the thing to life that way.”
If you haven’t seen Hugo, it’s a 2011 Martin Scorsese film set in 1930s Paris, about a boy named Hugo who finds himself embroiled in a mystery involving his father’s strange automata. It stars Jude Law, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Chloë Grace Moretz.
Be sure to check Dug North’s Facebook page to see more of his creations!