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Brett Butler’s Business Venture Is a Creature of his Childhood’s Fascination

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Brett Butler, 26, has been fascinated with monsters and extinct creatures since his childhood days. Now he’s making them.

“I remember I was in the seventh grade and was already fooling around with liquid latex and cotton and making horror masks for my friends,” said Butler, who over the years has become a self-taught monster maker with the help of books he bought or borrowed from the library.

Comic books also fascinate Butler. “I guess I still have about 1,000 of them, and I still read them,” he said. “They give me ideas.”

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Since his early days, Butler has experimented with a series of creative outlets, including painting, sculpting, special-effects movies and cable-controlled creatures.

“I always had to do something, and I always seemed to be making little creatures and molds,” most of which are in the family garage, he said.

Butler’s big inspiration came during a visit at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles where he saw his first animated dinosaur. “That just sent me head over heels,” said the Santa Ana resident. “I contacted the company that made the creature and bothered them off and on for 2 years until they gave me a job,” said Butler, who was earning his living working in a magic store and as a roving magician mimicking Peewee Herman. He has performed on the Queen Mary and at private parties.

His first assignment was to build a 27-foot-long replica of the extinct pterodactyl, a flying reptile.

“The assignment was a shock to me. I thought, ‘What have I talked myself into?’ ” he recalled. “I told them I could do it, and I did. It was really challenging, since I had been making things that were only 5 or 6 inches long.’

Now, Butler has launched his own business called Gothic Studios Inc. in Brea, where he is developing creatures such as “Tweetie,” a feathered robotic version of the California condor that can spread its wings through built-in computer controls.

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He plans to include the condor and extinct and near-extinct creatures into exhibits at museums and schools.

“I want to put on a new exhibit so people can get caught up in a sense of wonder and excitement,” said Butler, who is trying to raise $1 million in venture capital to finance the project. “It will not only be educational, but entertaining, like going to Disneyland.”

In fact, he still finds Disneyland a soothing outlet for him. “I have been going twice a week for years,” he said. “It gives me a chance to unwind and forget about the things I think a lot about.”

Besides his display of creatures, Butler is developing a show called “Mother Earth,” and another using insects blown into giant sizes.

“You have to provide special effects to draw people these days. “They see it on television and in movies and they want to see something exciting when they have to pay to get in,” said Butler, who said people often mistake his name for that of the hero in “Gone With The Wind.”

“I remind them his first name was Rhett and mine is Brett,” Butler said. “But frankly, I don’t give a damn.”

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To promote their “Year of the Young Reader” program, the 900 students at Moulton Elementary School in San Juan Capistrano will release balloons Friday with response cards attached asking the finder to write down the title of his or her favorite book and send it back.

The weeklong project will include talks by local authors, and students will dress as their favorite character in a book they have read.

“The object is to stimulate children to gain an interest in reading and writing,” Principal Patricia Griggs said.

Acknowledgments--Artwork created by 9-year-old Patty M. Rangel that depicts one of her dreams has been chosen as part of the Southwest Regional Crayola Dream Makers exhibit, which opens today at the University of Colorado. The Santa Ana youngster’s drawing is among 75 representative samples from nearly 3 million students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

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