Photo Gallery: A-ha! So that’s how they made a monkey out of Alan Partridge

The Alan Partridge film premier at the Hollywood Cinema where the star signed the GoGoGorillas "Alan

The Alan Partridge film premier at the Hollywood Cinema where the star signed the GoGoGorillas "Alan" for artist Sam and Phil Daniels.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

To mark the Norwich premiere of the film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa a special Alan GoGoGorilla was created by Norwich artist Phil Daniels. Here he talks us through the process of making 'Alanrilla'.


The notion to create an 'Alanrilla' appeared during the Andy Murray tennis win, the changes needed to another gorilla (due to copyright issues) and public suggestions.

This didn't really gather any momentum till the last minute and the actual raw sculpture was delivered allowing only four days from arrival to completion of art. Slightly more than a tall order. Especially to create something striking.

The important considerations were:

Steve Coogan's character, Alan Partridge, doesn't really have a lot of unique visual identifiers (ie Bradley Wiggins' sideburns), apart from a certain hair style.

It HAD to at least be an acceptable resemblance to Alan in his new film to work at all.

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It had to be delivered on time, and to the highest quality of art possible.'


The only way of making a gorilla shape look like a human shape that had no unusual identifiers, was to actually make that shape look like that of humans. Then to 'lift' the actual clothing used in the film and capture one individual look that people could relate to being Alan.

The production used this clothing in posters and also used a certain expression of Alan. Using something similar would subconsciously tune the viewer into accepting it was Alan's look.

So the first task had to be to remodel the face on the gorilla to look like Alan's profile. Without resorting to caricature or ridicule of over highlighting elements which would lose the reality effect.

The original gorilla nose and cheek shape was ground away.

The two separate eyebrow structures were taken right back with electric tools. I couldn't see in my studio for white dust, although it was late in the evening the heat was still high and I really did wonder about this task!

Filling in the forehead and separate brows made the forehead bone structure much closer. My double monitor PC had over 12 images of Steve Coogan and Alan open at once to feel the shapes as well as using my conté pastel painting for reference. I felt like a creepy stalker.

One thing, that stood out, was his nose! It's actually quite long; well I thought so. So then a whole new nose was built on the face as well. Suddenly it looked like a human on all fours instead of a gorilla.

The clothing had to come from the film and be a perfect example of the 'coolness' of Alan.

Beige seemed the way to go and Alan wore a two-tone beige/brown suede jacket in the film, with jeans and white trainers. This seemed a good look. Also a key 'tie' to the character would be headphones as an extra item that would complete the look.

The other main identifier to Alan was of course the hair and this had to be sculptured as well as painted.

Not having hair myself this was created on raw memories of when I looked like a photocopier salesman back in the 80s.

Creating Man

A large amount of the 'blocking in' is a long, drawn-out tedious task of multiple layers of colour. The jacket was then sponged all over by my daughter Sam; this was to create the suede feel. The jeans were, in truth, a nightmare. And if I was unhappy with any part I suppose it was the jeans.

Another area that was a huge challenge on this gorilla was the skin tone. Human skin is a very difficult thing to paint at the best of times, but it's even more challenging on a life-size gorilla statue with a human head. After changing the base colours about six times we finally hit on a look that seemed about right. Although a little creepy at this stage, things were starting to take shape. The biggest worry was that it didn't feel like Alan.

Developing the face and finally getting to the eyes, then on to the lips gave some life to the sculpture. It felt fun and was working well.

Standing back and comparing the conté pastel to this face clearly highlighted the eyes were a huge part of the problem. Plus the lips looked like they were stuck on. The eye shape had to be remodelled to stand any chance to getting the inner Alan out. Nightmare situation. It was now well into Saturday night and further modelling wasn't planned.

Dropping the upper lid down with pastes removed the 'rabbit caught in the headlights' feel of the original structure and the lowered eyebrow created the fine expression. As the eye was repainted and resized to suit the new shape suddenly Alan popped out!

He leapt out with a pronounced 'ah ha' and it actually looked like him, even without the hair being painted at all.

Monday morning brought the realisation of what had been achieved and how badly the studio needed cleaning by a road sweeper.

I am very pleased with the final result. Artistically, I think it's a stunning piece. I am sure everyone involved will be happy with the result and glad we did it.'