By Jaimz Dillman
Alan Ostrander's story is like a who's who in the entertainment industry. And, while being fitted for customized vampire fangs, I was lucky enough to hear some of his tales and the origin behind AEO Studios.
Ostrander and his partner, Drew Dalire, are one of the original online dating success stories. The two met online back in the AOL chat room days and have been together for over 20 years. Through their relationship, they've traveled all over the globe creating creepy characters and kept their shop running even facing fires, a move, and COVID.
Getting into the makeup and props industry, Ostrander began doing FX makeup over 30 years ago, originally to help support local haunt Terror on Church Street. After 8 years of running prosthetics for that attraction, and then helping on and off at Skull Kingdom, he furthered his interest and desire to keep creating.
He said, “Terror is really where I cut my teeth on makeup. I had 25 actors a night that I could play with.”
Terror closed in '98 and Hong Kong came calling in 2001. Ostrander was invited to do makeup for the first ever Halloween event in Asia and eventually grew to Show Director, Dalire joined him as a director and the experience lasted 13 years growing to over 520 actors, 8 haunts, and 13 stage shows. "I learned a lot. There was a learning curve with a different culture that never really celebrated Halloween before." says Ostrander. Eventually, Ostrander earned the moniker of Hong Kong’s Father of Halloween.
Once back in the states, AEO continues to grow and orders from theater
companies haven’t stopped. Custom prosthetics and all types of custom
and stock props are crafted for stage shows, cosplayers, and films. The
space is filled to the brim with makeup supplies, specialty costuming,
decor, and consulting for horror attractions. During the busy spooky
season, there are even more full-body fiends housed in a warehouse out
back. And everything is guarded by a killer pug named Tofu.
Tragedy struck in 2010 when a freak electrical storm caught the shop on fire- while Alan was out of town- and they lost everything. He said, “It was the freakiest thing- the fire took out the entire building but stopped in a ring around our filing cabinet that had all of our business in it. And that’s how we were able to survive.”
They were able to rebuild from donations and help from the theater community. Some shelves here, a hammer and some nails there… and AEO slowly came back to life. Thankfully, being a small business during Covid, they were eligible for government loans. And luckily they were able to keep busy during the downtime and be ready for when things opened again. They just created their 600th production of ogre parts with pieces going out as far as London and Kenya.
Workshops will come back, too being offered almost every weekend (except October of course) to teach the next gen of artists. Each day focuses on one area and sometimes Ostrander adopts students as studio interns and team members. From this came Nic Herrera and Eric Garcia, most notably known as Emmy winners for their makeup work on this year’s 'Stranger Things'. In addition to all of this, Ostrander heads up Mehron makeup's educational theater department. This allows him to travel across the country teaching kids at thespian festivals techniques for theater.
When asked what’s next Osteander says the sky’s the limit. He never knows what’s going to walk through the door. He’d like to get into medical prostheses and things of that nature. Cons are a big draw for the studio and they’ll have a booth at Spooky Empire this October providing prosthetics and pieces for cosplayers.
His final thought for me was this. “We don’t retire in this business. I’ll work till I fall over.”
For more information and to inquire about your own costume and makeup needs visit aeostudios.com