Non-human animals in film aren’t a modern invention and one of the most famous examples of prosthetics being applied to animals are the elephants in Tarzan and His Mate 1934 had false ears and tusks applied, this was because Universal owned several Indian elephants and they needed to appear as African elephants. I haven’t found many more examples prosthetics on animals, so if you know of any I would love you to drop me an email or leave a comment about it.
Jack Dawn is another artist that helped to revolutionise the industry, after wearing a rigid mask in a film he decided to research different materials and whilst employed at MGM spent nine years working to perfect a supple but strong material that would be more comfortable for actors to wear. He invented a synthetic plastic that he named Vinylite Resin, he patented this product and its first use was to make caucasian actors appear Chinese in the 1937 film The Good Earth.
This plastic was used after World War II to make inlays for soldiers with disfigurements to wear between plastic surgery operations, a description for how this was achieved in Time magazine reads
“The Dawn Method. First step in making a Dawn inlay for a disfigured man is to make a life mask of his face with the missing parts added. Then the extra bit is removed and duplicated in Dawn’s plastic. To stick the inlay on, the man wets the inside with alcohol. This dissolves the plastic a little, and the inlay clings perfectly when pressed into place. Next the inlay is touched up with make-up to match the skin. The inlays are light, comfortable, and move enough to be convincing when face muscles move. Their only disadvantage is that they wear out fast. A long life for a nose is 15 days. But if the wearer has Dawn’s equipment, he can make a new nose in short order”.
This description sounds very similar to bald cap plastic but my attempts to find its patent have been fruitless -if anyone can point me in it’s direction, please do.