Doug Goodreau Honored at Calabasas Pumpkin Festival

Macabre pumpkin-carved likenesses of President Obama and Mitt Romney put to the vote

Macabre pumpkin-carved likenesses of President Obama and Mitt Romney put to the vote


Orange County Market Place’s 15th annual Trick or Treat festival


COSTA MESA, Calif.—If the votes for macabre pumpkin-carved likenesses of President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney at the Orange County Market Place are any indication, the former Massachusetts governor will squeak by the incumbent in next week’s election.


Pumpkins of “Evil Mitt” and “Bone Chilling Obama,” created by Doug Goodreau, stood for an election of their own Sunday at the Orange County Market Place’s 15th annual Trick or Treat festival.


Evil Mitt received 162 votes and Bone Chilling Obama got 145 votes, said Jill Lloyd, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Market Place.


It was the fourth presidential pumpkin election at the Market Place in Costa Mesa, and judging from past history, it’s an accurate prognosticator.


The George W. Bush pumpkin defeated the Al Gore squash in 2000, and Bush triumphed again over the John Kerry pumpkin in 2004. In the last presidential election, the Obama pumpkin got more votes than the John McCain likeness, Lloyd said.


Farmer Mike Valladao of San Jose carved the presidential pumpkin heads in the past three elections. This was Goodreau’s first year, and he has a spookier style than the cartoonish flair of Valladao’s, according to Lloyd, who noted that this year’s election asked Market Place visitors to pick the “scariest” pumpkin.

Bone Chilling Creations by Mortician-Skeleton Maker are Far from the Devil’s Handiwork

Tujunga Pumpkin Artist Draws on Multi-Talents to
 Carve out “Scary” Presidential Candidate Faces

(Costa Mesa, CA-October 17, 2012)No one can ever say Doug Goodreau suffers from idle hands. By day, he assembles dinosaur skeletons at the National History Museum of Los Angeles County. By night, he is an on-call mortician.
And in the weeks leading up to Halloween, Goudreau, a Tujunga resident, is a highly sought after pumpkin carver, churning out approximately 200 weird, wacky and bone-chilling sculptures every season.
            Though his other vocations play a role in his talent, it is his pumpkin artistry that will be on display at the 15th Annual Trick or Treat Festival at the Orange County Market Place in Costa Mesa on Sunday, October 28. Happening a few days before the Nov. 6 United States Presidential election, he will  carve two “creepy caricatures” of candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney , which will be used in a mock election during the event.
He will then work on carving designs related to the Festival’s Day of the Dead Celebration, and “whatever crazy designs that comes to mind that inspire me to go off the deep end,” he said.
His three vocations may seem wildly different, but Goodreau said that whether he is piecing together fossils to make a dinosaur’s skeleton, carving a pumpkin, or rebuilding the facial features of someone in a traumatic accident, there is a through-line: he is creating, and each project is a challenge.
While his work on pumpkins is only seasonal, it’s the only one of his three vocations that really enables him to “think outside the squash,” he said. While meticulously recreating a dinosaur skeleton with actual fossils and the painstaking process of re-creating a disfigured face make him more money, as a pumpkin sculptor the ultimate judges of his work aren’t paleontologists or a grieving family, but himself.
 “However, I like the different ways to apply the same skill set in disciplines that require artistic common sense,” says Goodreau. “All involve a high degree of artistry and craftsmanship.”
Goodreau, 44, estimates that he has carved approximately 200 pumpkins each year for the last few Halloween seasons. Some take less than an hour, while some can consume as much as two days. The reason for the large difference in time involved is that he isn’t a traditional pumpkin carver, one who might draw on a pumpkin and then use a knife to slice out eyes, nose and a mouth.
He is more of a pumpkin sculptor, creating wild and fantastic designs on his orange canvasses, painting and sealing them, and using a variety of fruits, vegetables and other materials to augment them.
“When you carve a pumpkin, you’re kind of limited by the round shape and often times you want to push things further, like horns on a devil, or a tongue sticking out of a crazy face,” he said. “And, traditionally, you need to figure out a way to use part of the pumpkin to do that. But it’s not a far jump from that to use broccoli as a crazy clown’s hair, or cauliflower for brain sticking out of the top of a skull. Then you can apply theatrical make up, or  paint and seal it, and you can come up with just about anything you can imagine.”
Goodreau’s pumpkins are limited only by his imagination. With his experience reconstructing the faces of people who have died in horrible auto accidents or other traumas, he is able to make startlingly realistic faces, whether they are iconic Halloween characters like wart-nosed witches or even a Halloween-themed Vince Scully.  But his work also delves into the macabre, including  grotesquely distorted faces etched into the pumpkin with brains oozing from their skulls, or even two-faced pumpkins, half a green-skinned monster with horns and the other with the face ripped off and exposed veins and cavities.
Goodreau, who has been carving pumpkins professionally for 15 years, uses his experience as a mortician to fashion his creative monstrosities. But he also leans on his first love: horror films. An avid horror film fan as a youth, his initial dream was to break into the film industry in special makeup effects. That’s why he moved to Los Angeles in 1988 from the San Jose area. He went to a film effects school and worked on several low-budget horror films. But work was sporadic. When Goodreau heard about a mortician’s program offered at Cypress College, he applied and became a licensed embalmist with an emphasis on facial reconstruction.
His study and subsequent mortuary work allowed him to further develop his makeup and sculpture skills, which helped him gain more work in horror films.
“Art directors really liked having a licensed mortician on hand to make sure that a dead body looks right or that an exit wound appears real,” he said.
A few years later, he found another outlet for his skills: fossil preparation work in the vertebrate paleontology department at the National History Museum of Los Angeles County. Now, instead of working on fake monsters or corpses, he was using his sculpting, molding, casting and painting skills to prepare fossils and filling in the missing pieces to reconstruct prehistoric monsters for display.
“I’ll get special requests from time to time, like Fox TV, which commissioned me to design a bunch of sculptures based on their animated characters this season,” he said. “But for the most part, people just ask me to design the scariest, the most disgusting, craziest or weirdest one I can think of.”
            While zombies, horror film characters and witches are obvious subjects for his art, his personal favorite are dragons.

            “I try to do at least one dragon a year,” he said. “I like to use the long, pear-shaped pumpkins for that because they already have a head like a crocodile or dinosaur. And I can use palm fronds and carrots for teeth and even put incense in their nose to make their nostrils appear like they’re smoking.”
While he can sculpt any size or shaped pumpkin, from small ones that fit in the palm of the hand, to larger ones with thick skin, he favors ones “that are flopped over on their side or are twisted around. That allows me to do things like two faces. I like to work on the pumpkin that Mother Nature has already started on.”
Though he’s been sculpting pumpkins for 15 years, Goodreau said his business has really escalated the past five years.
“Every summer I go on an architectural dig and when I get back home, my phone is inundated with messages and I have hundreds of e-mails. I’ve had to turn down a lot of work this year, since I’m only one guy. But it’s nice to be busy.”
            These days, he does most of his work at his house, but his favorite place to create is at festivals.
            “I love knowing people are watching, “he said. “Kids especially. I grew up with my dad carving pumpkins and I remember being too young to actually hold the knife, so he’d do it. I couldn’t wait to get old enough so that I could do it myself. I’d like to think that kids are somehow inspired by what they see I do.”
              Like the young Goodreau, the kids watching him at the Festival won’t be able to hold the knife.  But the good news is: they can vote in the Presidential Election, the one pitting the Romney and Obama pumpkin head candidates that is. 
              Everyone who votes gets free popcorn.  We promise!
               The Festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and held in conjunction with the swap meet at the O.C Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, also includes free trick or treating; Day of the Dead events including Dia de Los Muertos dancers, mariachi band, sugar skull painting, and an altar contest; the 13th annual Halloween Hearse Show, FreakShow Deluxe, a Dead Celebrity Costume Contest, Scream for Ice Cream Contest and much more.   A full schedule is available at or call 949-724-6660.
            Admission is $2 or free for kids 12 and under.