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How to Create a Kevin Costume (The Bird from UP)

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As many of you know me from my Slinky Dog Costume of last Halloween 2010, I would like to still introduce myself. I am an artist and graphic designer who has currently graduated with a BFA in fine arts. I love to do anything creative, but since graduation I have not had many creative outlets. So I decided I would take the time to once again create a costume that was extremely original and had not been attempted before. Last year, one of my second character choices for a handmade costume was the bird KEVIN from the movie UP! I dug back into my original ideas and decided that I wanted to make Kevin, but that I did not want it to be as generic as other bird costumes. I really wanted to make the costume have the visual qualities of the crazy bird from UP, but also function like the bird as well. This being said....

this costume IS a one of a kind...

the head moves

the beak actually opens and shuts

AND the wings even flap.

ALL with my head nicely concealed in his neck so that you never really pay attention to the fact that a person is in it.

Great visual trickery there so that this costume really portrays the bird from UP. Honestly the only thing I wish I had done was get a soundtrack of his bird noises going and it would have been completely legit!

Im sure your reading this because you are wondering how in the world this was made, and maybe how you can create one yourself...

SO lets get creating!!!

Materials include:
130 mini hot glue sticks
10 stacks of newspapers
6 pool fun noodles
3 rolls of duct tape
2 bottles of elmer's glue
1 gopher trigger gripper
1 pair of kids angel wings
1 roll of masking tape
1 roll of bed foam
1 roll of thick seam material
1 bag of polyester fiber filling
1 1/5 yards of faux polyester fur
1 1/5 yards of blue semi - fuzzy fabric
1 yard of black stretchy fabric
1/2 yard of blue mesh material
1 pack of large white feathers (at least 4)
1 pair of old shoes
1 pair of black leggings
1 bottle of sky blue, purple, blue, red, yellow, and orange spray paint
1 bottle of white, green, and black acrylic paint


Tools include:
scissors (very sharp/nice pair)
hot glue gun
one colored sharpie
small paintbrushes
large mixing bowl

DONT forget patience and time are necessary to create such a costume. I spent at least 60+ hours on this one and still barely finished it in time for Halloween 2011. I also had awesome roomies and a great playlist to help me through it all, so good luck :)
 
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Step 1: Creating the Main Structure of the Body

Starting a costume this elaborate is always one of the hardest steps. You just look at the materials you have and you are almost dumbfounded over what to do with them. I never planned anything with sketches and other designs, though I encourage you to go against what I did and maybe plan yours out. Thats just how I work creatively, but it also took me many extra hours of figuring out where to start because of my way of "just winging it".

To start the body I cut all of my fun noodles in half so that they would be easier to manipulate and form into shapes instead of being so resistant to change. Once that was done I got my duck tape and went to town. I started with circles and half ovals in order to get the general shape of Kevins body without making it too detailed just yet. I also made sure to make an area of noodles that fit kind of like suspenders so that there would be somewhere for my body to support the structure. After taping each section, I took a dark pink sharpie marker and drew lines where all the noodles connected so that I could hot glue everything in place.

MOST important step of the ENTIRE costume...HOT GLUE. Only because without hot glue nothing will stay together. I will just say that when I mean hot glue, I mean lots and lots of hot glue and hours and hours of JUST glueing because each area needs to be extremely thick. The thicker the glue the more time you must hold the noodle in place and wait for it to dry. This is ultimately boring and stressful because you have to keep your hands in one place for so long. Cut and place pieces of noodle where extra support is needed, because remember this is the BASIS of the entire costume, it needs to be strong or it wont make it in the end. Now onto creating the neck, which had a few problems along the way.

Step 2: Adding on the Long Neck

The long neck that the character Kevin has is an interesting one and honestly extremely complicated to build. I attempted to create a neck that worked several times before being successful and even in the end I think I could have made it more sturdy than it currently is. This is done in the same way as the body, but you have to keep in mind that your head needs to fit somewhere in there AND the Gopher grabber in order to make his head function! Not to mention it needs to be so strong that it can hold up paper mache on its on...not an easy task.

I started by using two long pieces of noodles and manipulating a close hanger to give a curve to the neck and to give it some strength. Turned out this was a bad idea, because the close hanger would never keep its shape and kept bending to one side no matter how I bent it. I ripped those out and started over. I made the rings around each long piece to give a basis for a neck. Then I actually cut and glued several pieces in the back for that support I needed AND to give it a slight curve.

Kevins fully moving head was a completely random thought up method, and I STILL to this day do not have a clue how I really came up with it. I work at Disney World and the managers are always walking around with these gripper type tools picking up trash. Well, I found one in Walmart called the Gopher grabber and decided it was just long enough to reach the head and I could use the trigger to attach onto is beak to also make it move. I cut a hole in the side of the neck and secured the Gopher grabber so that it could move but not fall apart. The head is a whole new artistic adventure for me...as we move on I am not even sure HOW I will describe how to make his crazy head but Ill do my best.

Step 3: Making a Functional Kevin Bird Head

This is the HARDEST part of the entire costume, and I still do not know how I figured out how to get it to work. It took me over four hours to figure out the best way to get the beak to open and close and the head to move without messing up the entire neck or costume. There is probably a MUCH simpler solution for anyone who is more mathematical than me, but I literally just winged it and it worked well enough so I am not complaining.

I started with the shape of Kevin's head and then moved onward. I hot glued the back of his head onto the Gopher grabber and then was completely lost. I knew could not BEND the grabber because it would not function anymore so I had to figure out another method. I tried a million different things but finally I had a solution. Using different pivot points I created from foam I could get the beak to open slightly when the trigger was moved. I hot glued them into place with LOTS of hot glue to ensure strength when paper mache is added.

Taking the seam fabric (similar to a shoe lace) I attached it to the other side of the grabber and then hot glued it to the end of the bottom noodle which made his beak. I made sure to make the seam fabric short enough so that just the smallest amount of movement when the trigger is pulled would close the beak slightly . I had to reinforce the bottom beak so that it was kind of on a hinge so that it would move but not fall off. I used several layers of duck tape around the back of the bottom beak and made sure not to tape down the seam fabric that would pull up and down to move it.

I cannot explain this whole process very well but hopefully by the pictures you can get a sense of what I did to make the beak work. I honestly wish I could have done better because his beak barely functions the way I would like it too but I was running out of time and patience. Now I attached some newspaper with duck tape to get the overall shape of Kevins beak. Its time to go BACK to the body to add the final foam structure.

Step 4: Adding Support and Shape to the Body

Kevin needs to have fur or feathers of some sort to really look like a bird. Well, with a structure of JUST foam noodles the fur just falls into place where there are gaps between each piece and does not look like anything but a mess. SO I had to use a roll of foam I also found at walmart in the fabric section to give some shape to this costume. This was a LONG and quite annoying process but it was the only way. I laid the body structure over the foam and used a pink sharpie to draw lines where the foam should be cut.

Once each piece was cut I AGAIN used tons of hot glue to get the foam to stay in place. I HIGHLY suggest spending the money on a full sized hot glue gun as this was so hard with a mini one. It took twice as long and hurt my hands because I had to pull the gun trigger so many times in order to get anything out of it. Once finished it is back to the head for some paper mache and final touches to really make this look like the bird from up!

Step 5: Adding Form to the Head and Beak

Picture of Adding Form to the Head and Beak
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Even though I started a slightly formed beak with some newspaper and duck tape there is a lot more to be done. I took several more stacks of newspaper and taped them down to add eyes and even some of his face. Then I used tape and taped over all of the bumpy parts to attempt to smooth it out more. Afterwards it was time for paper mache and in a big mixing bowl I created a solution of half glue and half water. I cut the newspapers into strips and dipped them into the solution and then would run them in between my fingers to get of any excess solution. I then placed them on the newspaper beak and head until all was covered and let it dry over night.

I wish I had allowed myself more time for this part. If I had used paper mache pulp I would have gotten a much FINER detailed beak and head and it would not look bumpy like it does. Though, I am proud of what I ended up with I definitely need to try this method next time. Be very careful when doing the paper mache around the beak where it is hinged because it STILL needs to stay hinged and not get stuck. I left this area a little more unfinished just because I knew it would still open and close and I really did not have time to figure out any other way at the moment. Now it is time to create wings that actually flap.

Step 6: Making Flapping Wings

Picture of Making Flapping Wings
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I could have bought a ton of feathers and cardboard and wasted my time and money creating wings but I chose the simple way out, especially considering I still had to get them to flap and I had to get fur over the entire costume. So I went back to walmart and got kids angel wings that I had seen earlier that week. I cut the wings in half and spray painted them a sky blue like Kevin's wings in the movie. Since his wings are small this was the perfect solution. I used stretchy material you can find in the seam of some pants to attach the wings through the foam and firmly onto the other side with hot glue. I then used the same seam fabric to get the wings to flap.

Using the seam fabric I glued two long pieces together and then glued the other end to the underside of each wing THROUGH the foam structure. I left enough room around the fabric so that it could move in and out when pulled on, therefore making the wings move with it. I created a little loop hole on the end so that it would be easy for me to pull the string and allow the wings to flap together. I had to use my free left hand as the other is the one that moves the Gopher grabber making the head function. The final and the BEST steps are ahead...finishing touches with fur and spray paint!

Step 7: Covering the Body with Faux Fur/Finishing Touches with Paint

Yay! The second to last step has finally come after hours and hours of work! In order to make Kevin really look like a bird he needs feathers...but feathers are expensive and it would be so extremely time consuming to glue a thousand feathers on by hand. SO the next best thing is faux fur, because it still gives the feel of feathers without all the time and money put into it. I bought faux fur from a fabric shop and cut them into very wide long strips, probably about 8 strips total. I also hot glued this on making sure to over lap each piece so that none of the inside structure could be seen. Once everything was into place it was time for painting...

Spray painting the faux fur was probably one of the most fun things about this costume. I took the whole costume outside and used several cans of spray paint including yellow, orange, red, blue, and purple to create the same colors that Kevin has in the movie. I looked at pictures as I was spraying to try and get the most accurate pattern of colors and shapes of feathers. Make SURE to cover his sky blue wings with some type of grocery bags as spraying close to them will ruin the color of the sky blue with other colors.

After the body was done and starting to dry I spray painted is head with the yellow, orange and red as seen in the film. I let that dry for about and hour and used acrylic white, black, and green paint to create the crazy eyes of Kevin. Be careful though, because I did not let my spray paint DRY long enough before painting with acrylic and the colors kind of mixed so I had to put several coats. At last its time to move on to the final touches of the Kevin costume!

Step 8: Finishing Touches/Neck Fabric and Creating Feet

At last this is the FINAL step to making crazy Kevin from UP! Using the blue fuzzy fabric I also bought at a fabric store I covered the neck up to the head. Be very careful with this step, especially as you get up closer to the head because the fabric needs to STAY LOOSE in order for the head to move properly. I kept the fabric loose around the neck and then attached it to the head rather loosely also for the same reason. I then used the blue mesh fabric and cut an area in the front for my face and glued it down. After all I cant function in a costume if I cant SEE anything! I got very lucky I found a fabric that was almost the exact color of his neck so that my head isn't as obvious as it would have been. I finished that up by gluing the blue fuzzy fabric around the mesh edges for a more finished look.

You can't be kevin if your wearing tennis shoes and some crazy pants right? So I bought some stretchy black leggings and since my legs are already long and skinny all I had to do was wear them haha As for my feet I literally took some black stretchy fabric and cut 3 pieces to create the toes of his feet. I then rolled them into round shapes and hot glue them so that I could stuff them with polyester fiber fill. I hot glued them right onto the shoes and then took extra fabric and wrapped it around my ankles. I also secured this with glue at the sides of the shoes and used safety pins to get the fabric to stay up on my leggings creating one solid leg form and tricking the eyes.

and thats IT!! the costume is complete, bird feet and all. Everything was checked several times for functioning and then videos and pictures where taken of the final product!! The last advice I have for this costume is this...

DO NOT go to a crazy over crowded Orlando bar with a ton of drunk people in a homemade suit you can barely get around in. You will practically die from sweating in it and you will also be quite sad when beligerant people basically destroy your costume from excitement.

DO go to a small bar with much less drunk people where people can actually appreciate your artwork and you can attempt to win some prizes! I was a HUGE hit all night, I don't know how many pictures Kevin is in but I know its a ton! I made new friends and even won a few things and I could not be happier with the way it turned out and how creative I have become!

Feel free to post comments, ask questions or contact me!
poofrabbit3 years ago
This was brilliant! I'm going to try this with other characters, very well done I think......SQUIRREL! ;-)
heeyolivia3 years ago
i love this soooooo much!!
kamiko083 years ago
this costume is soooooo cooollll!!!! it probably took you forever to do this. I doubt you did this costume in two days and got no sleep. :-) You seem like the type who knows how to manage your time.
I am a costume designer for an elite company and I have seen nothing like this in all my years of experience. Smashing!
Rhi-Rainbow3 years ago
This is great, I was thinking of having a go at it myself, but I was wondering how much the material cost in total?
Many thanks
Rhi.x
Kaleena you never cease to amaze me!! Such a wonderful job. I'm sending this to Jilly.
LAWNMUSIC3 years ago
You did an awesome job. It looks great! Only problem I see is that a face plant is inevitable if you trip!
hahaha!!!
scoochmaroo3 years ago
Great build! Thank you for sharing the details with us. Brilliant!
Oh, I love Kevin! I think you captured him brilliantly!