Mine was not the first! But I created it in a really short amount of time so there are various steps I took to achieve that. Mainly, what gave me the idea in the first place was the hilarity that ensued from seeing my kid run around in a store in a 'fake leg' Ostrich costume so this is much more of a total conversion than a from scratch build, I want to make that clear. THAT said, I think anyone with a modicum of skill in this area could do just fine without that base.
A lot of these builds tend to come out somewhat goat/sheep looking to me so one big goal I had was that the Tauntaun actually looked like the real thing (being the perfectionist and huge Star Wars nerd that I am!) So to achieve that accuracy being an experienced CG artist I turned to Zbrush to make the head and 3D printed it.
YOU WILL NEED:
-The Ostrich costume for the base. But as said above, this is not an absolute necessity really If you have some skill and experience in making things of this nature. I found the Ostrich costume for about $30.
-A solution for the head. This has to be light. Small kids don't like carrying stuff. I would recommend the upholstery foam route, but I think paper mache could work or many other approaches. Obviously in my case it was a 3D printed CG model that I sculpted in Zbrush. I *may* make this available at some point in the future, but that's a big decision based on a few factors so I really cannot make any promises just yet.
-Some old shoes that the child no longer needs, or perhaps find some in a thrift store. I used crocs.
-A solution for the fur. This is generally not cheap. I found the grey stuff that I used at Joannes and it was pricey but having seen the somewhat wavy quality to it I could not resist it, it was perfect.
-Some upholstery foam.
-A hot glue gun.
-Some quick dry fabric glue. It's somewhat important that it's quick dry glue.
-Some acrylic paints and lacquer.
-Hairdressers thinning sheers. These are amazing!
Step 1: Cut Up the Base
1. Decapitate the Ostrich! You can re-seal the neck hole with a few stitches and or a hot glue gun or even just the quick dry fabric glue.
2. Cut off the neck 'frill' with a pair of scissors.
3. Cut off the feet too, ideally as close as you can get to where the natural pattern edge is of the foot.
4. Cut off the wings.
5. Cut off NOT the entire tail but the frilly, feathery bit at the very end that is the same material as the neck frill.
Step 2: The Head
- Create your Tauntaun head. I do think there are quite a few viable different ways to achieve this but as I'm already a CG modeler I digitally sculpted the head in Zbrush and 3D printed it. There's some really great Tauntan reference available from the behind the scenes shooting of 'The Empire' Strikes Back' which is largely what I used for reference.
- I printed mine at about 9 inches long minus the horns. I printed those separately and glued on. I printed with a very low infill setting to ensure that the model was super light. Note also that I have a cavity inside the head so that can easily be inserted onto the neck.
- I then painted with acrylic pots of paint, and lacquered the eyeball and nostril areas for that wet look.
Step 3: The Feet & Arms
- I had some old Crocs that were borderline too small for my kid. Using a hot glue gun, I simply applied 1 inch thick patches of upholstery foam to cover the shoe. It was pretty sloppy but I didn't feel it mattered since it would be covered in fur.
- I sculpted into them a little and made some claws using the same technique. This is basically 'snipping away' with a pair of scissors rather than cutting per se. I found this really fun in general.
- I used the same 'snipping' approach to make the arms from foam also.
- Using a hot glue gun I glued on the claws for the feet and 3 small claws for each arm.
- I sprayed the shoes and arms with grey primer, also used a little white primer to lighten the tips.
- Cutting out fairly small patches of fur (maybe 2 inches or so square) I applied them to the foam crocs with a hot glue gun.
p.s hot glue gun burns HURT. Be careful. Don't glue a patch of fur on and press it on with your hand. You'll find quite quickly that the glue will have seeped through to your fingers! After learning the hard way. I applied the fur patch and pressed it and held it in place with a piece of cardboard.
Step 4: The Body
1. Head just placed on the neck 'stump' for positioning, not glued yet.
There are various things that I did to the base costume to make it shaped more like an actual Tauntaun, and less like an Ostrich. These include:
2. I shaped some foam 'ribs' that ran down the front and the back of the neck, with a LOT of hot glue. My thinking here was that since the neck was just stuffed with fiber fill, some extra rigidity would come from these strips and the copious amounts of hot glue. I was largely right, but I still think I might add a wire If I attempted something similar in future.
3. I made some foam 'pads' to provide more of a 'shoulder' like a Tauntaun has.
4. I made some foam pieces to achieve the 'dog' like leg that a Tauntan has.
5. I made a foam tail. This happens to fit very nicely under the tail stump that is already present in the base costume.
Step 5: The Fur
I think there are really 2 main ways to approach the fur:
A: Replicate the patterns of the base Ostrich costume as best you can and apply in large pieces. Pro: quicker, probably. Con: Complicated and awkward, particularly for one person alone.
B: Fairly small patches, say several inches across. Bear in mind that with long fur the underlying patches can be pretty messy, mine are. Pro: Easier in general than A, Con: More time consuming than A.
In the end I suppose I used a combination of both approaches. And in either case I would say that the quick drying fabric glue is really essential here, since you need that 'tac' that fast drying glue has to hold the fur patches in place as they're drying. Anything else just tended to slide off and need to be clamped or in other ways held for long periods of time.
I then hot glued the head on, and applied some much smaller patches of fur to the head, for a better transition between the head and the body.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
1. Fake legs! This was as simple as stuff an old pair of pants with stuffing, then sew on some super lightweight shoes to the ends of the legs.
2. I bought some fake snow, and sprayed the Tauntaun with a little spray adhesive and sprinkled on.
3. Add some simple reins. I think generally with these kind of costumes you'd probably want to put a wire in the reins so that the head moves more convincingly, but in practice I figured that it was a lot to ask of a 3 almost 4 yr old and that fabric reins were fine.
4. Using the thinning sheers, add changes in length to the fur where desirable. Did I mention that these scissors are amazing?!
5. I also bought a small sound recorder device for about $15, so he had button push Tauntaun sounds at his fingertips. These things are pretty cool.
6. Let the hilarity ensue. These fake leg costumes really are very fun to watch.