I modeled "Zazu" after the design of Broadway's "The Lion King" puppet.
He was built using the same materials and techniques as my other projects.
- Corrugated cardboard
- Quilt batting
- Cotton fabric
- Fake fur
- Art foam
- 3" styrofoam egg
- Old broom handle
- 1/8" rope or cord
- Panel washers (4), bolts (2), nuts (4)
- 8" of 1/2" diameter plastic tube
- 8" of 1" wide nylon webbing
- White, yellow, orange, blue, pink, black, and brown acrylic paint
- Metal rods from tomato plant cages
- Fiberglass reflective driveway marking rod (Lowe's)
- Replacement throttle cable for lawn mower (Lowe's)
- Old caulk gun
Total cost: Approximately $60
- 1-1/2" PVC pipe (5')
- Four 1-1/2" PVC 90 degree corners
- Two 1-1/2" PVC "T" connections
- High temp hot glue gun
- Box cutter
- Heavy duty scissors
- Wire cutters
- Hack saw
- Tin snips
Step 1: Modeling the Bill
My work space was set up and several reference pictures were displayed.
I started by sketching the profile of his head and then worked to build the bill by adding structural ribs every few inches. The cardboard covering will be formed over the ribs.
Step 2: "Skinning" the Beak
In the first picture you can see how I break down the corrugation in the cardboard so I can form it around compound curves. I bend the cardboard lengthwise about every 1/4" and then 'roll' it back and forth along the edge of the table. If I need to bend the shape in two directions, I break the cardboard about every 45 degrees. It becomes pretty pliable and easy to shape.
Also notice the "Grease Monkey" gloves I use. They give me good feel and control but also keep me from getting burned by the high temp glue gun.
I cover each section between two ribs and work my way around until it is fully covered.
The indent in the side of the beak was added during this time too.
Step 3: Head, Lower Beak, and Eyes
Once the upper beak was done I continued to build out his head and left room for the eyes.
The lower beak was traced using the top beak as a pattern but I cut it a bit shorter. Using a single rib down the middle and some curved sides I was able to give it the shape I needed to match the upper beak.
The eye sockets were too sunk in so I simply glued a piece of cardboard over them and then one half of the egg onto the cardboard.
I cut out some of the upper bill as I do in all my creations.
Step 4: Body
The body was formed using the rib and cover method. I'm showing how I cut a my covering pieces larger and glue them from inside, hold it tight until it cools, and then using the box cutter, slice from the outside right along the rib. At this time I cut a length of the broomstick, glued, and braced it for use as the handle.
Step 5: "Chicken" Legs
The legs again are formed simply by ribbing and covering.
I wanted the legs to be able to rotate so I created a socket using some panel washers, bolts, and nuts. The cardboard plates sandwiched between the washers were glued, one side to the body and the other to the leg.
I added some cord so it hangs from the upper leg to attach the lower leg. This will allow the lower leg to move also.
Step 6: Feet
I wanted the feet to have some shape so I used a bit of the tomato cage wire to keep them arched. Always make sure to capture the wire between two pieces of cardboard as shown in the second picture since the hot glue will not adhere to the wire and it would simply pop off.
Another length of wire was used to hold the plastic tube to the feet. I bent the wire and covered it with a lot of glue and a couple of pieces of cardboard to capture and secure it.
The cord was fed through the upper part of the tubing, pulled tight, and glued to the top of the foot.
The feet were covered with cotton fabric.
Step 7: Mouth and Head Control
I found an orange fiberglass pole at Lowe's that is used to mark driveways. It cuts easily with a hacksaw and was the perfect solution for the pole to articulate the head. I drilled a hole in the end of a length of the broom handle to use as the handle.
An access hold was cut into the lower bill and two lengths of nylon webbing was used to hinge the bill.
I search around my shop for something to use as a trigger and came across an old caulk gun. I used tin snips to remove the trigger and fit it to the pole.
Lowe's had a replacement throttle cable for a lawn mower (about $7) which worked perfectly. Pull out the wire and cut the shield to length. I found a short length of flat metal with a hole that I glued inside the lower bill where the wire attached. The other end was connected to the trigger.
In the last picture you can see that I added three lengths of elastic band to pull the mouth closed. I originally had two but I added a third since two didn't do the job well.
Step 8: Stand
I made a stand out of 1-1/2" PVC pipe. It comes in handy to keep it from getting damaged and also for use during the build process.
Step 9: Covering the Head
Once the shape of the head is formed using cardboard I cover it with quilt batting and cotton fabric. The batting takes some of the harsh edges of the cardboard off and the fabric is a good base to paint.
The batting doesn't take a lot of hot glue to hold down. I usually run a small bead along the edge and hold it down. If you use too much glue it will thin the batting out and it won't have a nice soft look. I left batting out of the indent in the bill so it would be pronounced once it was covered with fabric.
I started at the front of the bill and worked one side of the face with the cotton. I also follow the edge rule and not so much glue as too much will show through the fabric. I pull and stretch the fabric to take any wrinkles and creases out. Notice how I had to cheat and cut a couple of relief areas into the bill. Run some glue along the seam and make sure to wipe most of it off so it doesn't create a bump. This is where the rubber gloves come in handy to keep from getting burned.
You can see on the eye how well the fabric stretches. I ran a line of glue from the front corner over the center and to the back and laid the fabric over it. Then I went back and pulled it down the side and glued it around the edge where it meets the cardboard. I wasn't worried about the excess that stuck out since it will be covered with the fur 'feathers'.
Always make sure to seal the edges with some glue.
Step 10: Adding 'feathers'
We went with some short pile fur that would work for the feather covering. I simply cut it to shape and glue it along the edges. Carefully pull it to keep it smooth. I ran a bead of glue along the seams and rolled the edge in a bit to make sure the backing on the fabric didn't show.
The last picture has the feet painted brown with some black accents.
Step 11: Painting the Head and Detailing the Eyes
The lower bill is fully painted orange as well as the front of the top bill.
The middle of the beak is yellow and it fades to white at the back. The indent in the side is also white. I simply did a bit of blending between the orange and yellow and yellow and white.
The eye lids and crest over the eyes were cut from white art foam and glued in place and painted.
The nostrils where painted in with some black.
Step 12: The Neck
The neck was cut from a 24" length by 10" wide piece of fur. I had to sew it smaller because initially it was too thick.
I glue it to the body and added some loose balls of fiber fill to give it shape but still allowing it to be flexible.
Once it was glued to the lower bill he was good to go.
Step 13: Feathers
The feathers were also cut from art foam. I used lengths of the tomato cage wire to add stiffness and to hold the shape I wanted. I captured with wire fully between the feather and some scrap art foam so it didn't come lose.
I used a fade between orange and white paint and added a solid orange tip with a detail stripe of white.
I had to pull some of the fur back from the body to glue in the tail.
The wings required two pieces of 3/4" plywood to be cut into a crescent shape. I drilled four 1/8" holes to install the four wing feathers. The wing was glued to the side of the body but I also ran an extra piece of wire all the way through the body and out the wing where it was bend over and covered with art foam.
Step 14: Tongue and Head Feather
I added a piece of art foam to the inside of the bill both top and bottom. I fashioned a tongue out of art foam and wire to keep the wavy shape.
The feather on the back of the head was made from three pieces of art foam. The first one had the curve and the two side pieces just conform to that shape.