Bowser Costume Castle With Automated Toys




Introduction: Bowser Costume Castle With Automated Toys

About: I'm a High School Technology teacher with Creativitis, a disease that doesn't let my brain sleep. I spend my days trying to infect my student's minds with a desire to learn. I lead by example and hope that my …
Halloween gets me pretty gosh darn excited. It does however present some problems for me in the months of September and Octabober. That's right.... I said Octabober. That's because I have been working on this build day and night for over two months. I'm losing it.

The only real problem with building a costume each year, is the fact that one must outdo oneself. Last year's Chucky vs. Toy Story costume won me a respectable third place in the epic costume category. You'll see pictures of me using the third prize cordless dremel in this year's build. I knew that thing would come in handy.

So here I am.... Halloween is over and I'm still obsessed with the Holiday. And yes, it is a holiday... better than Christmas in my humble opinion.

Before you start, I should post a few bulletins for your benefit.

  • My ultimate goal is originality. I try to make a costume that no one has ever done before. No Ironman suits for this guy. Sure people have done Bowser before, but not with a castle, and not with automated toys. Muahahahahahah....
  • I'm hoping to move up the ranks this year. Yes, this is my blatant plea for your vote and consideration. My prizes are for my students and they will surely benefit from a laser cutter. Wink wink.
  • Please use my instructable for inspiration. You probably don't want an exact replica, and you can probably build it better than I did anyway. I know there are a lot of things I would do differently, if I were mad enough to try this one again.
  • Please understand that I am a high school teacher and I am lucky to have access to a number of great tools and machines. This can sometimes be frustrating for the average instructabler, but I assure you, there are ways around everything. I 3d printed horns, but could have easily made them exactly one hundred different ways.
  • I took a carp load of pictures.... yes I said carp. I'm sure you'd rather follow my detailed pics than read chapters of my boring scrawl. I've done my best to annotate pictures where you might be wondering what the heck I'm trying to show. Please ask if there is something you're not sure about.
  • I've decided not to start with the typical list of materials step. It would be long and overwhelming to start with. Please decipher materials from each of my steps and ask any questions if unsure. I think I've covered everything.

Here's a video of the finished costume for those of you that can't wait to see what it's all about.

Step 1: Design, Sketching, Modelling

Always start with a sketch. The first image shown is the very first sketch I made when I decided that this was what I was going to build. The idea certainly evolved, but primarily stayed true to the initial concept.

Before you start to model in 3d it's helpful to make a full size drawing or cardboard mock-up.

Step 2: The Mask- Carving Blue Foam

Carving out of blue foam is a cheap way to make a lot of different things. 

Please consider the following:
  1. Wear a mask. Foam dust is not at all good for you.
  2. Use a good spray adhesive. I'm still looking for the best one, because a lot of them tend to let go after a while.
  3. Use a sharp knife when carving, and be careful with that thing. Most accidents in shops are with knives.
  4. Order your hot knife before you finish the bulk of the carving.
  5. A drywall rasp in an effective shaping tool.

Step 3: The Mask - Helmet Covering

One of the best places to buy material for a Halloween costume is the thrift store. I found all of my material on the first trip and hit the jackpot when I randomly found the perfect material for Bowser's hair. It was $4 and would have cost and arm and a leg at a fabric store.

Most of the material I used for this build was fleece or micro fiber. The stretchiness of this material is perfect for covering blue foam. The jaw was done in one piece and held in place by stuffing the fabric into the grooves. I cut into the foam with the hot knife. No sewing makes me really happy!

Step 4: The Mask - Teeth

I'm a dentist!

Teeth are pretty easy to make with a vacuum former.
  1. Start by carving teeth out of blue foam
  2. Vacuum form the teeth
  3. Hollow out a space for a screw using a drill bit
  4. Glue a screw in place
  5. Screw the teeth into the jaw. You may need to poke a hole through the fabric first to keep the material from bunching up when you rotate the screw.

Step 5: The Mask - Eye Brows, Hair

I thought the hair was going to be hard to build. I typically avoid having to sew. In this step I was able to complete all of the hair with just a glue gun. You have to be really careful not to get glue in areas where you don't want glue, because it really makes a mess of the hair.

Step 6: The Mask - Eyes, Horns, Collar Spikes

This is the step where I took advantage of our 3d printer. Modelling the horns and spikes and printing them out saved me a lot of time, and the finish of the white plastic was good enough to skip the painting process. If we didn't have the printer, I might have carved the horns out of blur foam, or vacuum formed them in two halves.

Step 7: Shell

The shell took quite a few steps to make. Please follow the pictures and annotations closely because I think they tell the story best! 

Step 8: Jacket

The jacket was an interesting part of the project. Again, I was trying to avoid sewing at all costs. ( I really need to learn)

I was lucky enough to find the perfect fleece sweater for the main body. I used the leftover material from the jaw to make the belly. My lovely mother helped me with the sewing on this part.

Step 9: Gloves

Okay, I was a little worried about the gloves, but my mother bailed me out again this year. I looked up a few instructables on how to make gloves, but the art of sewing is still way out of my league.
  1. The best thing to do is get an existing pair of gloves, cut them apart, and make a new pattern.
  2. We eliminated the baby finger, and widened the middle finger to make room for two fingers.
  3. Most cartoon characters only have 3 fingers. This is an important detail.
  4. I 3d printed my fingernails to match the horns and spikes. I probably could have vacuum formed them just like the teeth.

Step 10: Castle

The main material for building the castle is blue foam insulation. I bought a couple sheets of 2" for the base and the towers. The rest of the castle was made with 1" foam. The sheets come in 2 x 8 foot sheets. The one inch sheets are about $12, and the 2" sheets are $22. I used spray adhesive to laminate the layers for the towers. You can use PL Premium panel adhesive, but it dries pretty bulky and you might get gaps in the seams.

Again, blue foam is messy when you carve it. Wear a mask and have a vacuum handy for clean-up.

Step 11: TOYS

Okay! You have to buy some toys if you want to make a good automated castle. Here's where I got mine.

  • do a search for mario figures
  • there are a lot of items that ship from China which can take a while
Toy's R Us
  • Pretty good selection at the time I went, but you'll have to search online for more specific characters
  • Walmart has the same stuff as Toy's R Us, but it may be a little closer to home. Check the TOMY vending machines on the way out. They have some mario figures for $2 but you'll be playing the mario lottery. I lost twice when I didn't get what I wanted.


If you've never heard the term before, do a quick search on the internet. You'll be amazed at what you'll find. The art of mechanical toys is fascinating.

Step 12: Automation - Building and Testing

Once I had the castle built, I started planning where I want the toys to go and what I want to do. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to achieve, but I ended up making a lot of it up on the fly.

Some important thing to consider in this stage:
  1. Use k'nex connectors embedded in the blue foam to help support the rods. Your gears will not function properly if there is any movement or play in the assembly. I used a forstener bit to drill the foam. Start carefully, otherwise the bit will tend to wander, and you won't get a consistent hole.
  2. Do not try and overload the k'nex motors. There is a limit to what they will run.
  3. Plan to make your motors and gears accessible. If there are any problems, you will need to get at the assemblies to troubleshoot.

Step 13: More Castle Building

I found that I sort of made up the design of the front of the castle as I went along. The elements are loosely based on the images I found online of Bowser's Castle. Simply making a replica of the video game castle would not have suited my needs. Besides, it's way more fun to design your own.

Step 14: Building the Levels

Figuring out the levels and movements of the toys was a long process, but it was fun! The most important consideration at this point, is making sure you don't overload the motors. You also have to be super accurate with your gears. If they are not making proper contact, it will be more work for the motors.

Step 15: Piranha Plant

Making the Piranha plant was a little tricky. There wasn't a suitable toy that I could find that would work.

If you follow the pictures closely, you'll see what I came up with. There's probably a better way, but this seemed to work for me. I was hoping to have more movement up and down, but I was constrained by the power of the k'nex motor and the physical space I had to work with.

These are the basic steps:
  1. Cut apart some random toy that has some sort of spring mechanism. I could have made this I suppose, but I magically stumbled upon this perfectly sized toy.
  2. Sand the edges away on two halves of a K'nex ball. It randomly is the perfect size to fit inside the ABS pipe fitting. What luck!!!
  3. Make a stem for the plant with some k'nex rod and a connector.
  4. Glue the whole mess together with hot glue.
  5. The next step is not totally necessary, but I thought it would look better if I vacuum formed two plastic halves to paint. Not everyone has a vacuum former, so this step could be skipped.
  6. You'll need to mask off the polka-dots before you paint. I used a set of leather punches to punch circles out of some tape.
  7. Spray the thing red.
  8. Peel the circles, and add some felt for the piranha plant lips.

Step 16: Chain Chomp

The chain chomp was a late addition the the project. I purchased some plastic Halloween chain at the dollar store with the intention of using it for a draw bridge or something. I then found a Ball at the Value Village Halloween section, and my brain clicked. This was a pretty easy accessory to build as you can see in the pictures outlined below.

Step 17: Boo

Boo was an expensive touch to this costume, however I'm not ashamed to admit I spent a lot of money on a toy that I ripped apart. It's all or nothing when it comes to costume design. This nice little toy comes from Japan, but I was lucky to find one a little cheaper in the US. This comes with a cool motion sensor on it that I though would be a nice feature, however a motion sensor light will always be on if you install it on a costume that you're wearing out and about. It was too bulky and heavy to work on the costume anyway, so I removed it.

Step 18: Paint

Painting the castle was pretty quick and painless. I really appreciated this step after it took me almost 8 hours to carve the lines in the castle.

A couple of important notes:
  1. Make sure you use a latex paint. It won't eat blue foam. If you want to spray the foam instead of using a brush, make sure to get a spray that will not dissolve foam. They do exist, but make sure on a scrap piece first.
  2. I used some black spray paint to add some detail. It would have dissolved the foam, but I sprayed only tiny amounts and I already had a coat of latex covering the foam.
  3. I used some acrylic folk art paint to add some variation in colour to the bricks.
  4. Once everything has dried, you can add further detail by gently dry brushing some black paint on the surface of the bricks.
  5. When the paint was totally dry, everything seemed so grey. I decided to use some plastic vines from the dollar store to make it look like ivy is growing on the castle walls. It really helped add character to the castle and helped to break up the large grey spaces. It's just glued on with a glue gun.

Step 19: Banner, Flag & Curtain and Some Wheels.

I decided that I needed to cut out the back of the costume to provide clearance for my legs when I'm walking. I found some nice red material that I could make a curtain out of. I made a template of the Bowser logo on the CNC, and used it as a spray paint template.

I used a smaller version of the template to make two banners, and a flag. I got the idea for the banners from the castle in the Mario Kart Wii game.

The other important detail of this project is the addition of wheels. I didn't put any on last year's costume and I truly regret that decision. This thing is already very lightweight, but now it's even easier to transport and move around in.

Step 20: Lighting and Wiring


Aan element of costume design that I hadn't really considered until this year, is lighting. It became clear that in order to stand out in a club that holds a costume contest, it's important to have lights of some kind. It also helps people get a better picture of you.

I'm still working on some lighting ideas for this costume because I still need a good way to light up Bowser. Anyway, I used some cheap yet effective LED lights that I got from the dollar store. I also used some pumpkin strobe lights that give a cool effect when you're in a pretty dark room. Finally, I used a lot of flickering pumpkin lights to add more detail. I got them at value village for a buck each. Light it up!

Wiring the switches

The inside of the costume is sort of covered in wires form all of the lights. Wiring is not my area of expertise but I made out okay. Once I had all the wires for the lights taken care of, I had to mount and wire switches for the k'nex motors. I happened to have some switches that I picked up at Value Village. Because the k'nex motors are designed to rotate in both directions, I simply left them in the on position for one direction, and then wired the switch in the middle of the cable. This was easier than taking everything apart.

I mounted all of the switches just behind the top section of the castle so that I would be able to turn the movement of the toys on and off while actually wearing the costume.

Step 21: Final Costume

Well, I didn't quite finish this costume in time for Halloween, but I just squeaked it in to the Instructables contest. The lesson to be learned here is that it is never too early to start building your costume. This one took over 2 months and approximately 200 hours of work. CRAZY!!!

Halloween Epic Costumes Contest

Second Prize in the
Halloween Epic Costumes Contest

Instructables Design Competition

Participated in the
Instructables Design Competition

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    10 years ago on Step 2

    Hi great costume It's the most realistic bowser I have seen :D.

    I really need to make a bowser costume for a Beaver Scout camp in May. I have 2 questions. First what size and type are those sheets of foam you used for the mouth?
    Secondly could you recomend any way of cutting it other than the hot knife as I dont have access to one?


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 2

    thee are instructable on how to make hot wire knives. good sharp knife would work but make shure you wearing proper gloves tho.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Holy smokes, that is awesome. I admire the level of detail and ingenuity you demonstrated in animating all of the characters. The castle detail is also very impressive - Excellent work, I'm sure that costume is the main attraction for all costume parties - Well done


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Congratulations on Second place! Your creation is very impressive!

    Mr. Noack
    Mr. Noack

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Bowser had a pretty good Halloween I'd say. You did a great job too!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    One of the best I've ever seen here! Congratulations!

    Geeky Hooker
    Geeky Hooker

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Ok, I'm a newbie to in I literally started a few days ago. And...I...this is...I mean...WOW. Just...THIS IS SO FREAKING AMAZING I CAN'T HANDLE IT. Totally voted. TOTALLY. VOTED.

    Mr. Noack
    Mr. Noack

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Wow thanks! That was a pretty great comment!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Congratulations on being a finalist in the Halloween contest!!! Can’t wait to see if you win! Good luck!

    Mr. Noack
    Mr. Noack

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Fingers crossed.There is some really stiff competition as I'm sure you are aware.

    Mr. Chunks
    Mr. Chunks

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Hello kind sir who I am not acquainted with in anyway. I highly enjoyed this Instructable. I would offer some constructive criticism, but this is too darn good. Keep up the good work. I hope one day I can produce such fine work. Keep up the fine work.
    Your's truly,

    Mr. Chunks

    Mr. Noack
    Mr. Noack

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Can I trade in my k'nex gears for some of your servos? Your helmet is amazing!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Everything is better with servos... :)