Introduction: Catbus Halloween Ride

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Halloween has come and gone once again and it's time to share our annual creations. This year was special because it was my baby's first Halloween. We are huge Studio Ghibli fans and we already had a Soot Sprite costume for me and a No-Face costume for Dad from a Con a few years back so all we needed was to dress the baby. So, cute little Kierian dressed as Totoro. Now, I've always made a ride for my kids for Halloween when they were younger and its been a few years since they have need one since the other 2 are 8 and 11 so I got the chance to make one for the first time in years. What better ride than the Catbus!?

Step 1: The Base

We built our bus over a wagon.

Dad is a plumber so he was super helpful and brought home a water heater box which was PERFECT.

1. Cut one side of the box off.

2. Roll the wagon into the box.

3. Mark the box where the wagon ends.

4. Cut off the excess from the box.

5. To cap off the open end of the box, trace the opening onto some of the excess cardboard.

6. Add a 2-4 inch boarder to the top and sides of the drawing.

7. Cut out the drawing and score the inner lines so the flaps will fold easily.

8. Stand the box up with the open end on top.

9. Lay the cut out cap on the opening.

10. Fold the flaps down against the sides of the box and trace the edges of the flaps so you can see where they will fall.

11. Add velcro on each flap(I used 3 strips on each flap): Put one of each sides of velcro together and cut a length, peel off the backing on one side and stick it to the flap on the cap, position the cap on the box and peel off the other side's backing, fold the flap down into place and press firmly to stick the velcro to the box. CAREFULLY peel the flap back off, separating the velcro strips from each other. This should leave one strip of velcro to each surface in the exact placement you need. Repeat this with all 3 flaps.

12. Reinforce the velcro with staples from a staple gun. I had the HARDEST time getting the velcro to separate without peeling the stupid stuff off the box completely. Using a generous amount of staples from a staple gun is the only thing that made this possible.

**Note: the reason we used velcro instead of just hot glue to attach the cap is because we needed it to be removable so we could break it down to fit in the car.**

Step 2: Attach the Body to the Wagon

So now we have the basic body and we need to attach it to the wagon.

I cut long strips of cardboard to stretch under the fabric of the wagon but over the metal frame and poke out a good bit on each side. Score the excess to make a flap. Cut one for the front/back, and 2 for the sides.

Sit the box over the wagon and fold the flaps up, mark the outline of the flap like we did in the last step.

Add velcro like in the last step and reinforce with staples.

**note, use sturdy cardboard, I used whatever we had and it wore out as time went on and it wasn't able to hold up the body like it should so we had to use dowel rods at the corners to prop it up**

We then cut a "door" in the top of the body to put the baby in. The door made the catbus look more like a bus since the top was solid but then we couldn't see Kierian as walked and with him being 11 months old and having access to candy, that wasn't safe so we ended up cutting off the door completely. This had the unfortunate effect of making all those people who saw it and sadly didn't know about the awesome that is Studio Ghibli think he was a mouse that got eaten by a cat....a mutated, 6 legged cat.....we aren't that twisted..... but if it had been planned that way, it still would have been cool.

Step 3: Legs and Windows

Draw a simple leg and cut it out. Hold it up against the body and make sure it is the right size and you will have space for 6 of them. When you have the leg correct, trace it on cardboard 12 times.

**ORIENTATION: We decided to make the handle of the wagon the tail because that just made sense so the back of the wagon was then the front of the catbus. So we had to push the wagon with the tail instead of pulling it.

Cut out the legs and hot glue them on the body. Make sure the front leg is glued only on the flaps of the cap so that you can still remove the cap from the body.

Draw on the windows on one side of the bus.

Cut them out.

Use the cut out pieces to trace the window openings onto the other side of the bus. Cut those out.

Draw on the back window and cut it out.

Spray paint the whole thing white. It may take several layers to get a solid coat. This will make the colors later show up much better.

Step 4: Tail

Cut out a semi triangular shape long enough to cover the handle from just under the part you hold to the base of the wagon. Score the back side of the shape many times to make it easy to roll into a cylindrical shape.

Roll the tail to make a cone shape. Use velcro as we did before to secure the tail into a cone shape around the handle.

Step 5: Paint

Draw on the stripe down the sides of the body and the little stripes on the legs as well as the arch across the upper edge of the sides. Also draw out the stripes on the tail.

Use painters tape to cover the parts of the bus and tail that are dark brown.

Buy spray paint in light brown and dark brown.

Spray paint the body and tail light brown.

When dry, remove the tape.

To paint the Dark brown either:

Use a paper plate to spray a good puddle of paint on and use a throw away brush to paint on the dark brown on the stripes of the body.


Use the tape method from before and protect exposed areas from over spray with scrap cardboard and spray paint the dark areas.

I used the first choice for the small areas of dark brown and the second for the large areas.

Step 6: The Head

The hardest and most time consuming part of this build is the head. You will need:

-a large balloon. I used one of those punch balloons you use as party favors

- plaster strips

-paper mache pulp like the one pictured here

-tin foil


1. Blow up the balloon to the size you want and tie it

2. Ball up tinfoil and use tape to adhere it to the balloon to make the sides of the face.

3. Use the same method to make the shape for the ears and attach them.

4. Follow the directions on the plaster strips to cover the balloon and added bits. Leave the bottom quarter or third of the balloon uncovered. It will help to have a small bucket or bowl to sit the balloon in while you work.

5. Use the paper mache paste to fill in large divots and smooth the surface.

6. Use the paper mache paste to add a nose (not pictured here)

**note: I started off using the paper mache paste but it was taking a long time and it was sliding down the surface of the balloon and it had to be put on so thick that it was taking forever to dry so I switched to the plaster strips which was much easier to get the base layer with.**

7. When the head has had time to set and dry, pop and remove the balloon. Remove any tinfoil you can easily access as well.

8. Set the head on a flat surface and check the base (the opening). If the base of the head doesn't sit flush with the table, use the mache paste to beef up the edges and fill in holes to make it level.

9. Let it dry

10. If needed, use sand paper or a dremel to smooth the surface.

11. Paint the head with a layer or 2 of Gesso to prime it.

Step 7: Draw and Paint

1. Using a photo for reference, draw on the cat's features.

2. Cover the nose, mouth, and inner ears with masking/painters tape. Also tape around all the dark brown places. The idea is protect all the areas that aren't dark brown.

3. Spray paint the dark brown.

4. Remove the tape from everywhere except the nose, ears, and mouth.

5. Tape over the dark brown areas and spray paint the light brown.

6. Remove all the tape.

7. Spray a good puddle of spray paint on a paper plate and use a throw away brush to paint in any areas that need to be fixed (some paint may have been removed with the tape.)

8. Hand paint the mouth, nose, and ears.

9. I bought some round push lights from the dollar tree to use for the eyes/headlights. They were the perfect size for the eyes but they stuck up off the face too far since the surface was rounded. To fix this, trace the light on the face, carefully cut out the circle from the head (used an exacto and a dremel). Be sure not to cut the hole too big, start slightly smaller than the light and make it bigger if needed. Push the light into the hole from the inside of the head since the light is wider at the bottom than the top. The light should fit snugly into the hole. Hot glue around the circumference to secure in place.

10. Paint the lights yellow.

11. Outline everything with sharpie and draw on the pupils.


To attach the head to the body:

1. Remove the cardboard cap we made for the body and lay it on a flat surface (2 legs should be attached to this cap by this point, so be careful not to damage them)

2. Set the head on the cap and position it where you want it.

3. Trace around the circumference on the head with a pencil on the cardboard to mark the position.

4. Put the head aside, and use the same principles as with insetting the eyes to cut out the hole.

5. When the hole is large enough for the head to be inserted at least an inch or two into it and fit snugly, line the interior edge of the hole with hot glue and push the head into place.

6. Use hot glue around the head on the front and back of the cardboard to reinforce the hold.

Now the head can be easily put on and removed from the body.

Step 8: Whiskers!

Somethings missing........ AH! Whiskers!

Get some black pipe cleaners and some small nails.

I didn't have black ones, just neon ones, so I spray painted mine. It worked but you could see the color through it in places.

1.Use a pencil to mark the placement of the whiskers.

2. Hammer the nail halfway into the head.

3. Wrap one end of the pipe cleaner around the nail.

4. Put a dab of hot glue around the base of the nail and press the nail in the rest of the way.

Step 9: Put It All Together.

Now the Catbus is looking pretty sweet but we need some finishing touches.

1. The shoulder rats! Being Halloween, it's easy to find and buy some fake rats. Just hot glue or super glue them onto the Catbus's shoulders. *Make sure not to glue onto the cap flaps*

2. We also added some of the same lights we used for the eyes to the ceiling of the inside of the bus to have some interior light for the little man. This also made finding things in the bus in the dark much easier.

The process to take this beast out is a little time consuming.

To break down:

1. Remove the cap (the head)

2. Remove the tail

3. Undo all the velcro joints of the support strips.

4. Lift the body off the wagon.

5. Pull the support cardboard strips off of the wagon.

6. Fold up the wagon.

To Build:

1. Open the wagon.

2. Insert the support strips. (helps to label them so you don't get them mixed up if they aren't uniform in size.)

3. Sit the body on the wagon.

4. Attach all the velcro joints of the support strips to the body

5. Put on the tail.

6. Put on the cap with the head.

Halloween Contest 2018

Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2018