Introduction: Giant Floating Bear Skull Costume!

About: A very hairy manchild studying illustration whilst playing around with as many different strange and intersting techniques and still trying to have a good time while i am at it (much to my tutors horror). I fi…
Make a hinged head costume like the ones used in the Lion King musical

Step 1: Intro

Ye might be wondering why the hell i decided to make a giant bear costume. Well its part of a project i am doing for my uni course... as an illustrator. (I know that usually involves lots of drawing but i also like to make stuff and so want to illustrate that way too :p)

We were given a short section of poem "Three little schoolboys walking in the zoo, a big bear hugged one and then there were two" and told to spark off ideas from that. Instead of actually doing it about schoolboys, bears or possibly paedophiles (also, in the gay clubbing scene a bear can also mean "a large hairy man") i decided to go a lil bit out there and concentrate on what everyone thinks of when they look at bears. Yup, thats right. Berserkers. (taken from the old norse bersekr meaning "bear shirt") Replace the schoolboys with young and inexperinced soldiers and you've got yourself a massacre _

It must be the panto seething in my blood (i have been clean for 3 years but it gets hard at times :p) but i decided to make costumes, then take photos and work back into them to create the final piece. Here is some of the initial ideas for the story and the costume. I went thru many phases of bear related clothing and then decided that a giant floating skull (kinda lifesize) attached to the person so that you could see them as well. (When berserking it is said that they take on the spirit of the bear or wolf and so i wanted the person to be seen clearly too) Also I wanted the costume to move the same way a bear does and so create a hunched gait when the person is crouched forwards. i took the idea from the lion king musical on how they suspended giant masks above the heads of the actors that moved into a feline stance when they leaned forward.

Step 2: Materials

This is only a rough guide and most of it is due to chance of whatever i found or had on me:

2 Long metals bars - you choose what height you want the head to be (place one end at the base of your spine in order to gauge)
A short section of metal bar to be used as the pin (all metal was found in a skip :p)
Cardboard (forraged fior)
Chickenwire or similar mesh to make your mask out of - mine was approx 70x110 cm ish (I paid money for this O_O)
A small carboard box about 20x10x40 cm
Coat hanger
Towel or other pelt like material (I went ahead and bought a towel before realising that it would've been cheaper going to a fabric shop u_u)
Weightlifting lumbar support belt - prefferably one with a pouch for putting inserts into. (Again i paid money for this O_O)
Random pice of fibreboard that fitted into said pouch.
Loo roll for the mache
Gaffer tape
Assorted knives and cutting impliments - hacksaw with metal blade or random snips for working with the bars. Wire cutters for the mesh

Step 3: Make the Frame

take the two long metal bars and bend them both to the same angle that they will curve out in front of you when mounted on your back. Using the cardboard and copious supplies of gaffer make spacers at intervals along the length of the bars so that they are parrallel and about 10 cm appart. (in the picture you can see that the bars are of uneven length but when i went into the art studio the net day i got a technician to help me cut them to the same size - it was sticking into my bum x_x) On the topmost spacer make the cardboard so that it continues past the end of the bars. then loop this back over so there is a space for the small metal bar to pass thru. This bit is the hinge on which the mask will be affixed.

Step 4: Making the Mask

Looking at several photos of bear skulls for reference, map out a net onto the mesh. The triangular section in the middle is the approximate location of where the box is going to be. Cut out the mesh but still give yourself plenty of room to play with. Bend the two flaps of the skull so the edges meet and bind them together using wire. Remove the bottom off the box and make holes at equal distances down the sides for the small bar to go through. In the space created by the skull place the box and affix using gaffer and more wire. manipualte the cheeks so they look the way you want and affix the ends to the lower part of the skull. Connect the two parts of the jaw together as seen in the last photo and then trim the lawline so it ressembles a bears - there are lots of molars on the sides so i left them relatively flat and then theres the 2 large canines at the front.

Step 5: See If They Fit

Thread the short bar through the mask, holes in the box and the hinge t see if it will fit. I had to cut a hole in the eye socket to get it to fit in and also had to re-arrange the box so that the mask could swing freely and go through its full range of motion.

Step 6: Get Your Paste On

Mache the mo fo. I used 2 layers of loo rolls then a layer of yellow tissue paper that was staring at me... and anther coat of loo roll because it looked a bit wierd. My room in halls was tiny and so i had to do this in the kitchen - great for scaring the spanish people in my flat (Be sure to put newspaper down and cover up if ye are hairy... pva hurts when its dry u_u)

Step 7: Trial Run

I had a trial run of putting everything together in the art studio - mainly as it was the last day of first year and there were assesments so i brought in everything was doing... hence slightly emused looks from the slightly more sane art students (only slightly mind :p). Notice on these photos i have an extra belt over my chest for extra support. i had only jus bought the lumbar support belt (the neoprene one below it) and hadn't yet twigged that if you add a hard insert into it then it can support the whole thing on its own.

Also in the second picture you can see how far the mask does swing forward when crouching/leaning. I was lucky that i managed to fluke the holes in the box to roughly the CoG of the whole thing so it didnt have a tendancy to stick in one place

The mask can also be worn as a rather fetching hat - as demonstrated by Mr Jack and Mr Alec.

Step 8: Add Fur... and Hair

The next thing i did was to get a coathanger and gaffer it to the frame at a height above me. i then rather dodgily sewed the towel around it so that it hung down my back and looked pelty - I had to ragged up the edges as well which resulted in huge blisters and raw parts of skin for using scissors that were designed to cut through bone O_o. I also wrapped some of the offcuts around the metal bars in order to hide their shinieness and to promote the overall bear feel (?)

Crazy swimming shorts are not part of a normal berserker's appariel but this one was on its holidays. They are not ones for wearing glasses either which resulted in lots of cropped and decapitated photos of me trying to orientate myself with the lense. (also my hair was wet and scraggly as i used the ancient techniques passed down from generation to generation of barbarians - namely a shower :p)

The costume isnt really finished as i have to figure out what the lower half of me is wearing and whether or not i can fashion some katars. I also *found* some ethnicy tassley keyrings at work that would look nice also. (I'm accessorising... what am i thinking O_o)

I have a rough idea of where i am going to be shooting but havent roped in any specimins *cough* other people to help. I also need to polish up my old school SLR skills as my shiny digicam wont shoot for toffee in the dark O_o.

I'll post up some final pics when i eventually get around to it - I'm a student so sloth is part of my nature :p