Introduction: Kevin From Up

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For our son's second birthday we went with an Up theme because of his love of balloons. I wanted to make a memorable prop for the photo booth so I came up with the idea of building Kevin, the comical giant bird from the movie.

The ceilings in our home are too low to fit a full 13-foot-tall bird, so I settled for making it almost life-sized.

Step 1: Building the Wood Frame

We started by sketching out a plan for the position of the bird and an internal wood frame to support it.

To keep costs down we made use of scrap lumber to construct the frame.

The leg pieces were cut on a angle to make the knees and fastened together with nails and brackets cut from thin plywood. The hips were connected with another bit of scrap 2x2, to which we also nailed a piece to serve as the spine.

We used a small piece of plywood for the base. We wanted to keep the base as small as possible to make moving Kevin easier. We later used weights to prevent it from being tipped over if a kid ran into Kevin.

Step 2: Forming the Body With Cardboard

The shape of the body was built up with pieces of cardboard stapled to the wood skeleton.

We started with a large egg-shaped piece for the body and then built it up with pieces to serve as ribs and round out the shape. The cardboard was held together with masking tape.

After I was happy with the overall shape, we covered the cardboard with a large plastic bag, secured with tape.

Thin cardboard and rolled newspaper was added to the legs and feet to round them out.

Step 3: First Attempt at the Neck

I was initially planning to make a hollow head out of thin vacuum-formed plastic, so the neck would not need to support much weight.

We took a pool noodle and cut notches out of it to make it easier to bend into a curve.

Coat hanger wire was then threaded through the center of the pool noodle and secured to the top of the wood frame. The wire allowed the neck to be flexible and adjustable.

Ultimately we needed a stronger neck to support the head, and removed this version (see step 9).

Step 4: Papier Maché

We used strips of newspaper dipped in white glue diluted in water to cover the whole body in multiple layers of papier maché.

Step 5: Spray Foam Shaping the Legs

To round out the legs and shape the feet, we covered them in expanding spray foam.

When the foam had hardened, it was carved with a utility knife.

Step 6: Finishing the Legs

The legs and feet were covered with two layers of paper towel dipped in diluted white glue. When dry, this gave the legs a wrinkly elephant-skin texture.

The legs and body were then painted with acrylic paint.

Step 7: Dying and Adding Feathers

This project required lots and lots of feathers!

I ordered feathers in several colours and sizes online, but unfortunately not all of them arrived in time for my son's birthday party. We therefore had to make do with what we could get locally, which included repurposing feather boas, and dying white feathers.

To dye the feathers I washed them with dish soap and then soaked them in hot water, vinegar and food dye, following instructions I found online.

The feathers were then added to the painted body one-by-one with hot glue. I started at the bottom and worked my way up, layering the feathers on top of one another.

Step 8: Making the Head

While I had originally planned on using a vacuum former to make the head, I was so happy with how easy it was to carve the spray foam on the legs I decided to make the head the same way.

Kamui Cosplay has a great write up about this technique.

First I drew the shape of the head on cardboard, and then cut it out and duplicated it.

The cardboard pieces were covered in expanding spray foam. When the foam had hardened I carved it with a utility knife.

The two halves of the head were attached together with bamboo skewers and hot glue. The head was then covered in papier maché.

I used air-dry clay over the papier maché to smooth out and shape the details of the beak. The head was then painted with acrylic craft paints.

For the eyes I used two giant googly eyes I found at a craft store, glued to some teal felt.

To make the feathers on the back of Kevin's head, I took big purple feathers and stripped everything but the ends. I then glued on tiny teal feathers and inserted tooth picks into the ends to be able to stick the feathers into the back of the head.

Step 9: Neck Take Two

The coat hanger wire in the neck was not going to be strong enough to support the head, so we decided to replace it with pvc pipe.

We cut the neck off of the body and removed the wire.

A length of pvc pipe was bent into shape with the help of a heat gun. It was then threaded through the pool noodle.

One end of the pvc pipe was inserted into the head and then the other end was screwed to the wood frame on the body.

The pool noodle was covered with one leg from a pair of old tights, and then the feathers were added with hot glue.

Step 10: Finished Kevin!

After all the feathers were finally in place, Kevin was ready for the party!

Since my son's birthday was in October, we reused Kevin in our Halloween display.

Makerspace Contest 2017

Runner Up in the
Makerspace Contest 2017