Introduction: Wheelchair + Toothless = Epic Costume!
So every year since our oldest boy, Keaton, was 3 years old we have made some pretty rad costumes for his wheelchair. This year we stepped it up again, launched a kickstarter, check it out here- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/425222335/kea...
We ended up being on the news check that out here- http://www.kptv.com/story/26573407/a-halloween-wis...
and was recently on the Today.com website here- http://www.today.com/health/dads-halloween-costume...
This has been awesome! We are well on our way to start a non-profit so we can make these epic rides for other kiddos too! Check us out here- http://www.magicwheelchair.org/ But you didn't come here for our story you came to see the process of building Toothless! So off we go. Oh and before we start I'd be amiss to not give credit where credit is due! I learned how to use the methods here to build Toothless from an amazing group of super talented people at the Stan Winston School of Character Arts! Check them out here- https://www.stanwinstonschool.com/ Everything you need to know!
Upholstery foam block and 1/4 inch sheet upholstery foam
Contact cement/rubber cement
Fast 77 adhesive spray
Black heavy duty garbage bags
1/2-in, 3/4-in and 1-in Aluminum Metal Flat Bar
Nuts and bolts for wing construction
2 door hinges
2 part clear casting resin
4-in acrylic sphere
Sticky back Velcro
leather or vinyl cloth
Metal Shear or bolt cutter
Turkey Cutting knife
Persona razor blades or similar
and a good wife that keeps you focused!
Step 1: Carving the Sculpt Out of Foam
Finding reference material is key when making any type of character. So find yourself some good reference materials whether they be in pictures or 3d figures. I used both. Then grab your foam block, draw out your character and get to carving! Use a electric turkey cutting knife or a sharp serrated knife for cutting big chunks out and then use a personna blade or similar razor for the fine cuts and detail work. As you can see there really isn't a whole lot of detail in my sculpt. I never have sculpted with foam or really anything so this was a pretty basic sculpt but it got the job done! The sculpt is going to be the basis of your patterning you will use to build your Toothless. You can build in detail on the actual character so not to worry if your sculpt is not super detailed. This sculpt was something like 1/3 scale of the actual Toothless. You don't want to go too small in your scale as the the patterns won't transfer over as good and you will lose the some of the fine shape.
Step 2: Patterning
Sculpts done. Take some material, we used old bed sheets, and lay it out on your sculpt. Probably better to do sections at a time. You will be patterning off just one side so pick your best side. As you lay the material out you will see/feel where the material wants to bunch up there you will make a dart by folding that bunched up material together, marking both sides of the fold and pin it in place. Do this until you have the side you picked covered. These folds/darts then become slices out of the material which when applied to a 2d shape and re-glued together will create a shape and BAAAMM! Toothless. Mark your material while still on the sculpt, mark landmarks and specific directions of what piece it is and it's correlation on the sculpt. Also mark an inch on each piece as well. This can be done after you cut the pieces out. We then took the pics of the pieces blasted it up on our projector and after multiple attempts figured out the right scale which was about 1/3. So that inch you drew on each piece you then scale that up in this case to 3 inches. Draw it out on some butcher paper or wrapping paper. Then transfer those patterns to your foam and not the fun begins!
Step 3: Slicing, Dicing and Gluing Foam
Cut your patterns out. L200 is pretty spendy so lay the patterns out so you are getting the best bang for your buck using as much of the foam as you can. Cut the foam out with a box cutter or something similar. Scissors work as well. The glue is definitely not something you want to use in a confined space so make sure you are in a well ventilated area!
Step 4: Adding Some Detail to the Head
So this is where you can start adding detail. If I was a better sculptor I could have sculpted some of this detail in with the initial sculpt but alas I am not so I added these details in later. Worked just fine.The blue foam is scraps from the block o' foam I sculpted from. It's upholstery foam you can by at any fabric store or look for upholstery material stores and they can cut you out blocks. The ears/horns are L200, shaped with a dremel and then spots were dremeled out to fit into the head. The scales on the head are cut out of cardboard. I added some more detail to the mouth with upholstery foam. Add detail until you dig it! The great thing about working with foam is it is very forgiving, you can add an takeaway as needed!
Step 5: Wings
So here's the thing with wheelchair costumes I have learned over the years by trial and error. For me I dig some big monstrous creations but for a courteous well mannered boy in a wheelchair cruising around the streets on a festive Halloween night can be crowded and the fear of knocking people over with a costume provides some intense anxiety. So the costumes need to be a bit more compact and mobile. I love building things in scale but Toothless's wings are pretty huge and so we shrunk them up, added some articulation and a hinge at the base of the wing to allow it to fold up smaller and it actually looks pretty sweet too. Cool and functional.
So all the wing structure is made out of flat aluminum bar from which you can buy at Lowes, Home Depot. Most of it was made with 1/8" half inch wide pieces. The center pieces were made with 1"x1/8" thick pieces stacked together. Decided on my size and shape from references, cut each length and drilled holes to thread bolts through added a non slip nut so the joints would stay tight and presto some wing structure. Did this for each wing except for the end of the tail which didn't have any articulation. The wings attached to a central structure of aluminum bar that was double up for added strength. It was then bent to shape and fit underneath Keaton's seat cushion. I then attached the center structure to the chair with a couple of bolts.
I carved some foam to make the the shape of the wings leaving gaps at the points of articulation that I later filled in a bit with foam to make smoother transition from section to section. A pattern was then made out of cardboard for skin (spandex), spandex was cut and glued to the structure with spray adhesive glue (Fast 77).
The wings worked pretty good. They didn't fold up super tight but the hinge made a HUGE difference for squeezing through tight spots. Toothless still came out pretty BIG but Keaton was able to get pretty close to most doors for Trick or Treating and those he couldn't people would come to him. He maneuvered like a champ at our church trunk or treat and honestly what little kiddo would try to go toe to toe stepping in front of a full size Toothless! Keaton had a blast!
Step 6: The Tail
The tail was made with 1/2" plywood sections and connected with gate hinges. L200 circles were then cut out to provide shape for the tail. I put a few circles to each section and then the tail was covered with some upholstery foam that you can get at any fabric store or upholstery supply store. The L200 was glued to the wood with the contact cement and the upholstery foam was glued together at the seam and left loose on the tail to allow for some movement. The upholstery foam was glued to the circle of L200 closest to the body and at the end of the tail. The tail fin was made out of the aluminum bar, shaped and glued into the last section of plywood. One side was covered with spandex the other "fabricated" fin was covered with some fabric and we took some liberties and tossed up a "W" for the Weimer Clan! The tail was connected to a piece of 2x6 that was attached to a 2x4 that was screwed to the chair through some conveniently located holes on the chair. The tail lost some of articulation when the upholstery foam skin was applied and lost even more when the trash bag skin was applied but when needed she'd give way!
Step 7: Applying the Skin
So the idea for the skin was a totally awesome suggestion by Ted Haines at Legacy Effects and The Stan Winston School of Character Arts. A tried and true method of texturing. Initially I was thinking I was going to paint Toothless and that meant I'd have to painstakingly add more texture. This trash bag technique worked awesome killed two birds with one stone. Adding color and texture in one fail swoop
So with some practice we were able to skin the beast by taking pieces of trash bag, applying some spray adhesive to the trash bag and the foam and sticking it on Toothless. The trash bags didn't lay on smooth which was good as it ended adding some awesome texture. It was a bear but came out pretty good! Definitely room for more practice but a totally rad technique
So after Toothless was covered completely with the trash bags we then went over it with a heat gun and quickly hit over the entire character causing the trash bag material to shrink and wrinkle. The large wrinkles in the trash bags shrunk and became awesome texture!
Step 8: The Eyes
The eyes are made with a clear casting resin. Just follow the instructions with the kit you get. The clear casting kits can be found on Amazon or a craft store like Michaels. I also found the spheres at Michaels. Using photoshop we made some eyes and printed them on some high gloss photo paper. You can also Mark the acrylic spheres with a sharpie where it will be sitting/sticking out of the head of the character. This will be the level you will be pouring the resin to. Cover the printed side of the photo with some resin. After you pour the resin place the photoshopped eye into the resin and then pour a bit on the back of the resin. This resin gets pretty hot as the chemical reaction occurs. Our first few attempts ended with melted mis-shaped eyes. So we then put the poured resin half sphere in the extra spheres filled with water and bingo, no melted eye balls! The eyes were then glued in place into the foam using the contact cement. Came out pretty awesome! Made Toothless look alive!
Step 9: The Body, the Saddle and Attaching to the Chair
The only part of the character that was actually physically attached to the chair is the tail and the wings. The rest of the body just hugged the chair and we used some velcro to close the character around the chair. If you look at this pic you'll see where the lines are drawn we cut these open to allow the character to fit over the chair easier. Velcro was glued onto these parts and could be closed around the chair. Here you can see a prototype fitting on the chair. Fit like a glove! The wings and the tail both velcroed to the body. The seams on the tail were covered with saddle straps.
My wife sowed a saddle together and unfortunately she forgot to take pics as she was building it. She sewed it off of references she found using brown "pleather" vinyl. She also crafted a few "pleather" straps as well.
Step 10: Finish
This was an awesome project and took some serious man hours to complete! Maybe a 100+ in my hours alone. It was not without plenty of trial and error but the finish product and the smile on Keaton's face was well worth it! Imagine seeing a full size Toothless rolling down your street! People were blown away! Some people driving by even turned around for another pass! The smile this puts on Keaton's face and every person who saw it is why I do what I do every year building these epic costumes. Thanks for looking! Toss me any questions you have. Thanks again!!!
Step 11: Oh the Legs!
The legs were actually made for us by a super generous guy who contacted me through Kickstarter. He used 1" thick upholstery foam which he cut into shape and glued it together with contact cement. The claws are simply shaped upholstery foam glued to the foot. The legs were glued to the body with the contact cement.
Grand Prize in the
Superheroes and Supervillains Contest
First Prize in the
First Time Author Challenge
Runner Up in the
Third Prize in the
Halloween Costume Contest