Introduction: Festive Chestburster Ugly Christmas Sweater - ANIMATED!
There are few things in this world that I love more than truly heinous Christmas sweaters and the movie Aliens, so it’s almost a natural assumption that the two would somehow manage to collide in my weird, warped little brain.
A few weeks ago I was out strolling through the aisles of my favorite thrift store when I came across an ugly sweater. While not specifically a “Christmas” sweater, it definitely had potential.
A few aisles over I came across a small artificial wreath. I put two and two together, and knew with just a bit of homemade magic, we could easily make one of the absolute ugliest Christmas sweaters ever conceived. Because what says Christmas more than a festive, Santa hat festooned Chestburster holding a red and gold glitter package blasting out of the center of a wreath covered in blood and twinkling Christmas lights?
The answer is…nothing.
To make your own Chestburster Ugly Sweater you will need:
- Tin foil
- Wire hanger
- Wire cutters
- Silicone adhesive
- Super glue
- Plexiglass sheet
- 1 ½” circular drill bit hole saw
- Dremel grinding stone tip
- Screen door spring
- Hot Glue
- Mini eye hooks
- Nylon spacers
- Heavy-duty fishing line (I used 45lb test)
- Crimp beads
- Liquid latex
- Go Pro quick-release mounting buckle
- Go Pro chest harness
- Small Christmas Wreath
- Battery-powered Christmas lights
- White felt
- Acrylic paint:
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Step 1: The Spirit of Christmas Is Alive and Well in This Project
A few months ago, for Halloween I made Cleopatra, an animatronic strangler vine (full build here). The tentacles I made for that project were so cool I have been looking for other ways to utilize variations of that technology in other projects. I knew I wanted my Chestburster to move and while I wasn’t quite sure how to rig it electronically, I knew with some simple string extensions, I could make it move via basic puppetry.
The first thing I did was sculpt my Chestburster head.
Because this was going to be sitting in the middle of my chest, I wanted to ensure it was lightweight enough not to sag too much. To help build up the bulk of the head without adding too much weight, I started with a core of tin foil smooshed into roughly the shape and size of my final Chestburster head.
Then it was just a matter of adding Sculpy clay and slowly forming the Chestburster’s head. I made sure that while the head was entirely covered in Sculpy, that I left a spot in the back where it would later attach to my chest open so I could still access the tin foil core.
To make my Chestburster arms, I cut a wire hanger into two 2 ½” lengths and then bent them into a square ‘C’ shape. I then covered them with Sculpy, making sure to leave a length of wire bare at both ends to allow me to not only secure it to his body later but also to the package he will be holding at the end.
Once I was happy with how it all looked, I popped it into the oven. Following the manufacturer’s directions on the package, I baked my Chestburster head at 275F for 20 minutes. Once it was baked, I allowed it to cool completely.
Step 2: Teefs
Once it was completely cool, I used my tube of silicone adhesive to give him some teeth. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to smear a line of silicone onto the edge of my Chestburster’s ‘lips’ and then use a toothpick to pull a bit away at a time, lifting it up to create a point. I did the same thing with Cleopatra to make her spines and it works perfectly! Let the silicone fully cure.
If you find your silicone won’t stick to your Sculpy, you can always make the teeth separately and then use a bit of superglue to put them where you need them once they’ve cured.
Step 3: Spine Time
Teeth done, it was time to move onto the body of my Chestburster. Using the same technique I used for Cleopatra, I knew I was going to need some circular "spinal discs." Fresh out of pre-drilled plastic gears, I used my circular saw bit for my drill to cut four 1 ½” circles out of acrylic sheet. (If I were to do this project again I would use Lexan instead of acrylic as acrylic has a tendency to shatter if you apply too much pressure. Lexan is a polycarbonate resin thermoplastic with an impact strength 250 times greater than that of glass and 30 times greater than that of the acrylic I used (and broke multiple times).)
I then drilled out five holes, a large one in the center and four more holes evenly spaced around the edges of the acrylic discs.
(Originally, I had considered doing a 4-point articulation with my Chestburster to give him both horizontal and vertical movement, but later, after completing more of the build, decided 2 was enough. If you are following along and making this project, you really only need 3 holes – the large center and one hole on either side of that about ¼” inch from the edge for your animation line.)
To give my Chestburster’s spine a cord, I repurposed an old screen door spring I had for another project. I threaded three of the acrylic discs onto the spring, spacing them out using ½” nylon spacers. This is our Chestburster’s neck.
At the end where I will be attaching my Chestburster to my harness, I bent the last two segments of the spring away from the rest at a 90-degree angle. This is not only the rig attachment point, but it also helps to prevent the discs and spacers from sliding off once assembled.
Step 4: Sticking His Neck Out
To attach the Chestburster head to his spine, I needed to make some small adjustments to the fourth disc that would be closest to his head. The discs I cut were slightly wider than the base of his head, so I used my Dremel to shave down the sides of the fourth disk so they roughly matched the shape of my Chestburster. I also carved out where the original animation line holes were. Because this is going to be attached to the base of my head, I needed to make room for the eyehooks I would be using for articulation. A few seconds with my grinding tip on the Dremel and I had the perfect shape.
I carefully screwed two small eyehooks into the Sculpy of my Chestburster head in the neck. These will serve as anchor points for the articulating puppet wire we’ll be attaching later. Secure them by adding a few drops of super glue.
To secure the head onto the spine I carved out a chunk of the internal tin foil the same length of the screen door spring I had at the end of the spine after the fourth disc was attached. I filled that hole with a butt-ton (that’s a real term btw) of hot glue and jammed the assembled spring spine into place, making sure I got plenty of hot glue both all around the spring as well as on the carved acrylic disc closest to my Chestburster’s head.
I then cut two 4’ long segments of my heavy test fishing line and attached one to each of the eyehooks on the back of my Chestburster’s head using crimp beads. (If you don’t have crimp beads, you can easily just time them on and add a drop of super glue to reinforce them.) I ran the length of the fishing line through the corresponding holes on my acrylic discs and then just let the extra length hang free for now. These are your ‘animation lines.’
Step 5: Dem Bones
Time to put some meat on this Chestburster’s bones! The first thing I did was grab an old nylon stocking and cut the toe off. I then pulled it over the top of my Chestburster’s head and attached it as close to the base of his neck as I could using hot glue.
To give him some bulk between his spine discs, I lightly stuffed them with polyfill. I then pulled the nylon sock over the entire thing and cut the extra length, gluing down the edge to the last disc on the spine. When you do this, make sure you don’t accidentally glue down your fishing line or impede it in any way. A few gentle tugs on it as you go along will help to ensure that you’ve still got it where you want it and that nothing is holding it down.
To skin our Chestburster, I used liquid latex. I brushed a very thin square of it roughly the size of my Chestburster down on my counter and allowed it to dry. Watch it closely. Wet liquid latex is white and dry liquid latex is sort of a weird translucent yellow. Make sure it’s completely dry before continuing or you will end up with pockets of wet latex.
Once it was dry, I went over it again with another thin layer, again allowing it to dry. I repeated this process another 5 times until I had a fairly thick square of latex.
I pulled up one edge of the latex, put my Chestburster down on it, and gently rolled the whole thing up like a burrito, making sure to position the latex at the junction where my Sculpy head connected to my spring spine. Latex sticks to itself, so you shouldn’t need any glue or adhesive to get it to stay in place.
I trimmed off the excess latex, again making sure not to impede my animation lines.
Step 6: Test Run 1
Time to attach our Chestburster to his GoPro quick-release mounting buckle. To do this, I slipped the end of the spring that I bent at a 90 angle into the slots of a spare GoPro clip and screwed it into place using the clip bolt. The Chestburster will now easily clip in and out of my GoPro chest harness!
With the Chestburster test mounted to the GoPro harness, it was time for me to work on the sweater part of this project. I put on my harness and carefully pulled my sweater on. I used my scissors to cut out a small hole and pulled the Chestburster through. Then to see if it would look the way I wanted, I hung my wreath over his head. It looks AMAZING!
Step 7: Optional Solutions for Your Sweater Construction
There are times when you need a tacky sweater but might not have the time to invest in finding one or the materials might be difficult to source... Luckily there are plenty of pre-made options out there you can purchase that are perfect for this project including this one here: https://www.partycity.com/tinsel-wreath-ugly-chris...
Step 8: You're the Light of My Life
Carefully, I took both the sweater and the harness off and then used my scissors to enlarge the hole in my sweater, creating an X pattern.
I took my wreath and because I wanted it to be as festive as possible, I wound a string of battery-operated Christmas lights around it. I then used my hot glue to attach the wreath to my sweater, centering the wreath directly over the hole I cut for my Chestburster. Using a bit more hot glue, I made sure the cut flaps of my sweater were adhered to the edge of the wreath, giving it the illusion of being blown outward by the force of my Chestburster coming through.
To support the battery pack that runs my lights, I made a small pocket on the inside of my sweater along the side near the bottm using a square of white felt and some more hot glue. The battery pack sits right in the pocket and I can easily access the off and on switch and pull it out to replace batteries as needed.
Step 9: Coloring Our Little Friend
To give my Chestburster a uniform color scheme, I removed him from the Go Pro harness and then gave him a light wash of white acrylic paint mixed with just a touch of yellow, making sure to cover both the Sculpy as well as the latex base. I went over this with a dry brush of brown paint and then wiped off the excess with a slightly damp paper towel. This helps to highlight the nooks and crannies in my Chestburster sculpt as well as to add some depth to the entire thing.
I then pushed the ends of his arms through the latex portion of his body closest to his head and secured them in place using a stupid amount of hot glue. A little white acrylic and a wash of brown and they now match the rest of his body.
To give him a bloody look I went over the front of his face and teeth with a mixture of red, brown and a tiny bit of black paint and then immediately wiped it away. I added extra red to his teeth and the inside of his mouth.
To give him a glistening wet look as well as to provide him with a bit of protection, I gave him two liberal coats of acrylic spray paint sealer.
Once he was dry, I used some more hot glue to secure his tiny Santa hat to his head and his package to his arms. Our Chestburster is now done!
Step 10: Lookin' Good
To add a bit more fun to the sweater, I used more of the red/brown/black blood mixture I used on our Chestburster’s face to add some realistic-looking blood. I painted the outer bottom edge of my wreath and then allowed it to drip down the front of my sweater. I also added in a bit of gore in the form of some extra latex sheet I had left over that I rolled and added red to in order to make it look like bits of flesh and goo.
Step 11: Bringing It All Together!
Time to assemble the whole thing and see how it all works together!
Start by first putting on your GoPro harness. Because the sweater we’re wearing has a massive hole in the front of it, I suggest wearing a black or red tank top or long sleeve shirt under your GoPro harness, not only to provide comfort from the harness, but to help sell the illusion of the Chestburster popping through.
Pull on your sweater and adjust the wreath hole so it’s centered over your harness.
Clip your Chestburster into place on the harness and then run your animation lines through the inside of your sweater and down each arm. Tie a keychain split ring to the end of each animation line and use those as handholds for animating your Chestburster.
Turn on your wreath lights, grab your keychain rings and start gently tugging, alternating left and right! The movement will travel down your animation line and will give your Chestburster some serious side to side shimmying action! Make sure to add an appropriate amount of moaning and screaming to really sell the effect. To make the entire thing even more festive, feel free to add more decorations including jingle bells which will ring in time to each side to side movement of your holiday Chestburster.
p.s. For anyone wondering, his name is now officially Cleetus the Chestburster Feetus and I have been told in no uncertain terms I am NOT allowed to wear him:
At our family Christmas Party
At my dad's law firm Christmas party
To the airport to pick up my 5-year-old niece.
For even more mayhem and madness, feel free to check out the rest of my Instructables or visit my website The Necro Nomnomnomicon.
First Prize in the
Ugly Sweater Speed Challenge