Every year, to kick off the Christmas season, our sleepy little town throws a beautiful "parade of lights". When I first moved here, about nine years ago, it was touted with such pride by the community. The past few years however, it seemed to get smaller and smaller, with people putting much less effort into their floats. As businesses closed or down-sized, the parade became less of a priority, understandably.
This year I wanted to do something large, and random. Something beautiful and inspirational (in my sometimes not so humble opinion) to set the bar back up to where it once was...
When parade day came, I was overjoyed to see that so many people where thinking the same thing! This Parade of Lights was one of the best I've seen in years. I can't wait to see what our little town has in store for next year!
Step 1: Design
Coming up with a design and laying down a pattern should really be your first step. I'm more of a "wing it" type of person, but for the sake of this Instructable, I tried to break the design down into steps.
Step one: Watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Notice that cool dragon-boat they use to get to the last castle? Say to yourself "I should make that..."
Step two: Figure out how to make a dragon Christmasy. Our process went a bit like this: Brian "Christmas is in the winter, and the winter is cold. Why don't you make it an ice dragon?" Me "Great idea. Why didn't I think of that?" Brian "Probably because you're too busy drawing penises" Me "These aren't penises! They're dragon designs for the float!" Brian "They look like penises."...
Step three: Find a trailer to put it on. Measure the trailer. Make sure you design a dragon that actually fits in the trailer. Ours had a 16 foot bed, so I was pretty safe since it was being built up, more than out. This also gave us room for people, since the kids insisted on actually being on the float, and not as dragon food. (I was going to use red paint as blood and some severed limbs from my Halloween decorations, but I got got veto'd instantly) Literallyeveryone " What does a dragon eating kids have to do with Christmas?" Me " Everything. "
Step four: Figure out what you have to build it with. Materials make all the difference when it comes to design. An Ice Dragon made out of sculptable foam will look much different than one made out of cardboard. Since mine was inspired by a classic, low budget film, I wanted it to have the same classic, low budget look, so I went with the ladder.
Step 2: Materials
To make this project you will need:
Clear packing tape
Two small, empty snack containers, with lids (for the eyes)
Aqua blue spray paint
black, white and greenish blue acrylic paint
A pallet (for the dragon to be built on, and to help weigh it down)
Two 2 X 4s (to attach the wings)
A thick, black marker
An electric screwdriver and some screws
Step 3: Getting the General Shape
The very first thing I did when constructing the ice dragon, was to tape an small/medium sized box (the skull) to the top of the longest box I could find (the neck). Before I came across the Westward box, I was planning on using some 2 X 4s. Using just cardboard for this part made it fast and easy as I didn't need tools, just packing tape.
I then cut out the shape of the head (kind of T-Rex shaped, but with a longer nose). I used the first piece as a template for the second. (You should have one for either side) The bottom jaw was made separately, but in the same fashion, as I didn't have one box that was big enough for the entire head. If you have a big enough box, go ahead and cut the entire head out.
I pulled the front tip of the face together and attached it with more packing tape, so the nose and bottom jaw came together with a sharp edge.
I used the same technique in creating the body. Cut out two identical shaped pieces for the neck and body, one for either side, and tape them to the "neck" box. This time, instead of bringing them together in a sharp edge, leave them to stick straight out. You can cut pieces of cardboard to attach down the front center. This will give it's chest a wider look, and a bit more depth.
**I didn't worry too much about getting the whole front covered, because I knew I needed to cover it in plastic wrap anyway. You really just need it to hold it's shape.**
Step 4: Wings
To get an idea of how the wings should be placed, it's best to lay the dragon down. I originally planed for the wings to stick straight out. The dragon, piled on all it's boxes, would be about eight feet high. The total wing span would be about sixteen feet.
I loved the large, domineering look it had. Being made of cardboard and plastic wrap though, I started to worry that it would turn into a kite on the back of the truck. Which would actually be awesome (and totally a project I should do) but not something I wanted to do accidentally, in the middle of a Christmas parade. We decided to tilt the wings back.
The wings where surprisingly easy to construct: Decide the length you want each wing and cut out ten strips of cardboard half that length. Using duct tape, tape three pieces together (for strength) This will be your supporting edge, that will be screwed into 2 X 4s on the dragons back (later). At the outer end, duct tape one piece going straight down and another facing away. This will give you the shape of the wing. Do the same thing for the opposite side.
It should look similar to the photograph. *Do not attach them to the body yet.*
Step 5: Plastic Wrap
It didn't have enough character at this point, so I cut out some spikes and teeth with my box cutter and some scrap cardboard. I used duct tape to attach them to the body, because it has a stronger hold than packing tape. I also piled up bigger, wider boxes under the neck and duck taped it all together.
I needed to cover it in a layer of plastic wrap to help hold it's shape, and give a better base to the spray paint. Since it's so light weight, I needed to attach it to a pallet first: To start the plastic, pull out about a foot, and tie it around one of the boards on the pallet, close to the base of the dragon. You can now go in circles, wrapping the plastic around the body, and between the spikes on the back. Wrap the plastic around the spikes individually, and secure it with clear packing tape. ***I did not wrap the teeth (but I did paint them white)***
When you have the first layer of plastic on the dragon, cover it with a layer of spray paint. I used white on the top and light blue towards the bottom.
I painted the inside of the dragons mouth black.
Step 6: Skin and Eyes
After you add the color, you need to put on some 'ice skin', which is essentially another layer of plastic wrap. This time, instead of wrapping in nice, even layers, you want to create a textured effect.
For smaller areas, lay down some plastic wrap on a table or the floor, then fold it over itself and lay another layer over top. Don't worry about it being smooth. You want the plastic to become wrinkly and stick to itself. For larger areas wrap layer upon layer around something big (like a large box, or a garbage can) then cut it off.
Each piece of "skin" you just made can be taped to the dragon using clear packing tape. The skin can be cut to fit wherever you need it and the clear packing tape will look invisible on the finished product.
I used some of the smoother looking large plastic skin to make the wings. I taped, then stapled them to the cardboard. I then crumpled more plastic skin to tape and staple around the edges of the wings.
For the eyes, I used plastic snack containers. I poured some greenish blue acrylic paint on the inside and smeared it up the edges, to look similar to an iris. When the paint was dry I closed the lid, drew a pupil on the outside with a sharpie marker, and secured it to the head with duct tape.
At this point the dragon looked kind of like a pug, so I added a crumpled piece of plastic to the top of the eye, so it had an eyelid. (Form the plastic skin into a tube shape, the attach it to the head with clear packing tape)
Step 7: Attach the Wings
We waited until we put the dragon on the float before attaching the wings. Since the base of the dragon is a pallet, we wiggled two 2 X 4s up into some loose plastic at the back, and screwed them into the pallet at the bottom.
Each wing was added separately and took two people. One person holds the wing up while the other screws the cardboard (the support beam, with three layers) into the wood. We used 3 screws for each wing, staggered, about an inch apart. It held surprisingly well.
Step 8: Lights
We had Christmas lights around the float, which lit up the dragon nicely, but we wanted it to really stand out, so it needed more.
We added spotlights with blue covers to the base of the pallet, shinning up towards the dragon.
Because I wasn't allowed a harrowing action scene, with blood, guts and screaming children, we added an inflatable frosty to the float, because Christmas.... I guess.
***This was my 2015 Christmas float, but dragons are eternal and for all seasons. I highly recommend making a cardboard dragon for any and every occasion***
Runner Up in the
Cardboard Contest 2017