This is the making of (for care and maintenance reference) the full St. Bernard Dog Costume used for "Nana" from CYT Fredericksburg's production of Disney's Peter Pan.
If you find this instructable first and want to rent follow this link.
Skip to the video at the End??
Step 1: Inspiration
The costume was intended to bring the the anthropomorphic qualities of a cartoon dog to stage with real actors. The result is sort of a hybrid of real dog traits and exaggerated cartoon features
Step 2: Thumbnail
I used florist foam to get a feel for the qualities and then transferred to 2" foam board slabs.
Step 3: Shaping and Eyes
Ok lots of sculpting here. Used a rasp, wire brush bit, anything I could find to shape head. Used ordinary window screen (2 ply with one offset 45deg) for eyes. Paint on one side doesn't affect visibility.
Step 4: Fur
Used 3M 77 light weight spray adhesive to stick fur. Be VERY careful here. Adhesives melt foam.
Used sprayable fabric paint, painting tape, and combs to apply pattern on fur.
Attached ears separately. Sewn on with cardboard inserts to stabilize.
If foam mask breaks. Use a hardening silicon adhesive (liquid nails project adhesive). Takes 24 hrs to cure. Anything else I.e. Contact cement will melt foam and make it much worse.
Step 5: The Working Jaw
Ok. These are dollar store salad tongs, filed down as shown. Velcro allows to remove jaw. (Necessary as it goes inside actors mouth, hence hard to put on head when installed).
Another key bit of stage magic here:
There is a magnet tied and hot glued inside mouth. (It's mate goes on whatever prop dog will carry). CYT used a plastic chrome painted "medicine spoon" and a washrag; each with a magnet as the jaw does not provide an extremely secure bite by itself. Go lightweight here.
Also use alcohol wipes or something to sterilize mouth piece between uses. It will get gross. Ewwww
Step 6: The Body
No really good pictures here. The body was templated and built in the 'all fours' position. Looks great on stage; a little goofy standing as you might expect. There is a zipper up front. Repair as you would...
Inside is a dog chest foam frame and a tailored waist. Gives that true dog anatomy look.
Neckline is drawstring, one size fits all, cinch it up pretty good.
Okay, so what's with the weird tail. The belt keeps it rigidly attached to actor, but why? I built in a gag where a string is routed through tubing that when pulled makes the tail spring into the "happy dog" position. We never actually incorporated this into the show but you might want to.
Step 7: Dressing the Actor
Here is how to dress the actor
Best explained in this video
One last bit. We ended up safety pinning any loose neck fur to mask fur to mask any visible gaps on stage. Your call.