I've never liked the idea of beating a ladybug or a smiling burro, even if it's made of cardboard and covered in tissue paper. But zombies are creatures that will devour you if you don't first beat them back, so a zombie pinata seems a perfect match.
Step 1: Materials
for the piñata:
plaster strips from a craft store
balloon & inflatable packing material
acrylic paint in various colors
drill & small drill bit
newspaper for stuffing
for the sound:
digital recording module
non-mercury tilt switch
soldering iron & solder
Step 2: Making the Plaster Mask
First cut the plaster strips into more manageable squares and triangles. Triangles in particular are easy to wrap around the contours of a face.
Coat the face in Vaseline or (seen here) plastic wrap, being sure to leave openings for breath either in the mouth or nose.
Dip each piece of plaster in warm water and lay over the face, overlapping slightly until the face is covered.
Let the mask dry completely before removing. It should take 20-30 minutes.
Step 3: Completing the Head
When the mask is dry, place it over a skull-sized balloon and continue covering with plaster strips.
I used a piece of inflatable packing material to create the neck form, but a smaller balloon could also be used. Cover the neck as you did the skull, again being careful to overlap each piece slightly.
Step 4: Painting Your Zombie
This is the fun part. I started with a coat of white to give it a smoother surface, although once it was finished, I found that the roughness of the plaster added to the ragged zombie effect.
On top of the white was a diluted mixture of orange, grey and more white to give a slightly decaying flesh look.
Purple and grey made for bruises, and red was needed for blood, of course.
Glow-in-the-dark puff paint was used for lips and eyeballs, and final details were added with a sharpie. The lips were colored over again with a pale lavender color, but they'll glow through the paint, as it was very dilute.
Step 5: Adding Sound
The key piece here is a tilt switch, preferably the non-mercury type (available online for about $2 apiece).
This is added to a digital voice recording module, on which you have recorded your best zombie roar.
The tilt switch closes the circuit when it's in a certain position, so the knocking about of your zombie pinata will set off the recording playback from time to time.
Step 6: Hanging the Head
Drill a hole on top of the zombie's skull. I had 28 gauge wire available, so used my smallest bit and doubled the wire, twisting it for strength.
Push the wire through the hole, bringing it all the way through the head, and wrap it around the top of a coat hanger.
When you pull the wire back up, the hanger should fit snugly in the neck.
I deliberately left the mouth open and covered it with a piece of tissue paper glued to the inside. This way, candy can begin to spill as the zombie gets knocked around.
Step 7: Putting It All Together
Now you'll want to turn your zombie head upside down and fill it with candy.
After filling, either glue a piece of cardboard over the opening or use leftover plaster strips to close it.
Attach your sound unit as close to the zombie's throat and mouth area as you can.
After some experimenting, I found the tilt switch worked best when it was attached in the closed/on position, so that each knock would temporarily dislodge the ball inside and set off a new roar when it resettled.
Step 8: Zombies Should Always Wear Jumpsuits
I would make a few changes to the project next time, and I mention them here so that you can incorporate them and perhaps brainstorm your own changes or additions:
Sewing together his shirt and pants took time and still made for a funky-looking body. Although one might rationalize that zombies are in a state of decay and decomposition, I would have preferred a more integrated figure at the end. A jumpsuit would have been great. Strapping the arm stuffing directly to the hanger would have also helped.
The 28 gauge wire didn't feel strong enough to support the filled zombie in the end and I had to string it up with some clothesline. Given this, I think it would be better to have strung the clothesline directly through the head and omitted the wire altogether.
The original idea had been to have one arm reaching out and another that had fallen off, leaving a bloody stump. We ran out of time, but if you are able to add this to yours, I'd love to see the photos.