Where I work we don't get holidays off. I work almost every weekend, every Christmas, every New Year, and ... you get the idea. It's also third shift work, so even on the days off, I still sleep most of the day. It makes seeing my son a little on the challenging side. On the other hand, I do get to volunteer at the school more than most fathers, and can take time to work on special projects when other people are asleep. Because I can't be off for the normal holidays, I try to take the week before Halloween off so I can do something special with the geek-ling on Halloween.
Last August I asked my son what he wanted to be for Halloween. His answer was he wanted to be Perry the Platypus. Great, I thought how the heck do I get a platypus costume? We searched the net for costumes but there were a lack of platypus costumes. The only costume we could find was a school mascot costume that cost nearly $1500. That was a more than a little out of the price range for a Halloween costume my son was going to outgrow in no time. We had to do something else. So the Geek Goddess (read wife) and I decided we would make one. Then the hammer dropped. What hammer, you might ask. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Phineas and Ferb Across the 2nd Dimension premiered on the Disney Channel on August 13th. After the show ended Geek-ling said, (pause for ominous thunder and organ music) "I want to be a Platyborg for Halloween."
"Okay" says I, all the time thinking how the heck do I do that. There aren't any Platyborg costumes for sale on ebay. Being the geek that I am, I decide to do what I can to make one.
First thing was to do as many screen grabs as I could of the few scenes with the Platyborg from as many angles as I could find. Second thing, I searched online for as much reference material as I could. In the first couple of days following the movie's release, there wasn't much I could find about it online. But as the movie grew in popularity, more and more drawings and posts started happening online. I found an article about drawing the cartoon and it had a good shot of the back of the carapace. Then I posted to as many sites as I could for help. In the end we broke it down to three parts, the head and body, the carapace and the legs.
I started in September with the head. After looking at lots of screen grabs of Perry, I decided he could be just a large foam cylinder. It might take a few tries to get the shape I wanted but I was pretty sure I could get the form of the head from one piece of foam. I searched on youtube for instructions and how to videos for making a mascot head.
What I found was a great tutorial by Matrice Oddity on how to make a fursuit head. These heads are made from .5 inch to 1 inch upholstery foam. They are designed to be worn for long periods of time and normally are repairable by the wearer. This was just what I needed for a costume. After watching the video I made a beeline to the fabric store and purchased a yard of one inch foam.
Going back to my drawings, I measured the carapace and noticed that Perry's head was going to be too tall for the geek-ling to see out of the eyes. After some discussion online it was suggested to just cut a hole in the neck for the wearer to look through. This would also allow for easy eating of Halloween candy. It was important to remember the goal of the whole project.
After I calculated the height of the head, it was time to test fit the bill and nose. First I had to get the geek-ling to give them up. Not the easiest of jobs on a good day. I knew I was going to want to sand and taper the bill but i also wanted it to be flexible yet keep a shape. I used blue closed cell foam. You can get these from Walmart as camp pads or workout pads. If I were going to do this now, I would use the floor tiles that people are using to make armor with.
I laid the camp mat on the table and put the head cylinder mesured out 12 inches from the foam and traced a curved bill shape. Then I did it again and again and again until I got a good curve. I couldn't get it to be matched on both sides so I traced the best side on a piece of folded paper and then cut it out. When I opened it, I got a great bill shaped pattern.
The bridge of the nose was made by cutting off another piece of blue foam and gluing the edges of the nose foam one inch in from the outer edge of the top beak. This gave it a nice hump in the middle that I reinforced with a little upholstery foam. The bottom beak was the same pattern as the top beak but I cut four inches off the back so it would be offset like Perry's mouth.
To round over the head I cut a series of wedges out of the foam and glued it together. The bill is glued directly above the face opening. I also had to cut notches in the side to get the head down over the Geek-ling'sshoulders.
With the head done, it was time to make the carapace and legs.
The carapace was made from cardboard covered in auto body filler. We made a few errors in our calculations on this part of the costume. I wanted to have the chest piece look showroom fresh so we spent hours smoothing and sanding the body. We added coat after coat of filler until it was as smooth as a baby's bottom.
"Where is the battle damage? He was fighting Perry. He has to have some battle damage." WHAT? I felt like Candace at the end of the show when Mom finally shows up and the invention of the day has disappeared. BUT... But... but... Battle damage, ....... right.
We took a couple of thin bladed screwdrivers and made the battle damage. We also made legs and feet. All covered in body filler all of which added weight. I didn't count on the weight. With the legs, body, and head the costume weighs nearly 20 lbs. That was half the weight of the Geek-ling.
While a 20 lb costume would not be too hard for me, for a six year old it was a little much. So we had to ditch the legs and wings completely and the carapace was only worn for trick or treating at the Trunk or Treat.
We made some vambraces from chip cans and a body suit from the same material as we covered the head. What had been planed as a two week project stretched to over two months. The night before trick or treating we had to get markers and draw on the details instead of painting them on.
"Dad, I want to be a Ninja-Samurai-Robot this year." (WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?)