DR4296's 2013 Halloween Costume Contest Entry

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OK, so this is my official entry / post for the 2013 RPF Halloween contest.

Note that, I do have a previous "build thread" for this costume... one that I started back on June 23rd, and it is located here (for your reference): http://www.therpf.com/f24/velociraptor-build-thread-target-date-halloween-2013-a-188472/

I decided to build a Velociraptor (or, Utahraptor, technically) back in January, after seeing some of the "Walking With Dinosaurs" related videos on Youtube.

I started building "over the top" Halloween costumes about 6 or 7 years ago, as I was inspired by a small, local Halloween Festival (called the "Mystic Pumpkin Festival") where HORDES of young kids show up each year. A lot of the adults running the show dressed up, and they're all my neighbors, so I thought I'd join in too... but I wanted something that would help bring people say that that event was truly unique.

My first costume was Robocop, who was built entirely out of posterboard and those plastic "For Sale" signs that you can buy at Walmart or any Hardware store. Truly low-budget... and a costume I am truly proud of because all I had to go on was a good set of reference photos of the suit:


Then came building Ironman, which is when I discovered the glory of a pepakura pattern! Yes, I made him out of cardstock coated with fiberglass and bondo... and used LED's and EL paper for the glowy parts. My budget, of course, had risen. At this point, we started an annual tradition: The American Cancer Society's "Making Strides" fundraiser walk was something we started doing as a wider-family event in the morning on the Saturday of Halloween. As an "after party", we would go to a large local retro dance bar, which offered a big Halloween Costume Contest. I entered Ironman that year and won second place ($300).:


The next year, I'll admit I felt a bit tired by all the work on Ironman. My wife challenged me to build Davey Jones. This was my first time working with latex / building a latex mask. I had tried to incorporate some animatronics... using wire that contracted slightly when electricity was applied (in order to make tentacles move)... but it wasn't working very well, so I aborted it at the last minute. (One thing that bugged me about Ironman was that certain "little integrity issues" popped up the night of the contest.... finger segments kept popping off, I had problems with the backs of the gloves not wanting to stay on, etc. So having something stay together and work long-term had become very important to me.)

Davey won me second place ($300) again at that same contest. Here I am with my wife (Jack Sparrow):
12.jpg dj_final_1.jpg

So, naturally, after two years of second place, I was yearning for first place.

I felt that with a Velociraptor, I'd have a good shot, because:

a) Dinosaurs are popular with kids (not that there are any at the bar's costume contest, but I do attend other kid-oriented events as well).
b) Dinosaurs are popular with adults.
c) Everybody instantly knows what you are on sight (though some did refer to me as "T-Rex" by mistake).

I had never worked with a non-humanoid costume before, so in addition to consulting the good folks here on the RPF forums, I also posted some questions over on a key Cosplay forum and several on a Fursuit forum as well.

I had also never worked with FOAM before. I started by watching some key tutorial videos over on the Stanwinstonschool.com site... videos where they build a full-scale T-Rex head. I started building the head first, because that seemed most critical to me, in terms of looks.

But I had to have a full velociraptor model to work off of, so where would I find that ?

In the end, I worked off of TWO models: I had found a 3D image of a raptor that looked about right, so I converted that into a pepakura file, printed it off, and built it.

I also discovered that a particular French toy company made what apparently was agreed-upon by most people as being the "most accurate" velociraptor model available. So I bought one of those.:


I decided upon what the final length of my head should be and then used proportions to calculate the dimensions of everything else. But I always did the math for BOTH models, the pepakura AND the toy...and then chose the final body part length that seemed to be best (if there was a big difference between the two sets of final numbers).

One decision I made that may have been a "mistake" was in going along with what KIND of foam to use, as presented in those Stan Winston videos. The head piece alone cost me $70. It was thick alright, VERY thick. I carved it with an electric knife, then started using smaller and smaller blades.

Some progress photos of that:

002.jpg 004.jpg raptor_Aug8_progress_06.jpg raptor_update_101413_1.jpg

As I worked over time to make this head more accurate, I found somebody here had made a clay model of a raptor head. So I added those images to my reference documents:
raptor_ref_2a.jpg raptor_ref_2b.jpg

While this foam was terrific for carving, it also made for a very HEAVY head. On the one hand, I didn't really need a special "hinge" for the jaw. I had several kids literally pull down on the mouth with their hands and it maintained its strength and snapped-back just fine. But still, after wearing this head the first time (after carving out a hollow area in its neck and gluing a bicycle helmet into it), I had to add two straps to the rear of it, to help reduce the tendency of the head to pull forward so hard.

The tail was made out of a pool noodle, which I carved a bit into segments and then ran PVC through about a third of it. I then surrounded it with foam (the more "normal" kind that you can buy at any craft store).

The hands were made out of foam that I carved. I then split them almost completely in half and carved out the insides so as to fit my hands. And then I glued the halves back together again.

Most folks I've chatted with on these forums were very concerned about how I would handle the digitigrade feet. I did NOT want to go the stilts route, because I'm 45 years old and the older I get, the more worried I get about breaking an ankle or falling and actually hurting myself in one of these outfits (especially since VISION while wearing them is so often a problem).

I thought I'd create the illusion of digitigrade by making foam feet that would bend upwards at a 30 degree angle... and then build in that angle / foot onto a set of shoes or boots. Unfortunately, in the end, the angle ended up less than 30 degrees, so this didn't quite work out:

The body was made of a sort of "PVC cage". I used a heat gun to bend the PVC and then glued the parts together with PVC adhesive. As far as how I determined the shape of the cage, I used that toy raptor as a reference. The only down-side to this was that, I'm afraid my body just isn't the same as a velociraptors: if I had taken the body cage to its logical conclusion, the rear end would have been much longer and so would the tail. So, I essentially had to "chop off" a foot from my cage before terminating its rear end. The final result of this was that the CHEST on my final costume seems somewhat bigger than it should be. This seemed to give it a more "mascot-like" feel. Thankfully, the head looked much more realistic than a goofy mascot and kept the whole thing grounded in the realism that I had wanted.


Now, of course, there were those who suggested that I paint / air-brush my final product. However, I knew I wouldn't have the time to buy the materials, learn about air-brushing, and then do a competent job on the whole thing. I decided to save that learning for another year.

I became convinced that I could find some "reptile-skin-like" material at Joann's Fabrics or Hobby Lobby. Some past similar fursuiters had used material with spandex in it. Well, I searched the fabric stores but had trouble finding reptile skin material that wasn't made of vinyl or wasn't very heavy. Then I stumbled upon this wonderful polyester-spandex blend. I knew it was the right material to use when I draped it across my hand and saw that it would naturally settle into "layered bands" that looked a lot like scales:

raptor_update_090513_08.jpg raptor_update_090513_09.jpg

I used hot glue to glue this skin to all of the body parts.

In fact, here's something I don't think I mentioned in my "main build thread": I did have to build a sort of "undersuit", as it is my own legs and arms that are exposed to become the raptor's legs and arms. To do this, I took a cotton long-sleeved shirt and a set of tights. Both were red... used when I wore my Ironman costume. I used HOT GLUE to attach material over the shirt's arms and shoulders... and over almost the entire set of pants. Not one stitch was used in this costume! (Yeah, I know, you can't really use stitching on foam... but we didn't use it on the shirt and pants either. Amazingly enough, the hot glue kept the two cloth layers attached to each other, despite all my movements and sweating.)

I made the eyes out of resin, painted them myself, and more or less "tucked them into" some eye sockets I had carved. The teeth are made of Sculpey.

The chain is a cheap prop from Michael's craft store.

My wife's costume is made from Thrift Store finds, supplemented with two Jurassic Park patches purchased on eBay.

Here are a few more progress shots, and then some shots from when I wore this thing in public:

raptor_update_101713_1.jpg raptor_update_101713_3.jpg

raptor_update_show_101913.jpg raptor_update_show_101913_2.jpg raptor_update_final_102813_2.jpg raptor_update_final_102813_3.jpg

I did end up taking 1st place ($700) in that costume contest this year! And, to our surprise, they let us do a "victory dance" to a cheesy 80's dance tune: "Walk the Dinosaur!":

One key thing that I wish I'd known sooner in this build: 3M's 74 spray, NOT 3M's 77 spray, is what you want if you need to attach foam to foam (or foam to PVC for that matter). Some fursuiter has an actual chart on his website that I relied on early-on in this build. It had said 77 spray was best. I tried it. It failed under stress. I could NOT locate the 74 spray locally. I HAD to buy it off of Amazon and with shipping, it came to something like $23 each time I ordered a can. I should have ordered more than one at a time.

Two other disappointments: I ran out of time trying to implement a way to open and close the mouth. I had tried a fishing line method, but found that the line would stretch. Also, I tried implementing a sound effects system via an Arduino with a Wav Shield. But I had prioritized both of these things so low that I just plain ended up running out of time. (Also, the question of how I'd run the various wires and switches, while still building a costume that was easy to put on, held me back. My wife gets really annoyed, as my handler, if putting on the costume is overly complex.)

Best Moments:

OK, in addition to winning that contest...

1) At the local "Mystic Pumpkin Festival", they had something new this year: hay rides. So my wife and I are trying to walk back to my pickup truck. But some guy keeps telling us to stop and actually yanks on my tail to pull me back! (ACK! Instant attitude!!) Well, they then explained that they needed me to go no further because.... my costume was spooking the mules !

2) At my church's "Trunk-or-Treat", there were various really little kids... like age 3, I think. And there were like 5 of them throughout the two hour event. They'd see me at a distance of about 15 feet and start crying. They were afraid! So they'd leave. And then, a few minutes later, they're back again... now a little closer. They'd leave, then back again, even closer. Eventually, each of these kids gave me a hug and or a kiss and would say "Bye-bye dinosaur" again and again and again!! It was the funniest thing! From terror to love! That oh, so made it worthwhile !!!

OK, so here's my proof photo:

cancer walk 2013 015.JPG

Thanks very much! And a big "Shout out and thanks!" to Emmalouwho2, who helped me out a lot with ideas and encouragement!

-= Dave =-
Independence, MO

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