Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cucurbita Rex

This will come as no surprise to those of you who've been poking around our flickr site (points for resourcefulness, you creepy stalkers) but this past Wednesday was Halloween.  Okay, I guess if you were poking around a calendar, grocery store, or your front porch you would also know that.  

I don't usually do much for Halloween.  There's not a lot of family coordination that needs to go on like Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it usually sneaks up on me, and those last two weeks of October the autumn malaise sometimes couples with my general malaise and sets me right in front of the tv under the covers. 

This year, that malaise found me hopelessly unstarted on a steampunk jetpack made from a bunch of old fan/chandelier parts I scavenged helping Jimmy with some home repairs.  Had a rather dull plan in my head that made use of some interesting parts, but I just wasn't excited about it.  Then I saw an image on an RSS feed of a lifesize Jack Skellington costume and was delighted. 

(Annie and I are hoping Disney's 3-D re-release of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas will become an annual tradition; we've gone the past two years.  It was a favorite of hers growing up, and the whole experience with the glasses and enthusiastic fans of all ages kinda reminds us of our honeymoon.  I mean the Disney World parts of our honeymoon.  Not the actual, you know, honeymoony parts.)

Anyway, I tried (in vain) to re-find that photo the next day but couldn't.  It provided a nice clean room environment for me to design my own rig, though.  I sketched out a basic frame and skeleton made of 1" PVC pipes and joins, with very rudimentary twine joints at the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows.  

Annie offered to sew Jack's suit... my idea to glue-gun all the clothes together was less than ideal, and the finished product looked much more polished because of it.  She gave me my first sewing lesson, too!  

For the rest, mostly we improvised.  We were originally thinking we'd carve the head out of foam, but couldn't find large enough blocks at the craft store. Papier-mâché and plaster of Paris seemed too messy, too time consuming and potentially too lumpy, so Annie suggested that she sew and stuff the head. Some black felt features and, Perfect! At that point it became clear that we might as well sew the hands, too, and I think they turned out better and more fitting with the rest of the puppet stylistically than anything we could have purchased.

Our favorite feature was the light-up bat bowtie, made from foam and a black plastic cat we picked up for, like, a buck from the bargain bin of a craft store which generously sacrificed itself for the good of the cause.  Time and lack of forethought meant I had to run the wiring on the outside of the frame, rather than the more elegant solution of snaking it through the PVC itself, but I think it ended up hidden well enough, even if I had to warn security at my office they might get a call about a pipe bomb when I had him in the trunk of the car.

Added some dowels for control and and some elastic, sealed it all up with glue gun and duct tape, there you have it.  Ta da!

Check out some more photos of Jack's construction in our Puppet King photoset, or take a look at him in action with Annie and our niece and nephew Halloween night.

NWC: 0

Update 11/5/2007:  Check this project out on Instructables.

NWC: Still 0

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