Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My BMO / Beemo Costume

Since I took pics along the way, I thought I'd just do a little write up of how I made the Beemo seen at DragonCon 2011.

We had the idea to do Adventure Time last year, but all the characters I wanted to do (Jake, Lumpy Space Princess) would have taken more skill than I felt I had.  Megan, my wife and the lovely Princess Bubblegum seen below, made me promise we'd do it this year.

I have a lot of really ambitious ideas for costumes that would really make people stop and notice, but lack the skill and drive to accomplish.  For this, I was hoping to have a working computer monitor and program to animate Beemo's face and play the various games he has, but it was too ambitious for my first large prop costume, so I settled on making just a still face.

The first hurdle was locating a box big enough.  I finally lucked into one at Best Buy just sitting out on the floor of the appliance section.

(!) (...) It's just a box.

Once the box was acquired, I cut the front and back halves apart and the sides down to the appropriate width (Beemo's profile is more of a gameboy-style rectangle than a square) and drew a basic outline.  I then began on the simple steps to get that feeling of accomplishment.  The D-pad & buttons were created with 1/2" thick foam bulletin boards they sell at Michael's, painted with simple acrylic.

I decided to go with mixed latex interior paint for the main box so that I could get a good color mixed.  It still came out a bit more blue than Beemo should be, but it's good, any range of teal pretty much works.   At several times I realized I was worrying about accuracy more than the artists of Adventure Time do!  Also, using latex paint allowed it to be more flexible as the box was bent and folded, not ruining the paint job.  Acrylic or spraypaint probably would have flaked.

At first I rolled the paint onto the rear half with a roller to avoid brushstrokes, but (1) that caused the box to start warping into a curved shape,  (2) left more stray paint on the floor, and (3) didn't really save time or have any visual difference over using a basic brush. 

Then I set about reattaching the box halves together with nuts/bolts/washers.  I just had 2 on each side at the top and bottom in the back, 6 on top, including 2 L-brackets inside to keep the top and sides attached when everything would be resting on top of the frame.

I cut the letters out of 12x12" sheets of black construction paper.  A lot of tracing bowls, condiment lids, and various other circular items in the house was involved.  They are attached with Elmer's spray adhesive. I was pleasantly surprised with just how well that stuff adheres.

The face piece was a challenge.  I knew I had to find a pale mint color, and I really didn't want to have to paint anything and have it come out uneven, streaky or textured.  After looking around at colors of posterboard available and not being satisfied, I thought about gift wrapping paper.  One day I went into Party City to look for wrapping paper, and didn't find any in this color, but I came across a cheap plastic tablecloth in the perfect color!  This was even better than wrapping paper, because the texture was almost exactly what you would find on a real computer screen.  I covered a piece of posterboard with the table cloth using the spray adhesive.

It was extremely important to me to match the cuteness of Adventure Time's faces.  I made sure to pay attention to the tiny eyes, mouth and distance between them.  It took a couple times to get it looking "right."

Before attaching the tablecloth, I cut the eyes and mouth out of the posterboard.  Then, after attaching the tablecloth, I carefully used an exacto knife to cut out the shape of the holes from the tablecloth.  Finally, a couple layers of black chiffon fabric are attached on the back of the foam board.  In the end, this is how I was able to see and move around in the costume, by looking through the black fabric of the eye holes.

Who wants to play video games?
I then was ready to attach the buttons and other front details, again using the spray adhesive.

Finally, it came down to having to build the actual frame.  After reading about the various oversize costumes on Rob Cockerham's Incredible Stuff I Made page, I decided to try and emulate the PVC backpack frame.  This was my first PVC project and I was very surprised how affordable all this PVC was and how simple it was to cut to shape with a hacksaw.

I didn't have a backpack with an actual frame built in, just a regular one.   The picture below was my first attempt, and I had made the vertical bars too far apart - my shoulders fit between them!

The first version of the frame.
After moving them closer together, I was able to use my back as further vertical support, and tied a rope to the bottom and around my waist to prevent it from tilting forwards.  It was actually very successful.  In the next picture I'm testing the box on top of the frame for the first time - it's way too tall! I had to shorten the vertical struts by over a foot.
Beemo after a growth spurt
The legs were simple - since they'd be my real legs - I bought teal tights from We Love Colors and put them on.  I also bought some $12 white canvas shoes from Wal Mart and painted them to match.

For the arms, from the beginning I wanted Beemo's arms to come out of the right place - the "O" on his logos.  That was obviously too far down the box for my arms, so I would have to create false ones.

I bought matching gloves also from We Love Colors.  My wife sewed the pinky and thumb inside so he would have 3 fingers on each hand.  At first I tried to stuff the gloves with batting, but they were too lumpy and strange looking.  Instead, I ended up just stuffing the fingers, and inserting a cut down foam noodle pool toy for the arm.  Then the end of the gloves were sewn to the cardboard box inside the "O" so they wouldn't be able to come out.  Finally, I put wooden dowels into the center of the foam noodles so I could articulate the arms when wearing it.
Beemo - armed and dangerous?

After that I had a few more steps to take, that I never took pictures of.  I added the controller ports, drew the battery case detail on the back, and cut holes in the sides and back for the speakers and vents on Beemo's design, also covered with black chiffon so I could see (and breathe).

I never got the chance to wear the whole thing until the day of the shoot.  But everything worked perfectly! I could see well enough to move around, and it wasn't even that heavy or hot to wear.  We were a big hit, and I was very pleased with my outcome.

Check please!