Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fully built: Statler and Waldorf

I can scarcely believe it's been nearly 12 months since donning the grumpy heads of The Muppets' Statler and Waldorf. The duo represented the hardest costume build to date, resulting in a corresponding delay in writing an account of the process. Invariably we're asked how long the costumes take to build, typically followed up with a wide-eyed reaction to the answer, but for us the most enjoyable aspect of Halloween is the journey rather than the destination. This year was particularly memorable as the process was framed by some rather big life events. On consecutive Fridays leading up to Halloween, we had to put down the tools and don some robes for graduation ceremonies, PhD for me and a combination of Postgraduate diploma and Masters for her. 

A further corollary of the difficulty of the build is a lack of progress pictures of the build, at least relative to that of previous years. With that in mind, please excuse some major leaps in visible progress in the narrative that follows. Or, in the spirit of the costumes on show, feel free to heckle in the comments.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Halloween 2014 in Pictures

A week plus change after the event this is post is overdue, with images from the night still pouring in. Another year, another great evening in Cork City's Savoy courtesy of the crew behind the Freakscene club night, without whom there would be very little photographic evidence of our costume endeavours each year. This was the second year in which our costumes were featured on the poster for the event, which gave us a kick:

After a rather punctuated two months or so of construction, we finalised the costumes at roughly 9pm on Halloween night. It was a bit later than I'd hoped and what we had aimed for; by the time the 31st came around, we seemed to be cruising. In saying that, though, it wasn't a rushed or stressful day by any means (I still shudder thinking back to 2012). We were pretty much finished the characters before dinner, the rest of the evening dedicated to finishing the balcony. The support system (using our trusty braces for the third year running) took surprisingly long to attach. 

Upon executing those final touches, we lined up for some photos before heading out:

Leading up to the event we thought we might get away with taking one car for the first time since Halloween 2009, but the balcony was ultimately too wide to let it happen. As such, there was a third pair of hands on the scene to capture more images of us en route to our destination. Negotiating our way through the car park has become a trademark part of the evening; even more fun this year as we had to move as a single unit inside the balcony.

After walking through the city (with many stops along the way to pose for photos) we arrived at the sizeable queue outside the club. Let it never be said that I can't stand out in a crowd:

The above image, along with all of the following, were taken by Freakscene's David Hegarty, to whom I am again grateful for allowing me to share his great work here.

As usual, my friend Mark was on hand with a fantastic costume of his own, again tending to the industrial side of pop culture with his Brotherhood of Steel outfit from the Fallout series:

Continuing with the monochrome theme, here is us once we had negotiated all those stairs and finally made it into the club:

Now for a splash of colour:

Once again we found ourselves on the stage at the end of the night, subjected to the audience clap-o-meter:

And I'm delighted to say that for the fourth year running we scooped the prize. Victory fist-pump!

Here are a few others, including a group shot with Mark's Paladin, one with this year's contest judge, and a costume full of relatively recent nostalgia:

And finally, a shot of us as the night wound to a close:

This year was all the better for its falling on a Friday, meaning not having work to look forward to the day after for the first time in five years. Even better, we managed to get the costumes back on the night in a single car, not having to be as delicate with the balcony at the end of the night as we were at the beginning. As it turns out, we probably would have been fine; it held up surprisingly well after being Tetris'd into the just-about-accommodating Panda which brought us home.

As terrific as the Freakscene outing always is, it is the icing on the cake; my fondest memories are of slaving away at the construction of the costume, occasionally frustrating but always fun. Those memories will be recounted in a forthcoming post, in which I will outline the steps of the building process. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Grumpy old men

Statler: I know what's wrong with this show
StatlerIt's the theater. 
WaldorfWhat's wrong with it? 
StatlerThe seats face the stage! 

In May of this year, I had the pleasure of attending Pixar in Concert, a show in which music from Pixar films is played by a live orchestra beneath a screen on which the corresponding animated action unfolds. The show has been franchised to orchestras all around the world; the show I attended (along with my better half and costuming partner in crime, who bought the tickets for my birthday) was in Dublin, played by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Not being from the city ourselves, trips to Dublin usually entail trips to the odd store not found closer to home. A fixture of these trips is a visit to the country's only Disney Store. My aforementioned partner in crime has been a lifelong fan; moreover, given that 40% of the costumes on this blog derive from Disney properties, I can't pretend that her fandom has not rubbed off on me to some extent. 

On this occasion, our eyes were drawn to the wall of Muppets memorabilia. I'm somewhat of a returning Muppets fan; the original show was a little before my time, but I was a regular viewer of Muppets Tonight, its comparatively short-lived sister show. My interest has been rekindled in recent years through DVD boxsets of the The Muppet Show. As recently as last year, Muppets characters were being considered for the Halloween costume treatment; specifically, my two favourite characters Sam the Eagle and the Swedish Chef (bork!). In the Disney Store, the thought once again made its way into conversation; as fans of the show and its characters the idea made sense. However, as we looked upon the wall of plushy toys, one of us remarked that there was no combination of characters as salient a fit as Kang and Kodos or the LEGO Zombies Mr. & Mrs., our previous two projects. No sooner had the remark had been uttered than we turned to one another in one of those rare moments of collective epiphany, like a cartoon lightbulb was illumated above our heads. It was so obvious! There was one character combination every bit as good a fit as the extraterrestrial siblings or the undead bride and groom: the heckling duo, Statler and Waldorf. 

Since then we have been working on bringing the concept to life. Both heads have been constructed to roughly equal levels of completeness. We have utilised the approach that has served us so well the past few years: a wire frame, soft cardboard priming, and a papier mache finish. However, this year we have had an additional challenge. We decided that painting the finished constructs would not be true enough to the source material; it had to be a fleece finish. Thankfully, we managed to locally source material that is perfect in both feel and colour. The much trickier part has been attaching it to the heads, the stage at which we currently find ourselves.

I'm not sure how much I'm going to update the project via the blog for the remainder of the busy season. I've already been rather negligent of my annual writing duties (real life has been quite the distraction this year; particularly with the completion of a pesky PhD) and I think at this stage progress would be best suited to a single entry when we finally get past the finish line. Get there, however, we will. For now, I'm going to sign off with a video appropriate to both the source material and the season.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fully Built: Kang and Kodos

To follow in the footsteps of tradition, the following is an account of how our Kang and Kodos costumes of 2013 came together. It only recently occured to me that I never fully recorded the chronology of the project in the aftermath of its deployment; with the cogs already turning towards Halloween 2014, I wanted to rectify that before this year's updates begin to materialise. 

For a less wordy version of the following, I direct the reader's attention to a post created last year: a quick reference pictorial guide which touches upon the main aspects of the build. For more context to go with those images, read on after the break.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Halloween 2013 in Pictures

My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball; but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom! 

It's been a hell of a journey completing the costumes that we never explicitly decided to build; the costumes that just started coming together out of deliberate ignorance towards the issues that, were we of sound mind, would surely have halted our progression very early on. One of the costumes needs to be squeezed inwards to fit through the door of the room in which it is being built? Never mind. One, if not both costumes would need likely need a commercial vehicle to make it to the event? Not a problem. A full week after the event I'm not sure whether I had my head in the sand or if was faith that these issues would resolve themselves, but I'm happy to say that, ultimately, they did.

My partner in crime was in another part of the country for most of the day, so I was left to apply the final touches to the costume (a couple of which were pretty fundamental and thus mildly panicked touches). The support systems, or the mechanisms that would allow us to 'wear' the costumes, were not put in place until about an hour prior to leaving for the event. I had long had the idea for executing this part of the costume in mind, but not being completely confident that it would work, it became somewhat of an elephant in the room. 

I could scarcely believe when the costumes were finally ready to go, and all of the aforementioned issues that loomed large on the horizon for what seemed an eternity failed to materialise. Honestly, I think whether it was head-in-the-sand syndrome or blind faith, it is perhaps an unhealthy practice to encourage. One day we might break that camel's back, but for now we look back on a successful and eminently fun night. 

As usual, we attended the Freakscene Halloween Ball in Cork City, and my thanks goes out to the crew for putting on yet another great night. One of the big draws for me is the photography studio set-up (usually our costumes render us incapable of carrying a camera, or at least using it). This year, it was Paul Maher who helped capture the costumes for posterity:

Kang and Kodos costume

I'm also indebted to David Hegarty, who captured us roaming around the venue:

Kang and Kodos costume

My friend, Mark, was also captured in his Mark I Iron Man costume:

My favourite picture of the night again belongs to David:

A wonderful panoramic image of us on stage which captures the general buzz that was so prevalent on the night.

On the subject of being on stage, I'm delighted to say that we scooped 1st prize in the costume contest. The reaction to the costumes from everyone was truly humbling; especially when we were on stage and subjected to Freakscene's "clap-o-meter" segment of judging which drew an ovation from the audience that we were in awe of. I can honestly say that it is the love of craft and the hobby that compels us to carry out these projects rather than to make spectacles of ourselves (and I mean that in a nice way), but it was a tremendous feeling. We came home with this guy:

That wasn't before some major logistical issues had to be resolved, however; could it be that one of those so-called 'non-issues' did in fact materialise after all? Well, yes and no. I forgot to mention that Kang needed to be transported in a pickup truck, and even then we struggled. The person who kindly brought us in didn't stay out for the night, so we were left wondering how we would return home without having to consider abandonment. Thankfully, the venue management team were good to us and offered to house Kang until we could figure out transport the next day. He therefore set up shop in the cloak room:

Things didn't prove to be much easier in the cold light of day the following morning; we had to transport him across the city by hand (drawing odd looks aplenty, half-covered by a plastic bin bag to protect him against the ill-timed rain that we fell foul of) and house him in the store room of another building, where he would lodge for a further night. He eventually made it back in a friend's jeep, a little easier to squeeze in given the dents and knocks he received on the night. 

Overall, it was a great night which reaffirmed my love of the holiday and that, despite the odd cul-de-sac which appears during the building process (and associated frustrations), the effort is invariably worth it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

At a Glance

The normal post-Halloween routine on this blog is that I post images from the night and, later, aggregate all the progress posts to create a single (long) explanation of how the costumes materialised (usually accompanied with the warning that we don't actually have as much time on our hands as the project suggests). 

Photographs from the event are still pouring in, so that post is forthcoming - as is the latter entry, which is more an issue of time consumption. For now, I'll post this snapshot I put together of some of the key steps for quick reference: 

Kang and Kodos home made costume

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Team Green standing by

We did it. Two and a half hours before the party and we did it!