Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fully Built: Mayor of Halloweentown

mayor nightmare before christmas

My posting ended somewhat abruptly as Halloween drew closer, much in the same way it did last year. Looking back at the process it's hard to believe that 9 days before the big event, I was only just finishing the Mayor's hat and had yet to draw a piece of wire in anger for his body.

I'm going to divide the Mayor's write up into three: his head, his hat, and his body. Since I have already given accounts on the head and hat, I will save some bandwidth and link to each one rather than repeating each step; see his head's construction here and that of his hat here. For completeness, however, here is a picture-by-picture chronology of how it came together:

The Head


At this junction a further layer of papier mache was applied because the paper started to become warped

mayor nightmare before christmas costume

mayor nightmare before christmas costume

The Hat

The Body

The above photos bring me up to around 10pm on October 22nd; nine days before Halloween, and nerves gathering by virtue of the fact that I had yet to start the body. Roughly one hour later I had drawn and cut the first lengths of wire towards this goal, and a weight had lifted. A start, no matter how small, was a start. And it's always the hardest part.

Starting the body was particularly tricky because I would be seeing out of the Mayor's mouth. Accordingly, the head could not sit on my shoulders as my eyes would fall obscured behind a higher part of the face. The first task was to measure the diameter of the base of the head, and to draw a piece of circular wire that was a few millimetres wider (as the head would ultimately sit on this foundation). With a second pair of hands, I then measured the distance between the base of the head (where it would have to sit in order for me to see through the mouth) and my shoulders. If memory serves this was approximately four inches. I drew a second piece of wire, making it a little wider than the first (as the body would grow wider from the top down to the base). I then joined the two pieces together at the appropriate distance, giving me:

From here I began work on the torso. One mistake I learned from making Zurg was to create arm-holes pre-torso building rather than cutting them out afterwards. That mistake made it difficult to get in and out of the costume and I was determined not to let it happen this year. Accordingly, I cut out two large wire circles and attached them to the base of the existing framework. I then drew and cut another large circle of wire, which would be the next level of the base. After filling in the gap between the old base and the new one with wire, I was left with the foundation of a torso:

From here it was a case of continuing to build downwards; with each new base level wider than the last. This was challenging because the torso needed to be suspended in order for me to continue building onto the body. I decided the best way to achieve this was by turning the torso upside down:

I decided that I wanted to go down one further level on the body; this would be the definitive base. Once I drew the next piece of wire into a wide circle, I tested it to ensure that I could get through doors. From here I would have to build it onto the existing body framework. I decided to depart from my upside down method for this part of the build; turning the body the right side up, and resting it on two stacks of DVDs to suspend it off the floor (I had measured how far down I wanted the base to come on my actual body, and suspended it that length off the floor). At this junction I was becoming slightly concerned that the body was quite flimsy, so I began enforcing the midriff with flexible cardboard. This is what the new building rig looked like:

After enforcing the framework it then looked like:

I then reinforced the wire frame with cardboard, just as I had done for the midriff. For some context, the above photo was taken on Thursday October 27th, so I needed to put an appeal out to friends and family to gather as much cereal box-type cardboard as possible. Luckily my networking attempts bore fruit and I was inundated with cereal, dog biscuit, and snack boxes among many others. With a cardboard exterior now on the wire frame, it was time to papier mache the whole construct:

The bottom half of the body paper mached, before the torso was given the same treatment

The next task was building a rim onto the top of the body upon which the head would rest. This was fairly simple; I measured the diameter of the top and cut out a piece of cardboard to the same diameter, around three inches thick:

With the rim masking taped on, I could then apply papier mache to the rest of the body and complete this part of the build. What came next was somewhat complicated and I would not have achieved it without the help of my girlfriend: the Mayor's suit jacket.

I could have compromised on this part of the build by simply painting the body. Given the closeness of Halloween, the temptation was there. It was Saturday October 29th and there was still much work to be done. Ciara was confident that she could fashion a jacket out of felt, so we agreed to take a leap of faith and buy the material (a metre of felt).

October 31st - Deadline Day
I first drew markings onto the papier mache frame to mark where the jacket would fall (I drew the 'V' neck where the white shirt would be painted on, and marked out where the jacket would close). Ciara then took some grease proof paper and taped it to the frame; then drew the outline of one jacket panel (the jacket would have to be created in panels as the framework was uneven in places and a single piece would not work). Ciara proceeded to cut the pattern out, pin it to the felt and then cut the felt into shape. She then repeated this step for the other side of the jacket (having to work both arm holes into her pattern) and glued both pieces onto the body using fabric glue (ensuring that one side overlapped the other, to make it look like the jacket closed). To further perpetuate the illusion, she glued two big buttons onto the overlapping area. I feel lucky to have procured buttons that big (from a craft shop) given that it could have been a struggle to find a pair proportionately big enough for the body. Regarding the rest of the jacket, Ciara continued to create patterns for each panel using the same method as above; working the whole way around the body, leaving some excess material below the bottom of the frame at the back to cut the tails.

mayor nightmare before christmas costume

mayor nightmare before christmas costume

mayor nightmare before christmas costume

mayor nightmare before christmas costume

The technique behind the rosette was also Ciara's brainchild (as was the execution; at this point we started exchanging jobs on our respective costumes as her construction of Mike Wazowski started to come together). 

The first and possibly most important task was to determine the appropriate size of the rosette. I found a plate that looked roughly the right size, placed it on a piece of cardboard and drew around the diameter. I cut out the circle which would form the base of the rosette. I bought red felt to use for the 'loops' that were placed along the edge of the circle, and the ribbon ends of it. The felt was glued to the base, and a second smaller circle was cut out and placed on top of the first (covering the inner edges of the felt strips). This inner circle was painted white, and when it dried I wrote out the title 'Mayor' using a felt-tip pen.

mayor nightmare before christmas rosette

mayor nightmare before christmas rosette

mayor nightmare before christmas rosette

mayor nightmare before christmas rosette

mayor nightmare before christmas rosette

mayor nightmare before christmas rosette

The final order of business as far as the body was concerned comprised of two paint jobs: the most important of which was giving the mayor is spider tie/dickie bow on the already painted white shirt. The second was creating an illusion of pants underneath the jacket, where a gap in the fabric existed at the close of the jacket:

mayor nightmare before christmas costume body

All that was left to do was place the Mayor's head on his newly built body, and I was nearly there:

mayor nightmare before christmas costume body

The icing on the cake was the megafone, which I threw together in about twenty minutes in the afternoon. Thankfully, by this stage I knew I would be home and dry after a hectic previous few days of building. To do the megafone, I cut a simple cone out of cardboard and attached a smaller, cylindrical piece of cardboard as the handle. I applied a single layer of papier mache (there were a few holes and gaps to cover in the cardboard) and when it dried, I painted a single layer of poster paint. Unfortunately, I didn't realise that the paint wasn't quite fully dry by the time I went out; so in holding the megafone up to the Mayor's face, I unwittingly speckled it in black paint. In my haste I only took a single picture of the megafone in its early stages:

Every year, it seems as though my ambition just stretches beyond the boundaries of practicality. Last year, I had my heart set on having an LED-powered mouth for Zurg that would light up when I spoke. This year, I made had to concede that two planned elements of the costume were not going to happen:

1) Spinning head: The defining feature of the Mayor is his double sided head, which I feel I portrayed well. However, I could not negotiate a way of having his head spin to reveal both expressions as and when I wanted him to. In the earlier stages I experimented with head-gear rigging, but ultimately it was not to be.

2) Fat suit pants: With the body portraying the wide girth of the Mayor's waist, I wanted the pants to match. My idea was to attach dungaree-style straps to a hula hoop; place a wide piece of fabric (possibly felt, again) over the hoop and let it sink downwards into a wide semi-circle; cut two holes in the fabric for my legs to go through; and paint pinstripes running from the felt onto my actual pants. To this day I'm confident that this would have worked, but I was caught for time. In the end I didn't even have time to paint strips onto a cheap pair of pants I bought, since I could not find pinstriped pants.

No doubt these unmaterialised elements would have added to the costume had I succeeded in negotiating their execution; but ultimately I am content that their absence did not take from the finished article.

mayor nightmare before christmas costumemayor nightmare before christmas costume

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