Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Visitors take Shape

Kang and Kodos have taken the first steps in their quest for world domination: they have grown bodies. At this stage they are infant bodies, granted, but they are bodies nonetheless. The workflow has largely followed that of previous Halloween endeavours - shaping the costume out of wire, overlaying the frame with soft card, then papier mache. So far, we are one third of the way through this year's routine.

There has been one addition to this year's materials: foam insulation tubing (which appears not to have a name here, but referred to as backer rod by North American retailers from what I've seen). This wasn't my first experience with the material, having used it to make dreadlocks for my Predator costume. The reason I elected to use it for this project is because I thought it would make for a more tidy framework, rather than using nothing but wire. I've found that constructs from wire are quite bumpy and uneven, usually looking pretty poor until card and papier mache even things back out at a later stage. The first step in creating this year's costume was thus:

There are three lengths of tube there, held together at the joint with duct tape. Of course, sticking to my 'cut now, ask questions later approach' I didn't carry out my due diligence with what has come to be known as the 'doorway test' (I and my friends have been felled on more than one occasion by the width of door frames; I usually take it as a sign that I'm on the right track when a costume work-in-progress is touch and go). Later I would discover that it was a little too big; but luckily, the tube has attempted to resolve itself back into its natural shape against the duct tape, the result being a bit more of an oval shape. It is subtle enough that it hasn't ruined the shape, but it makes it just about narrow enough to get through doors. 

The next step was to start building up the frame. Another reason why I went with the insulation tube was its flexibility:

I wanted to shape it from four sides and have the lengths of tube meet at the top. This took several lengths that began a little something like this:

This was a tricky juncture; while the tubing was flexible, it didn't stay in shape on its own accord. The next task was therefore one of multitasking, attempting to hold the material in shape while stitching wire around it that would hopefully do a more permanent job:

We created wire circles from the base to the top. From studying dozens of reference photos we arrived at the conclusion that they don't have any kind of defined shape (they are essentially blobs, after all). But for the purposes of construction, we gave them a more rounded appearance that was inspired from the best Kang and Kodos costume we have found online. This is how each costume looked once the circles had given shape to the frame:


With this step complete, we gave the skeleton more shape and support by running wire vertically from base to tip. That brings us to the current state of the costumes: 

"I'm Kang..."
"...and this is my sister, Kodos."

The next step is to overlay the frame with soft card as a primer for papier mache which, in the last couple of years, has helped to boost the robustness of our costumes. When they're as obtrusive as ours usually are they inevitably take a beating in a packed venue, so it's a particularly important step. I don't want to jinx myself, but I always consider the wire framing the hardest and most awkward part of the process. I'm hoping that from here on out it is mostly monotonous work. This is the first costume since my first Halloween outing as Evil Dead's Ash that I haven't had a mask, as such, which I'm hoping removes some of the more intricate and time-consuming work.

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