In 2014, I spent more than 3 months building a massive Baymax mech costume, which won me the Disney studio’s costume contest. Here’s how I did it
I wanted to build the costume to scale (not life-size though). This meant that I had to make sure I would be able to fit inside when it was complete. I also wanted articulated fingers. These presented some obvious challenges. Baymax is not proportioned like a human, but rather more like a gorilla. I wouldn’t be able to control the fingers with my actual fingers. Also, the entire armor surface is made up of organic curved forms.
Constructing the Armor
I decided to build the armor using paper craft techniques. This is typically used for rather small things. This can be compared to how cardboard boxes are constructed. The flat cardboard is cut in to a shape, and then folded and taped to form the box. I had experience with papercraft in my childhood, but never made my own from scratch.
The first step was to model a version of Baymax that would be suitable for turning into papercraft. I spent a bit of time working on this, but luckily, I had access to some good reference material…This ended up as a low resolution model, looking like something you might see used for a video game. The animation models were pretty high resolution. Too many faces would make the flattening process too complex, while too little faces would compromise the finished shape.
When I completed the model, I had to make sure it was scaled properly. this was tricky because I really wouldn’t know if I had scaled it just right until the whole thing was completed.
I used software called Pepakura to create the flat templates. This software is designed to create printable paper models from 3d models, while ensuring everything will attach together correctly, and at the correct scale. Works really well for typical paper models you might display on your desk, but as you can see below, just half the chest part below takes up 30 sheets of paper.
In hindsight, I might have printed it on bigger paper…
Here is the template for half the helmet.
So I printed everything out. I then had to attach all the paper of each section together, cut out the parts, trace the outlines onto cardboard, then cut the cardboard out. This might have been the worst part, since it was weeks of cutting, tracing and cutting more.
If you’re wondering where all this cardboard came from, it was mostly from IKEA packaging.
So after I cut out all the pieces, I had to fold and form the shapes, and attach everything. This entailed lots of tape and hot glue.
To create a smoother surfaces, I paper-mâché’d the entire thing
Then I gessoed it…
Then I spray painted it glossy red. The other colors were painted with acrylic.
Elbows and Hand mechanisms
In order to create articulated fingers as well as elbow control, I had to do some tricky engineering. My hands only reached as far as the elbows, so I my hand had to control the elbow joint, and at the same time, the fingers. I built a bar just below the elbow joint to hold on to to bend it, while my hand sat above the actual joint pivot.
The hands weren’t as pre-planned as the other parts. I cut out lots and lots of joint pieces, and attached the with wooden dowels. To control the fingers, strings were attached to the fingers of the gloves as mentioned above, and run through the fingers, and connected to the finger tips. Pulling on the strings caused the fingers to close. I originally wanted to setup the reverse mechanism to allow the fingers to be opened, but this proved to be too complicated for the amount of time I had, so I just let gravity take care of that.
The chest was much larger than my actual frame (sadly), so I had to create a harness. This was attached to the armor by twine. The “underwear” piece was also supported at my shoulders by string. So basically I had like 30 pounds of cardboard hanging from my shoulders, which proved to not be too comfortable.
For some reason I had my feet sit at an angle, like I was wearing high-heels, since they didn’t if I laid them flat. This was also really painful…
The face was made with card stock formed into a rounded shape, then covered with a thin layer of foam.
To create the chest port, I setup a mechanism that would link the motion of the inner part to the outer flaps. Pushing the part forward forced the flaps open, and when retracted, elastic string pulled them closed.
I managed to finish the thing just in time for Halloween. As you can see in the pictures below, I didn’t realize how much my scrawny neck had been showing under the helmet. Also there were some strings hanging out, and on of the shin guards kept falling off.
And as I mentioned earlier, I was very uncomfortable to wear, and was difficult to move around in, but the pain led to victory at the costume contest, and I got some good attention. I think I was internet famous for a very brief period, and even made the front page of CartoonBrew.
It was a fun a challenging project. I ended up ruining the costume for Star Wars day, by painting it white to look like a stormtrooper, but was starting to fall into disrepair anyways. Now it is sitting in several pieces around my apartment, awaiting its next life.