JOHN WILLIAM REYNOLDS
From Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
Build by John William Reynolds
First I drew what I wanted the costume to look like.
Then I drew myself inside the costume.
Finally I sketched a frame structure.
My first attempt at the head began with carved foam.
I made a hoop skirt of twill tape, heavy wire and duct tape, with a smaller hoop skirt for the mouth attached to the helmet foam.
I tested the burlap over the foam before sewing.
To purchase enough burlap I measured the wire frame.
I attempted to build a mechanism to puppet the eyes so the costume could be more animated. Ultimately, there was too much friction for this to work.
For the first layer of the costume I used muslin. In part this was a test for the burlap, but also a layer to keep the itchy burlap away from my skin.
The frame rested on two shoulder straps, widened by resting the twill tape on plastic cut from a bucket. I used a mic strand as a dress form.
I placed a scrap piece of burlap over the frame to make sure I was on the right path.
I coiled some plastic-coated wire to make a sprint for the top of the head (which I call the 'hair') to add more animation to the costume.
To get better animation from the 'hair' I made tighter coils. I ran braided wire down the center to keep the spring where I wanted it.
I ran the braided wire through a foam base and tied to the helmet.
I rebuilt the head using a bucket (cut short) for a helmet and built the 'hair', eyes, and mouth mechanisms onto it. The mouth is pulled closed with tiny springs and pulled open by a chin strap.
Inside the bucket is a headband used in commercial mascot costumes similar to the headband inside a construction helmet to rest comfortably on the head.
I sewed a muslin hood over the helmet making the ghost shape take form (and also looking a little too much like a Klan hood for my liking).
I cut away muslin for visibility and pinned it around the eye mechanism. This is where I began to realize the eyes couldn't animate the way I wanted them to because fabric isn't clay.
With the muslin base completed I could now begin adding the burlap.
I added foam padding to the shoulder straps for comfort.
I then sewed muslin around the shoulder straps so to keep the foam connected to the plastic as well as for a cleaner look (as Steve Jobs' father taught him, it's important to make the parts no one sees look just as good as the outside).
A view of the shoulder straps inside the costume.
I had to color match thread to the burlap to keep the seems hidden (or rather I asked my wife to match the colors since I'm colorblind).
Since burlap unravels so easily I folded the edges and sewed bias tape on top.
Since I don't use patterns I draped the burlap over my form and pinned where I wanted to sew. There's one 'hidden' seam horizontally in the middle since the burlap wasn't big enough to cover the body without it.
After watching Adam Savage's videos on the importance of weight distribution, I used my backpacking experience to build a PVC backpack frame to rest all the weight on my hips.
Home Depot (my favorite craft store, which I'm fortunate enough to live a block away from for craft runs) sells webbing and buckles (or I may have bought the buckles at Jo-Ann), so I sewed the webbing around the buckle to make a waist strap.
I tested the backpack frame to make sure it sat on my hips correctly. The shoulder/chest straps are only to keep the frame from falling backwards. No weight rests on my shoulders.
I added foam where the PVC rests against my back for comfort.
I sewed a pocket for the waist strap to rest in so it didn't pull loose from the frame. I later sewed this pocket to the base to keep the strap from riding up and the frame from falling.
I used a heat gun to bend the top bars inward so they could hold the helmet and keep all the weight off my head.
My first attempt at wearing the costume (before the burlap was added) with the new backpack frame. Here I'm testing the sleeves.
Here you can see how there is space between my head and the helmet and how my vision will be through the mouth. The helmet is bolted to the PVC tee joints.
I sewed the burlap as its own costume to slip over the muslin base. I used some black fabric for the eyes, which didn't have the character I wanted them to have. Making faces out of fabric can be difficult.
I attempted to sew the eyes so that they appeared to be darkness within the burlap rather than resting on top.
I added the same black fabric to the mouth with plenty of slack so the mouth could animate, as well as to hide a zipper so I could interact directly with my environment if needed (for eating, drinking, etc.).
The detail comes from black yarn so that it appears to sew the burlap together. I used a thin wire with a hook bent at the end as a makeshift curved needle to sew the yarn into the burlap.
I made burlap shoe covers to fir over my boots. I wanted the illusion of the costume being one piece but needed to enter the costume from the base. I also wanted to be able to walk long distances without tearing through the burlap.
the burlap slips just over the toe to keep it in place without covering the sole, which would destroy the burlap and eventually unravel entirely.
I sourced many screen shots from the movie to match the yarn as best I could to the film. I also used a black sharpie to make the side seems more pronounced under the yarn.
Because of the hoop skirt structure, the whole costume could be tied up onto the backpack frame to fit in my trunk and be carried to the convention hall if I have to park too far away.
Inside the costume I'm in my own tent. I have two battery-powered fans around my neck and in the head to keep me cool.
I first wore the costume at Stan Lee's Los Angeles Comic-Con, which is appropriately on Halloween weekend. My wife made a beautiful Sally costume and we met up with a Jack Skellington. I only learned in photos that the crotch was much too high.
after reviewing photos I learned to stand with my legs spread apart to lower the crotch and look more like a sack of bugs.
That's my wife an I on the far left on stage at the Hollywood Bowl for the costume contest. We may not have won but being a finalist was an honor enough against the other great Tim Burton costumes.
The yarn around the mouth began to unravel but it was a successful first day of wearing the costume at the Hollywood Bowl.
For Comic-Con I added foam under the burlap to hide the wire hoop skirt and make the character more hugable. Oogie Boogie may be a scary character, but people of all ages seem to love hugging this big guy.
Oogie Boogie was hungry for bugs at Comic-Con.
I even got to show off my creation to Norm from Tested after Adam Savage's panel. It was great to have all my hard work appreciated by fellow makers.
Finally I entered a costume contest at Outback Steakhouse and won third place! Finally Oogie Boogie is a 'prize-winning costume'. Now I can begin to plan my next big build...
2 - 50
For commissions, bookings, or general contact, email: JReynoldsMail@gmail.com
(c) 2018 Magic Ape Entertainment