Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How I Made The NinjaBee Mascot Costume

This is a blog post about how the mascot making madness started.

In my junior year of the BYU advertising program, I began looking for a place to complete my required internship credits. Being a shameless nerd, I started looking at local game developers for any sort of marketing position. I found out about NinjaBee Studios, an offshoot of Wahoo! Studios, close by in Orem. They had a PR position open so I applied and got an interview. From the sounds of it, they were looking for someone with more of a PR focus than an advertising focus. As we talked, I let slip that I was into costuming and they eventually asked if I could make a mascot outfit for them. I reluctantly said yes, as I had never taken on a project of that magnitude.

I can only think the word "magnitude" in Admiral Ackbar's voice. Hehe.

So NinjaBee's logo looks exactly how you think it would:

I came up with a design that would make sense on the human body but changed up a couple elements for the heck of it:

It was kinda...meeeeehhhhh. So they had someone at their place come up with a new design:

Much, MUCH better! And it matches the look of the logo while still being practical to wear.

So next, I started drafting patterns with cardstock paper and masking tape. This part was fun and not too hard actually, thanks to the design having mostly flat planes. It was much like a big 3D puzzle with flat pieces that just needed to be cut at the right angles to make it fit around the body. I also re-designed the abdomen (the part with the stinger) to hang more behind the person instead of straight down to allow for users of different sizes and heights to be able to wear it.

I can't remember whether I found the foam before or after the pattern was cut out...anyway, I bought a huge roll of foam wholesale from a local packaging company and started cutting it and gluing the pieces together according to my pattern. This is the same foam I made Lugia and Charmander with later with awesome results. 

Luna surveys my work. I had to redo the chest piece a couple times to get the correct shape.

Here is how the foam inner skeleton ended up looking. The hands and feet are still in cardstock draft mode, but the body, abdomen and head were ready for the next stages:

At this stage I took the outfit to NinjaBee for approval...they LOVED it! It gave me a burst of energy to try and complete it before GEEX 2010.

The arm and leg pieces are two pieces of foam glued together at the seams (I cut the edge off at an angle to help the piece open up) and then sewn for added seam strength. I wanted them to open up even more to not be so tight on the wearer so I reinforced them with steel hanger tape (same stuff I make cookie cutters with!) and wire. This was kind of a jury-rigged method for keeping the foam more opened up, and it worked pretty well!

Next, I lined all my pieces in black ripstop nylon fabric from JoAnn. I figured if the mascot gets sweaty on the inside, nylon would be the easiest thing to wipe and sanitize for repeated use.

For the "skin", I ordered 5 yards each of black and yellow vinyl. I got it from This place is AWESOME and will send you free swatches of fabric so you can see if the color and texture will work. I found the two colors of vinyl in the exact same thickness and they look great together. I cut out all the vinyl skin pieces and sewed them together, then put them over the foam and glued them into the inside edge of the foam.

The underside of the head, all finished, and the foot, ready for the vinyl to be glued under.

The wings were a bit tricky. I made a frame out of thick gauge wire that I hand-bent into the correct shape using a cardstock pattern as a guide. I sewed some see-through mesh fabric onto the frame, then glued a strip of black vinyl all around the edges. The hard part was getting the wings into the thorax piece. I put the wire through the back, then bent the wire ends towards the armholes to flatten them (don't want them skewering the user) and glued some foam over it to try and hold it in place. I hope it worked...

The head was tricky but also fun. I made eyeholes, then used aida cloth and window screen mesh to make "buggy" eyes that stuck out from the "helmet". I glued some white felt on for highlights. I also opened up the mouth for more visibility. I created a ninja mask that went around the whole head and tied in the back. The wearer can see through the mask in the "mouth" as well as out the eyes. The finishing touch was a shiny black pair of wire and vinyl antennae!

The head before any embellishments

Kind of a creepy smile there, Bee!

Figuring out the mask pattern by pinning it onto the foam

So I finally completed all the pieces by GEEX 2010 (just barely, I think a week before actually!) and even gave them a simple sword to complete the look. Here are all the pieces that go into wearing it:

-one head
-one chest, wings attached
-one abdomen, complete with sharp stinger!
-two arm armor pieces
-two calf armor pieces
-two feet (basic boot covers with elastic on the bottom to hold your shoes in)
-two 3-fingered gloves (very simple, with a stuffed layer to puff it out)
-one sword
-wearer's black clothes underneath

It's sturdy, can take a beating and won't hold onto dirt, so this mascot should last them for years! Here are some photos of the final product.

This is the guy who got the PR position. He looked great in it!

I went as Sora to GEEX and got a stylin' photo with my main Bee:

All in all it took me over a year to complete the excuse is that I had school and marriage and all kinds of fun things going on at that time. I could probably crank out the same thing in 2 months if I really applied myself now that I know what I'm doing :)

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