Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Make a Volvagia Dragon Cosplay From Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Ho man this project. Creature cosplays are my passion for sure, but this one was extra challenging! So let's just jump right in!

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume


Volvagia is a long skinny dragon that lives in a volcano and eats rock people called Gorons. If you've ever played Ocarina of Time, you will be familiar with this Fire Temple boss whose battle is basically a much more dangerous version of Whack-A-Mole, where if you don't whack it, it will spew fire in your face and drop red-hot boulders on you. Also, he has a fabulous mane of hair made of flames. You do not want him to swish it into your cute little Hylian face.


Snake-y, firey goodness. This is the official character art for him. Finding good in-game reference photos was really tough. I had to screenshot videos of OoT:3D since the graphics are quite a bit better than the original N64 version, but still really tough to see the details.





There were a couple ways I thought about approaching this project, and my end product was much different than my original vision, but I am happy with how comfortable and wearable it was. Here are some photos so you can visualize it while we're talking about the process it took to get here.
legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume
legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

HAHAHA THE LEGS ARE THE MOST GLORIOUS PART.
People would say "nice job, bro" because the legs are pretty ambiguous as to my gender.

My first approach to the design of this costume was to do the entire tail. A few options I considered were wrapping it around my body or magically making the tail hold up behind my back in an up and down serpentine pattern, or perhaps making it a two person costume. See the following illustration for an idea.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Pretty ambitious, complete with sound effects and lighting. I haven't figured that stuff out quite yet, but my husband did get an Arduino set up with all the sound effects from the game!

I played around with the math for proportions and came up with a 22 foot long dragon...pretty dang big to drag around at a convention. I even made an Astrofoam skeleton of rings to see just what that would look like. It took up the whole length of my living room!

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Satisfied that that was definitely not going to work for a one-person costume (though a Chinese dragon style, multi-person puppet would have been pretty cool!), I re-designed it to just look like the dragon was popping up out of the ground whack-a-mole style like in the game. Tons easier and would take less time and fabric.

The Head

Designing the head was my absolute favorite part. First I drew a side profile and a top-down view of the head to scale. I cut out the two drawings from foamcore board and crossed them with each other to make a kind of guide.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Initial design drawing to figure out proportions and where scales should be.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Side profile of the head.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Top-down view of the head.

 I then filled up the foamcore with two $3 cans of Great Stuff Foam Spray to test out the carving method I've seen other cosplayers use for props. That stuff is crazy. It expands a ton.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Oodles of noodles?

Next I took a box cutter and started carving down to my guidelines and shaping out the big, bulbous eyes on top. I kept shaving away a little at a time to produce the skull of the dragon. When I was done, I noticed there were a lot of bubbles and gaps and it didn't have the amount of detail I was hoping for. I'm not sure what the plan was after that. Perhaps fill in the rough spots with Bondo? It would probably make it too heavy.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume


My next approach was to use the foam head as a base for a different material to be sculpted over it to create a hollow head. I tried out Worbla, but wasn't satisfied with the look of that either. I wanted to get all the nuances of scales and bumps but Worbla is just flat and really hard for me to shape and figure out.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Decided to use styrofoam balls for the eye shape.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Patterning fabric over the foam.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Final shape to transfer to Worbla.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

What a dragon head looks like when it's flattened.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Hmmm...well, let's see what it looks like when scales are added...

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

While it looks cool, it doesn't quite have the dimension I was hoping for.

Finally, I decided to visit Special Effect Supply in North Salt Lake, Utah. Here is their website. I knew if I just picked the brain of a professional I would get great ideas. I had thought about molding and casting but the guy said it would be pretty expensive in materials at the size I was planning to do. He suggested I sculpt the head from clay, then do a fiberglass shell coat over that and sand it. It made sense since the details I wanted to do were not very small or complicated. I bought a 45 lb box of Permaplast from them. My wallet said ouch...it was about $180. Still, I only used a couple pieces of it and there is tons left that I can use for other projects.

I again used the foam head for a base and cut a styrofoam ball in half to replace the original spray foam eyes. I laid a layer of clay over it and went to work. It was extremely therapeutic and I can't wait to sculpt again. It took about 4-5 hours and I was very pleased with how it turned out.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Initial marking to see where scales would go.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Lots of dimension added! I love it!

The fiberglass shell was the most time consuming and difficult part of the process. It was gooey, smelly, and you had to work very fast to get each layer on before it hardened. There were some gaps between layers and drips and just all kinds of craziness when it was done. I sanded for hours and hours to get it to a satisfactory smoothness. Thank goodness dragons are supposed to be rough and rugged anyway.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Post-sanding. Soooo much sanding...

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Also, cleaning out all the clay was a pain.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

I put Apoxie Sculpt in the thin places and smoothed out the sharp edges of the head.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Apoxie Sculpt filled in any imperfections or weak spots.


I spray painted a base coat of black, then added some gold and gray highlights to achieve more dimension. I really enjoyed figuring out how to highlight it so it looked cool.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Final product!

For the horns I used Astrofoam and cardboard to achieve the shape. Then I used a fun, easy technique to create the ridges. I merely took some rough ugly fabric with texture in it and made pleats in it and glued it onto the foam, smoothing down the raw edges with medical tape. Voila! Scaled horns. I spray painted them black and painted details on with acrylics.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

I primed the whole thing with Gesso since spray paint would just soak through the fabric. It still took several coats of spray paint to achieve desired results.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

The horns are attached to the head using metal ribbon called hanger tape, some wire and Apoxie Sculpt to hold it all together.

The harness was an interesting part to figure out. I had heard of the movie effects industry using something called a "corset harness" to attach things to. I made one and it's just a tank top that laces up at the sides and has sewn in channels to stick the PVC pipe rigging into. I crossed my fingers that it would all work out and I'm pleased to say that it did. I made sure to add foam padding to the shoulders to help me last longer while carrying the weight of the head.


legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

The channels haven't been sewn on yet, but they are just open-top rectangular pockets sewn to the outside of the tank top in four places.

 The PVC rigging in the harness was shaped using a heat gun, another cool technique I had heard about from other cosplayers. There were four pieces total, attached with L connectors and then taped together at the top. The PVC slips into channels in my corset harness so I can carry the weight of the head with my torso as well as my shoulders.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

You can see the blue foam pad for my head in the rig. Below that is the chin strap used to pull down the jaw. To the right is the inside of the corset harness opened up  with the shoulder pads added.

Inside the top of the head I put a huge wad of Apoxie Sculpt and placed 4 bolts into it before it cured. I drilled corresponding holes into the PVC and attached the head, then screwed nuts onto the bolts. For added strength I just placed even more Apoxie Sculpt over the PVC pipe and into the top of the head. I wasn't sure if it would work but it fortunately did.

The lower jaw of the dragon is made with a Worbla base covered in fabric. I wanted to try doing a moving jaw like I had in Lugia. I made hinges with hanger tape from the plumbing aisle. It's a metal ribbon with holes in it, super cheap and VERY useful for all kinds of stuff and comes in copper plated and steel. I used Apoxie sculpt to mount the hinges in the sides of the head, then put a bolt through the hinge and mounted it into the jaw.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume


The mechanism for moving the jaw is pretty simple, but didn't move it very far for the amount of effort I had to use in pulling it down. I put some foam on a rigid piece of plastic and drilled holes in the plastic for some wire. I mounted the wire to this and then the jaw. I used some elastic to make sure the jaw would return to the closed position when I relaxed. To move the jaw down I placed the foam/plastic piece under my chin and pulled down hard in a nodding motion.

The arms were made with two sleeves and some upholstery foam "muscles" sewn in and covered with some fun lava fabric. I scoured the internet for lava fabric for a time and turned up empty. One day I went to Hancock Fabric and there it was in the cotton quilting section! It was magnificent!

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Dragon muscles. Hawt.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Trilobites? Nope, just muslin patterning to figure out the scale spacing.

The hands are some homemade gloves with foam sewn in for the big dragon fingers and vinyl stuffed claws. It was fun play-fighting with them!

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Inner workings of the puffy fingers. 

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Plushie dragon claw will squeesh you!!

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

Luna, you just had to ruin my post-workout selfie! GOSH!!

The fabulous fire-hair is just tons of strips of different scrap fabrics cut in a jagged triangle chain pattern like you see in the game. I attached them to a piece of mesh that is attached with magnets to the back of the head.

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume


I had to really rush the neck and body covering process because I wanted to be ready for Salt Lake Comic Con. I did try to enter the cosplay contest too but their online system never confirmed my entry. Then I was just one person off in the standby line where I waited for hours just to be told I couldn't get in. It's the last contest I will attempt to be in for a while I think. It's just so much stress to compete. It's way more fun to travel the halls and play with other cosplayers!

I used some velcro to attach the red lava fabric and the yellow belly fabric up the sides so I could get in and out easily. It worked pretty well. The bottom of the costume is just some brown craft paper glued on hastily in the morning of the con. I think I will make more of a "dress" in the future to cover my pastey legs haha. I added a couple slits in the chest for visibility. Since the yellow fabric is a little see through, my visibility was actually really good! I was able to last 4 hours in the costume as the weight distribution was pretty even. As long as I didn't lean to any one side for two long, I was easily able to balance the whole rig.

Here are some fun photos of me messing around with some Link cosplayers! It was so fun to interact with them!

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume link

I boop...

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume link

YOUR NOSE!!!

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume link

Oh snap, I'm outnumbered now...

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume link

Found a red tunic Link! SO PERF!

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume link

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume link

Such a sweet Link cosplayer!

And here is my official Salt Lake Comic Con portrait <3

legend of zelda ocarina of time volvagia dragon fire temple boss cosplay costume

THOSE LEGGGGGS.

Can't wait to get some awesome Zelda shoots in with my friends, hopefully this summer!!!

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