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World of WarCrafts: Inside the body of a dragon


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In the words of one costumed BlizzCon-goer, creating a convention costume represents "a heart-wrenching story of PVC, fabric and hot glue." We suspect Theodorick of Gurubashi-US was being facetious when he described his 2009 BlizzCon cosplay journey thusly, but his comment went deeper than mere humor. What we found beneath the one-liner showed more heart than even Theodorick suspected was within: hard work, passion, persistence, humor, long hours ... You name it, cosplayers pour their hearts into their creations.

While Theodorick – known at BlizzCon 2009 as Sartharion -- wasn't among the finalists at this year's contest, his enthusiasm certainly can't be beat. We visited with Theodorick to learn what went into his BlizzCon creation. Follow us after the break for a behind-the-scenes gallery of Sartharion's creation plus a full accounting of the costume's assembly.

Theodorick's BlizzCon Sartharion costume was four weeks in the making, two on the body and two more on its skin. "I started thinking about the design early this year, around February when things were slow at work," he recalls. "I wanted to do a classic two-man costume like the horse but substituting a barnyard creature for a dragon. Although I think that I've managed to get the look I was going for, I also think that I missed out on a couple of key design elements that would have made the costume a little more epic."

When none of his friends stepped forward to "bring up the rear" (so to speak) for a two-man costume, Theodorick started sketching out plans for a solo project. Once his BlizzCon tickets were in hand, work began in earnest. "I figured out when I would have to start construction, giving myself four weeks of work on weekends and after work each night to get this done. I started construction around the third week of July, buying a metal-framed backpack off of Craigslist."

Gallery: Theodorick's Sartharion Costume | 27 Photos

With that relatively unspectacular beginning, he wove his way through a gauntlet of design and construction. In his own words:
  • I stripped the frame of the actual backpack and then gathered some ½-inch PVC pipe and the requisite tools and began fabricating a simple rectangular frame that attached to the backpack via some PVC fittings custom altered to mate to the backpack frame. And duct tape, lots of duct tape (which held up).
  • I created the frame, added mounting points for the tail, the back legs (later discarded backstage at BlizzCon) and the head. The costume had to be modular in order to fit in my little Honda Fit, the car we would be driving down to Anaheim (about 80 miles from my house), so the dragon came in several pieces: the frame/body, the tail, the head, the wings and the failed legs.
  • After building the PVC skeleton, I moved on and cutout body inserts, rigid insulating foam (from the Home Depot) cut into ovals with notches to fit in the skeleton. I wrapped chicken wire around this to create the body frame.
  • I purchased some topiary foam from Michael's (a craft store) and sculpted/carved out the dragon head (and eventually the spikes and teeth). The head was mounted onto a PVC head frame (once again with duct tape), and the frame of the costume was essentially done.
  • I created rear legs complete with feet on casters, but I failed in my implementation. The legs had only two mounting points to the skeleton and were apt to move around, to slide from under the body. If I had gone with a four-point mounting system, I'm certain that I could have overcome this issue -- but such is life.
The backpack, frame and body cost somewhere in the $80-$90 range – some 60 or 70 feet of PVC piping along the way. The framing process took about two weeks. Then it was time to start on the body. Theodorick armed himself with copious yardage of black quilted fabric and gold fabric. He also pitched in for a new sewing machine: "I had hand-sewn a bear Druid costume for last year's BlizzCon and wanted no more of that."
  • I essentially started fitting up fabric to the body, cutting out blanks and then joining the pieces together. The tan panels on the body we actually sewn onto batting and stuffed with poly-fill, giving those sections of the body a "scale/ridge" look. I put that together, ensured that holes would be in the correct places for the wing mounting and leg mounting, and started sewing, stuffing and joining.
  • I repeated this for the tail and then sewed Velcro onto adjoining surfaces. The main body actually wraps around the frame and Velcros to itself. The tail Velcros to the body. The body and head Velcro to each other, so on and so forth.
Despite the workload, Theodorick kept at it regularly, taking a few nights away from his project only the during the week when he proposed to his girlfriend. "She said yes," he adds.
  • I began working on the head, attaching the head spikes and determining how to skin the head. This was a long and laborious process of fitting up scraps of material, pinning material to the foam of the head and itself and generally bumbling my way through.
  • Eventually, I ended up with a body, tail and head that were sewed, Velcroed and ready to go. This was about three days before BlizzCon. From there, I started on the finishing touches, creating the tail-spike ball, painting eyes, creating dragon feet creating teeth. Oh, all the teeth and spikes are actually foam that was covered in caulking and then painted. Works surprisingly well.
  • As things came together, I finalized Velcro locations and created the wings. The wings are designed to flap (and do), but they were always difficult to operate inside of the costume. I ended up routing the wires controlling the wing incorrectly backstage and was never able to get them to operate while at BlizzCon. If you search for "dragon wing" on YouTube you'll find the video that I used as an inspiration for the wings.
  • The night before BlizzCon, everything was done -- all of the fabrication at least. I had built my dragon feet to a minimum of what's acceptable, and I then I started spray painting. I painted the ridges on the costume a red-black hue to evoke, well, a red-black color. The body itself was painted red; when you look at an angle, you can see a slight reddish hue to the body (apparent in a few photos from you and Joystiq). By then it was 1:30 in the morning, so I called it a night and went to sleep.
Just getting the costume into BlizzCon for the contest was a feat in itself. "The dragon stayed in the car until the costume contest came up," he recounts. "I grabbed my fiancee and our guild's main tank, and a Blizzard employee (bless this guy) helped me secure temporary parking in front of the convention center to unload and transport the costume to the stage area. It took three of us and me a lot of running back and forth, but we got the costume where it needed to be -- and I got no parking tickets."

All in all, here's the Sartharion costume final tally:
  • 4 weeks build timeframe
  • 60 hours fabrication (estimate)
  • ~$180 for materials (not including the sewing machine)
  • 7 yards of black fabric
  • 4 yards of gold fabric
  • 70 feet of PVC piping
  • Frame backpack
  • Florists' foam
  • Foam eyes
  • Slippers
  • Black sweatpants
  • 60-70 hot glue sticks
  • Duct tape
  • "The incredible patience of my fiancée"
Congrats, Theodorick, on both the costume and the fiancée!

Next week, World of WarCrafts jumps from BlizzCon to DragonCon for more cosplay action, plus we'll show you how to curl up with a purr-worthy WoW-themed hoodie.

World of WarCrafts is looking for WoW filkers. (What's that? If you're unsure, you're not one - but stay tuned, because we'll track one down and show you the scene!) Filkers, contact us via our tips line (attention: World of WarCrafts) - not-for-profit work only, please.

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