Halloween is my favorite holiday by far. And the best thing about it is always making my costume. In the past couple years my big costumes have been a bobblehead of myself and Powdered Toast Man. This year I wanted to outdo each of those with another costume that involved wearing some sort of massive head gear, and my favorite Futurama character, Hypnotoad, seemed like a good bet.
A cursory google search didn't turn up any previous iterations of this costume, which surprised me, so I decided to document the creation process and put this out there for anyone else who wanted to be the most influential character in the Futurama universe.
Full instructions, supply list, tools, more pictures, and a video after the jump.
- Corrugated cardboard, any old boxes will do
- 2 yards of white cotton flannel. You can also use any other cheap natural fabric you find at the fabric store. Note: felt, which is polyester, cannot be used because it cannot be dyed with standard dyes.
- Procion MX fabric dye. I used the 2/3oz containers of antique gold, chocolate brown, ecru and bright scarlet. It can be bought online or at many art stores. Neither Joann or Michael's carries these in my area.
- 4-6 tbsp Urea (just get the smallest packet you can buy. It’s dirt cheap in any case)
- Around a cup of Soda Ash (Sodium Carbonate, not bicarb) Again, it’s cheap, just get the small bag.
- White long sleeved tshirt. Stick to cotton, this should be a couple bucks at Target.
- White (or light gray) sweatpants. Again, cotton.
- Fill/stuffing, I just cut open a $0.99 Gosa Slan pillow from ikea. That was cheaper than buying fill from a fabric store. You might even be able to get away with crumpled up newspaper.
- 2 mini plasma globes (or lightning balls or whatever you want to call them) I used these from amazon because they were prime eligible. With a little more foresight I could have gotten much cheaper ones from China on ebay, but I couldn’t wait for them to ship.
- 12V battery (or 6V if you buy a USB plasma globe) I used a 12V 5Ah battery from amazon
- any cheap switch from radio shack
- 2x 4” (100mm) clear, refillable Christmas tree ornaments like these (you only need 2, and you can find them cheaper and in smaller packages than 12 on ebay)
- black electrical tape
- scotch tape
- purple leash
- scrap aluminum flushing or tin foil
- old bike helmet
- printer paper
- 1 wire coat hanger
- hot glue gun
- a good pair of scissors
- xacto knife
- 2 pr pliers
- diagonal cutters
- soldering iron if you want to be all fancy.
- utility sink
- 4 containers (large yogurt containers or jars work well)
- empty spray bottle
- 1” foam brush
- pencil and paper
- latex or rubber gloves
First step: Sketch it out! It’s always a good start to put your thoughts down on paper. I’m a fan of having an head on, profile and top-down view of anything I make. ¾ would be nice too, but it’s hard to draw…
Once you’re happy with your sketch, tape 4 pieces of printer paper together to make one big 17x22 sheet of paper. It’s ok if it’s not exactly square, but don’t overlap the pieces along the long axis. Now place your bike helmet about 2/3 of the way back on the paper, and draw out the circumference of hypnotoad’s head around the helmet.
Which shape do you like better, the L or the right half? Pick one, then fold the sheet lengthwise with your pencil markings out. Cut along the line from your favorite side. Viola, symmetry!
Tape down the paper form you just made on a piece of cardboard. This cardboard should not have any folds in it. I used a pizza box lid. My form fit just right when turned diagonally. Now trace the form out onto the cardboard. Remove the form and cut along that line with your exacto.
Now place your helmet on that piece of cardboard and move it to where you think you’d like your head to be inside hypnotoad’s. Roughly trace the outline of the helmet (don’t worry about symmetry here) and cut out a hole in the cardboard slightly smaller than the circle you just drew. Try to wedge your helmet down in there so that the cardboard makes a nice brim. It shouldn’t fit, but keep enlarging the hole little by little until the helmet nestles in there just right. Hot glue it in place. (Note: Use the low temp setting on your glue gun to glue onto foam, high temp may just melt the foam)
Next: Make a vertical, longways (that’s sagittal for you medical types, or like a Mohawk for the rest of you) cardboard form that matches your profile drawing and fits over your helmet. Glue in place.
Now make 5 or 6 perpendicular ribs of varying sizes (using the same trick with folded white paper to make a stencil and make sure they’re symmetrical) to round out the shape of Hypnotoad’s head. Cutting a slot in the bottom of each rib and the top of the mohawk where the rib will fit will let you fit them together. Glue them all in place. You should have something that looks like this:
Now glue on the plasma globes and run 2-3’ of their power cords through a hole in the helmet.
This next step is optional, but I was convinced that I’d smack my head on a door frame and wanted some insurance against shattered glass everywhere. Take two of those clear plastic Christmas ornaments. Dremel a semicircular hole in the bottom of each half of 2 plastic, spherical Christmas ornaments. You should now be able to snap the halves together over the top of the plasma globes. Align the plastic globe so that the plasma sphere is in the center and glue the plastic globes into place. Then cut irregular pupils out of electrical tape and stick them on each globe.
I then cut little crescents out of the cardboard to go behind the eyes and make the raised back of the eye socket. These were glued to the base of each plasma globe as well.
Get your white felt cloth, lay it over your frame and start gluing it to the ribs, while filling the empty space with pillow stuffing as you go. I did this in three sections, the front (in front of the eyes), the back ( behind the eyes) and then the section that contained the eyes on its own. Make sure you leave a good 18 inches hanging off the back and trim away the excess cloth.
Now take your coat hanger and bend it into the shape of the lower jaw with a small loop on each end. Also make two small (1cm diameter) loops out of coat hanger and one hook about 2 inches long. Connect the loops at the end of each side of the jaw to one of the small free loops. Glue the free loops to the underside of the cardboard brim around the helmet where you’d like the joint of the jaw to be. You should now have a lower jaw that opens and closes.
Take your remaining white fabric and glue it to the lower jaw so that it will hang down over the front of your neck. Glue the sides of this to the fabric hanging down off the back and trim the excess to make hypnotoad’s neck. Cut a piece of fabric to cover the underside of the upper jaw and glue that on. About 2 inches in front of the jaw joint on one side, cut a hole in the fabric and cardboard and stick the coat hanger hook in. You will be able to hang the jaw on this hook to keep it mostly closed, or drop it off the hook to open it up for eating, drinking, whatever. Adjust the height of the hook to your preference and glue it into place.
Congrats! You’ve got an all white hypnotoad head ready for dyeing! I recommend prewashing the shirt and sweatpants so that the dye will take better. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to dye. I recommend wearing gloves for all the steps involving dye. You should also do this outside or in a well ventilated garage with some sort of drop cloth down.
Mix up your four dyes in separate containers by dissolving 1 tbsp of urea in 1 cup of warm water. Then add 2tsp of dye to that solution. Mix well. Dyes like this will last about a week without refrigeration, you will later add the soda ash, at which point the dye will only last an hour or two, so don’t add that until you’re 100% ready to go.
Hang the shirt and pants up on a clothesline or hangers and make some sort of stand for the head. I used three brooms taped together in a tripod.
Now mix 1tsp of soda ash into the Ecru dye. Once it is mixed, pour the dye into your spray bottle. Carefully spray the lower jaw and front side of the neck as well as the belly of the shirt with the ecru dye. You can dump the ecru dye and clean out the spray bottle now.
Now moving on to the antique gold, mix in 1 tsp of soda ash, move into a clean spray bottle. Spray the rest of the head (other than the inside of the mouth) and the rest of the shirt that has not already been dyed ecru.
Mixing up the chocolate brown dye in the same fashion, spray the entirety of the sweatpants brown. I needed to mix up 2 batches of brown dye to get everything.
I used a foam brush to paint on all the chocolate brown and scarlet details, which subsequently bled like crazy. I would recommend masking the areas you wanted to detail and then spraying them, but that’s a lot more work and I was feeling lazy.
So I dipped a 1” foam brush in brown dye (with soda ash) and painted the brown spots on the head, neck, and shirt. Then I cleaned the brush and painted the inside of the mouth bright scarlet. Painting with the edge of the brush was easier than with the flat side.
After finishing the shirt, I put it in a plastic grocery bag with a wet paper towel and microwaved it for a total of 4 minutes, with 1 minute in the microwave, 1 minute cooling, and back and forth. I did the same with the pants.
I let the head dry on its own (during this period all my fine detail work bled to crap, but whatever).
Once the shirt and pants were nuked, I let them cool on their own and then rinsed them individually in cold water until the water ran clear. Do this in a utility sink if you can, there’s a lot of dye run-off. Once they ran clear I washed them in hot water (again by hand) with a small bit of detergent. Once that ran clear I threw them in the dryer for a cycle.
Once the head is dry, you can glue the purple leash to the bottom edge of the neck. You can also cut dog tags out of scrap aluminum flushing or cover some cardboard with tin foil.
Lastly, you need to wire up the plasma globes (and then you’re done!) The plasma globes I bought ran off 12V 300mA power supplies. USB plasma globes (the other seemingly prevalent type out there) run on 5V 100mA, but I have read that they will handle 6V just fine. So with 12V plasma globes you need a 12V battery. To figure out the capacity you need, take the number of hours you want your eyes to run, and multiply it by .6 (300mA x2) to get the correct amp hour rating. With usb plasma globes you can use a 12V battery and wire the globes in series or you can buy a 6V battery and wire them in parallel.
I wired my globes in parallel. To do that, wire all the + wires from the globes and battery in one bundle, and all the – wires in another. If you are a fancy pants, solder your connections. I just stripped the wire, twisted and wrapped in electrical tape. It worked fine. I also wired a SPDT switch into the + wire coming from the battery so that I could easily turn the eyes on and off. Connect the wires to the battery (red is +) and you should be golden!
I kept the battery in a fanny pack under the costume and used a spare pillow to puff out my belly.
And here's a video of the costume in action at a party. Turn down your sound if you don't want to be blasted with dance music.