Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Since it's Halloween time, a little trip down Big Daddy memory lane. Part 1

halloween parade_071031_05.JPGThought I would post a few links and relate the story from last year when we made that sweet-ass Bioshock Big Daddy costume. Bioshock, for those who may not know, is a first-person video game that was originally released for the Xbox360, but has been rereleased on the PS3. Set in an underwater utopian city gone horribly wrong called Rapture. The environments are beautiful art-deco inspired vistas, and the story with its themes on personal responsibility and morality is one of the best I've experienced in interactive entertainment.

One of the main icons of the game are the characters of Big Daddy and Little sister. Mona and I loved playing that game. Mona had been known to create a sweet costume or two , so come Halloween costume time, Mona thought, wouldn't it be sweet if we could go as Big Daddy and Little Sister? Oh yes. It would. And it would also be a tremendous undertaking.

We had no idea where to start. We looked online for costumes, but found that no one at that point had really made anything beyond the cardboard and aluminum foil mockups. I wasn't going to settle for a half-assed costume. If I was going to do it, then I was going all out, and make one better than anything out there. In my early years (cause I'm oh so old now), I was very interested in special effects and horror makeup, and mildly obsessed with classic ILM and considered making a career out of it. I had experience sculpting little stop-motion puppets and the like (I majored in stop-motion in my short Pratt Institute career), and with both Mona and me as artists and designers, I knew we could do this. I took it as a personal challenge to make the best damn Big Daddy I possibly could.

So during those three months, I documented the construction process on my Flickr site.

bigdaddymakingof_071103_25.JPGbig-daddy_071027_19.JPGMe working on the domebigdaddy_071023_09.JPGbig-daddy_071028_33.JPGbigdaddymakingof_071103_09 (1).JPG

We made the suit for the annual 2007 NYC Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, and let me tell you, I was working down to the wire.

We had started in August, with no idea of how or from what to construct this thing. Three months of trial and error and about $500 later, I was painting on patina as I called a cab to take me to the parade lineup. Getting there wasn't fun either. Mona was working (being a weekday) and so it was just me transporting the huge suit. I was going to have to cab drop me off near Mona's office, which was 21st street and 5th Ave, a block from the parade route on 6th Ave (but, about 12 blocks or so from the actual parade start).

I barely fit the thing into a Lincoln Continental, traffic was crazy, and once on 5th Ave, we couldn't get back to Mona's office because of police barricades. Which would have been fine, but Mona had come down to meet me to help me move the suit, and had left half her Little Sister costume upstairs. Eventually  she convinced the cop to let her go back (she had just walked out from the barricade past the guy a few minutes earlier.

Eventually, with much effort fighting through crowds we made it to the lineup. At this point, I had purchased some bulk industrial red glow sticks, and we proceeded to spend a good 20 minutes cracking, cutting open, and pouring the glowing goo into Mona's Little Sister ADAM syringe. It looked sweet, though I'm surprised I didn't lose a finger. You're not exactly supposed to cut open glowsticks, and they certainly don't make it easy to do so.

So, the parade was starting, I suited up and realized I couldn't see a thing. The portholes I was using for visibility were practically useless. In the cool night air, with the heat from the dome lights and me all breathing and stuff, condensation built up to the point that I had zero visibility. Not even like, some; a little; a tiny bit: none. Yay design flaw. Live and learn. Thanks to rob5408 for taking the below pic at the lineup.

This was my prototype suit. I ended up replacing the black paper painter's suit with a sweet, stretchy, XXLarge old man grampa jumpsuit . Jumpsuits rule.

After another couple hours of shuffling along completely blind in the huge mass of smushed people that is the parade lineup with only Mona and our friend Daniel to guide me we finally got to the actual parade. I drilled many people. Unintentionally, of course. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm told the parade was fun, with lots of neat costumes. At one point Mona and I were walking by a float playing Prince, so we started dancing.

But all I could think about was, dear god, kill me now. End it. Big old lightning bolt. Bzt. Kthxbai.

By the time we got to the actual parade, I'd already spend two hours or so in the suit, sweating profusely (attractive eh?) thanks to the cotton batting I used to bulk up the non-breathable painter's suit. Thankfully, my parents own a campground and at one point had a big beaver (get your mind out of the gutter, perv) as a mascot for going on hayrides with kids and the like, and had an ice vest that is made for cooling down people in stuffy suits. I had them dig it out of storage and mail it to me in advance. Thank god for that. I'm sure I would have passed out otherwise.

In tests during construction, I hadn't worn the suit longer than a few minutes at a time, and it was perfectly comfortable. After three hours of getting knocked around by careless or drunk paraders and an intense dehydration headache, it was less so. All the weight was placed on shoulder straps, but the weight of the suit ended up making the vinyl settle a bit, so my head and neck also took a lot of the weight. Next time, a waist strap belt to take the bulk of the suit weight.

After 20 blocks or so, I had to bail out. Walking to the train and riding the subway home was also fun.
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A shopkeeper in Astoria really like my astronaut costume. After a couple days, things started happening in the internets.

Here's the post that started it all.

Spectacular Bioshock Big Daddy/Little Sister Halloween Costume! [Pics] 
My friend and her boyfriend, known for great game-themed costumes, created Big Daddy/Little Sister costumes that easily trump any others I've seen. The hand-made Big Daddy lights up from inside its dome, and Little Sister even has ADAM! Click to go back to the gallery page for a lot more photos.
Incidentally, this was posted on digg by our friend Rob Sheridan . He works for a band you might have heard of. This ended up on the front page of digg.

Which led to someone submitting our pic to's Halloween costume contest claiming to be us. CH found us on Flickr and contacted us to see if we were the ones who entered or not. They corrected the submission info and we ended up getting second place (behind bender no less).


The CH staffer who contacted me was Jeff Rubin, who also does interviews and videos for the site. He asked if he could interview me about the costume, so he and some other CH staffers trekked to Astoria and there you go :

From there, things got quiet. For a while. Until I got this email:

Hey there,
I’m Community Manager at 2K Games, and I’m tracking you down because of your amazing Big Daddy costume. Two questions: First, do you still have the costume, and second, are you available around the dates of December 6th through 8th?
 Next time, I'll write about the insanity that was Las Vegas and the Video Game Awards. Until then, here's a little sneak peak :

Me as Big Daddy with Ken Levine and Greg Gobi at the Spike VGAs

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