Since my students enjoy the Despicable Me movies so much, I decided to create a "Minion Stu" costume as cheaply as humanly possible!
I decided that paper mache, while time consuming, would be the best because when layered, it's very strong - yet flexible. Adding colorful felt was a cheap and simple task, and could be applied using spray glue and staples. All in all, it took me a few nights to let the paper-mache dry completely, and another few hours to apply the felt and add the details.
For this costume, I used:
2 yds of yellow felt
2 yds of light blue felt
1 yd of dark navy blue (black) felt
Packaging / Duct Tape
Black permanent marker
Zip-Tie (plastic) tiedowns
Liquid-Nails adhesive caulk
Two old slip-type belts
The students loved it, and when I got home to greet the trick-or-treaters, "Minion Stu" sat by the front door and was the hit of the neighborhood!
Step 1: Initial Construction and Design
I figured the easiest way to get the round-top cylinder shape, was to take a cardboard box (already had on hand) and an exercise ball (already had on hand) and pop the ball into the box. Make sure you tape the box from the inside- I'll get to that later on. Then I took some thin posterboard and wrapped it to form the cylinder shape. Finally, I rough cut the cut into triangles to let them sit somewhat flat against the top curve. This isn't the most professional way, but it'll give you a "close-enough" result.
Step 2: Paper Mache Fun!
So I started wrapping the shape in thin strips of newspaper, overlapping several times and varying the direction to form a solid skin. I ended up having about six layers (let it FULLY dry before applying the next layer or you could get mold and it smells and falls apart!)
The paper mache recipe was very simple:
However much water you put in (cups), is the amount of flour you add. Then add a few tablespoons of salt - to cut down on mold - and mix together. It should feel like a slightly watered down pancake batter consistency. Usually I put in four cups of water with four cups of flour, and two or three tablespoons of salt.
Every layer thereafter, I made the strips a little bit bigger or wider. The last layer was actually thick strips of posterboard to really make it solid. An oscillating tower fan works wonders, especially when your workspace is next to the cat's litterboxes and the critters want to eat your creation!
Step 3: Shoulder Supports
It's very difficult to figure out where your arm holes should be without having your eye holes placed first. So, when the form is fully dry (knock on it, you'll know) Slide the cardboard and ball out the bottom of the form - undo the inside tape! and cut out your eye holes from the outside. I used a drywall saw, but any sharp object will work. From here, you can slip it over your head, and make the placement of your armholes (where your shoulders comfortably lay) . I marked them from the inside, then cut it out from there as well.
One of the most important things for something this size is adding shoulder straps or supports. If you build it thin enough to rest on your shoulders, fine. But in my case, it was about two inches bigger than my frame, plus I didn't want to carry it around all day.
Strap-type belts work very well in this case, and cutting a slit as wide as the belt at your shoulder height, then a second slit about three inches down, will allow you to slide the belt in, through itself, and repeat on the other side. The sliding motion also allows you to pull them as tight as can be, meaning it won't sag under its own weight.
Step 4: Goggles!
Here's the hardest part. Get ready.
Take your two gallon paint cans and try to draw the curve of the cylinder shape on the top. Use clippers or sharp scissors or even a box cutter knife to cut that same curve in the cans. I messed this up four times and eventually decided "close enough" was good enough. Duct tape works wonders when holding everything in place to glue.
I also forgot to leave some tabs to which I could glue them to the structure, so I had to go back and add some flaps. It was good though, since I was able to drill small holes into the flips and zip-tie them together. This proved to be MUCH stronger than simply gluing. I also spray painted the inside of the paint cans black for realism and zip-tied them together in the middle. These tabs could be bent to the curve of the structure too, glued, and then zip tied directly to the form itself! I ended up adding two more zip-ties to the top to keep them from tipping forward. Finally I used a LOT of liquid-nails type adhesive to glue the cans to the form itself. The glue takes a few hours to fully cure, but held very well since the paper-mache was porous.
Step 5: Felt Like a Champ :)
Okay, time to make this thing into a Minion!
Grab your felt, wrap it around the form, and trim it so there's practially no overlap. Since the top is a sphere, there's really no way to cut it so it's perfectly flat - unless you remember high school geometry (which I don't) so once again "good enough" is good enough. You can use the black felt goggles strap to even out the gap between the body felt and the head felt. Here I printed out some practice eyes and mouth to help me position where everything was going to go. Use the spray adhesive liberally, and fabric or felt glue to hold down the edges. When you add your hair, or other details, you'll use the same adhesives.
Examine pictures of Minions on the internet, and you'll see that the bottom is just a thick strip of blue, with two box shapes in the middle on the front and back, then shoulder straps. Cut them out of blue felt (try to match the pants you'll be wearing on the day if you can). Adding the sleeves proved difficult too. Minions should have tight sleeves but I knew that it would be HOT inside, and wanted some ventilation so i wrapped the same yellow felt into long cylinder shapes (measure your reach from your shoulders to wrist) and staple them from the inside while gluing liberally. The sleeves look a bit goofy but when your arms are in them, they look more natural.
Step 6: Finishing Touches :)
I printed out some eyes, glued them to the form within the paints, and cut out holes for me to see through that alligned with the holes already cut earlier. Then I looked up the "gru" symbol, and cut it out of the same black felt used for the goggles strap and hair. Buttons and other details were added. Black permanent marker can be used to draw in pockets and shadowing, and the smile.
Some simple black gloves add a nice touch, as do blue jeans and black shoes or sneakers.
Note: I used cheap felt which was cheap. Being cheap, it was VERY see-through. There's nothing wrong with see-through, but I'd suggest using white printer paper for your last paper-mache layer so you don't see anything underneath. In the photo below, you can see a LOT of newspaper showing through but I think it's just the lighting because it wasn't very noticeable in real life.
I purposely made his body long (i'm over 6 feet tall) so it minimized the visual height of my legs while I was in it. My students loved it, and I used him to attract trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood who all screamed "MINION!" and came to check Stu out. Ultimately yes, you could make a perfect smooth minion with great details and all, but there's something about that "handmade" look that really makes it fun.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO TRY NEW, CREATIVE THINGS!
Total cost: about 45 bucks and 10 hours labor. :)
Happy Halloween 2013!