My first home built costume was Boba Fett for Halloween back in 1997. Ever since I saw the original trilogy, Star Wars has been a huge part of my life and influenced me to pursue a career as a stop motion animator and sculptor. Once my Powdered Toast Man cosplay was complete, I knew I wanted to challenge myself with something bigger and that had rarely/never been seen before. And it had to be from Star Wars for good measure.
For a little history, while pre-production for Return of the Jedi was underway in the 1980s, Dennis Murren and ILM experimented with using a “man in a suit” technique like the Godzilla costume to bring the Rancor monster to life on film. After some tests, they concluded that the suit was not believable enough and a rod-puppet would give a much more realistic effect.
The rancor seemed like the perfect challenge for me. It was an amazing monster from Star Wars and gave me a great opportunity to build something crazy with an interesting history. I started roughly a year ago researching the character, downloading any behind the scenes images, freeze-frames from the movie, and finding fan art to figure the out the proportions, bone structure, and ways to add believable movement to the design. I also found toys to be a huge help to wrapping my head around the shape.
I approached my design from a creature fx or wearable puppet stand point. I didn’t want to look like a “guy in a suit” as much as possible; so I added in features like a swaying head, opening jaw, and articulated fingers into the design. Since I plan on wearing it to conventions, I’m adding fans and ventilation to be design to help stay cool as much as possible.
It’s been a huge learning experience and challenge to work on something this large when my background is building small miniature puppets. There’s a whole different level of engineering needed to build and support something so heavy and affected by gravity, not to mention I need to constantly check to make sure it fits through the door of my studio! Wear and tear is also a huge concern since it needs to have a range of motion without ripping or breaking down.
The overall shape and structure of the costume is done using bent PVC, EVA foam and the head/jaw have been sculpted and cast in light WonderFlex. At the moment, I’m attaching the head sculpt to the jaw mechanism and finishing the back scales. Soon I hope to construct the hand mechanism and build the arms and legs. Once the body is built, i’ll use fabric to give the loose skin and airbrush it to match the puppet. I also have few surprises in store once I get that far.
Originally posted in 2016. I follow Jeremy to SDCC to premiere his costume.