There have been many movies lately with dragons spotlighted and it’s been on my mind. When we saw the Disney movie Maleficent, my son said, “Dad, let’s build a dragon for our Halloween costumes!” So I started to think about how I could do that, I knew I wanted to build something big and imposing. After researching dragons online, I realized it needed to be bigger and more than just one person, so we decided to make it a group costume.
I started about two months ago creating the dragon head. I used chicken wire as a base for the frame of the dragon. I then applied many layers of paper mache to make it strong and used cardboard to reinforce it structurally in certain areas. After all the layers had solidified, I spray painted it black. I then started on the detail work using dozens of empty rolls of toilet paper to form the teeth in the jaws, and the spikes on the back and sides of the neck. I knew that it needed a lot of unique details.
I cut the bottoms out of a two liter pop bottle and used those as the shape of the eyes, I hot glued them into place and then put some green cellophane tissue paper behind the clear pop bottle eyes. I then placed a battery operated headlamp in each eye socket that was held on a cardboard shelf. I then reached my hand up the mouth to turn on each eye. The light behind the green tissue paper made the eyes glow a scary green, the effect turned out great! The whole head was about four ft tall and sat on my shoulders, I cut a section out of it’s chest so that I could see out, which I then covered with black screen material. I painted the inside of the mouth a fluorescent yellow and painted details on the spikes and ears with purple and green fluorescent paint.
On the horns, I wrapped them in black foam paper to give it more texture and painted details on the horns as well. Also, I made a tongue out of orange foam paper. I hot glued some green fabric on the chest of the dragon to look like his scales and chest armor, and purple fabric in between the spikes on the dragon’s neck.
I originally thought I would create a Chinese dragon type construction and have two people behind me under a sheet for the body, but I realized that would be hard for them to walk underneath a sheet, especially since I would be the head and wouldn’t be able to see that well either. So I decided to have them be two separate body parts and we would just walk close together. I created “hats” which were to represent the spikes down the back of the dragon. I attached pieces of cardboard to bike helmets for my “body and tail” assistants to wear.
I then painted those spikes black and detailed it out with fluorescent paint and the matching green and purple fabric. I created a “tail” which slipped over my son’s head and rested on his shoulders like a dinner plate. We draped black cloth over the cardboard to cover it up and left the tail sticking out for him to “wag” around. I also created claws out of cardboard that my hands slipped into like gloves. They reached up to my elbows and had amazing claws that I painted black and fluorescent.
For the middle body section, the dragon needed wings, my nephew agreed to help out. I created two wings that were about six feet each. I created a frame using white PVC pipe, similar to the shape of a V upside down. I then hot glued foam pipe insulation to the top of the PVC pipe to give it some more width. We attached this amazing green fabric that looked like scales onto the frame using pins and hot glue. My nephew slipped his arms between the fabric and help up the wings to flap around. They were large, but not that heavy. He would stand behind me and extend the wings out for the full effect.
The dragon looked great, but it was missing just a bit more. I was able to get a Bluetooth speaker placed inside the dragon’s head on another shelf I made out of cardboard and connected it to my phone on which I played a dragon roar sound. The sound echoed out of the dragon’s head and was very impressive, I should have been wearing ear plugs; it was so loud.
The best part of the whole costume was the portable fog machine I was able to create with the help of my dad. He got a mayonnaise type bottle and cut a hole out of top and attached a plastic hose which was about 2″ in diameter. He ran the plastic hose up inside the dragon head and then into 1″ irrigation pipe which came out the nostrils. I had a tool belt around my waist, hidden under my black robe which I carried the bottle. I put water in the bottle and then added a couple of pieces of dry ice and screwed the lid. The dry ice created fog that spiraled out of the nostrils. It was amazing to see, it was so simple, yet the outcome was more than I could hope for.
Everyone was amazed at the dragon and its massive scale. We attended a costume contest and won. The full effect of the three parts, the wings, the glowing eyes, the sound and to top it off with the steam coming out of the nostrils was incredible. Everyone was trying to figure out how the fog machine worked and how the eyes were glowing. We stood around for quite a while so that people could take their picture with us. It was so realistic, lots of little kids were frightened.
This costume was amazing to see come together. I literally spent months, days, and hours creating this. It continued to change and evolve as the process went along, we had setbacks along the way, such as while it was outside drying, a gust of wind came and blew it over and broke part of the jaw off. But all the time and setbacks were worth it to create something as unique and fierce as this dragon. I thank you for the opportunity to share my work and hope that you enjoy sharing it with others to help inspire their next Halloween creation.