Introduction: How to Make the Characters From Coco
Who better to grace your Halloween or Día de los Muertos celebration than the characters of Coco? Papa Julio, Tia Rosita, Tío Oscar, and Mama Imelda. Inviting them to your home is not as complicated as you might think!
- Sharp serrated knife and/or thin box cutter is best for the foam.
- Scissors for cutting felt, etc.
- Saw for cutting the wooden body frames
- Wire cutters for chicken wire and small-gage wire
- Drill / screw driver
- Paper print out of the characters' faces
- Glue gun (of course)
- Chicken wire
- small-gage wire (for fingers)
- Wood: 1"x2", 2"x2", 2x4", railroad tie, or whatever pallet wood you have on hand.
- Embellishments: felt (various colors), long strips of black fabric, wire-lined ribbon, plastic lei, shiny metallic paper, yarn.
- Straight pins
- Paint: white for skeleton frame, brown and/or black for shoes.
- Wood screws
- Clothing / fabric
- Glue sticks
Step 1: Bodies
Every character's body is about the same, just different proportions. Create these by varying the length of the spine, legs, shoulders, and hips. Use chicken wire will fill out the rest.
1. Create the basic frame. I could spend a lot of time on this part of the instruction or practically none. I'm opting for the latter. Hopefully there's enough detail in the pictures to figure it out. If you have ready-made skeletons in your closet - use them.
TIP: make sure the neck is extra long so it will reach well up into the foam skull.
2. Paint the frame white. (The neck and shoulders are the only parts that will be seen.)
3. Create the chicken wire body.
- Tuck and pinch the wire to make the different male and female shapes.
- Attach the chicken wire to the frames at the shoulders.
4. Create the ribs, sternum, and collar bones from strips of foam.
5. Use hot glue to connect the foam pieces to each other.
6. Attach the foam to the chicken wire chests using zip ties or string. You can even tuck the ribs into the chicken wire.
Step 2: Feet
I'm sure there are a lot of options for feet. These are primarily hidden under pant legs and dresses. The important thing is that they are heavy and keep the characters upright. Here's what I did:
1. Cut railroad ties into basic blocks, and then cut some angels to make them look more shoe-like.
2. Cut holes deep into the blocks. Make sure the legs fit snugly into the holes, otherwise, the characters will wobble. These holes were made with a drill - but a router would have been better. I added felt 'socks' to make sure the fit was snug.
3. Paint the shoes brown or black, if desired.
Step 3: Heads
Here's what makes these Coco characters!
Supplies: paper printouts, foam, and felt (black and pink).
1. Draw or download pictures of the characters and enlarge the heads to the size you need.
2. Cut out the eyes and nose of the print outs.
- For the men, cut out the mouth.
- For the ladies, do not cut the mouth. The lips are felt glued to the top layer of the skull.
3. Cut four layers of foam with the basic outline of the head, and then shave the foam to round the edges of the face and give the characters depth. Four layers should be good (depending on the thickness of the foam).
4. For the top layer of foam, cut out the eye and nose holes (and mouths for the male characters).
5. Put felt between the layer that has the cut outs and the next layer: black felt for the eyes and nose, and pink for the mouth.
6. Cut a notch in the second-to-last layer of the skull foam to insert the neck. Make sure it's a snug fit. Here's where it's important to have an extra-long neck. If the neck only goes a couple inches into the skull, the head will be wobbly and will likely fall off in a stiff breeze.
7. Glue the layers together.
Step 4: Detail the Heads
Supplies: felt (various colors), long strips of black fabric, wire-lined ribbon, plastic lei, shiny metallic paper, yarn, straight pins, and a glue gun.
1. Cut facial embellishments for the characters, including eyes, lips, rain-drop shaped forms, etc.
TIP: consider coordinating the color of the embellishments with the overall color scheme of the character. For example, Mama Imelda is purple and Tia Rosita is pink. Pay special attention to the eyes. They give expression to the characters, from Mama Imelda's scowl to Tia Rosita's sweetness. Add an extra dimension to the eyes by using an extra dot of white felt or a white-headed pin in the pupil.
2. Use a glue gun to attach felt embellishments, where applicable.
3. Make hair for the ladies. (I used fabric landscaping tape, because I had plenty on hand.)
- for Mama Imelda, I wrapped the black landscaping fabric around a strip of foam to give it thickness, and used that to frame the face. Then I looped the long ends of the fabric over the head to the back of the skull. Tacked it in place with pins and a bow made of wire-lined ribbon.
- for Tia Rosita, I wrapped the landscaping material around strips of foam, and then coiled the strips around the back of the head. Tacked them down with straight pins, wire, and glue. I also added a plastic lei for the flowers in her hair and large hoop earrings made of metallic paper.
- Papa Julio's mustache is yarn. Tío Oscar's mustache (shown on a previous section) is a thin strip of felt.
TIP: add glue to the various layers of Papa Julio's mustache yarn to help it keep it's shape. Attach it to the face with pins and glue.
Step 5: Hands and Arms
The hands are pretty nifty, if I do say so myself. Made with wire and foam, the hands are poseable and can (lightly) grip things.
1. Cut palms in a modified polygon.
2. Cut finger bones from small rectangles of foam. Snip the edges to make them more rounded.
3. Assemble the fingers using a thin gage wire with a hooked end.
TIP: make sure at least some of the finger wires are long enough to pass all the way through the palm to the wrist and into the arm bones.
4. Cut the forearms from longer strips of foam. Remember that the ulna bone is thinner than the radius.
5. Attach the hands to the arm. The Pinkie is on the ulna (thinner) side of the forearm.
TIP: tape the finger wires (at the wrist) together so they will more smoothly go into the forearm.
6. Create the upper arm (humerus) and shoulder from a corner piece of foam, if possible.
TIP: notch the under-side of the top of the arm so that the shoulder board fits into it. That makes for a nice looking shoulder.
7. Attach the forearm to the humerus using a zip tie, string, or wire.
Step 6: Dress the Characters
Goodwill Industries or other resale shops offer inexpensive options for clothing your characters.
- All of Papa Julio and Tío Oscar's clothing and hats came from Goodwill. Tío Oscar's cobbler's apron was cut from a funky brown leatherette skirt.
- Tia Rosita's dress is little more than a tablecloth with a decent neckline, cinched at the waste with a strip of blue cloth, and a darker blue cloth thrown over her shoulder for accent.
- Mama Imelda's dress deserves a little more pizzazz. It's all about the fabric - something shiny and sparkly is nice. If you are moderately handy with fabric, making the ruffle is easy. The rest of it is mostly just draping and pinning, plus a coordinated purple choker.
Enjoy Halloween with family - the living and the dead.
Feliz Día de los Muertos!
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