In addition to making my Mia Wallace costume last year, I also helped Toby with his Doc Brown costume. He’s got a bug for creating replicas of elaborate costumes and props – a couple years back he made an accurate Ghostbusters proton pack, this year he’s building a Barf from Spaceballs costume for a friend with functioning ears and tail. Last year it was the outfit that Doc wears in Back to the Future when Marty travels back in time and visits him for the first time. Marty arrives at his doorstep and Doc opens the door wearing a large “mind reading” contraption on his head.
Toby spent a long time researching this device – figuring out what to use for parts, collecting numerous screen grabs from the movie, etc. Then he and I hashed out a plan to build it… which was tricky. It’s basically a geodesic dome shape. To wrap our heads around it I built a mini dome model out of skewers and duct tape to fully understand how this thing was put together. It was kind of helpful.
Fun fact: I keep all my old notebooks that I use…like, all of them. And I use a TON of them. I like to call myself a “hoarganizer” – I hoard things, but keep everything very organized. So I was easily able to locate the notebook that had these drawings in it from last year just a moment ago. They were filed under old notebooks… the graph paper kind… that flip over the top rather than open like a book. Anyways, back to the helmet. Here are some of my sketches:
Then came the math… oh the math. I felt like a mad scientist trying to figure this out. I had to fudge and guess with a lot of it, and plus with the materials we were using, accuracy was nearly impossible. So basically I had to figure out what to make first, which would then determine the dimensions of the rest of it. So we made a foam helmet piece that would rest on his head, which was NOT a perfect circle, and started there. We bent a piece of steel around the perimeter and over the top. Next we assembled what we called the “elec-chodes” which were made out of clear acrylic tube, red wire, and round blocks I painted to look like stacks of washers… first we tried stacking real washers (I forget how many needed to be in each stack, but it was a lot) but quickly realized that the helmet would weigh 800lbs if we did this. So we opted for some lighter material faux painted to look like metal. On the ends of the elec-chodes we used 2″ pvc couplings and mounted small plastic bottles inside. Once the chodes were done I attached them to the round steel base.
Next up was to make and attach those flying buttress pieces. This is where the real nightmare began. Getting the angles and dimensions right was crazy (see above sketches). I had to number all the chodes and then figure out 2-3 buttress pieces for each one. Everything was labeled in tape with numbers and letters. We meticulously cut the buttresses out of cintra – each piece had to be just a little different from the next to make up for the inaccurate circle we were basing the whole thing on. I had to even find and use a PROTRACTOR for this part! I hadn’t used one of those since high school.
We had to put a heat gun on the ends of the plastic buttress, put them in a clamp and bend them 90 degrees to get the edge that butted up against the chode. Then they were painted silver and I riveted them in place. This whole part was just insane.
Next up was the lights. Toby took some battery powered LED christmas lights and wired them around the helmet. Some fake extra wires were added to match the original.
Then we got the idea from those stupid hats that have hair in them so when you put it on it looks like yo have dreads or whatever, to attatch Doc’s hair in the helmet, so that whoever wears it would be all set.
The rest of the costume was vintage clothing store finds – the jacket we got at Jet Rag on La Brea, the shirt and pants and tie from thrift shops, and the shoes were also from a thrift store and we painted them to have the white tops.
Toby did his own makeup and looked frighteningly similar to Doc Brown. This costume blew everyone away everywhere we went. It also became very popular on the internets and his pictures wound up on many geeky cosplay sites. He was also featured this year in a gallery on Reddit of best costumes from last year.
So this year he’s spending his time helping a friend with the epic Barf costume. I’m going as a functioning Fembot from Austin Powers. I’ll keep you posted with how those turn out.