Thursday, September 07, 2017

Magic Wheelchair: Nightmare Playgrounds style

It has been years since posting here.  But that is because of a lot of cool things happening in my life and my horrible ability at documenting.  Nightmare Playgrounds got involved in a very cool charity recently.   I want to make sure I document it and the folks who made it possible.

Magic Wheelchair ( ) is a phenomenal charity that matches cool kids who are in wheelchairs to builders who create an elaborate costume that the kids want.  It is like make-a-wish meets Halloween meets Syfy's FaceOff.  I was given Zoe, a beautiful little girl who was going to be Supergirl.  Her biggest request was to have a cape.

However, due to scheduling of other responsibilities (a wedding) and being involved in a Tombstone and props class with the amazing Davis Graveyard I had a really tight deadline.  I only had three weekends to get it done.  Did I mention she lives in the LA area....and I live in Northern California? 

Yep.  This build was going to be done without ever being near her wheelchair.  Thankfully, Zoe's Mom and the company that manufactured her wheelchair (Ki Mobility) helped me out by getting me measurements and specs of the chair.  Ki Mobility also graciously donated an ergonomic handle so I could attach a Supergirl logo to it and let Zoe's parents have an easier time of piloting her chair (I was adding stuff to around it, making it harder to push from behind).
The cool 3D printed logo in there?  That was Chris Ellerby from Stan Winston School of Character Arts  and VEXfx.  He really helped me out a lot...and was pretty instrumental in getting me more involved with Magic Wheelchair.

So....I put the call out to the Nightmare Playgrounds crew...and we got the band back together.  We were not as numerous as before...some have moved, some were busy...but the ones who showed... well, they always amaze me.

We worked three weekends with crew.  It was over 100 degrees, sometimes over 108 and we had no air conditioning in the garage.  We needed ventilation because of the materials we were using.  It was incredibly hot.  Foam bits were everywhere...I mean...everywhere.  And they stuck to the sweat and made you more insulated get the idea.  But we laughed, we had a blast, we figured it out.  We drank so much water.

As usual the crew made this happen.  We accomplished a pretty spectacular task that I could NEVER have done alone.  I want to thank everyone who donated, who showed up, who spread the word and helped us meet this goal.  The smile on Zoe's face and the gratitude from her family made all the heat and the work seem like nothing at all.

We started with a PVC mock up of the chair so that we knew the dimensions.  We had to build the cockpit so it didn't hurt Zoe and so that it would fit around the chair.  We used the pink insulation foam sheets for most of the build.
 Hot Wire Foam Factory Tools were used to cut down the "box" that would form the frame (base) for the later pieces.  Here you see me using one of the wire worked but it was no where near as awesome as the Professional Hot Knife they sent me and I got to use when it arrived.  I made do until I got it.  But man, when I got the Professional Knife it saved me SO MUCH time and was easy to control.

 We had to come up with a way to attach the costume to her wheelchair that made allowances for if there was a mistake made in the measurements.  We knew we would need to be able to adapt to problems.  We designed an adjustable PVC pipe system similar to hydraulic arms with PVC "t joints" that had the longer straight piece chopped so it could attach to the chair with zip ties.
We continued to work on the shape.  The fortress of solitude style crystals were routed in strips, wire brush textured and then treated with a heat gun.

Because we wanted the design to have a sleek shape we placed the crystals on the chair to see how it looked before we started painting and gluing them.
 My PRECIOUS crystals....
 This is the first stage when we painted them gray with the base coat.

 You can see the three stages of the fortress of solitude crystals here.  We also made some superman symbol forms but we ended up not using those.
Adding texture to the tops of the crystals.
You can see the PVC attachments we put in for the costume.  The rear and front had panels that attached with magnets so that we could put the costume on and just put the panels over them.  We didn't want to have to reach under or around the costume to attach the frame.

We had also rigged some Gantom Lights so that some custom made "memory crystals" would light up and change colors in the dash.  A newer "Man of Steel" control panel with a 3D printed command stick (also removable) bridged the old super-genre and the new.  I also found a cypher for the Kryptonian language that was created for a comic book.  I used the cypher to write "Zoe" on the dashboard.

We were able to make it down to San Diego Comic Con (original plans were to ship the costume) and get the costume assembled on the wheelchair.  It was a fantastic day and seeing Zoe's face made it a truly EPIC experience.

Adam Savage was a gracious host and he is a really nice guy.  He pledged to do his own build for Magic Wheelchair in the future. I can't wait to see it.

The families, kiddos, costumes and crews who made this event possible.  The costumes at this reveal were really awesome.  Each builder created something that was a work of art and ingenuity.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nightmare Playgrounds 2008: Zombies: Prep and construction

The cool thing about doing a haunted house and having a kid like mine is that I am NEVER without a willing test subject for new fun things. This is my girl modeling the latest in blood fashion, gell blood. This stuff is gooey and syrup like when warmed but as it cools it becomes solid. Looks wet, but doesn't get everywhere after it sets. She liked it plenty. After spiking the set...ah, ahem, sorry, theater term. Putting masking tape down to mark how we wanted the garage laid out I decided we needed some tombstones this year. For some reason no hardware store here stocks the blue cell foam that makes good tombstones. Instead we got to use the craptastic large cell white board. But that did not stop our aspiring DaVincis of Death....see the two in back? Nope, not supervisors. EEE on the left and Kemper on the right. Dave foreground.

This is Dave. Dave is an artist. Artist is a nice way of saying showoff. Dave made me die a bit inside when I looked at his product and mine. I must admit, pouting was involved. And not on his part.

I threatened to cut the "supervisors" salary in half if they didn't help. It wasn't until they had done one tombstone and started another they remembered I wasn't paying them.

Being much larger than I am I decided if I looked busy AND had a hot foam cutter in my hands they might think better of helping me into a new form. Pretzels are nice... but not when made out of me.

Say it with me....."showoff...ahem, artist." In all seriousness Dave did some beautiful work. If we weren't so pressed for time in building the actual haunt we would have done some nice distressing and texturing of the tombstones. As it was they turned out nice, not the works of art that I have seen other haunts do, but perfectly fine for a home haunt where we charge nothing. Pay attention to the angel tombstone later. And remember he did it freehand.

One of my favorites.

I don't believe in child labor laws. If she gets to help me scare the crap out of people then she can help. Oh, and see how my daughter is painting, too? The adult on the left is our good friend Tiffany.

Musical interlude. Donations appreciated.

Wardrobe boxes affixed together, wooden support structure to brace them to walls and strengthen them. Wrapped in rosin paper and variouos foam accents attached to them.

Shelves attached so we can do som knick knacky goodness and ambient lighting later....wait for it.

Paint it up with more slave...ahem...child, ahem....volunteer labor. Sorry. My buddy Dax and again, my sweet cherub...ah, who am I kidding, the kid plays "zombie" and chases me through the house.

The bricks are my BRILLIANT and BEAUTIFEROUS wife's idea. They are those weird green foam blocks used for flower arrangements. Sliced lengthwise and fastened on to the exterior. When we added the faux brick painting later it looked pretty good. She is great about bringing the haunt into a more 3-D feel (see last years haunt for further proof).

I are the smart one.

Trying to fugure out how delicately we can tell OSHA... kiss our heiney. Hey, there is safe and then there is HOLY CRAP! HALLOWEEN IS WHEN?

I know fellas...the lumber, the power tools, the impending scent of children loosing bladder control and running into the night while their parents are bent double in brings tears. Really. Frank and I are working on the main mausoleum. You walk into the garage on either side and the door to the main crypt is in back. The layout acts as natural crowd control and we put enough nooks and crannies in the haunt that people don't want to rush by and risk missing a spot where someone is hiding.

Their problem is that I built a BIG nook and cranny for actors to hide in so when they go by they have bad zombies behind them. This was covered in tarps and further camoflaged with the netting we put over our carport.

Bad zombies like this guy. Oh, wait, that is Dax "normal". I think I told him we had to wait to drink until after we were done using power tools. Notice the oh-so-subtle scowl?

My little painter. Oh, and my daughter, too. The guy on the left is Tom. I have known him since highschool. If you watch my wedding video he is mouthing "I do" when my wife and I are saying our vows. Oddly, I think he was the tamest of my groomsmen.

So, thrift stores are our friends. The two objects you see at the bottom are from an old lamp we tore apart. The curved center is transluscent and made an AWESOME way to make it look like candles were lighting the mausoleum from the inside. We taped pictures of mausoleums to the outside of the structures so our helpers could do their own work without us directing everything. Our friends are awesome. We can't thank them enough for all their help.

THIS IS NOT A DRILL, PEOPLE! Oh, is. We need to get to work anyhoo....

"Hello, joke police? There is a bald guy here and he needs some of your attention."

This is sweet Maili. As soon as she is mobile I am strapping a paintbrush to her diaper and recruiting her. Her daddy, Dax, and Mommy, Sena, have been our good friends (and enablers) for several years now.

"THIS IS NOT A DRILL....oh, wait it is....and it is called "compensating."

Sorry, Frank, you know I love you. Frank is the friend that you sit down and actually have "the Zombie Plan" conversation with. If you don't have a friend like this...well....good, you might slow down the zombies long enough for us to enact ours.

"Zombie Plan?" Don't worry you are a part of it Maili. Sena, too.

Troy and Kemper covering our main mausoleum in cardboard. You have no idea how many of the storage rental places kept asking me "what do you plan on doing with all these wardrobe boxes?" Come on, people, it wasn't like I went in getting shovels, duct tape, plastic bags and sleep aids...ummm.... at least this week.

My very first coffin. I am so proud. My friend, Christy, in the middle, and Tom. I have known Christy about as long as Tom. She brought us some of the most creepy reeds....and she got them from Ikea. Who knew...

I built this coffin with hinge pins so I could collapse it and store it. I was very pleased with it and it turned out exceptionally sturdy with no flex or give at all. I really want to build one as a permanent wine bottle holder...but convincing the wife....welll....we will see. Not holding my breath....mostly because the floor hurts when I pass out.

We used the carport tent again. This was the best hundred sumthin' bucks we have spent. It makes more haunt, hides the inside from those on the street and acts as crowd control.

Troy, Frank and Dax working on my coffin in the weeee hours of the moring.

I designed collapsing crowd contol barriers. I wanted something sturdy but storable to funnel people in a line. It turned out awesome. More pics of this later. The poles are what I used to anchor the cross boards into the stands and bases. The skulls were cheap plastic ones that were epoxied to the top of the pole and a drywall screw drilled in for extra vandal proofing.

"Seriously, Mr. aren't safe here. Have you seen what my dad does to baby dolls? You should go...quickly."

You want some uh dis CLOWN BOY!?