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.

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