One of the inherent problems with being on stilts all day and wearing such a large costume is that it is really physically demanding and requires a lot of standing still to keep from getting tired out. If I stayed still for too long, people assumed and/or decided I was some kind of display prop. And, people tend to startle easily when props suddenly start to move. They also scare easily if they are confronted with an 8-foot-tall Gundam as they turn a corner or as they wait on the other side of an elevator door to open. As it turns out, this cosplay ended up being scarier than any Halloween costume I’ve ever owned.
In the beginning of the whole project, I downloaded every image of other peoples’ Gundam, Transformer, and miscellaneous robot cosplays that I could find online just so that I would have an example of what I was shooting for in the end. The visuals didn’t seem to work well for me so I found myself buying the model kit of the exact Gundam I wanted to cosplay as. It really helped me get a better idea of the proportions and scale, which was a high priority of mine, to begin with. I also wanted to make sure that it would move like the robots and mechas that I grew up watching in cartoons and anime.
I understand that a Gundam is a robot, and it would have been okay for it to be a bit clunky when it walks, but I gave myself the personal criteria of giving the costume the ability to move more naturally as opposed to looking “stiff”. Lastly, going back to my desire to keep everything “natural” and proportional, there was the issue that my body is the exact opposite build of a Gundam– instead of being tall and lanky with a small head, I’m short, not skinny, and I only buy hats when they come in extra large. I came to the realization that if I’m going to build this thing the way I want it, it would be at least 8 feet tall, and would require me to learn how to walk on stilts.
I didn’t know it at first, but a good pair of drywall stilts costs way more than I thought and would blow my cosplay budget from the get-go. Not only that, but the majority of the videos I saw of people walking on drywall stilts I saw fell into the category of “stiff”.
It was a huge setback to start off with, and I wasn’t willing to compromise– it was: No stilts = No Gundam! It got me to the point where I decided that the one and only way that I’m going to be happy both aesthetically and financially, I would have to take on the daunting task of building my own stilts.
Having a background as a repair technician and already owning a lot of tools and a welder, I started spending my nights fabricating stilts based on various designs I found online.
It took me over two weeks, three prototypes, more design modifications than I can remember, a pair of used inline skates, an old bicycle frame, and more than a few arm-flailing falls to the ground before I finally came up with something that would work.
My Gundam finally had legs… and, as a bonus, I had never felt so tall in my life! The rest of the costume was pretty straight-forward after that, and although it was tedious, things worked out pretty smoothly.
Armed with a newly purchased Mk. II Gundam model and a giant stack of eva foam floor tiles, I spent weeks building and painting the body/armor pieces and figuring out how to mount it all to my body. The whole process took over two months, although I did make several improvements and modifications between cons.
I’ve always been a really big fan of the Gundam anime series and model kits, and when I first started making my own costumes, having a Gundam cosplay became a dream of mine. It was one of those things that became a personal goal as a cosplayer, and I figured that in a few years I’ll eventually have the skills and means to make it a reality.
I didn’t get into cosplay until much later in life than most people, and I even had a wife and two kids by the time I attended my first con. Being that as it is, my kids have been growing up in the con scene and they’ve become gamers, anime fans, and they even enjoy cosplaying as well. Conventions have become like mini family vacations for us, and cosplaying is a family activity.
Photo : Tekno Omega