You can check Bumblebee's performance at the Rain costume contest below, but first, here are some of his answers to my questions:
First question! How did you get that thing to Las Vegas? Did you engineer the parts to be portable?
Yes, I designed the parts to be portable. I knew the final costume would be pretty massive, so having the ability to take it apart was critical. We borrowed a pickup truck with a camper shell to transport it to Las Vegas. I laid down a bunch of pillows and comforters and then wedged all the pieces of the costume in the gaps. It held up really well.
I am absolutely blown away by the weathering on the yellow car panels. I've seen a lot of "weathered" paint, and yours looks incredible. How did you do it?
Thanks, man. I'm glad you like it. I have a special American Accents paint kit that I use, plus a special process I use for applying that I discovered through trial and error. That's my "secret sauce".
You and Scott (Tauntaun costume) both went with stilted costumes this year. What did you think of them? Will you ever go back to ground level?
That's a tough question. I think if you want the "wow" factor, you're going to have to make the costume larger than life. And unless you're naturally very tall - like 6'6" or taller - you'll need some sort of lift. The "Wild Things" guys used modified 5 gallon buckets. Given the success I experienced with Bumblebee, it would be hard to go back, unless I was wearing my Predator costume. Even then, I'm not sure I'd be able to beat Scott's Tauntaun.
Any new materials or crafting tips you would care to share?
Where do I begin? I've never built anything like this before, so there was a lot of trial and error. I tried to make it as light as possible, but as strong as possible. I found that mailing tubes and carpet tubes worked well for this. You can get them at any office supply store and at Home Depot, respectively. At Home Depot they'll just give them to you because they usually throw them away anyway. They're light, but strong, and you can drill holes in them and bolt things on. The "core" of Bumblebee's arms are made of various sizes of these types of tubes. The body panels were all made of foam board. Everything was covered in vinyl applique, then either painted or weathered or both, as appropriate.
Bumblebee at the Exotic Erotic ball in San Francisco, 2009.
I know, making a costume, you can sometimes regret spending so much time with one element. What part of Bumblebee took forever?
The whole thing took forever! Four hundred hours over ten months!
I did the entire thing in my head - I didn't make any diagrams or drawings - so maybe that contributed to it taking so long. I'm also obsessed with details, so maybe that played a role too. Some of the more difficult parts were the head (I fabricated the eyes out of Christmas ornaments, party favors, vinyl applique, and poster board, then I had to hook them up to lights and a battery pack, then paint and weather the entire thing and mount it on a modified bicycle helmet), the cannon (try getting it to spin and light up like it does in the movie... I won't even begin to describe how tough that was!), and the chest (dimensions, symmetry, getting it to fit onto the frame perfectly, headlights, and sound system hidden behind the left headlight - yes, it plays sound clips and songs from the movies and it's awesome!
But the toughest parts were the legs. Those took like two months. I merged the stilts and the body panels all into one piece that could bend and flex, and left certain parts interchangeable so I could make modifications or repairs, tighten bolts and screws, etc. All of this took a lot of modification and reinforcement. But it was worth it.
What was the most expensive component?
Probably the stilts. I got them on eBay for like a hundred bucks. The remaining expenses were mainly raw materials - foam board, wood, and probably $60 worth of hot glue sticks. The vinyl was pretty pricey too though.
If you had 6 more months to improve it (and knowing you, you just might) what would you do to make it even better?
Funny you should ask. There were a lot of other things I wanted to do, but I ran out of time. I've already made some improvements. I've modified the elbow areas to allow for better range of motion; I'll probably fill in the back of the upper arms a bit more; I'll probably make the wings transformable/able to fold down without being completely removed (they make it really difficult to get through doorways); I may add some details and fill in the sides of the torso a bit more, I'll probably re-do his left hand to get better finger dexterity; I'm going to modify the neck area by adding moving pistons and a few other details. Beyond that, I don't think there's too much more I can do. Oh, I also just finished building a custom stand, so instead of being in pieces all over my house, Bumblebee now stands proud in one of the spare rooms in my house. Looks just like I'm wearing it.
What were your favorite costumes in Vegas?
I liked the characters from "Where the Wild Things Are". They were really tall, true to the movie, and the guys in the costumes were cool dudes. There was also a guy in an excellent Optimus Prime costume, but he was beaten handily Bumblebee. :)
Max and Carol from Where the Wild Things Are.
The "Best Costume Ever!" contest at Rain nightclub at The Palms is the crown jewel of costume contests. It's the biggest, most prestigious one you can win. My dream in building Bumblebee was to win that contest. And I did. I won $7,500 cash plus a night in a Sky Villa, which The Palms rents out for $25,000 per night. The Sky Villa is 9,000 square feet over two floors; three bedrooms; and can host 250 people. Anyone down for a party in Vegas?
The best part of the whole thing... J-Roc (the emcee in the bunny costume) announced my top competitor (characters from "Where the Wild Things Are") and the place got pretty loud. But then the coolest thing ever happened. The crowd started chanting "Bum-ble-bee!!! Bum-ble-bee!!! Bum-ble-bee!!!" Then J-Roc said something like, "And how about Bumblebee?" and the place went wild. It was so loud I couldn't hear anything but ringing. I've never been anywhere in my life and heard a crowd that loud. It was awesome!
Two nights before that, we went to Blush nightclub at Wynn. My goal there was to beat my arch nemesis, a guy from Las Vegas with an excellent Optimus Prime costume. Mission accomplished.
You win everytime I'm in a contest with you. Have you ever lost a costume contest?
Dude, you're an amazing costume builder. I'm sure you'll get me one of these days. Yes, I have lost my fair share of costume contests. Prior to my Predator costume in 2007, my costumes were always good, but never great. Predator was great, but not unbeatable. That's why I built Bumblebee. I wanted to win the title of "Best Costume Ever" in Las Vegas, and Bee did it for me.
Bumblebee is an incredible costume, any plans to showcase it again before next year?
Thanks for the kind words. Yes, actually. Some friends and I are planning on going to Wonder-con in April, and maybe a few other "nerd" conventions next year. My wife and I had also planned on taking Bumblebee to children's hospitals on the weekends. Kids LOVE Bumblebee. My plan was to bring the costume there and then let the kids meet Bumblebee, take pictures, etc. I figured there is quite a bit of good I can do with the costume and it would be a waste if I didn't. I had it all worked out with the volunteer coordinator at Children's Hospital in Oakland. But, unfortunately, because of H1N1, all of the children's hospitals have a "no visitors" policy in place indefinitely. Only immediate family is allowed. :( So that's on hold until the Spring sometime.
Thanks Greg!Oh, do you have a public email address if people want to reach you for comments or whatever?
Sure thing. I just created a new gmail account SuperAvenger707@gmail.com