Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: Totoro Costume!


Hey everybody, Adam here! I am about to embark on a One Day Build which, if I’m going to be honest with you, might actually take more than a day. It is a fairly intense build, and most of the materials for it are actually behind me on the work bench there. Earlier this year for San Diego’s Comic-Con, I decided to be the bear from The Revenant and drag around the carcass of Leo DiCaprio And to do so, I made a seven foot tall, furry bear costume. And it was awesome! I liked making it, I liked figuring out the character, everything about it. And so; in anticipation of New York’s Comic-Con, I am making another large, furry character. A creature… …that many of you know as “Totoro”. Your neighbor Totoro. My Totoro will be grey and white. But first up, I’ve got some drawing to do, some tracing, some circles to draw, and some math to do to make sure I have enough of everything and to get started and figure out how I’m going to get in this guy when he’s six and a half feet tall What I’m about to do will make it clear why I keep this whole shop on wheels. Well, it’s one of the reasons. So, I need some whiteboard and I’ve got it behind here. So, I’m going to… …move my stuff out of the way. That? That’s me. So what I’m going to do here is: I’m actually going to trace out my form so I can see it on the whiteboard. And then I am going to trace out Totoro’s form on top of that. I don’t need to go much further than this because Totoro is large and round. Really, all the support for the Totoro costume is gonna be here. Right on my shoulders. He’s kinda square… He’s cute! Now, I’m trying to make my drawing relatively bilaterally symmetrical because the character will be. But, you’ll see the… …the way I’m going to work out the dimensions of this costume and start to build its framework. My drawing doesn’t have to be perfect, I actually have some adjustability in there. But that– Oh! He’s leaning over to the side, isn’t he? That’s not good… Yeah, he’s a little taller than me right now. Totoro’s structure, inside will be created using a series of concentric rings. Picture a hoop skirt and that’s how I’m making Totoro. And the way I’m going to do it is I’m going to use a constant distance from ring to ring. This will make sense later in the process, but it also means that I’m going to be measuring along the outside of this. This right here. Where the drawing starts to get super marked-up, is actually one of my favourite parts about making stuff Is… …I don’t know. For some reason, a drawing that’s fully marked-up with measurements and multiple colours always makes me kind of thrilled. Why don’t you do evens and write them down there… and I’ll do odds. Clearly, what I’ve done, is I’ve measured across the diameters of each of the fourteen rings that will make up the structure of Totoro. I could have done it with twelve rings, twenty rings… I tried to go with a balance that it wouldn’t look too stepped once I’d covered him in batting and fur. I then took those diameters, multiplied them by 3.1… …415927… Pi, essentially. And came up with the circumference of each one. And now, the next step is to start making the rings. So I’m going to put back some of my shop and gather a brand new material which I have never worked with before for costuming or any other purpose, and start to make these concentric rings. This is the internal framework of Totoro. This is a natural product, as you might have gathered. It is wood. It is in fact, rattan. If you’ve ever sat in a weaved chair, this is what it was built out of. It turns out you can buy crap-tons of rattan for really not much money. I can’t remember what I spent on this, but I don’t think it but, I don’t think it was more than like, forty bucks. There’s a lot. There might be enough for a full Totoro costume right in there. So, I’m going to start making some concentric rings. I’m going to be tying them together with some some high-strength, really cool stuff. This stuff. This is– Anthony De Longis, the whip trainer on the Mythbusters Raiders of the Lost Ark episode, told me about this stuff. It is a syntheic, waxed material called synthetic catgut. Now when I first made my bear, I made a pair of test boots for him and I’m about to tear them up and use them to make Totoro’s feet Oh good god! Ah – come on, come on Two former bear feet, soon to be Totoro feet Now I’m actually assembling this all from little scraps of fabric because they’re the feet! They don’t need a tremendous amount of high detail and people aren’t really going to be looking at them unless they look weird so I’m just sort of going hell-bent for leather on these it’s totally fine. Let’s do that… I have to make a pair of tubes because Totoro’s got legs I think this is the last sewing I have to do on this project Oh right! Okay so he’s got the chevrons on his chest, that’s the next step he’s got whiskers – chevrons on chest, whiskers – and! Right – my ability to see. That’s the last step. Totora’s coming into his own! It’s time to start glueing on these chevrons So my solution for the whiskers is to actually utilize loop velcro it’s got the right kind of feel to it – um – and it gives me the ability to do the kind of – uh – slightly structural taper that I want. And its fast and easy Lets see how we do here That, that, THAT’s a nose! That’s a good lookin’ nose I don’t mean to get so verbal and verbose about it but hell’s bells thats fun to see that working like that I think he’s pretty much done I have to put on the legs put on the feet, put on my headdress and put on Totoro and I’m ready for Comicon. Okay I’m sure I’m missing something let’s see oh whoops, there we go that was the problem. Alright let’s see here Do you have it? Are you in it? okay let’s see if I can turn, I can That’s it! Hello! Okay, so, I don’t have fantastic control over – I don’t know why I’m yelling, the microphone’s right on me – I don’t have fantastic control over my arms, but that’s fine, I don’t have to use those arms walking is fine – Oh! I know what I forgot! I can’t see! I have no idea how to look out of this thing. Wow. I really have no idea how to look out. Alright, we’ll have to figure that out Alright, I’ve figured how I’m going to see outside of Totoro – this. A camera. This is the first time I’m trying a camera mounted vision system in a costume. I’m gonna mount this onto his head Okay here we go Okay, so Next up, I need a monitor So this framework I’ll be wearing inside, let’s see here This is my monitor, two nice big fat batteries, let’s see… Oh this is gonna be so cool I’m so into this. I probably won’t wear glasses inside of Totoro, that’s interesting Yeah, oh yeah, see, I’m near sighted. Oh and what’s this for? This is a little fan, this blows cool air on my face. Yep, totally necessary inside this costume. I’m not exactly sure how to put this on by myself, but let’s see if I can do it C’mon, c’mon Okay, alright Totoro, work with me here. There we go, okay, oh yeah It’s not bad in here, and the fan is blowing on my face, it’s quite nice Now I’m gonna hook up my monitor, let’s see here where is that that is the hdmi that goes into the right-hand side, and if everything goes right I should be seeing out front Dude! There we go! I can totally see outside of Totoro! This is really cool cause I have both my hands free inside of Totoro it’s actually kind a nice environment I like it in here! This is great, awesome, I’m gonna figure out a dance and everything Wooh! So, there is my one-day Totoro build. I am really, really ecstatic about him I am hoping that you are inspired enough to make your own paper lantern Totoro costume like this one I have forsee an army of Totoros! But now, it’s just this one for me And it’s off to New York Comicon

100 Replies to “Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: Totoro Costume!

  1. Watch Adam walk the New York Comic Con floor in his Totoro costume here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkH-3nrri4s

  2. Tip from a seamstress: if you're sewing two different fabrics together, put the fabric with the most stretch (or the most ease) at the underside. The feed dogs of your machine help ease in extra fabric, while the presser foot might even stretch the upper fabric a bit, causing even more unevenness if the stretchy fabric is on top… Hope this makes sense, or helps with future projects!

  3. Adam, are you hiring? I am so fed up with my "job" but require $ for a house mortgage and for my little boy. I am talented concept artist. Plus, as a man, citizen, Canada sucks for us guys.

  4. I have always adored you from your Myth Busters days, but now seeing you as an amazing crafty nerd like the rest of us gives me a whole new respect for you ❤ Stay crafty, friend!

  5. Hey Adam in your experience with building the Totoro suit, do you think its possible to build smaller Heads up display like Toney Stark has in Iron Man? Something along the lines of a display that is only 1to 2 inch from your eyes with 2 small hidden cell phone cameras? I'd like to use this in much smaller costumes, and any help would be greatly appreciated.

  6. did anybody even notice that he is wearing g one of nike'S most anticipated shoes ? the Nike x Tom Sachs Mars Yard ? was a big fan of Adam already. but now even more since I'm aware of his sneaker game

  7. This is awesome as you are. The bear was excellent but totoro is going to be over the top. Your reflection of everything is what I like about creating. Love it! Thanks for sharing💜

  8. I love watching Adam build because he's honest. I grew up around contractors and builders, mens men types, and they don't admit when they fail- measure 50 times, cut once. Adam just goes and rolls with the punches, it's fun and not so daunting. As he says, there are worst things in the world than an imperfect Totoro suit.

  9. I've been wanting to try a mounted costume camera setup like that for a while! Cool to see that it actually works out. I wonder how they figured that out…

  10. The best Totoro-Cos I've ever seen!
    You looking so funny at the moments when you try to crawling in the plush on your knees with his big-foots.
    And you will be a really pure guy when you wear this on a summer-convention.

  11. Seeing how happy you were with your own work is the level of confidence I hope to achieve one day. Actually made me smile too.

  12. My cat Max passed away recently, the only thing I can do is try to distract myself with Adams builds. I miss him, he was my best friend 🙁

  13. 23:24 nothing makes me happier than watching Adam Savage jumping up and down like a little kid because he made a totoro costume uwu

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