Images from Monster Suit Build

Hey guys! I actually had this suit built mostly before the web course, so it's currently undergoing modifications based on what I learned! But I thought I would share since I talked about it a lot during the course but haven't had time to take pictures until very recently. 

Others should, of course, feel free to share their pictures in this thread, I'd love to see what other people accomplished.

Also, tldr: check out the pictures.


The "Spiderbear" / Gleamjaw Matriarch was built by my brother and I for a Boston Steampunk LARP. The design goals were:

  1. We wanted it to be a two person suit so it could have four legs and two arms and be about the size of a sedan
  2. It had to be taller than a person
  3. The jaw had to be able to open and close
  4. It had to be "LARP-safe", meaning all contact surfaces had to be:
    • Built with a PVC core
    • Padded with camp pad foam and open cell foam
  5. It also had to be able to move fast, and the operators had to be able to see where they were going without a camera (since we didn't have time to figure how to wire one up)
  6. We wanted the teeth to illuminate with color changing LED lights.
  7. It ALSO needed to have a back pack built into the frame to house the battery we were using to charge the lights
  8. The head needed to have a really good range of motion so we could control where it was looking
  9. It needed to be able to be transported in a Ford Fiesta. Of course it's quite a good deal larger than my ford fiesta, so we built it to break down into pieces and go back together quickly.
  10. I'm sure some of you will notice the similarities between this monster and the one from Attack The Block. I don't want to be remotely subtle about the fact that the Gorilla Wolf Mother****ers were our primary inspiration. We liked how they used black fur suits to make a terrifying monster cheaply and I studied those suits a LOT before I even heard of the Stan Winston School. We decided to keep close to their designs for the Matriarch and then branch out as we develop suits for the males, the drones and the adolescents / hatchlings.
Pictures are below!


It took us the better part of a month to build the suit with two people.

Challenges included:

  1. Availability of lightweight materials for the frame
  2. The jaw mechanism
  3. The neck mechanism
  4. The arms
  5. The illuminated teeth
In The Field:

We brought the monster to two events.

At the first event we realized that the weight of the frame was a problem when we had to run through a 4H camp late at night without attracting attention while wearing the suit in order to get it to the barn where we'd set up its nest. It was extremely fun but exhausting. Thanks to the monster's natural night camouflage and some well timed distractions, we made it to the barn unseen.

The second problem we noticed at the first event was the arms: They were made of PVC with foam padding and this made it very difficult for the operator to control because of the weight. Also the PVC was far too flexible, which caused the control sticks to bend and bounce a bit too much. Eventually the weight of the arms caused one of them to detach from the frame and the operator in the front had to simultaneously control the head with his pelvis while opening and closing the jaw with one hand and swinging the right arm with the other. 

We fixed the flexing problem by adding a carbon fiber tube to the inside of the arms, but obviously that didn't solve the problem of the weight, which is in progress. We're looking to build a new control mechanism and replace the PVC arms with pure foam, no solid core.

Additionally it was difficult for the operator to see through the scrim we built into the monster's hump right at eye level. I kept pushing for a camera but it wasn't in the budget.

The second event saw the neck mechanism start to wear out. I'll have to try and show pictures at some point or make a video, but it was a clever idea that was more clever than it was practical in the end. It relied on a few pieces of flexible PVC that weakened, causing the rings we built the neck out of to come apart during operation.

Furthermore, though we fixed many of the problems with arm detachment, we actually had some PVC break during the fight due to the weight of the arms, which is why we are currently redesigning. We also want to try to get closer to 1:1 movement for the operator's arms and the monster's, but we're worried about what that will do to the weight of the suit and how it will complicate the forward operator's controls.

Also the teeth began to fail in the second event. We'd wired a set of color changing LEDs to a 12v battery that the primary operator carries around in a backpack. The strand of lights was run around the jaw and crammed through the gums and into the foam teeth (which are built from white foam). The effect is pretty cool! Check it out in the pictures! The problem is that the connectors were not soldered together, we just used those little twist on plastic caps to connect the wires from the power source to the battery, and every once in a while they would come undone and the lights would flicker or go out or change color. If the exposed wires touched (which only happened once) then they would spark, and that was a bit of a hazard. 

Finally we realized that the operator in the back can actually stick their head out of the suit for better situational awareness and nobody will notice cause it's dark! But we're considering installing a backup camera for a car in the monster and wiring it up to the battery to provide a video feed for the opeartor, especially if we can get one with decent night vision.

The monster was also used for halloween but without the arms because they were broken! We actually draped the fur over a cardboard box and put some pillows on it and nobody could tell the difference. 

We're going to be reviewing our monster designs for the Matriarch this winter and re-building parts of it for the spring. We may even put up a video!


  • Very cool!  The mouth instantly reminded me of "Attack The Block" (in a good way!)

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with building such a large project and also taking it out into the wild to multiple events.  It's always challenging to make something that holds up to the rigors of on-location use and dealing with all the inevitable issues that arise. 

    Hope you can share your updates (and video) here as well!

  • Haha of course the problem always is that I'm usually the one filming things, and I can't film while i'm in the suit. I need more friends with cameras! Next time we take it out for a field test I'll see about getting video test footage.
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