TMNT's Leatherhead

Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭
edited August 9 in Costumes & Cosplay
From the first time I was 5 and saw the show Werewolf, I have loved anthropomorphic animals. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a series that my love has grown for as I have gotten older. What Jim Henson's studio was able to do with Ninja Turtle's designs was amazing. Not only did they bring them to life, but gave them individual looks, and personalities.

While it is a dream of mine to make my own TMNT costume of the caliber of the films, I know that is something that has been attempted by a lot of people. So I am going to make some attempts at some other characters from the TMNT lore and try to bring them to life how I imagine they would be put on a movie screen.

I have planned on making a Slash costume for over a decade, but after seeing the FuRay Planet Wilderness Hunter Crocker I have been compelled to bring the character Leatherhead to life.

This design character captures what I think Jim Henson studios would have put on screen if given the opportunity.

I am currently low on funds, but I have a lot of upholstery foam, foam floor mats, glue, paint, foam clay, mask latex (I hope it's not dried out) left over from when I was really making costumes in the 2010s. I plan on going to Retropalooza IX Oct 22-23, 2022 @ Arlington Convention Center.This character would be a nice blast from the past to enter into the cosplay contest and wear for Halloween.

My first creature costume was Aeon Calcos Lizardman from Soul Calibur 3. The struggles of creating the costume, and wearing it for several hours, have not escaped me.  

That Lizard man will work as beta of what I want to accomplish with this Leatherhead costume.
There are several things I want to fix that were problems with Aeon.

1. Aeons head was very heavy. It was cast in plastic resin and had wooden puppetry inside. The head had to be held up to my face with my right arm for hours. This was very uncomfortable.

Solution: make a lighter foam head using closed cell foam floor mats, and foam clay.
I will try to puppet the head with my jaw movement using this horse head mask as my inspiration.
I have to figure out how I will see out of it, and how big it will be.
The head will be proportion the head to make the body look big.

2. The bodysuit was built on a surfer wetsuit that I had to zip my self into from the front. While this gave the costume a seamless look, it was very hot. I compare it to wearing a dishwashing glove over your entire body. The carved upholstery foam coated in latex rubber would not allow my body head to leave the costume. This put me on the verge of heat stroke. The only way to cool down was to lower the mask and unzip the costume. That was very inconvenient and broke the illusion.

Solution: Make the costume 3 pieces. Head, torso, and legs that will all go on like a shirt and pants. The can just remove the top when things get too hot. I will also try not to cover the entire costume in latex. I will make sure that in areas no one can see to leave openings for air to escape the costume. The latex is old and in buckets. It may have dried up into a solid chunk. If I do not have liquid latex, I will make do with foam and paint.

3. My Aeon had eyes that could turn left and right. That will not be something I want to pursue with this costume. Moving eyes were only noticeable from up close and hardly worth the effort.

Solution: I will instead see if I can find a way to make the mask blink using string.

While I hope to capture a look similar to the Crocker, I will take artistic liberties to make the character my own.

Now that I have posted this here, I guess I have to follow through with it or risk disappointing everyone. I will do my best.
I will start with the mask and take it all from there.


  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    Exciting stuff!  Your previous costume turned out great, so I can only imagine this one will be even more awesome.  Can't wait to see what you do!

  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭
    edited August 11
    Thank you Chris. I couldn't have done it without the Stan Winston School of character arts. I mean, I could have, but it wouldn't have looked as good. 

    The tutorials that helped me the most were Shannon Shea's Garage Monsters series, and Steve Wang's creature mask painting.

    I took the lessons Shannon gave about building a puppet out of foam, cotton balls, and latex then applied it to making a costume.

    If the TReX head lesson had been around at the time I would have sprayed glue over the foam to seal it before coating it with latex. I did not know that trick and the foam soaked in a gallons of liquid latex.  

    Another tutorial that really helped me was the first I ordered. That was Steve Wang's. The way he painted Gill man was an inspiration. The lessons on motteling made a huge difference in the realism of the costume.

    My only regret was I did not use thinned rubber cement to apply the paint. I was worried about the health side effects of the thinner and my garage having bad air circulation. So I just used water thinned acrylic paint. It looked great but did not flex with the costume. All the areas that  rubbed the paint flacked off. 

    An alternative I wish I knew at the time was to tent the liquid latex with the acrylics and thin that down with water. Then the paint would bond and flex with the costume. I used that on my following costumes.

    I coated the body of the lizardman in a flexible gloss coat but that only helped a little.

    Live and learn.
  • Yo, big fan of TMNT myself, I can’t wait to how your Leatherhead comes out!!
  • I was about to take this clay off of my bust to make a template for my Leatherhead mask and starting thinking, "I have a lot of Dragon skin silicon.Maybe I could sculpt and cast this mask instead of making it out of foam?"

    I know the jaw articulation of silicon masks works well when close to the face. I don't know if it would work with a longer snot.

    Just to cover my bases, I think I will start with foam and if I can't get that to work I will sculpt and cast.
    The entire bottom jaw of my Lizardman is foam. Only the top was resin cast. So I need to give myself the benefit of the doubt that I can work in foam.

    The head sets the proportions for the entire costume so I have to get it right.

  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭
    edited August 20
    I'm making a cardboard template to base my EVA foam floor mat build on. I'm starting out with the bottom jaw.
    Tools; Pizza box, scissors, marker, box tape, tailor's ruler, and a marker.
    I added a part to the front to close up the jaw, and taped it all together. I cut out a space for my neck, so the jaw could fit past my head. I may cut the space in more so my head is farther into the mouth.

    Here is a test fit.

    I'm not sure how far away I want the jaw from my face.

    I may be able to mirror the jaw for the top of the head, but I want the jaw to look powerful. So the bottom jaw will be bigger than the top of the head. To avoid looking like another Lizardman, I may taper the snout some more.

    I mirrored the jaw template and this is what I got. I have to make the top slimmer. At the moment it's shaped closer to a JP Raptor head than an alligator.

    I can lower the top of the head to where I can see under fake eyes place on my fore area like the movie ninja turtles. 
    Or I can make my forehead the neck area, and look out of where the neck meets the base of the head? Then put the eyes up farther?
    I am leaning towards the yellow example, and looking out over the fake eyes. Once I add the hat, it should help hide a lot.

    I've left the snout the same width, but I made the top half of the head shorter than the jaw.
    I placed some glass eyes I had on top of the head to see how it would look. I like it. There is plenty of space for him head. The jaw will still open when I open my mouth, and I think there is enough space to add some mechanisms/puppetry for opening and closing eyes.
    I thought the glass eyes would only look good facing forward, but they look good from an angle too.

    I cut some foam spheres in half to see how they would look as eyes. I think they would be too big for what I am going for.

    Post edited by Jared Lee on
  • When I transfer this template to foam I will have to round out the flat areas. So I will be adding more foam to carve and sculpt foam clay. I slimmed down the cardboard template a few inches to compensate. My head will be covered by the mask when the mask is built, but at the moment the top of the mask is at my hairline. I shortened the snout and placed the eyes higher on the head. I think I will end up looking out of the mouth. Not only that, but I may taper the front of the jaw.

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