In creating a visually intriguing show celebrating life on the Mississippi and in the Minnesota wilderness, it seemed having a more-or-less life-sized moose could be pretty cool. We found some stilt designs for cosplay satyrs and werewolves and adapted them for a quad-stilt application. I had started plotting out the plan to build this in an earlier post, but now the puppet/costume is complete and so here’s a review.
Oddly enough, building the stilts was more or less the easy part. The strapping system proved to be more difficult. Eventually we screwed a pair of old shoes to the 2×4’s and secured the shin rest to the leg with industrial Velcro strapping. Several people explained concerns of safety, but with 2×4’s, GRK fasteners, and metal supports, I feel that we built it with sufficient security.
As with the construction of the heron, we planned to make the head from a reed or sapling frame covered in fabric. This proved to be impractical for several reasons. Needing to be strong but light-weight, we ended up constructing the head from a couple of re-purposed milk jugs secured with hot glue and duct tape. Antler were made from foam sheets and backer rod, and the head was extended by two dowels from an old construction helmet. The front-heavy apparatus had to be secured down the back via two cords that hooked onto the actors’ rear belt loops. Needless to say, it also became a wicked wedgie-maker.
We started with a brown primer to bring the milk jug, tape, and all components into a uniform color. Then we waffled on whether to keep it a traditional brown moose, to go with a red Dala moose, or two what we ended with, which was a blue moose that fit the palette of the show better than the red Dala moose we had been planning. A re-purposed graduation gown turned upside-down served as the cape and covering for the actor.
Our moose actor, Nick, took to the stilts quickly and became rapidly proficient. He was able to mount and dismount the stage from the adjacent boat and ascend and descend the slope running along the audience. The forelegs were re-purposed crutches donated by one of our cast members. We covered the crutches with pipe insulation to thicken them, and added hooves made from backer rod.
The only shame is that ‘Marvin the Moose’ didn’t get more stage time in the show, but there was some charm in his rare, elusive appearances. (As a side note, Nick got pretty good on the stilts and could even walk upright. When walking upright, he bore a striking resemblance to the wendigo of Ojibwe lore.)