Words: Will Sawyer
A cosplayer has spent the last few months bringing the dream of any Pokémon fan to life by creating a life-size Charizard. It's not quite the real fire-breathing dragon, but it is an incredibly detailed costume, complete with a fire-breathing effect and the signature glowing tail flame, made for someone to actually wear.
Littlejem, a professional cosplayer from the UK, is the crafting mastermind behind this colossal costume, and she has been documenting the entire process of bringing Charizard to life over on her TikTok. The first part was uploaded back in May, and she has only recently perfected the final look which was shown off in a post made on 20 July, meaning it took her around two months to complete.
@littlejem4 Draft 1 of Charizards reveal, there's some tweaking I need to do & I need to make ash's costume for me to wear so we match! but new weekly update soon
♬ Run Free (feat. IVIE) - Deep Chills
To get started, Littlejem based the basic shape of the costume on a small Charizard toy, that she photographed and scaled up to the right size in order to fit her friend comfortably inside. From here, she printed out the scaled-up drawing of the toy at two different angles and used those to begin constructing skeletons of Charizard's body, tail, and legs out of foam. These body parts then got layers of upholstery foam applied over the top, and then got coated in orange fabric to give the costume Charizard's iconic orange skin. You can find her first video documenting the process here.
For the wings, Littlejem started with a set of plumbing pipes formed into shape with a heat gun and bolted together, which were eventually fleshed out with the same upholstery foam as the rest of the body. Meanwhile, Charizard's head started out as a gigantic block of foam which Littlegem carved into shape. She used a modded vape and red LEDs to simulate a fire-breathing effect in Charizard's mouth and programmed a strip of LEDs to create a realistic-looking fireball for the end of the tail.
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While crafting this remarkable costume, Littlejem faced a bit of criticism from commenters on her posts saying that her costume was too big and not life-size. Littlejem's costume appears to be over six feet tall; but according to the Pokémon wiki Bulbapedia, Charizard is really just under five feet seven inches. However, Littlejem responded in her own TikTok pointing out that Charizards have appeared with varying heights in the Pokémon anime TV-series, with some being well over the height of Littlejem's costume.
If Littlejem's TikTok series proves anything, it's that cosplay is very difficult to do well and requires plenty of time and skill to absolutely nail the appearance of a well-known character in costume-form. So much needs to be considered outside of making an accurate depiction, including how comfortable the costume is to wear, how light it is, and how it can be transported. Littlejem has been working as a cosplayer for several years and even does commissioned work, including a model of Scales the dragon from Runescape, which she made while also working on this Charizard costume.
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