My husband Chris and I have always loved Halloween. We would always get all dressed up just to hand out candy to neighborhood kids. We lived in Los Angeles for awhile and unfortunately we didn’t have much room to decorate and our neighborhood didn’t get many trick-or-treaters. For 6 years, our Halloween happiness got suppressed. When we moved to Texas, we had a lot more room — allowing us to go all out for our favorite holiday!
In 2018, we purchased a Tesla Model 3. We are tech geeks and loved all the geeky things that Teslas have to offer (hey, our license plate is “GEEKS”!) — like the spooky feature demonstrated in this fun little video.
…but… WHY… a DRAGON?
Each year, our local Tesla club has a frunk-or-treat. Yes, you read that right a FRUNK-or-treat. Tesla’s don’t have engines — instead they have a “front trunk” — also known as a “frunk”. When Halloween rolls around, this feature allows for unique decorating options!
As soon as we decided to participate in our local Tesla club’s Halloween frunk-or-treat, we knew we wanted to go big or go home. What’s bigger than a giant dragon? Plus, if you take a look — the front of our vehicle kinda looks like Toothless the loveable Night Fury from How to Train Your Dragon.
So now that you’re interested, let me tell you more about the design process.
Bringing an Idea to Life
1) Designing the Costume
The very first step that I took was to reference as many pictures as I could from the movie — concentrating specifically on Toothless’s defining characteristics — his eyes, wings and tail. I wanted to find as many angles as I could to provide me with any views that I may need while designing.
Once I finished gathering this information, I took measurements of the car and determined how big I wanted to make each wing as well as the tail.
It was decided that EACH wing would be 12′ long — giving the display a wingspan of 30′! For the tail, we opted to go with 12′ as well.
Designing the costume in Adobe Illustrator.
Fabric for the wings and tail.
Fabric for the tailfin.
Fabric for the face on the tailfin.
Fabric for the mouth.
Next, I went fabric shopping — FUN! Our Tesla isn’t black — it’s actually a color called Midnight Silver Metallic. It’s really pretty. In some lighting, it looks grey or black. At other times, it looks more blueish with a very pretty glittery effect. I needed a fabric for the wings and tail that would work well with this color range.
In addition, I needed fabric for the tail, face on the tail and the inside of the mouth. For all locations, I decided to go with calico prints.
2) The Wings
Let’s be clear on this — I design. I can design all day, every day. I love designing. I do NOT sew. I cannot sew. I hate sewing.
I remember trying to sew in a college theater class once and failing miserably. I know my limitations, and a HUGE roadblock for me was how I was going to actually get this costume made.
I had previously worked with Jill Luigs, an awesome sewologist, who can do pretty much anything with a needle and fabric. I immediately messaged her and asked her if she wanted in. Of course she said yes — bless her heart — neither of us knew what we were in for.
As soon as she gave me the thumbs-up, I created the pattern for the wings. Since the design was so huge, I had to break up the illustration into printable squares, manually cut them down to size, and tape them together piece-by-piece.
Wing pattern laid over the uncut fabric roll.
The first wing to be cut out. It takes up the complete width of the room!
Once one of the the wings was cut out, we had to decide HOW to rig it to “attach” to the car. I wanted to be sure that whatever method we went with wouldn’t ultimately cause damage to the vehicle. My husband Chris and I went to Home Depot and spent about an hour or so setting up PVC piping in the aisle in various ways that may work with our wing structure. Once we had an idea of the setup, we purchased all the pieces necessary — plus some — for that just-in-case scenario.
For the arc of the wing, we chose to use a tent pole. We wanted a little bit of movement to bring the overall design to life when viewed.
These decisions ultimately led to reworking the entire wing design and adding features to allow the fabric to be attached to the structure. While sounding simple, this took several weeks of trial-and-error. It actually was a really big stressor for all involved — especially as we were about a month out from Halloween by this point.
Once we FINALLY got a functional wing design, Jill was able to quickly create the second.
3) The Tail
The process for the tail was similar for the wings — although it was MUCH, MUCH easier. We didn’t need any movement for the tail, so we opted to fill it with stuffing. Securing it to the vehicle wasn’t bad either — we simply created an area in the fabric that allowed for the latch of the trunk to go through it and completely close.
4) The Face
While Jill was busy with sewing the wings and tail, I was busy working on the facial features. I knew that I wanted big expressive eyes that would be seen during the day and at night — which brings me to another point.
The frunk-or-treat event was going to be held during the day, but we knew that we also wanted to have a nighttime display for Halloween night that would make a big impact. Figuring out the eyes was a key element in pulling this off.
For the eyes, I ultimately created them using neon green poster board. I am a papercraft artist and was able to use several design techniques to mold them around the curvature of the vehicle’s headlights. I added magnets to the back to keep them in place.
For the nighttime look, I tried turning the headlights on and was happily surprised by the amount of light that was able to shine through the green paper. It was definitely the bold look I was going for!
Once the eyes were completed, my next move was to figure out how to create the scales and nostrils. I designed the facial features in Adobe Illustrator and cut the final pieces from black vinyl.
5) The frunk-or-treat Face
Now that we had the overall look done, I needed to figure out how I wanted to decorate the frunk. After all, the entire design was originally created for FRUNK-or-treat! I couldn’ve very well leave the frunk closed the entire time!
I designed two rows of teeth out of poster board and applied a painting technique to make them look ridged and wet when the light hit them. I folded them to make them appear 3-D and used tape to secure them to the top and bottom of the frunk.
6) The Nighttime Face
I have already mentioned how it was crucial for us to make the eyes visible at night. We thought it would be super awesome to include a light in the frunk and leave it slightly popped open — just enough to show a little bit of a blue glow coming through.
To really push the lighting effect, we covered up the additional lights on the front of the vehicle.
7) The sign
Of course a display this grandiose needed some sort of signage. I designed a yard sign that played off of the How to Train Your Dragon logo — theming it, of course, around Tesla. I wanted a way to display my social media information as well where people could find out more about the costume.
Time to put it altogether!
The Daytime Look
The very first event that we attended was our Tesla club’s frunk-or-treat — which utilized the daytime look. Needless to say, the car was an absolute hit! This is the look that we use for all of our frunk-or-treat events. We fill the frunk up with candy and help to disburse it to all the eager kids.
The NIGHT Look
While the daytime look is cool, the REAL showstopper is the nighttime look — only visible one night a year — on Halloween night.
We live on a corner, and our display gets high visibility by everyone driving and walking past. It’s definitely everyone’s favorite Halloween display in our neighborhood!
mood Lighting & smoke
We added a fog machine that creates a really neat ambiance. The special lighting — in combination with the fog — really sets the mood.
Window Animations for our house
As one last finishing touch, I did two simple animations for the front window of our house — one of a black Tesla dragon — the other of a white Tesla dragon. These played on repeat on a projector throughout the night.
By the end, the project took over two months to design and make and almost $1500 in materials and labor. We had countless revisions, lots of tears — mostly joy (with a sprinkling of frustration). The good days far outweighed the bad days, and at the end, it was all worth it. Totally and completely! For a few days every year, our Tesla brings joy to kids and grownups alike.
We Hope Our dragon costume has inspired you to create something really neat this halloween!
A Special Thank You
If you’ve enjoyed our Halloween costume, please consider supporting us. We have designed and created a line of Halloween ornaments (limited time only!) specifically for you! And as an added bonus, we are giving you a special 25% off your entire purchase.
My husband Chris and I design and make handcrafted ornaments. Our passion is bringing joy to people’s lives and we thought it would be so much fun to design a line of Forged Flare Halloween ornaments just for you.
Use code TESLAFRUNKORTREAT during checkout at www.forgedflare.com (also be sure to sign up there for additional offers!).