Every year I am called upon to make Halloween costumes and accessories for my grandchildren.  Not scary stuff but things that they are into at the time.  Well, maybe a little bit scary...

The Scary Version

The kids originally asked for Legend of Zelda but changed it at the last minute and I only had a bit over a week to build.  The new theme was Mario Brothers with a need to accommodate the youngest, still not a year old.  The main build was a Mario castle that he can ride in dressed as Mario while the others walk alongside dressed as their characters.

My normal approach involves planning and documentation but sometimes you have to just start building.  This was one of those times.  There is enough information here to show the approach I use with cardboard but I haven't given details since it is unlikely anyone else will build the exact same thing with the same boxes and wagon.  The inspiration that got me started was this screen shot provided by my daughter:

Mario Castle screenshot


I started by selecting some discarded cardboard boxes about the size needed which would eventually be fitted to this wagon:

Wagon and Boxes


The larger box was cut down in size a bit and the flaps glued to the sides to strengthen.  Then wooden braces and supports were added for further strengthening.

Braces and Supports


Two boxes were glued together to make the upper floor of the castle and firmly attached to the bottom which can still be lifted off for transportation.  The castellated openings in the wall were then cut out.

Boxes Strengthened and Cut to Shape


The entire structure was spray painted from a can which delayed things a while since we were having cool wet weather and I had to wait for better conditions to paint outdoors.   After drying, the brick lines and openings drawn in with a Sharpie marker – that took a while but the results were pretty good.

Side View of Castle

a dual seating arrangement with a crawl through opening between the seats.  Candy and other valuables can be stored on the top floor of the castle. 

Oblique View of Castle

I wanted to add animation this year and after some thought ended up using an Arduino and servo instead of my usual MSP430 boards.  The Arduino servo library and example were put to work with only the smallest changes to get the proper movement.  Heavy copper wire was used for the linkages and alignment was done with carboard guides.  The mechanism is shown below.

A waving movement by Princess Peach is accomplished by putting a slight misalignment in the cardboard guides and a very slight kink in the wire where the wave occurs as the figure moves up.  Below is what the animation looks like with an old iPod hidden in the castle providing the music:

My customers were happy and the project was delivered on time so all in all it was a success.

Happy Customers

This turned out well enough that given more time, and if they wanted to use the same theme, I would make the castle out of plywood and jazz up the animations a bit with lights and additional characters.  The animation mechanism could be greatly improved with a 3D printer (hint, hint).  Thanks for reading and comments and suggestions always welcome.

Link to 2017 Halloween Project:  LadyBug Girl and Rocket Boy