TARS Costume

Those of you who have seen the movie Interstellar know that one of the coolest characters in the film is the robot TARS (although CASE is just as cool and less of a dick). Ever since seeing the special feature about the making of TARS, I have been interested and trying to make a TARS costume of my own.

However, despite having seen the special feature several months ago, it wasn’t until recently that I finally started to look into what it might take to build a TARS of my own. I Googled “Tars costume” and found the following video.

Though I knew I didn’t want to do something as high-tech as that, It was just the inspiration I needed to get the ball rolling on a TARS costume project of my own.

So, this past Monday I began my search for some free cardboard. I started at my local appliance store, looking for scrap refrigerator boxes. After finding none in their trash, I checked a few more sources before eventually scoring a dishwasher box from Lowes.

My plan was simple, make four equally sized rectangular boxes, then cut a small circular hole in each side of each of the boxes and run a long cylindrical tube through the boxes to a) hold them together and b) serve as the pivot point to allow him to walk.

TarsConceptSketch_backThis is a conceptual sketch I drew of what the costume would look like from the back.

The follow is a step-by-step of how I made the costume. I apologize for not including reference photos of the process, but the descriptions should be detailed enough for you to fill in the blanks. Additionally, my approach was super simple and low tech. The entire process took only four days, and it only took that long because I was taking my time and not putting in nearly as many hours each day as I could have.

Materials: large cardboard box, hot glue, box cutter/razor blade, pen knife/exacto-knife, t-square, tape measure, compass, ruler, straight edge, cylindrical tube.

Step 1: using a razor blade, cut the box so each side is now it’s own individual panel. You now have four flat pieces of cardboard that are all approximately the same size.

Step 2: next measure the width of one of the panels, in this case ~30 inches, and divide it by three. I chose to not use the full width because the edges of the box weren’t cut perfectly straight. I ended up only using the center 24 inches and dividing that into three 8-inch panels. Using a straight edge, draw four vertical lines from the top of the flat piece of cardboard to the bottom. Do this for each of the four flat pieces of cardboard.

Step 3: using a straight edge and a razor blade cut the flat pieces of cardboard along the lines you drew so that you have twelve 8-inch wide panels.

Step 4: next, take three of the 8-inch panels and separate them from the group. Using a razor blade, cut the folding flap of the box off of two of the panels and put them aside. For the third panel, measure 8 inches from the fold. Draw a horizontal line and with a razor blade, cut off the excess cardboard.

Step 5: using the excess cardboard, cut out triangular gussets from the corners. The ones I made were 3 inches long. You should be able to get 6 total (3 pairs of two) gussets from your excess pieces of cardboard.

Step 6: next space the gussets out along the back side of the front face of one of your groups of three panels. The front panel is the one that still has the 8 inch flap on the top. Hot glue the gussets to the back of the front facing panel and attach the other two sides of the box to the gussets. Additionally, hot glue the flap of the front panel to the top edge of each of the side panels.

Step 7: repeat steps 4 through 6 until you have four equal sized rectangular boxes.

Step 8: On the side of one of your boxes, measure 6 inches down from the top of the box and 4 inches in from the front. Make an X at that point. That is where you will place your hole. The center boxes will need holes on both sides. The outer most boxes will only need holes on the inward facing sides. The boxes I made were approximately four feet tall and thus could be divided into four 1-foot sections. This will be important later when you’re painting TARS as he is broken down in four vertical sections.

Step 9: using a compass, make a circle the size of the cylindrical tube you will be using to hold TARS together. the center-point of the circle is the X you marked in the previous step. Once the circles are drawn, cut them out using an exacto-knife.

Step 10: take your cylindrical tube, I used a tube from a roll of wrapping paper, and begin to feed it through the holes you’ve just cut out until all of the boxes are on the tube. You now have your basic TARS costume complete. The only things left to do are the details ie. painting it.

TarsCostume_backThe back side of the costume. Here you can see where the gussets are, where I made the holes and where the tube fits.

My costume is not complete. I still plan on painting it and adding other details, but I wanted to put up what I have for now because I’m proud of it and wanted to share it with you. Plus it is essentially done… like 90% done. I will add more to this post -or post an update- once it’s complete.

TarsCardboardCostumePose1TARS – interrogation stance

Because of its size (the fact that it’s not as tall or taller than me), the TARS I made is less of a costume (something you wear) and more of an object I puppeteer. This is true of the prop used in the movie as well, however a bit of the mystery is gone from mine because my TARS is shorter than me and thus you can see me puppeteering it.

TarsCardboardCostumePose2TARS – walking stance

Oh the things you can accomplish when you’re funemployed.

Helpful links:

TARS typeface* – Trade Gothic Bold Extended

Google sketch-up schematic drawing – good reference for how the body is divided and where the pivot points are

TARS walking GIF – “gorilla”

TARS walking GIF – “stroll”

Replica Prop Forum – discussion about how to build a replica TARS

*click the link > click the “Try It” tab > type TARS in the word box > make the size 96 (the biggest they offer) > screen grab  the word TARS > open an 11 by 8.5 Adobe Illustrator file > import the screen shot of the font and stretch it so it spans the length of the page. Now you have a stencil you can print and cut out to spray onto your TARS. This worked for mine based on the dimensions I used for my costume. However, you may need to adjust yours depending on the size.


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