In about two weeks, thousands of comic book, science fiction and video game fans will descend on Atlanta, Ga., to attend Dragon*Con, one of the most beloved multi-genre conventions in the county, according to CNN.
Many people in attendance will wear costumes for cosplay, derived from “costume” and “play.” Except this year one woman doesn’t just want to go as one of her favorite video game characters. She wants to go as two, thanks to a mechanical puppet.
Jennifer, a graphic artist and lifelong video game fan, will be attending as Chell, the portal hopping protagonist from the indie video game series “Portal.” And along with her will be Wheatley, a “Portal 2” character that Jennifer turned into an animated puppet.
Wheatley is a fast talking robot who helps Chell escape from the deteriorating Aperture Science facility and eventually becomes her greatest enemy.
After four months of work, Jennifer unveiled her Wheatley puppet to the world on Aug. 9 to universal acclaim.
Her YouTube video of the talking puppet has received more than 617,000 views and 3,000 comments.
Seeing her project receive so much love was something she never expected, especially as a young girl who grew up playing the Nintendo Entertainment System, Jennifer said in an exclusive e-mail interview with the Daily Dot.
“My strongest memories are of my mom asking me to stop pressing my Duck Hunt gun against the TV before I broke it and being in love with the underwater level in Mario Bros.,” Jennifer said. “I’ve always had my hands in arts and crafts in some fashion. I lament the amount of paint and glitter that made it into the carpet and furniture growing up. My mother was a very patient woman.”
There wasn’t much glitter used in creating Wheatley, but there was a good amount of paint, plastic and wiring used to bring her new favorite robot to life.
In her blog Furin Cosplay, Jennifer details the steps it took to create Wheatley, from the sketches to wiring the sound system. With no instructions or guide, the construction involved a lot of trial, effort and time, Jennifer said.
“I worked on Wheatley for a little bit every day. I would go home from work and try to get noisy things out of the way as early as possible so I wouldn’t disrupt my neighbors after dark,” she said. “Sometimes I’d take a couple days off, but toward the end it was pretty much all I did with my spare time.”
The six pound puppet has a movable eye that is fully lit and 10 programmed quotes taken from the video game character, Jennifer said. With just one hand, Jennifer can make the puppet speak while moving his eye around almost exactly like the video game character.
For the last 24 years Dragon*Con has been known as “Comic Con’s little brother,” according to CNN. The city wide event draws thousands of fans each year dressed as their favorite superhero or movie character.
Jennifer is putting the finishing touches on the boots for her costume. She plans on carrying Wheatley around the convention using an old saxophone strap.
In the mean time, she hopes that fans appreciate the puppet as much as she’s grown to appreciate the game.
“I really loved the unique gameplay and the humor,” she said. “Valve does an amazing job with their characters. From writing to animation to voice work, they deliver a performance as good as any movie. You rarely see that in video games.”