In my world, Halloween was one of the few saving graces of 2020. Although so many festivities had to shift for safety reasons, I made a promise to myself that my traditions would somehow withstand. Starting in July I began my long-winded journey in creating two Hunchback of Notre Dame costumes, the bell-ringer Quasimodo and the enchanting Esmeralda. Portraying this iconic Disney character was a bucket list endeavor that required a lot of help. But in the wake of the pandemic, it was only suitable to embody the isolated, quarantine king himself.
The Costume That Almost Was
Every Halloween there are multiple costume options at play before I decide on the final. This year there were only two. Quasimodo was almost nixed for a live-action Captain Crunch. I’ve always been fascinated with retro ad icons and Halloween is a great opportunity to build on that. However, some sort of oceanic background with an old ship would be best to pull off photos for this character. Due to the pandemic so many venues are closed or open to a limited capacity. Instead of pedaling against the current, I went with Quasimodo. I certainly intend to circle back to this cereal-centric buccaneer someday.
If Quasimodo was going to play out properly, I didn’t want to cut corners. Part of that was going the extra mile to create both his normal attire and Festival of Fools costume. Pictured above is the craft day my mom and I had where we created the jester hat. We used fabric, hot glue and wire so I could bend the tails of the hat.
Constructing the mask was undoubtedly the hardest part of this costume, but the process taught me a lot. I started off casting my face in aluminum foil. Once the base was built, I secured it by wrapping crafting tape around the form. I then sculpted Quasi’s face out of a non-drying clay. This way I could redo it one thousand times if needed (and I did). Once the final shape was set, I covered it with a mold release compound and then applied the Smooth-On liquid rubber. I coated it in about five layers and let it dry for two days. The photo on the left is after layer one and the photo on the right is after layer five. This process would result in my mask mold.
Very carefully I removed the purple rubber mold from the clay form. Then it was time to line it with Smooth-On liquid plastic to make the mask itself. The compound was hot in temperature but pretty easy to manipulate once I got the hang of it. It took three attempts to create a mask that was neither too big nor too small (feeling like a gender-swapped, Italian Goldilocks). After I finally had settled on my winner, I trimmed off the excess pieces to create a nice mask-shape and began to match the piece to my skin tone with gouache. Lastly, I laid the eyebrows, added teeth and secured a strap in place.
Here’s my final motley line-up. Starting with the top row, you can see the clay and aluminum base and to the right of it is my mold. On the bottom row (from the left) we have my first mask attempt which was going to be a Phantom of the Opera knockoff, I thought it might add realism to leave a part of my face exposed but it ended up looking awkward. In the middle is my “you’re almost there but not quite” mask. It was a good try but the sculpt wasn’t up to par. The third mask was my final product which you see in the photos (below). A giant shoutout to Michael Faubenix for walking this novice through the timely mask-making process and giving me immeasurable amounts of expert advice.
Enter Annie’s Sewing Workroom
Annie Diaz is a wiz at the sewing table and a joy to work with. Usually my Halloweens are spent celebrating with her daughter Ari (you can see our latest collaboration here) but 2020 was an Annie-Brendan event. Together we worked remotely to figure out the logistics behind the tunic and iconic hump.
I knew the hump would be an element way beyond my comfort zone that I couldn’t create without help. Annie came up with the perfect solution, building a one-of-a-kind backpack for me to wear. This thing was so sturdy and comfortable, I could have worn it all day… and I pretty much did.
Annie went out of her way to hunt for the perfect materials to the cape and tunic – even in the midst of a pandemic. She really went above and beyond to make sure the fabrics matched my vision and executed every element with care. If you are in the Southfield, Michigan area or surrounding locations she’s the best to work with. You can check out more of her beautiful work here.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Cameron Falciglia
My photoshoot this year was by the super talented Cameron Falciglia. I’ve known him personally for nearly a decade and always admired his insanely impressive skillset. It was so much fun to travel around New York City to St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Patrick’s Cathedral to get all of the perfect shots under his creative direction. Thank you for your time and efforts, Cam; you knocked it out of the park as per usual.
My friend and co-worker Andrea Arreaza stepped into the role of Esmeralda for the shoot and it’s amazing how well she embodied the character. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else as my counterpart. Legit, if Drea said no to this adventure – ya boy would have been Captain Crunch. Follow her cooking account here. She shares awesome recipes and does simple, step-by-step meal how-to’s.
“Out There” Digital Art by Jesus Sanchez
When it comes to picture-perfect editing, I leave it to the pros. Jesus Sanchez was the master behind re-creating the “Out There” scene from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He actually retouched all of the images in this blog aside from the costume-making elements. I’m so thankful to have such an ingenious friend. To see his portfolio, click here.
Follow the Team Behind The Hunchback of Notre Dame on Instagram
Andrea Arreaza: @hungryhungry_drea
Annie Diaz: @anniesewingworkroom
Brendan McWhirk: @brendanmcwhirk
Cameron Falciglia: @cameroninthecity
Jesus Sanchez: @jmanny92
Thanks so much for reading. To see more of my Halloween costumes click here or search #BrendanDoesHalloween on Instagram. Also, wear a mask.
Leave a comment below to suggest what my Halloween theme for 2021 should be.