EDIT: I saw in the Press Release by NECA posted online that they are indeed working on a Songbird plush (if they haven’t made it already). They did such a wonderful job on the Big Daddy plush from BioShock 2, and I’m sure they’ll make an awesome Songbird plush. So keep an eye out for it!
Derek and I are huge fans of BioShock. We liked it so much that I even made a bento of it, and had a photo of the bento signed by Ken Levine, Shawn Robertson and Nate Wells at PAX East two years ago. So you can imagine how excited we’ve been for the BioShock Infinite ever since Irrational Games announced it.
It was around the holiday last year that Irrational Games (the video game studio that created BioShock) tweeted this image.
As soon as I saw the image, I knew what I had to do.
Stuffed stuff: Songbird from BioShock Infinite
Created and stuffed: March 2013
The plush is based on a character called Songbird from BioShock Infinite. It’s the protector of Elizabeth the heroine in game and he will do whatever to protect her & get her back at any cost.
Now that Derek and I finished BioShock Infinite once (we’re already on our second playthrough) we can say that, without spoilers, it was absolutely gorgeous and the story totally blew our minds. I fell in love with Songbird even more! Also there actually are Songbird plush in the game!
Do I wish I had seen them before I made it so it could’ve been more accurate? YES. Do I regret that I made it pre-release? NO. Because something incredibly awesome happened during PAX East, and it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t bring it to PAX East.
First I had to figure out what the Songbird plush looked like from the holiday card. Most of his body is covered by Elizabeth’s hands, so I had to compare it with the photos of the Songbird statue which Irrational Games made for the ultimate box set for the game. I also watched the trailers with Songbird in it over and over.
After the sketch, I made a rough prototype of the body with felt. I like using felt when I make a rough sample or prototype. It doesn’t fray so it’s easy to cut, sew, and draw lines on if needed. I tweaked it a couple of times, changing the width and shape until I was finally satisfied with the shape.
After the body, I moved onto make a rough shape of the arms and legs. The arms weren’t too hard on the first version. I just had to adjust the length a bit. The legs & feet took a bit of thinking and required me to dig up my old patterns for Costume Quest. After trying it a couple times, I managed to come up with feet that were to my satisfaction.
In the illustration, you can see the skin/surface of the plush is kind of loose and wrinkly. It’s actually not very easy to make the surface loose like that without using less stuffing, which makes it hard for the plush to hold its shape. So what I did was to make a core body with canvas, and make an outer layer 10% bigger than the body and put it on the core body. This way, the core of the body can be stuffed as usual and the slightly bigger outer layer makes the surface a bit loose. I also did the same with the arms and legs.
After the core body was made and covered with the final fabric, I attached the arms and legs with plastic joints so that you can actually rotate them. (Like a Teddy bear)
Then I moved onto the “bodysuit.” I could’ve just used the same patterns as the body for the bodysuit, but I didn’t like the position of the seams, so I made a new pattern so that the whole bodysuit was actually one piece and not three pieces like the core body. It took a couple of iterations to get it to fit nicely but it was worth it.
Then I made the strip that goes over from his head all the way to the bottom, and sewed it to the outfit. For the piece around the neck, I put two layers of felt inside as support so it would keep its shape.
Next up were the wings. I sketched out the wings, cut the pleather (fake leather) and sewed it closed. But I realized that the wings were a bit floppier than I wanted. So I decided to make bones out of pipe cleaners and armature wire. To hold the bones in place, I sewed them by hand onto a piece of felt which was cut into the shape of the wings.
I was pretty much improvising as I made it but I wish I could’ve done something better. Pleather is known to get scratched pretty easily by feed dogs (the jagged surface on a sewing machine that moves the fabric as you sew.) I didn’t have any special feed dogs or technique, so I just held my breath and hoped for the best…
Luckily, it scratched only a tiny bit. It still bugs me a lot but Derek said that he could barely see it… so I decided not to go crazy about it. I attached the wings, and moved onto the details.
Finally the most important parts, the small details. The eyes, the rings that hold the piece around the neck to the outfit, the braided air pipe coming out from the mouth, the little loops to hold the air pipe to the outfit, decorative stitching, etc…
Each detail took way too long. It didn’t take long to actually do it, but it took forever LOOKING FOR MATERIALS! I missed the Fashion District of New York City more than ever. We drove around San Diego and went to many stores to find the eyes but couldn’t find ones that matched. So I modified a plastic jean button and epoxied it onto another button. We couldn’t find the rings to hold the piece around the neck either, so I used eyelets instead. For the air pipe, I couldn’t find a big leather cord, so I learned how to braid leather strings, which was actually kind of cool.
The hardest part of this project was definitely the “guessing” part. Even though I had references of Songbird in game, the plush version is not an exact replica of the actual Songbird. I had to guess how to simplify and modify certain things I couldn’t see, which I was really bad at. (It was hell trying to simplify the armor when I made my Master Chief plush.) Now after seeing the plush Songbird in the game, I think I’ll make some changes on the next Songbird.
As PAX East was nearing, I was wondering if Ken Levine would have a signing like he did at the last PAX East. Then the community manager of Irrational Games invited me and Derek to their invite-only fan meetup held during PAX East! We thought this couldn’t be a more perfect opportunity to give him the plush.
We got there a bit late because first we went to Double Fine & Capybara Games meetup hosted by IGN (which was a blast!) As we walked in, we saw Ken but he was talking to someone. And then a cosplay contest started, so we decided to wait until the contest ended.
After the contest, we looked for him but he was nowhere to be found. Then a handsome gentleman approached us, and asked me “Are you Anna?” It turned out that he was the community manager, Ratana, who invited us! We thanked him and said that we had something for Ken. He told us that Ken had to leave and wouldn’t be around for the rest of PAX East… I could hear Derek going “Nooooooooooo” in his head.Â We looked around and saw Irrational Games devs hanging around chatting with fans. So we asked him if we could have them open the gift and Derek could take photos of their reactions. They did, and it was absolutely amazing.
They were all super excited to see the Songbird plush, I even got teary watching their reactions. (Man, I’m getting old.)
The two gentlemen opening the box are Bill Gardner who is the design director of BioShock Infinite, and Scott Sinclair, the art director of BioShock and BioShock Infinite! We were so overwhelmed by their excitement that we totally forgot to ask Scott to sign the copy of BioShock we had in our bag. Doh!
So yes, we couldn’t meet Ken Levine, which was sad, but the super awesome people at Irrational Games TOTALLY made up for it, or even more! Not only that, Ken’s personal assistant Ashlee and Ratana told me that they’d make sure to document when Ken received the plush.
I was expecting a “hey check out this fan art” tweet which would’ve totally made me dance in joy, so we were in shock when we received this from Ratana later.
There are no words to describe what the video meant to me and Derek. We never thought seeing a middle-aged man holding a plush would make us so ecstatic.
Thank you Ken Levine for EVERYTHING you’ve done. And I’d like to thank everyone at Irrational Games for creating such amazing games and awesome community around it.
Oh, there is a leather-plush version of Songbird in one of “documentaries” of Columbia which is the city in the sky from BioShock Infinite. I’d love to make the full-leather one someday but I am not experienced with leather and I don’t own the right tools. But someday…. !!
For more pictures of this plush, visit stuffed stuff: Songbird from BioShock Infinite set!
You can also check out more stuffed stuff on my flickr.