As soon as the PAX Prime schedule was announced, Derek and I started listing up the panels we wanted to go. One panel we absolutely did not want to miss was the panel for The Last of Us with Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley.
Not only we were excited to see the developers of The Last of Us talk in person, but I thought this would be the perfect chance to make something for them to show my gratitude for the amazing and emotional experience that The Last of Us gave Derek and I. I didn’t know what to make though. I’m bad at redesigning realistic characters as plushes. That’s the reason I haven’t made anything from the Uncharted series which are some of our all time favorite games. I was making a list of possible plushable characters but everything about this game is very realistic. A rugged looking guy Joel, a tough young girl Ellie, humans infected with Cordyceps called Clickers, and the famous bricks. (yes, bricks.)
I was already thinking about just how I’d redesign the characters when we spotted something that made my plushy light bulb light up.
stuffed stuff: Giraffe plush from The Last of Us
created and stuffed: September 2013
I don’t want to go into the details of the story of The Last of Us but you can find this giraffe plush in certain places in the game. Seeing this adorable giraffe plush placed in the pre & post apocalyptic world seemed so symbolic and perfect for my plush project.
Derek took screenshots of the giraffe plush, and I started drafting the patterns for it.
It seemed easy enough. A long torso, floppy legs and arms and a huge head. Of course, when something looks easy to make, it doesn’t necessary mean it is. Before finalizing the patterns, I made three different bodies, two different sizes of legs, two different sizes of arms, and two heads.
I went to a fabric store and looked at the fabrics with giraffe patterns, but something wasn’t right. The color was off, and the spots were either too small or too big or too close together, etc… It just didn’t look like the one from the game. So I naturally decided that I’d put each spot onto the body manually. When I told Derek about my plan, he looked like this. -> O_O
I picked fleece for all the parts. The body, hooves, and giraffe-y spots. It’s a kid’s plush toy, everything should be soft and plushy, right? Who would’ve thought it’d be such a pain? I didn’t.
After I made all the body parts, I started working on the spots. The giraffe in the game has a unique layout for its spots. It looks like the designer created a texture for the half of the body, and just flipped it for the other half. In short, the giraffe has a very symmetrical pattern, which means every spot I had to cut out twice. Fleece is too fuzzy and stretchy to cut two layers at once, so I had to cut each spot individually. As you can imagine, it was really time consuming but I still didn’t consider what this would mean later.
I pinned the spots on the front to match the screenshot of the giraffe plush. This looked super weird.
Even though it looked weird, I loved how it would make this giraffe plush unique in a way that probably only people who worked on it would notice it.
Wednesday night, the night before we had to leave for Seattle, I had only finished cutting the spots for the front. I was planning on carrying the plush onto the plane, so I glued the spots and removed the pins. I was still really optimistic, thinking that I could just glue all the spots on at the hotel.
But Thursday morning, I realized that fleece was too fuzzy to be glued onto another piece fleece, especially when the fleece you’re gluing onto wasn’t on a hard surface. As a result, the edges of spots weren’t secure. There was only one solution for this, which was to sew all the spots on. (Derek here, while we were on the plane to Seattle I timed how long it took Anna to sew one spot on and she averaged about 3 min per spot. After counting the spots she still had to sew, my conservative estimate was that it would take her 8.5 hours, not factoring in other unfinished parts of the plush)
I think it was good that I didn’t have time to panic. I was on the crunchiest of crunch mode. I was crunching so hard that I broke needles while sewing. If I were in The Last of Us, I’d be totally using my broken needles to craft my weapons.
I didn’t sleep at all on Thursday and Friday. (I didn’t even go to the Sony party I was invited to, and instead sent Derek to have fun for me.) The only time I was not sewing was when I was in the line for and at the Last of Us panel on Friday and when we went to pick up the wrist bands for the autograph signing with Neil and Bruce on Saturday morning.
I think I finished sewing all the spots (about 200 of them) early Saturday morning. But it was far from over. I still had to sew the ears to the head and legs & arms to the body. Oh, did I mention that I had to make the tail and antlers, and sew those on too?
Sleep deprivation might slow down your productivity BUT it’ll also dull your ability to judge if your plan is even possible. It worked for the better for me this time. I didn’t even think of not trying to finish it.
I don’t know how, but somehow I finished it. The antlers were the last pieces I sewed on. To be honest, it was not pretty, but they were sewed on.
As soon as I tied the last knot, I pretty much threw the giraffe plush to Derek and he immediately started taking photos on the makeshift photo set (a.k.a. a bed sheet on a chair) in our hotel room. After he was done taking photos, I asked Derek to just take the giraffe and get in the autograph line because we knew that the line was really long the day before and even with the wrist band, we weren’t sure if they had room. I told him to just give the giraffe to them if I didn’t make it. (Funny that it sounds so intense.)
I got ready as fast as I could and ran out of the room to the exhibitor hall.
Luckily it didn’t take too long to find Derek, and the line started moving almost immediately. I was still considering fixing some seams while we were waiting, but it was already our turn.
Neil and Bruce were both really super nice. Their smile was like a shot of Vitamin B-12. I was no longer tired or sleepy at all and the holes made by the tip and the end (oh yes it hurt as you can imagine) of needles on my fingers quickly healed. I was incredibly flattered that they liked the plush. Sure it was missing the spots on the tail (which still bugs the hell out of me), but I was still happy to see the giraffe plush being with its creators. Also some fans in the line seemed to recognize it. Naughty Dog fans are all so awesome!
This was without a doubt, the most hand sewing I’ve done on a plush project. Even after all the sleepless nights and broken needles, I do want to make the giraffe again. As I compare the photos of my plush and the one in-game, the real giraffe plush in game is a lot bigger. Also, next time the tail will have spots.
I listened to the OST of The Last of Us as I made the plush, and I’d think about Joel and Ellie. The Last of Us is the only game where I often find myself wondering what happened to the characters after the end of the game.
Naughty Dog, you guys have done it again. Thank you!! Now can you put some plushable characters in Uncharted 4??
I’ll leave Derek’s fan made trailer for The Last of Us here. The trailer contains some mild spoilers. And also the game is rated for mature audiences. (Derek here again, The Last of Us is best experienced without knowing anything about the game, but I did my best to make my trailer as non-spoilery as possible just in case people who haven’t played the game watch it. For more information on the process of editing it, read my full blog post on the trailer.)
For more pictures of this plush, visit stuffed stuff: Giraffe plush from the Last of Us set!
You can also check out more stuffed stuff on my flickr.