The moment I saw the first sneak peek of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, I knew I needed to make this happen. The final shot of Rocket Raccoon with baby Groot on his shoulder was just so perfect and I knew exactly how I’d do it too.
This is not a particularly new trick. I’ve seen this used for a variety of different puppets over the years for a simple way to add motion and life. I had not seen it done with a 3d printed model before though, so I thought it would be fun to give it a try.
The basic principle works the same no matter what you’re using as the body of your shoulder puppet. A single cable is fed through the puppet and attached to the head. The “neck” is reduced to a single point that can flex and twist. As you push, pull, and twist the cable, the head moves. As you can see in the video above, the range of motion can be drastically different depending on the stiffness of the neck. The stuffed dragon moves so much better than my final Groot did.
The model I used was this one, created by Thingiverse user Byambaa. You can download several different versions depending on how much detail you want. For some reason, this model printed a bit blobby for me. I was initially concerned that my printer was needing an adjustment, but other items were printing with a nice surface finish. Ultimately, I printed this at medium settings so that it wouldn’t take forever.
After printing, I chopped off the neck and replaced that with a piece of fabric. This gave me the bend and flex necessary. As soon as I had the neck working, a quick paint job really brought him to life.
Groot is being held in place by some simple velcro straps. Depending on your costume, you could use leather or simply hide the strapping underneath your costume.