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Zero, the Nightmare Before Christmas dog

Zero is Jack Skellington's dog from the Halloween/Christmas movie Nightmare Before Christmas. I'm hoping to build a semi-animatronic version

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Back in 2016 I bought a picture at a convention of K-9 chasing Zero who had just stolen the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. I looked down at my K-9 replica and realized I could use his chassis as a base to make a Zero. It took a couple of years to find a material that I think may work. A late friend of mine found that splash shields from inside car doors were translucent enough to look "ghostly". Thanks to Jonathan I'll be able to start this project. Hopefully I can figure out how to paint it to get the right look.

I was working on a 3d print of his head but then I found a Zero from Spirit Halloween. It's the perfect size. Down the road I might make a 3d printed head so I can do mouth movement but for now I'll be using this base. All I have to do is clean it up and paint it. Lighting the nose is an absolute must.

Zero is being built on my K-9's chassis and will use all of his electronics. I'll be controlling him with the Shadow system built mainly for Astromechs. It's been adapted for K-9 and it should be easy to swap it over for Zero as well. The main body of Zero is going to be a PVC skeleton with a thermoformable plastic to mimic "ghostly ectoplasm." The plastic is the same that is used in modern car doors as water shields. A late friend found it and tried using it for cosplay armor. We figured out it might work well for Zero.

  • 1 × Arduino Mega Control board
  • 1 × MP3Trigger Audio device
  • 1 × Sabertooth 2x25 Motor controller
  • 1 × Fuse block
  • 1 × Marine grade on-off switch

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  • Tidying up loose ends

    Kenneth Zaborny10/07/2021 at 22:43 0 comments

    I received Zero's Halloween Hackfest poster yesterday. It's very nice. I made sure to put it up in the workshop with Zero. 

    After that I got to work fixing that hole around his neck (or at least making it less noticeable) and covering up the LEDs on the electronics. I considered painting the inside of Zero black but our weather forecast doesn't look favorable for that. Electrical tape was enough to block the LEDs. 

    While Zero was off the chassis I could take a picture showing the size difference between the drive system and his body. I considered swapping the motor leads and making Zero a front wheel drive but I'm pretty sure the terrain for the upcoming Halloween event is going to be mostly grass so the larger front drive wheels are probably my best bet. One day I want to upgrade this chassis with some much larger wheels I have that are pneumatic. I just have to worry about clearance within K-9's body. 

  • Just in time for October

    Kenneth Zaborny10/01/2021 at 01:20 0 comments

    Today I got Zero on the ground and moving around. There are some things I need to fix like the hole around his neck and the LEDs from the electronics shining through the body. 

  • Shipping delays are fun, huh?

    Kenneth Zaborny09/29/2021 at 18:27 0 comments

    I finally got the cheap AMP I ordered after about a week long delay. I came close to tearing one out of one of my other projects just to get Zero talking. I've used these little 4 dollar AMPs in other projects and they aren't terrible. I have yet to fry one. Since we're talking 2-10 second sound clips I am not worried about overheating issues either. At the most Zero will be playing "This is Halloween" or any one of the other songs from Nightmare Before Christmas every once in awhile. As someone that drives other robots around the constant songs and talking can be very irritating.

    Now to figure out where I am going to mount this and the speakers. They're going to be on the skeleton so Zero can be a self contained "cover" for the chassis. It makes swapping between K-9 and Zero less of a hassle.


  • Well, that didn't work.

    Kenneth Zaborny09/26/2021 at 01:58 0 comments

    It's something I should know. It's a lesson I have learned more than once in my life. Unfortunately I didn't realize that Zero's skin was way too flexible for spray paint. This is the result of me removing the skin so I could glue the skeleton. 

    With this lesson learned...for now...I looked into plasti dip for attempt number 2 but before that I glued up the frame. 

    I can still break it down for travel and storage but most of it is glued together. Now I can carry it without it falling apart. 

    Zero, painted with Plasti Dip this time. There's no glow on this but if, in a few days, the paint proves to be flexible enough I'm going to see if I can find some sort of flexible glow paint to try. Otherwise only his head will be glowing. 

  • Ghostly glowing ghost dog

    Kenneth Zaborny09/23/2021 at 22:31 0 comments

    It's finally stopped raining around here and the humidity dropped low enough for me to paint Zero. Jonathan said this material took to paint very well and he wasn't exaggerating. The paint went on very smooth and adhered extremely well. 

    I decided to do a single coat of white primer, a light and very random dusting of glow in the dark paint, and then a matte clear. I got the coverage I wanted with the single coat of primer and since it isn't too thick I might be able to do some internal lighting. 

    The glow in the dark looks better than I expected. Unfortunately, it's hard to photograph so here are a couple of blurry ghostly photos. 

    Next up will be letting the glue on the nose dry overnight and then I can see about getting him on the ground for some driving video. 

  • This is Halloween

    Kenneth Zaborny09/19/2021 at 03:11 0 comments

    What's Halloween without a jack o'lantern? Thankfully, faithful Zero has what we need. I knew I wanted a flickering light in his nose and I had worked out how I was going to run an Arduino nano with an RGB pixel. However, when talking to a fellow Astromech builder he mentioned a tea light already did exactly what I wanted and he was right. All I had to do was clip out the LED, wire it up to a voltage regulator, and bingo. I had the light I wanted. As a bonus the "flame" in the tea light was perfect to put inside Zero's nose. It gives a little more detail than we could see in the film but I am sure this is what Zero's nose was supposed to look like. 

    The pumpkin was sourced a couple of years ago from a silly Halloween prop, it was just coated in glitter. I had to scrap all that off and then cut out the jack o'lantern shape. 

    I put Zero on the ground so I could check the body for clearance before deciding on paint. I've got a few days before I can paint him anyway thanks to forecasted rain. The triangular gape is going to get a filler piece of black material just to cover up the frame. Zero is more like a sheet so that area is actually just a gap in the film.

  • I really like this

    Kenneth Zaborny09/17/2021 at 03:34 3 comments

    Sketch seems skeptical about it but I really like the way that the plastic is starting to take shape for Zero. I'm going to need some more PVC connectors but I think this will work and look like a flowing sheet. 

  • Starting to look a lot like Zero

    Kenneth Zaborny09/16/2021 at 20:36 0 comments

    Today I worked on the skeleton (no pun intended) for Zero. I've got a lot of scrap PVC so it was the obvious choice of material. 

    Zero is very fluid when he flies so it shape changes a lot. I wanted a bit of a flat Zero so I angled the PVC with 45 degree couplers. Hopefully the material will flow like I imagine. None of this is glued yet so I'll be able to play with sizes and lengths. 

    This fabric has been hanging around my house since before I moved in. I never threw it out because "it had to be good for something" and today's something is a mock up of what I am aiming for. I'm not sold on the angle of Zero's head yet.. I thought that having him looking up might be good so he'll be looking at the faces of kids instead of straight ahead. We'll see once I get him on the ground. 

  • Control chassis

    Kenneth Zaborny09/06/2021 at 02:39 0 comments

    I might be cheating a bit but the plan was always to use K-9's current chassis as the drive system for Zero. I'd be able to swap out the body on the fly. K-9 currently uses the SHADOW system designed for Astromechs. All I really need to do for Zero is swap the sound card in the MP3Trigger. I may or may not use the Syren10 for head movement. It all depends on how flexible the body material for Zero is going to be. With any luck I'll be able to work out some sort of movements for him. Otherwise his electronics are good to go short of the light for the pumpkin nose.

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davedarko wrote 09/06/2021 at 09:21 point

Oh wow, what a great project!

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Kenneth Zaborny wrote 09/07/2021 at 15:51 point

Thank you. I can't wait to see people's reactions to him this Halloween.

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