Introducing ’90s Raver Ralph
’90s Raver Ralph is the name Matt Tybinka and I gave to our “son”, a festival totem shaped like a giant Lego Minifigure. Raver Ralph made his first appearance at the 2013 Electric Forest Festival.
To be honest, I’m not 100% when or how the decision was made to actually, for really real, build a festival totem. It seems like something Matt and I had talked about doing for awhile, but just never got around to. I had never built or carried a festival totem around before, and neither had Matt. But, whatever the impetus was that finally put us into action, there were a few things we were sure of: Since we both loved Legos, and as children of the 90’s who remember the Electronic and Rave scene of that era, it had to be a giant-sized Lego Minifig dressed up as an old school raver, phat pants, visor, and all!
I handled the build of Raver Ralph, from sketches & research to maquette and the final totem. Matt Tybinka provided the idea, inspiration and clothing for Ralph, he also served as an engineering consultant throughout the build process. But in total, I was responsible for 95% of the project from beginning to completion. Although to be completely fair, Matt carried Ralph around the festival, so he was responsible for 100% of Ralph’s public appearances.
Many lessons were learned with Raver Ralph 1.0 which led to significant changes to the design and build of Raver Ralph 2.0 the following year. Be sure to check out his page as well to see the ongoing revolution of Raver Ralph!
Because so much work was involved in the creation of this festival totem I’ve included it in my portfolio to show some of my more traditional, physical-media based skills. The research and decision making process that led to the final design are also great examples of my personal processes that I also use when creating digital projects.
Sketches and Maquette
My initial sketches of the idea based on conversations with Matt. We really wanted to be sure he looked like the rave kids we remembered from the 1990’s. His outfit definitely had to include a visor and phat pants.
I determined the final size of Ralph should be about 2 feet tall, and I wanted him to look as realistic as possible. No janky “if you squint it really does look like a minifig!” here.
I found a fantastic application, 123D Make, which can generate construction patterns and plans from a 3D object file (download), so you can make your own physical models. A sort of janky 3d printing, if you will. I felt this method would be the fastest and easiest way to scale up. I wanted to test the stacking method of construction at small scale first since I planned on using styrofoam on the full size version, and that shit’s expensive yo. I made a 1/4 scale maquette using slices of cardstock and drinking straws, held together with hot glue.
The maquette made it clear to me that the stacked slices method of construction would not work were I to use styrofoam, and would cost too much in terms of materials. Or at least it would not be feasible to construct the entire totem using this method.
I eventually decided that as long as the head and the arms looked like a real minifig’s, people would get it. It didn’t really matter if the body, which would be covered in clothes, was super-realistic or not. People would see it as a Lego minifig as long as the key visual triggers were there.
I divided the sculpture into three main sections. The head was made using the aforementioned 3D method of stacked slices of styrofoam. The body was constructed as a hollow styrofoam frame based on a custom pattern I created. The arms and hands were made from yellow poster board folded papercraft style based on patterns I found online and enlarged.
You’ll notice there are no images for the arms being built. This is because there were finished on the way to and at the festival, so I was too distracted to take pictures.
At The Festival
90’s Raver Ralph was a big hit at the festival! Matt and I put the final touches on him after we got our camp site set up. You can even spot our glue gun in one of the pictures. Overall, I really enjoyed seeing the reactions people had to Ralph. This was really the first time I made something for mass public consumption, so I was a bit nervous about it. The smiles on people’s faces as they looked up at him were enough to convince me to do it again.