The Artists Inside BlizzCon's Winning Cosplays
When a Prime Evil emerges from the curtains of the Mythic Stage, fog lingering about her every step, it’s hard to believe there’s a person just like you underneath the crown of horns. Our breath was taken away when cosplayers—Sonia “Cinderys” Grillet in her “Prime Evil Leah” costume among them—walked across the stage to show off their hard work and craftsmanship in the BlizzCon 2019 Cosplay Contest.
We interviewed the winners of each contest category to learn more about their process, and heard about their passions, dedication, and diligence—all of which contributed to their success this year. For all the inhuman splendor in their work, it was their humanity that allowed them to shine.
All interviews have been edited for clarity.
Metal and Bone: Anna "Ormeli" Moleva, “Artisan Crafting” Winner
Cosplay: Sylvanas Windrunner
How long did you spend making your cosplay?
It was about three months of continuous work. Every day. Seven days a week.
We heard that you used real metal and bone in the creation of your cosplay. How did you approach this? Can you talk more about your process?
Yes, it’s true. This was my first experience [working with those materials] and I thought, “What the hell, this is armor! It must be made of metal!” [As I worked], I wanted more naturalness. My first education is veterinary, so I can make bone specimens—so a bow from bones and two horns appeared. It took two sheep skeletons and a trophy head of a goat.
Is there a part of your cosplay that you’re particularly proud of, and did you learn anything from working on it?
I’m especially proud of my metal pants! They consist of more than 5,000 steel scales, and I weaved them myself with my own hands, like real chainmail.
What were some of the specific challenges you came across while making such an intricate cosplay?
The weight. All the armor weighs 40 kilograms—approximately 88 pounds. I weigh 50 kilograms—110 pounds. Unfortunately, the armor design did not allow me to use thinner metal as a basis, because it would be impossible to solder. So, being in the armor at BlizzCon for seven hours was a real challenge. I really hope it was imperceptible how hard it was for me.
The Queen Gets Her Armor: Oshley, "Weapons and Armor" Winner
Cosplay: Queen Anduin
How long did you spend making your costume?
I worked on my Anduin Wrynn cosplay for nine months, putting over 1,000 hours into this build.
How did you get into cosplay?
In 2013, a friend and I were talking about how cool it would be if WoW were real. She sent photos of a few cosplayers to me and my creative thoughts began to flow. I realized, “Hey…I can do this.” I became inspired to research the hobby and to begin building my first cosplay. Since then, cosplay crafting has been a major part of my life!
What about Anduin made you want to dive into constructing such a detailed cosplay?
When the Battle for Azeroth cinematic showed [Anduin] with his fantastic new set of plate armor, I felt like the cosplay plan was just dropped into my lap. His armor was super intimidating, and was reminiscent of his late father’s, Varian Wrynn’s, from the Legion cinematic. I cosplayed his armor in 2016 and after that project was finished, I yearned to challenge myself further by building another huge armor set. It was perfectly too appropriate for me to take Anduin on as my cosplay for this year, and this ended up being one of my favorite builds to date!
Were there any challenges you faced creating your cosplay? How did you overcome them? Did you learn anything new through this experience?
The part of my cosplay that I was absolutely not looking forward to were the lions' heads on my shoulders and chest plate. They are such a standout part of the design, so I really, really knew they had to look exactly as I envisioned them. I have minimal sculpting experience but I decided I wanted 100 percent of my armor to be handcrafted, so 3D printing wasn’t an option for me. The base is made from expanding foam which I carved down to a basic, lion-like shape with a knife. Then I built up layers of the lion head with air-dry clay, and ta-da! Success!
Interview with a Fel Reaver: Jonathan Douglas, "Large-scale Fabrication" Winner
Cosplay: Fel Reaver
How long did you spend making your costume?
It took [my son and I] a full month in early 2019 to pick the Fel Reaver as our costume. I started working on the 3D models of the costume parts in February/March of 2019, and [continued] until we packed up and drove to California for the convention.
What made you decide to “go big” with this costume, and what about the Fel Reaver inspired you to dedicate so much time and effort to the creation of your cosplay?
My son, Tino, has always been a huge fan of World of Warcraft, and when we found out that BlizzCon 2019 fell on his 18th birthday, we immediately began planning for our biggest costume ever! Building costumes for my kids is a great way to indulge in my hobby, stay connected to my kids, and inspire them to be creative.
You mentioned this was dedicated to your son and that you traveled cross-country with this cosplay—can you tell us more?
World of Warcraft is a game that our family has played together since our kids were very little. It has been a constant throughout Tino’s life and has provided us a way to connect even through rough times. When your eldest kid turns 18, it dawns on you that there isn’t a lot of time left to hang out and play computer games together, so we turned BlizzCon 2019 into a father-son cross-country road trip. Tino and I packed up the costume in a 4’x8’ U-haul trailer and drove from East Tennessee to Anaheim! It was a bonding experience made even more amazing by winning our costume category on the Mythic Stage!
Can you tell us more about your process and the challenges you faced in making this costume?
We [spent] a lot of time doing 3D work with the game model and human shape to see how the parts could be modified to fit onto a person on 16” stilts. I worked up paper models of all the parts prior to fabricating them out of EVA foam to make sure they would fit together and look okay. This took a lot of time, but it paid off once the costume was completed.
Plan for Success: Finn Chiu on behalf of Shredder Mei's Cosplay, "Group Construction" Winners
Cosplay: Protoss Selendis
How did you all come together to make this cosplay? What was that process like from start to finish?
The suit took us about 2,160 hours to finish. We made molds of Selendis’ face and armor with putty and plaster. The molds were used to make ABS plastic shells, which were sanded and painted into the final result. The skin and hands were made of tights and sculpted sponge—we applied emulsion and then acrylic paints.
What were your roles in the group construction, and how did you manage your time and the work involved?
I am a performer, so I spent about 1-3 hours every day practicing movement while wearing the suit in order to minimize any mistake. I used almost all my free time to practice my performance.
What about the StarCraft protoss Selendis inspired you all to dedicate so much time and effort to the creation of this cosplay?
Selendis is a great heroine. Although sometimes she is stubborn, she usually takes the overall situation into consideration. It is also a big challenge to reproduce her image. I was eager to perform her well.
What advice would you give to those looking to create a group cosplay?
Choose the character you love, make a good plan, and try your best to make the goal. Trust me, you can make it.
Diablo as Armor: "Oustanding Creation" and Grand Prize Winner, Sonia "Cinderys" Grillet
Cosplay: Leah, the Prime Evil
You mentioned your cosplay took 700 hours to make—where do you think you spent most of that time?
There was a lot of work on the lights. I had to think about organizing a space for them and for the batteries. There are more than 400 diodes, all diffused with EPE foam sheet and amplified with aluminum. But I wanted those parts to look good even when the lights are off, so I painted and covered them with Worbla Crystal Art.
How did you come up with the idea to put a smoke machine in your cosplay, and how did you manage to pull off that amazing feat?
My weapon is inspired by the shoulders of Diablo. When I drew the “mouth,” I was already thinking about how awesome it would be to have smoke come out! The head of my weapon is hollow, so I can insert or remove the smoke machine.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in bringing this cosplay together?
Transportation. This costume is huge! The tail is in 11 parts and all its horns are removable. It was such a challenge to make every piece transportable.
What about this character or concept inspired you to dedicate so much time and effort to the creation of your cosplay?
When I started cosplaying five years ago, I was already dreaming of going to BlizzCon, being part of the contest, and walking on the Mythic Stage! Diablo was my cosplay dream. I wanted to create my own design of the character, and the artwork and cinematics gave me an idea: what if Leah had not been possessed by Diablo, but had been stronger? That’s how my concept art of Leah, the Prime Evil was born—a badass lady wearing Diablo as her armor! I will not hide from you that it has been hard, both physically and morally. But I did not want to give up—I wanted to do my best and realize this dream!
We want to extend a huge thank you to Anna, Oshley, Jonathan, Finn, and Sonia for participating in these interviews! We learned so much and were so inspired by the hard work that brought our characters from behind the screen into the physical world.
We also want to extend our gratitude to all who participated and submitted work to the 2019 BlizzCon Cosplay Contest. We thank you for your passion and look forward to seeing you at the next Community Night!