Welcome to the first issue of This Old Fursuit! In this recurring series, we will be looking at incredible old fursuits and doing deep dives on them. It was pretty difficult to decide what fursuit to do as the first, but this one seemed like a great choice! So here we go everyone, let’s meet Walden J. Whitetail!
Walden is a stunning deer fursuit originally built and owned by Shawn Keller and now owned by Yippee Coyote. I had the pleasure of getting to chat with Yippee while doing this deep dive to try to get the best look possible at this gorgeous critter!
Walden was built sometime around 1990 although the exact month and year is unknown. Shawn Keller created him as his personal furry character, “Uncle Buck." At that time, Shawn Keller was working as an animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios as well as Warner Brothers Animation. He was a big fan of the costumes in the Disney parks and had learned to build his own costumes based on the techniques used for the theme park costumes.
Walden’s head is made of fiberglass strips laid over a foam base that is later removed. Fur was laid over the hardened fiberglass shell and glued
down, and white plastic eyes with a black paint for the pupil were added. Inside the head are just foam spacers to ensure the wearer’s head is away from the raw inside, and in the correct spot. In the pictures to the left you can see the yellow foam is the original and the green foam Yippee added to get a better fit. The wearer must look out of Walden's mouth for vision. The black mesh you see in the photo to the left is this vision port in the mouth. This means that for photographs, to ensure Walden is looking at the camera, the performer must look down towards the photographer's feet. The antlers were originally supported by an aluminum rod embedded in the fiberglass head.
This allowed the antlers to be bendable which made it a great costume to interact with. But over time the aluminum rods wore out and it was during a parade that one of the antlers actually fell off!
In this video from 2010, we can see Walden coming down the street. Even before the antler falls off we can see how much the antlers have drooped over the years.
After this parade, the antlers were remade. The antlers are now supported by steel rods, which makes them much sturdier and unable to be bent but has also made the head even heavier.
In 2003, Shawn Keller invited Yippee and Croc to his and Dave Kuhn’s place and offered some of his costumes for adoption. One of them was “Uncle Buck.”
When deciding on a new name Yippee considered Roebuck or Deerfield. Croc suggested the name Walden, after Walden Pond, and it fit the best. Walden’s full name is Walden J. Whitetail. His personality is a dignified one, as he walks with good posture, chest out and antlers up. Yippee was also much taller than Shawn Keller and so Yippee added the longer light brown fur on the wrists and ankles so the suit would fit him. He also needed new feet, so he bought deer parade feet from Marylen’s Costumes in 2003 that he still uses to this day.
Yippee has brought Walden to many conventions from 2003 to today, but he enjoys performing Walden for Christmas events in the California Bay Area where he lives. Walden walked in the San Jose Holiday Parade from 2003 to 2010 and then in the 2013 Oakland Holiday Parade. Walden has also done many appearances at Children’s Fairyland in Oakland for the tree lighting festivals alongside Santa Ron. Santa Ron was himself an incredible person to learn about, so if you’d like to learn more click here. http://cfairyland.blogspot.com/2017/11/ron-zeno-day.html
In this video from 2004 we can see Walden alongside other characters from Critters By The Bay, a fursuit charity group, walking and riding in the San Jose Holiday Parade. It's great to have this little snapshot in time of fursuiters out in public.
Walden is a simply spectacular suit and still looks amazing to do this day despite being over 30 years old. He captures an amazing toony style not often seen in the fursuits of today, thanks to the incredible talents of his maker. And thanks to his current performer, Walden has also brought smiles to the faces of so many outside of the furry fandom. And for that, we thought Walden would be the perfect first fursuit to focus on in this series! Thanks for coming by for This Old Fursuit!
Special Thanks: - Yippee Coyote who spoke with me at length to share all the stories about Walden since he adopted him, shared the video from the 2004 San Jose Holiday Parade and for taking photos of the inside of the head.
- Croc for the photograph of Walden on the couch.
- Saberfire for the photographs of Walden at FC 2005 and FC 2004
- Duncan for the video from the 2010 San Jose Holiday parade.