Josh Sundquist has become known for his epic Halloween costumes — and 2020 was no different
josh sundquist
Josh Sundquist as "Groot"
| Credit: Courtesy josh sundquist

Halloween may look a little different this year, but that hasn't stopped Josh Sundquist from creating another iconic costume.

The motivational speaker and author, who lost his leg to childhood cancer, annually wears a clever costume for Halloween which he hopes will inspire other people with disabilities to embrace their bodies.

Over the last ten years, Sundquist has dressed up as everything from the Genie from Aladdin to the iconic Pixar lamp — and this year was no different as he brought the beloved "Baby Groot" character from Guardians of the Galaxy to life.

"People's faces just light up when they see it," Sundquist, 36, tells PEOPLE of his creation. "Children scream 'GROOT!' when they see me. It's just fun to bring a bit of joy into the world, especially in a moment when joy can be hard to come by."

As a huge fan of superheroes and comics, Sundquist says choosing to dress up as "Baby Groot" was a no-brainer.

"Superhero movies are my favorite. Like, literally one of my favorite things about being alive," he explains. "I wasn't sure if people remembered 'Baby Groot' when he was in the planter. It's just a quick 40-second sequence in the credits of Guardians of the Galaxy."

"Then last Halloween, a bunch of people on Reddit upvoted the 'Baby Groot' idea, so I felt confident this was something people would recognize and hopefully love," Sundquist continues.

In order to make the costume, Sundquist and his wife searched for someone on the internet who had made "Groot" costumes before and discovered Calen Hoffman, a professional costume and propmaker who lives in Kansas.

"He's made several amazing 'Groot' costumes for himself, and he sells 'Groot' art on Etsy and at Comic-Con," Sundquist shares. "I'd venture to say he's probably the foremost creator of 'Groot'-related handiwork in the world.

Though Hoffman had never made a "Baby Groot" costume before, Sundquist says "he was eager for the challenge of creating this costume."

The first step of the costume was for Sundquist to create a "duct tape mannequin," which essentially meant wrapping himself in duct tape, having it cut off strategically so the shape of his body stayed, and then sending it to Hoffman.

From there, Hoffman was able to reconstruct the duct tape into a mannequin that perfectly fit Sundquist's body shape before spending weeks building the costume with foam, paint and duct tape.

josh sundquist
Josh Sundquist as the "duck tape mannequin"
| Credit: Courtesy josh sundquist
josh sundquist
Josh Sundquist's costumes over the years
| Credit: Courtesy josh sundquist

When it was finally ready, Sundquist suited up into the costume and then recorded himself in the studio dancing and moving just as the beloved Marvel character does in the films.

The incredible costume not only captured the likes of Sundquist's followers, but also Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, who retweeted Sundquist's tweet and added a praising hands emoji.

"I just think it's so cool that the guy who brought this character to life on-screen likes the real-life version I've created," Sundquist says of the attention from Gunn. "Plus, I'm just such a huge fan of superhero movies, so it's gratifying to get noticed by someone who's contributed a lot to the genre, both on the MCU and DC Universe side."

And while he's enjoyed wearing it on the streets of Santa Monica thus far, Sundquist notes there is one downside to the costume.

"The most challenging part of the costume is probably how hot it is to wear," he explains. "Because of COVID, the only way to interact with people in the costume is outside, and I live in Santa Monica where it's warm even in the fall."

"So when I put the costume on, my wife slides several freezer packs inside," Sundquist adds. "These make it tolerable for about an hour, but I still sweat profusely, even in mild temperatures."

For Sundquist, who told PEOPLE in 2017 that he began making single-leg costumes for himself in 2010 as a way to make his friends laugh at parties, these costumes have become more than just something to wear on Halloween.

"I do many things: I write books, I give motivational speeches, I perform standup comedy. But nothing else I do throughout the year compares to the reach my costumes seem to have every Halloween," he says. "They inspire creativity and bring joy to literally millions of people every October."

"We all want to make the world a little bit better and I feel lucky to have found a way do that," he continues. "Based on the comments and DMs I get year-round, these costumes really impact people, especially people who feel different in some way. They see that I've been creative with my looking at my shape and my situation, and it helps them think about how to approach their own situation differently."

"When I was young, I was really insecure about how I looked. I always wore an artificial leg. I didn't want anyone to know," adds Sundquist. "Obviously I don't feel that way anymore, but I think it would've helped me if there'd been someone out there making costumes like this that I could look at every year. Hopefully, I can be that person for some kids out there now.