Saturday, July 27, 2013
King Kong is Back in "King Kong The Musical" which had its premiere last month down under in Melbourne, Australia, and it looks damn' spectacular!
80 years after Merian C. Cooper's 1933 classic King Kong is back at the Regent Theatre, in Melbourne, Australia -- thanks to a six-meter high "puppet animatronic" - which weighs one ton - and the pioneering work of puppeteer Sonny Tilders who previously did the amazing dinosaurs of the "Walking with Dinosaurs" stage show.
From CNN.com: "When the multi-million dollar project started five years ago, Tilders originally set out to create a fully animatronic creature but ended up combining old-fashioned puppetry with modern robotics."We were considering having two versions. We were developing other technologies that we would need for animatronic limbs to move," he said.
"But to cut a long story short, we were so impressed by what the manned puppet could do that we had a change of heart and said we should do the whole show with marionette puppets. It made much more sense."
Suspended from the ceiling, Kong's limbs are manipulated on stage by 10 specially trained stage circus artists who scurry over and around the puppet, shifting his arms and legs by hand or using ropes.
Clad in black from head to toe, these shadowy figures called the "King's Men," work in tandem with three off-stage puppeteers -- the "voodoo" operators -- who control the mechanical functions inside Kong.
Around 300 meters of electrical wiring are crammed inside the puppet's steel and aluminum shell powering 16 microprocessors and 15 servo motors which move Kong's eyes, eyebrows and eyelids, nose, lips, jaw, neck and shoulders. He also makes sounds -- a vital part of making his movements appear realistic, says Tilders.
Marrying the mechanical functions of interior with the organic-looking Lycra and latex exterior is one of the big challenges of animatronics, Tilders says. "We wanted to create a puppet that was really dynamic on stage. One of the ways to solve that and not kill anyone or destroy the puppet or the stage itself was to make his extremities -- his arms and fists -- in a way that has as little steel as possible."
From the elbow down, Kong's arms are filled with air, allowing him to furiously pound the floor without causing a minor earthquake. Overlaying the air bags are a series of sculptured muscle bags made from a stretchy nylon material that expands and contracts to mimic the sinewy movements of the real thing.
"Often (big puppets) are quite simple and slow, but what we've developed is a hybrid technology enabling us to do some powerful and specific moves."
The Creature Technology Company's ambitions were aided by UK-based stage automation experts Stage Technologies who provided the four-ton track-and-trolley system suspended above the stage.
"It's a machine that allows Kong to both move around the stage and be raised up and down but also take different positions," said Stage Technologies' Group CEO Mark Ager.
"We move his torso with eight winches and that allows us to change the aspect of it. So, for instance, when he walks, his shoulders can roll from side to side. It's basically a big boys version of a wooden cross you see on smaller puppets."
The complexity of Kong surpassed anything they have previously built, leading to a few nerves as opening night approached. "Given (Kong) is the main actor it was quite a concern, but it is incredible," he said.
"There's an awful lot of engineering that goes into something that looks so effortless. He feels real. I think you have to see inferior robotic incarnations to see quite how clever (Kong) is."
Overall, it's been an extraordinary collaboration of engineering and software expertise with sculptors, artists, musicians and actors creating a unique spectacle.
The critics like it too. Many have warmed to the show itself since it opened in June and almost all have heaped lavish praise on Kong himself. It's only a matter of time before audiences worldwide get their chance to feel the towering stage presence of Kong, said Tilders."
And the good news is that the show will then go on tour around the world! : "It's definitely going overseas," he said. "The financial model can't rely on 20 million people in Australia. Obviously, we would love to go to Broadway because that's the natural home for the story."
And at the end of the show, when actors and technicians come to salute the audience, Kong comes back on stage to roar one last time!
Here is the official trailer of king Kong, the Musical!
Pictures: copyright King Kong The Musical
Part of Text: copyright CNN.com