Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Sultan's Elephant

Take one part Jules Verne, add a dash of Steampunk, mix in a little Cirque du Soleil and you've got the Royal de Luxe, a French street theater company that has staged magnificent performances in London, Antwerp, Calais, and Santiago.

The sultan's time-traveling elephant, weighing 42 tons, moves through the streets, walking, bellowing, and spraying water.

But the elephant is just part of a carefully planned series of events that unfolds in each of the lucky cities who host the show. There is also the giant girl, one of the dreams of the sultan. She interacts with the elephant, licks a lollypop, and lets a few children from the audience ride on her arms.

The giantess is about 20 feet tall and weighs 1800 pounds. She is operated like a giant marionette, with the assistance of hydraulics and motors, though her arms and legs require individual operators to pull on ropes.


While parts of the show travel to various cities, a permanent exhibition of the giant puppets can be seen in Nantes France at the Galerie des machines.

YouTube video of the elephant in action: Link
YouTube video of the little girl giant: Link.
Website for Les Machines de l'Île à Nantes http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/machines.html
Wikipedia entry "The Sultan's Elephant" Link.

Tomorrow: Serial Painting

12 comments:

Erik Bongers said...

My God, the memories !
I live in Antwerp. The second picture is taken there.
This Beast was really impressive and pictures obviously don't do it justice. You have to imagine the sounds of the hydraulics, the serious faces of the operators on each leg, wearing a headset for communication. The sand blown from under each foot as it hit the ground (asphalt street so the sand came from a bag!)
I believe it took four people to operate the elephant's trunk. They were sitting right behind the large teeth.
But the most impressive part was the wake up.
At night, The Beast was laying down asleep and during the morning people started gathering and observing, studying the mechanics. By noon the police suddenly started moving appart the crowd and a haywain, was slowly pulled forward, the operators standing on it, proud but silent. Gradually an applause rose from the crowd. One by one, and stil in complete silence the operators took position on The Beast, secured themselves, put on their headsets and checked their handles and buttons.
The restlesness of the crowd slowly faded to silence again.
Suddenly one giant ear moving...
Two eyelids opening...
And then a load roar...
No longer a machine, but a giant living elephant slowly rose high above the crowd...

Anonymous said...

Oh Hell, I don't do comments BUT you have put so much time, effort and information into your blog that I have to thank you. You are so productive that it makes me sick!!! [joke]

It's all self discipline and to find motivation. I seem to have lost all that.
Thank you.

Dell.

Wynne Chen said...

Wow, the elephant and other robots r amazing:)

LionD'Art said...

For a moment there, I thought that elephant was a maquette you did to paint it. "That guy is beyond craziness" LOL.

Man, agree with anonymous... You rock. I'm learning a LOT with you, although I only paint on Photoshop (I have no patience nor money to spend on analogic paint :P).

I would love any comment or tip on my digital paintings
http://www.flickr.com/photos/liondart2

ducduc said...

The Elephant is the most beautiful thing i've seen for a long time!! Oh my god! I have to see this in live one day!!! That's like a dream man!!!!
Thanks for the post and ur whole blog! I come here everyday to read get my daily motiviaton and inspiration!! Glad i found that! Changed my life!! Thanks a lot!!

LJay said...

They are simply amazing... undeniably beautiful...
The elephant reminds me so much of the strutters in First Flight!
...
I am speechless...
...
For some reason the people riding on the squid strikes me as very Dinotopian....

BD,SP
LJay

Tony Shasteen said...

I want to thank you for your blog and the time and effort you put into it. I ran across the link a few weeks ago and spent each evening catching up on all the back posts. I'm sad to say, for selfish reasons, that I'm all caught up! It's an invaluable source of information and inspiration.

Maybe I'll have to start back from the beginning to see if I missed anything.

Thank you,
Tony Shasteen

jeff f said...

This is so brilliant.
That Elephant is amazing, never seen anything like this.

Thank you James for posting this.

Skogul said...

Oh, wow! That is amazing! Now, if only they would come to the US and do a performance or several. I thank you for posting about this, James, but I also almost wish you hadn't because now I'm going to lament my inability to go see a show in Europe.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Erik for the amazing eyewitness description, which was every bit as evocative as the YouTube videos.

And I appreciate all the comments from Skogul, Tony, Jeff, Ljay, Lion, DucDuc, Wynn, and Anonymous. I had the same reaction you did--complete awe. All the credit of course goes to Mr. Delarozière and Mr. Orefice and the entire team of artists and engineers for their incredible achievement. Please bring your magnificent creation to America!

gator said...

SUPER SUNDAY COLOR....postponed

james gurney sent me an email and he asked me to let everyone know that he will no longer be blogging

it turnes out the mother ship has returned to earth and taken all the cyber tron goggle men back to planet uber-dorkious

sorry everyone...

gator said...

oh great...looks like my computer is acting up and the sunday post has been up all day, dang! i was checking and nothing was there...

but i'm glad the mother ship didnt get james...whew!!!!