In our working life we get a huge number of unusual requests, however, this was our first moving giant Gorilla!
We were approached by Burna Boy’s management company, as they were looking to create a truly spectacular entrance for the artist at the start of the UK leg of his African Giant Tour.
Their initial thinking was to create a 20ft Gorilla that would stand in the centre of the stage. However, as the project developed, we suggested that Burna Boy could make a dramatic entrance from the Gorilla’s mouth – a true show stopper!
The Gorilla would open his mouth to reveal the artist standing on the tongue. Using a flying rig, Burna Boy would then be flown down onto a stage, in the centre of the arena amongst the audience.
The Gorilla had to be fully articulated, and have the ability to raise it’s arms and beat it’s chest. This was done via a pulley system by our puppeteers, some of whom were inside the Gorilla and some at the back. At one point in the performance, there were a total of eight people operating his movements. The Gorilla would also have moving jaws and illuminated eyes, all of which added to the spectacular reveal.
From idea to conception, each production stage had to be meticulously planned and we only had a short amount of time to create this giant creature.
Because the artist was going to appear from the Gorillas mouth, whilst it was being articulated, this created a number of quite significant structural challenges. All of which had to be proved by our structural engineers in the planning stage. We also carried out extensive site surveys, and risk assessments.
Due to the sheer size of the Gorilla, we had to transport it in sections and assemble on site. We also had to find a way of making the structure safe and stable, as we were not able to fix it to the venue stage. This involved nearly 8 tons of ballast to secure it.
At the start of the production process, we designed visuals to show the features and proportions of the Gorilla. Then using 3D technology we machined a 1.5m high Gorillas head and created glass fibre moldings to enable us to create the face. Our team then worked on a steel frame for the body, which had to replicate the muscles and structure of a Gorilla and also be hollow to accommodate the puppeteers. Finally, we had to ensure our Gorilla was Class 1 Fire rated, which meant flameproofing approximately 200sq metres of shaggy faux fur.
Part of Burna Boy’s brand is that he wears a highly ornate diamond necklace and a diamond-studded watch. We replicated large scale copies of these for the Gorilla. At that scale, the watch face was the size of a dustbin lid!
At the start of Burna Boy’s performance, the Gorilla is hidden by a curtain. His support band starts, the curtain drops and the Gorilla roars, opening his mouth completely to reveal the star standing in his mouth. After a few bars of the first song, Burna Boy is flown via a rig to land in the stage.
A truly spectacular and successful entrance for Burna Boy and the start of his UK tour. You can read more in this Guardian article of the evening.