The Royal de Luxe‘s Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacular that took place at the weekend in Liverpool to commemorate the Titanic centenary seems to have been a roaring success, with a huge turnout and press coverage. There are a great many photos and videos online now (including at Flickr), so I’ll only mention a few that interested me in particular.
Journalists from the Liverpool Echo were the first ever to be allowed to visit the company’s headquarters in Nantes and they have an article and brief behind the scenes video clip. This gives us a glimpse of the workshop, and interviews with the director who coordinates the teams of people who move the giants, and the Little Giantess’s movement conductor. I was interested to see La Machine viewed as a rival company! There seemed so much cross-over between the two that I’ve always assumed they were associated or sister companies!
Here’s a great photo of Xolo, Royal de Luxe‘s giant dog! It’s just been announced that Xolo will be appearing the Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacle in Liverpool in a couple of weeks time, along with the Little Giantess and her uncle, the deep sea diver.
Since going to La Machine in Nantes in 2008 I like to see what new sea creatures are being made in the workshop there. This TV news video shows the sea monster, a shell, a nautilus, a school of flying fish, another fish ship and a new kind of fish in action. I’m not sure where this amazing fish and turtle fit in , but they are cool!
This great spider is one of the newest creatures by the French company, La Machine (that I posted about a few days ago). Known as la Princesse, her performance in the streets of Liverpool, England, last September was a highlight of the 2008 European Capital of Culture celebrations there. She was commissioned by Artichoke, the company who brought Royal de Luxe‘s Sultan’s Elephant to London a few years ago.
A giant spider conjures up dramatic visions of Shelob, huge rearing fangs, giant trapdoors, buildings being webbed in, or the populace being picked off one by one and spun into food parcels, tasty morsels for later. But in one of the BBC videos, her creator, Francois Delaroziere, described the emotion he wanted to provoke as ‘sweet and in love’.
There are squillions of photos of la Princesse online now; here a few links as starters:
Revitalizing the old shipyards on I’ile de Nantes, Les Machines de I’ile really is a glorious and grand folly in the best sense of the word, flights of fancy made real. We rounded the corner of the building and there was the elephant, absolutely enormous – it’s 12 metres high! – gently swinging its trunk and wafting its ears, and blinking, as it waited to take it’s next walk around the docklands. From upstairs above the workshops, at the same level as the elephant’s head, we could see the construction and carving close up, and get some idea of the massive mechanics that make it able to move.
Our ride boarded via airplane steps further along the route, and we climbed up to the balcony built into the elephants’ side. The doors into its tummy are decorated with curly turrets and carved animal heads. Inside there is a spiral staircase up to the platform on top, where passengers can look out in all directions, try to work out the mechs in the neck and ears, adopt Titanic-like poses at the front, and waggle the elephant’s tail at the back via a lever that pulls a cable connecting all the segments of the tail! Every now and then the elephant trumpets, and if you are lucky you can operate that from inside it’s belly. I rather suspect they like to keep how it is done a secret, but it’s hands-on and not hi-tech! More often the trunk whooshes steam and water.
The promenade is satisfyingly long – 45 minutes, and it didn’t matter at all to me that perambulating along at 1/4 km per hour you don’t actually cover much distance.
After our ride, we walked out along the steel pole and wood paneling branches that are a prototype for the enormous heron tree that is planned. Hanging along each branch are boxes of plants, the idea being that in time they will provide the greenery of the tree. Extensive research has gone into finding the right kinds of plants, since they have to survive on little water, and in quite an exposed position.
The various models of the whole tree are amazing masses of wire and wood!
I’ve previously posted about the various ride-on creatures that are being built for the emerging Marine Worlds Gallery, and there are lots of photos of them now at Flickr. Since then the Giant Crab, the Bus of the Abyss, and the Storm Boat have been added, and there are some photos of those in my Flickr set.
Outside the workshops is a small carousel roundabout, also with wonderfully unusual creatures to ride – my favourite was a rearing stag beetle. I have lots of photos of these, too, but I think they can wait till another day.