I, for one, welcome the Giant French Rocket Girl and her Elephant of Royal Luxury!

From which parallel universe did this parade come? It is amazingly badass! These things are marionettes: they walk, their eyes and mouths move, and the elephant's trunk is prehensile!

"This Thursday, May 19, a rocket landed on the square of the Cathedral. It is a rocket controlled by a small giantess. Our sources of information indicate to us that it is probable that she will leave tomorrow morning..."

"This Friday, the elephant of Royal of Luxury arrived on Saint-Pierre road and the small giantess left her rocket to join it and visit the downtown area."

"This Sunday was the departure in the rocket of the small giantess... and end of 'the visit of the sultan of the Indies on his elephant to travel in time.'"

Some short videos: geantregard, geanttrottin, geantdort. (There are more.)

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32 Responses:

  1. substitute says:

    That's fucking wonderful!

  2. xed_geek says:

    They destroyed everything, did you see the cars that were 'tied down' to the road! Then they launch that contraption which landed quite close to that cathedral. WOW!
    These people know how to have a good time!

  3. bonniegrrl says:

    wow... that's freakin amazing!
    do you have any more info about it?
    I'd love to read more!

  4. mandil says:

    I would have really loved to see that. Wow

  5. jhf says:

    Okay, the barrel-rocket? The barrel-rocket kicks ass.

  6. hozomeen says:

    Is "The Belle of Amherst" that far behind?

  7. lilmissnever says:

    There's even a poem composed in honor of the royal elephant.

    Once more, the French have outshone us in the realm of bizarre puppet technology. Damn them!

  8. xenogram says:

    Well. Bugger. Me. Thank you Jamie, that's the coolest thing I've seen this decade. It's even better than Improv Everywhere

  9. j0ni says:

    From which parallel universe did this parade come?

    The 80s apparently, if the soundtrack is any indication. I like how the humans swarm the rocket chick though.

  10. tfofurn says:

    See, now my first guess would've been a Björk video.

  11. mark242 says:

    SRL must get pretty jealous at seeing stuff like this.

    • jwz says:

      I doubt they're jealous; they have zero interest in any kind of narrative structure, and that doesn't seem to bother them. They make neat machines, but they couldn't put on a show to save their lives.

  12. 3_nic says:

    That's one of Nantes' celebrations to commemorate Jules Verne. The theatre company took the elephant from 'The Steam House' and the barrel rocket from 'From Earth to the Moon' and wrote an entirely new story. And the town kept everything secret, just to recreate the surprise and wonder. It's so amazing I could cry.

  13. iflan says:

    If you want to see more photos, I've got some up on my photo gallery.

    I must say that this was one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed. People got very involved in the story to the point where they interpreted what the Little Giant was feeling based on what she was doing and how she acted. They talked about her as a person, not a contraption. At one point we asked someone where she was and they told us that she decided to go out for a walk after her shower. In the evening people were saying that she was riding the elephant because she was sleepy. I didn't see it, but I was told that on Sunday morning, the Little Giant had to pee -- and when she did, all of the handlers turned their backs and looked away so as not to embarrass her.

    It's that kind of little detail, that kind of gesture, that allowed it to transcend mere puppetry. It's hard to believe without actually being there, but just watching her sleep fills you with emotion.

    On the technical side, the Royal de Luxe has pulled off other amazing feats, including a fully articulated giraffe with her baby, and several sizes and kinds of giants. They've also made a piano catapult, a life-sized pop-up book, stadium lights made out of car headlights, snow guns, and more.

    If you want to see this in person, it's traveling to other European cities this year and next:

    • Amiens (France) Thursday 16, Friday 17, Saturday 18, and Sunday 19 of June.
    • London (UK) the 8, 9, 10 and 11 of September.
    • In 2006: Bilbao (Spain), Antwerp (Belgium), Calais (France).
    • bonniegrrl says:

      wow.. thanks for posting all that! your images and video clips are AMAZING!

    • jwz says:

      Wow, thanks! That's incredible!

      Were you able to tell if these were internally powered, or was it all from above? Were they classic marionettes, or were they partly robotic? Could you tell what they were made of? It looks like wood, but I'm guessing it was really fiberglass or something?

      Were there announcements about what was going on, or was it a silent performance? (Besides the music, I mean).

      • iflan says:

        The Little Giant's arms, and legs were moved by ropes and pulleys, as a marionette. Some head movements used ropes, others hydraulics. The hydraulics were powered by external motors, but the actuators themselves were internal. I believe that her eye lids may have been driven by electric motors, but I'm not sure (see below). All of the power was supplied by the truck to which the support structure was attached.

        The Elephant was a bit different. He didn't have many marionette components, largely, I'm guessing, due to his size. The one part that was obviously marionette was his tail. (The poor guy manipulating it had to wear a mask because he was basically sitting right next to the exhaust pipe of one of the engines.) The elephant's trunk and legs were definitely hydraulic, and I think that the head was, too. Again, all of the power was supplied by a truck to which the elephant was attached. I don't have any good pictures of it, though.

        Both the Little Giant and the Elephant were made out of wood. The Elephant definitely had a steel or iron frame to which the wood was attached. I'm guessing the same was true for the Little Giant, but I don't know. On the Nantes website they have some technical info:

        Stats for the elephant:

        • Max height: 11.20 m
        • Max width: 7.20 m
        • Length when walking: 22.00 m
        • Total weight: 42 metric tons
        • Speed: 1.5 km/h
        • Power produced by: a 160 HP and a 250 HP diesel motor; one 70 kVA electric generator
        • 60 hydraulic jacks, 1 of which has 50 tons of force and 2 have 35 tons of force.
        • 1600 liters of hydraulic oil
        • 1.5 km hydraulic tubing
        • 22 hydraulic jacks are used solely to move the trunk
        • 5 jacks move the head and neck

        Some factoids:

        • Each foot weighs a ton
        • The trunk is capable of lifting a ton
        • The Elephant can walk sideways, like a crab
        • All of the limbs can move, including the lips and tongue
        • Hydraulics, electric capstan, air, and even truck windshield-wiper motors are used to move the various pieces
        • For the decoration, a potter modeled arab characters which were reproduced using laser cutters
        • To avoid having to dismantle the elephant, the gable of the workshop was cut out.
        • 22 people animate the elephant
        • 295 cases of Irish beer
        • Visit to the zoo with the zoo keepers to look and the rear (among other things)
        • Kevlar cord used to manipulate the tail with the aide of a capstan
        • Ball of lights for the eyes and the movable pupils
        • Powdered slate from Angers to give a slight tint
        • Powdered coffee for tinting the urine

        (Pardon my rough translation.)

        As for announcements, yes, there were some. For the Little Giant, there was always someone with a bull horn that coordinated all of the activity. On the elephant I think the people were connected by radio. (They all had headsets and microphones.) Occasionally they made an announcement to the crowd to say when or where the next event would take place. Mostly, though, I just found out what was going on from other people.

        If you've got any more questions, just let me know.

    • fish_go_pook says:

      darling, how did you get the info about the tour dates, and do you know where abouts it is being held in London?

      I've been looking all over but cant find anything on it, also, it would help me if you knew what the offical name of the event is, I might be able to find out more then myself..

      thank you in advance! x

    • Hi! I love the info you have on your site. If possible, I would absolutely love to ask you a few questions via email for an article I'm writing on the Jules Verne Celebration. If interested, you may contact me at christinavenessa@charter.net


  14. Oh! I remember that!
    A friend of mine claims she was sprayed by water from the elephant's trunk, but I didn't see it do that..

  15. Hey good People!
    I don't know if anyone is going to read this but The Show is indeed going to come in london (the puppets are on their way now!!!)
    the show will be the 4, 5, 6 and 7th of May (2006).
    We couldn't do it in September because of the bombings but we didn't gave up!! hèhèhè
    so if you are around come and see us!!
    (oh and the Elephant does spray water around on people!! especially when it's hot!)

  16. razor_dolly says:

    i only just now saw this...

    that is the best thing in the entire world.