Regent Theatre, Melbourne & Broadway Theatre, New York

King Kong


2013, 2019

King Kong Automation System

Regent Theatre, Melbourne, 2013

King Kong has become part of TAIT history since the original Australian run in 2013 at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne.

The original King Kong musical featured a host of big name music stars, including The Avalanches, Massive Attack’s 3D, and Elbow’s Guy Garvey, and ran from June 2013 to February 2014, featuring the eponymous 19 ft, one-ton puppet. Our US, UK, and Australian teams worked closely with Global Creatures to create a ground-breaking automation system to control the giant ape.

The system consisted of over 12 tons of steelwork, motors, winches, and cable management to allow the Kong puppet to execute its sweeping movements and enable it to lift, rotate, and travel up, down, and across the stage. Onboard winches controlled Kong’s height and body rotation, with multiple lines bridled down to each shoulder allowing independent up-and-down and forward-and-back movement within the confines of the winch apparatus. Two-point hoists were built into the theater’s false proscenium to move Kong to the front of the stage where he roared at the audience.

Our automation experts used the Sculptor toolkit to mock up a pre-visualization to communicate the puppet’s movements to the show’s various production departments. With a ‘baseline’ motion plot programed into our Acrobat G*6 desk, the puppeteers could react to human actors in real-time and add embellishments to Kong’s actions without having to replot during technical rehearsals.  

An extraordinary level of collaboration was required to allow the team of Kong operators to achieve six degrees of puppet motion and to allow the team to overlay live animatronics on top of the pre-programmed automation paths.

Broadway Theatre, New York, 2019

As one of the original collaborators, we were called upon again to revive Kong for the 2019 debut at the Broadway Theatre in New York and lend our automation expertise to recreating the fully-emoting, 1.2-ton animatronic ape.

Once again, we collaborated closely with Global Creatures to ensure the enormous puppet could translate instructions into realistic mannerisms and movements in real-time.

We manufactured a gantry crane and slew mechanism, which contained eight high-speed BT2-290 winches complete with power diverters, and four automated swing arms. We also installed two BT2-390 winches front-of-house, allowing Kong to lean past the proscenium arch and into the audience. This complex apparatus was pre-programmed using the TAIT Navigator Automation Platform™️, giving the giant ape six degrees of freedom: up/down, left/right, backwards/forwards, roll, pitch, and yaw.

King Kong relied on Global Creatures’ voodoo rigs for facial expressions and internal body movements, while the Navigator Automation Platform focused on mechanically automating the puppet to react to its surroundings in real-time. With over 40 axes of motion, the integration of TAIT’s automation platform, combined with Global Creatures’ voodoo rigs, was an incredible technical achievement as it allowed live puppeteering with a full range of motion, control, and safety.

We’re proud to report that CBS, New York Times, and Entertainment Weekly called it ‘an animatronic marvel’.

Thanks to our partners: Designer, Global Creatures and Photographer, Matthew Murphy.

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