Making actors disappear - two challenges

Stuart R

Member
Hello all - We're doing Willy Wonka and are trying to come up with cool ways for two characters - Veruca Salt and Mike Teevee - to exit the stage.

Those familiar with the story/movies will recall that Veruca, the spoiled brat who sings "I Want It NOW," does so in the "Nut Room," where workers place giant nuts on a sort of inspection platform to see if they're good enough for Wonka products. They fall down a hopper, and then the machine's display displays either "GOOD" or "BAD." Veruca, in her bid for attention, stands on the platform for the last note of her song, then goes down the chute (voice echoing as she falls), after which the machine displays "BAD." The challenge: how to handle Veruca's exit.

Ideally, she'd stand on a trapdoor with two flaps, hinged on the sides. At the right moment, whatever hardware/supports are holding up the flaps would be withdraw, the flaps would swing down, and Veruca would disappear feet first into the platform. I'm just not sure how/if this can be done safely. Assuming we can come up with a solid mechanism for the trap door, how far can the actress fall and (let's say) land on her feet on a cushioned matt, bending into a squat as she lands? We could also have the trap opening on the front half of the platform, have it open *before* she's supposed to "fall," and have her simply jump into it when the time comes. Except that will look like she's purposefully jumping into it, and dramatically that's not supposed to happen - it's supposed to be a surprise.

Other ideas I've been thinking of include some kind of slide that seems to lead into the machine (how would she end up on her bottom on the slide?) or a 3' revolve that is bisected by a wall (it turns 180 degree, then turns back and she's gone) or have her sit in a chair that tips back (and she tumbles down a padded incline). The safest and most disappointingly unimaginative choice would be to have her stand on the platform, the machine says "BAD" and then Oompa-Loompas drag her off stage in the "bad" direction. Thoughts?

The other exit is by Mike Teevee, the kid obsessed with television. When Mike is told that the Wonkavision apparatus (a sort of giant camera) can transform any item into TV signals that can rush through the air and then be reassembled whole at the other end, he wants to try it on himself. He jumps onto the platform, presses the button, and "dissolves." The other characters watch the bits of information fly overhead and get reassembled on a TV screen on the other side of the stage. The first question is, how does he dissolve or disappear when he presses the button? Might it work to have him step behind a scrim panel (like he's in a chamber), lit so we can see him inside, and then when he presses the button, hit the front of the scrim with light including some kind of moving pattern from a moving light, while taking down the light behind the scrim as he steps out offstage. Then the lights restore and he is gone. Idea #2, a chamber with a false back. He steps in, zap, the door opens, and he's gone. (Too obvious.) Is there something we could do with a mirror? Any other ideas?

When Mike rematerializes, we'll either make the TV screen he appears on a sort of puppet stage, and use a little puppet mike, or play a prerecorded video of tiny Mike on an actual monitor.

Thanks for reading. Any ideas you might have for disappearing Veruca or Mike would be greatly appreciated.

Stu
 

aeh20s

Well-Known Member
Does Veruca need to stand on the platform? She could sit on it in a pout, that way the actor could be prepared to go down a hidden slide while staying true to the attitude of the character and the song.
 

Catherder

Well-Known Member
When we did our zero budget Wonka Jr kids theater production here’s what we did for Veruca and Mike.

Veruca went and stood on the good nut/bad nut platform. We had it built so it was masked from about the knees down. It was about 2’ high. During her song she kind of slow walked back to the edge of the platform and at the “bad nutqueue took one small step backwards straight off. It took a fair amount of work to get the blocking right so it didn’t look like she jumped, but our Veruca nailed it. Then she just crawled offstage while everyone else freaked out.

For Mike we did a massive strobe effect while the television camera zapped him. It was enough chaos that he could sneak offstage. We used a little Mike puppet that his mom took out of the TV set, and the kid did his lines from offstage in a pretty hilarious falsetto. Not the slickest effect but it worked.
 
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Catherder

Well-Known Member
Just out of curiosity, what are you doing for Augustus? That one was honestly the biggest PITA for us.
 

aeh20s

Well-Known Member
We could certainly explore that. Let's say she's sitting. How might a hidden slide be situated/used?
I was thinking a lot like what tends to happen for productions of Sweeney Todd. The production I did had the barber chair line up with a door in the floor of the set. That door when opened acted as a slide. When Sweeney pulled back on the head of the chair the victim slid straight down onto a mattress. So what I imagined for this would be a trap that Veruca is sitting on that on cue would drop into a slide position to a mattress waiting below. That honestly may be a bit much though.

Thinking about it some more, especially since I don't know your space or what your set is planning to be, it could just be that the platform that you build be able to fit the actress in. Then all it has to be is a 2' or so drop from the trap door to the padding in the bottom. Build it with an escape on the US side, so she falls to the mattress and then climbs out. The unfortunate thing is I'm not a carpenter, just spitballing really. I don't know if that helps you or not.
 

Stuart R

Member
Just out of curiosity, what are you doing for Augustus? That one was honestly the biggest PITA for us.
We're nixing the chocolate vat and creating a chocolate "river" by stretching four long piece of brown fabric across the downstage area (probably by Oompa-Loompas). Augustus will fall into that and flail while the little dolly he's siting on gets pulled offstage (like the current's got him). Still puzzling out how to get him chocolate covered without getting him chocolate covered.
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Definitely a spiral slide that turns upstage that she can fake fall slide down and disappear into the set.

Like mentioned a good amount of strobe for the lights camera action then he runs off stage. The option to have the tv bit prerecorded or just use a puppet also works. Not knowing the space makes this one hard as to how much detail you have to put into it.
 

Catherder

Well-Known Member
We're nixing the chocolate vat and creating a chocolate "river" by stretching four long piece of brown fabric across the downstage area (probably by Oompa-Loompas). Augustus will fall into that and flail while the little dolly he's siting on gets pulled offstage (like the current's got him). Still puzzling out how to get him chocolate covered without getting him chocolate covered.
Yeah that’s pretty much what we did. We had the river suck him into a “chocolate machine” - basically a box covered with all kinds of tubes and lights and stuff - that spat an Augustus Bar - a cutout of the actor that looked like a chocolate bar - out the other side.
 

What Rigger?

I'm so fly....I Neverland.
You'll want to nix the trapdoor idea in the overwhelmingly vast amount of circumstances, unless you've got a stunt coordinator and all the proper gear. Jumps, drops and falls treated as a regular rehearsal by untrained persons will carry a high probability of a variety of injuries including but not limited to death.
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
You'll want to nix the trapdoor idea in the overwhelmingly vast amount of circumstances, unless you've got a stunt coordinator and all the proper gear. Jumps, drops and falls treated as a regular rehearsal by untrained persons will carry a high probability of a variety of injuries including but not limited to death.
You are such a kill-joy! /sarc, irony, satire

Yeah, kids and trap doors seem like a *really* *bad* *idea* to moi.

It's about the Illusion of the drop - how do we make it look like what we want? Remember the real tricks of magic: guided mis-direction and the willing suspension of disbelief.
 

almorton

Well-Known Member
Depending on the staging, Verruca could roll off the platform onto a mattress only a few inches below the surface, if it was out of sight, perhaps sitting initially and making a big thing of overbalancing and rolling over. Rolling a few inches onto a soft mattress would seem pretty low risk.
 

Massey28694

Active Member
Not really familiar with the set on this, but instead of her "falling", would it be possible to have something pop UP in front of her, something that blends into the background or even a mirror positioned at just the right angle to give you that magical illusion that she's gone? Just a thought...
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Hello all - We're doing Willy Wonka and are trying to come up with cool ways for two characters - Veruca Salt and Mike Teevee - to exit the stage.

Those familiar with the story/movies will recall that Veruca, the spoiled brat who sings "I Want It NOW," does so in the "Nut Room," where workers place giant nuts on a sort of inspection platform to see if they're good enough for Wonka products. They fall down a hopper, and then the machine's display displays either "GOOD" or "BAD." Veruca, in her bid for attention, stands on the platform for the last note of her song, then goes down the chute (voice echoing as she falls), after which the machine displays "BAD." The challenge: how to handle Veruca's exit.

Ideally, she'd stand on a trapdoor with two flaps, hinged on the sides. At the right moment, whatever hardware/supports are holding up the flaps would be withdraw, the flaps would swing down, and Veruca would disappear feet first into the platform. I'm just not sure how/if this can be done safely. Assuming we can come up with a solid mechanism for the trap door, how far can the actress fall and (let's say) land on her feet on a cushioned matt, bending into a squat as she lands? We could also have the trap opening on the front half of the platform, have it open *before* she's supposed to "fall," and have her simply jump into it when the time comes. Except that will look like she's purposefully jumping into it, and dramatically that's not supposed to happen - it's supposed to be a surprise.

Other ideas I've been thinking of include some kind of slide that seems to lead into the machine (how would she end up on her bottom on the slide?) or a 3' revolve that is bisected by a wall (it turns 180 degree, then turns back and she's gone) or have her sit in a chair that tips back (and she tumbles down a padded incline). The safest and most disappointingly unimaginative choice would be to have her stand on the platform, the machine says "BAD" and then Oompa-Loompas drag her off stage in the "bad" direction. Thoughts?

The other exit is by Mike Teevee, the kid obsessed with television. When Mike is told that the Wonkavision apparatus (a sort of giant camera) can transform any item into TV signals that can rush through the air and then be reassembled whole at the other end, he wants to try it on himself. He jumps onto the platform, presses the button, and "dissolves." The other characters watch the bits of information fly overhead and get reassembled on a TV screen on the other side of the stage. The first question is, how does he dissolve or disappear when he presses the button? Might it work to have him step behind a scrim panel (like he's in a chamber), lit so we can see him inside, and then when he presses the button, hit the front of the scrim with light including some kind of moving pattern from a moving light, while taking down the light behind the scrim as he steps out offstage. Then the lights restore and he is gone. Idea #2, a chamber with a false back. He steps in, zap, the door opens, and he's gone. (Too obvious.) Is there something we could do with a mirror? Any other ideas?

When Mike rematerializes, we'll either make the TV screen he appears on a sort of puppet stage, and use a little puppet mike, or play a prerecorded video of tiny Mike on an actual monitor.

Thanks for reading. Any ideas you might have for disappearing Veruca or Mike would be greatly appreciated.

Stu
@Stuart R If you had an adult cast, Free drinks at the bar ought to do it.
With a children's cast, possibly Free ice cream and soda in the basement may work.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

kicknargel

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
I agree to avoid trap doors.

For the TV gag, consider a Pepper's Ghost.


Explaining the Pepper's Ghost Illusion with Ray Optics | COMSOL Blog
 

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