Currently playing at three Butlins holiday parks in the UK, this new hi-tech stage show fuses live action with animation featuring a cast of popular Looney Tunes characters. The show was devised by OddPost Entertainment using motion capture technology from Animazoo/Animalive and has been a big hit with Butlins guests since it debuted in May.
Animalive’s patented Human Animation System gives entertainers the power to animate live cartoon characters or digital mascots. Audiences can then chat in real time with those characters. The system can be as simple as a single “Chatterbox” booth, but at Butlins the company has really gone to town, installing a giant 16ft x 9ft screen that forms an integral part of the show.
The storyline revolves around larger than life character Professor Potty carrying out a range of experiments in his laboratory which, inevitably, don’t go quite as planned and the professor is sucked into the screen to join Bugs Bunny, Daffy and Co. Audience members are given an added thrill when the cartoon characters leap into the theatre in mascot form.
The show’s real pièce de résistance, however, comes when the professor steps back into the real world to retrieve his digital camera, returns to animated form and takes a photo of an audience member. This image then appears amongst the action on screen, leaving all in the theatre baffled.
The show’s cast comprises four costumed characters (Bugs Bunny, Tweety, Daffy Duck and Professor Potty) and two assistants, with just one technical member of staff needed behind the scenes to operate the capture system.
Staged three-times daily inside a 300-seat theatre at holiday parks in Skegness, Minehead and Bognor Regis, Looney Tunes Live – The Experiment is free to all Butlins guests, but such has been its popularity that pre-booking is available and the performances are often “sold-out” by lunchtime.
“The development of the show is the culmination of a process that started when we contacted Animazoo and explained our plans for an entertainment show merging live action with real-time animation,” explains Oddpost Entertainment’s Terry Morrison, who is also the show’s director. “The end result is a product of Animazoo’s technical expertise and OddPost’s creative vision. However, credit must go to Mike Godolphin, director of entertainment at Butlins, who saw the potential for such a show in the first place. Without Mike’s drive and desire to take standards at Butlins to a new level, Looney Tunes Live would never have happened.”
The technology behind the show would once only have been available to major theme parks, indeed similar software was responsible for Disney’s acclaimed Turtle Talk attraction, but AnimaLive’s Paul Collimore says the falling cost of processors and other components make his system available to a wide range of outlets.
“Our Chatterbox booths, for example, can be used in party rooms,” he highlights. “The cartoon character effectively ‘hosts’ the party, and then the children are given a DVD to take home as a souvenir. Other potential uses include ‘queue-buster’ applications where guests interact with a character on screen as they wait in line for a major ride.”