Bringing Scientific Realism to Theming
Recently called upon to create life-size chimpanzees for the “Becoming Jane: Inspiring a Shared Planet” exhibition at the Hong Kong Science Museum, Themebuilders Philippines revealed the meticulous expertise that an attractions design-and-build company must demonstrate to create an exhibit that’s both scientifically accurate and visually enjoyable to guests.
Headquartered in Angeles, Pampanga, Philippines, the company utilizes 400 artists and craftspeople to fashion guest experiences for theme parks, family entertainment centers, resorts, casinos, and other facilities around the world. Its creations are designed and constructed in a 22,000-square-meter workshop.
Themebuilders was commissioned to bring 10 realistic chimpanzee sculptures to life by Globe Creative Limited, which created the exhibition for the Jane Goodall Institute and the Hong Kong Science Museum. After Hong Kong, the exhibit will tour other cities in Asia.
The clay sculpting, mold making, rubber casting, painting, and hair planting involved took 10 weeks to complete. “A total of five highly experienced and skilled sculptors worked on the chimpanzees,” says Christian Angenvoort, who focuses on Themebuilder’s business development. “You need special sculptors to execute this type of work.”
“Painstaking attention was paid to details like the eyes and hair to give the lifelike appearance of real chimpanzees. It took a team of 40 craftspeople to create these sculptures."
Angenvoort says they began by creating sketches and designs using a library of chimpanzee photos to produce six scenes showing the relationships of the chimps renowned primatologist Jane Goodall interacted with. Using plastic foam as an armature, they then crafted the sculptures out of clay, including muscles, skin texture, facial features, and overall anatomy. He notes casted silicone rubber is very difficult to retouch and repair, so the sculptures needed to be perfect before the molds for the chimps were made from them.
Painstaking attention was paid to details like the eyes and hair to give the lifelike appearance of real chimpanzees. It took a team of 40 craftspeople to create these sculptures. The sculptures’ hair is a combination of human and animal hair, with plant fibers providing color accents. Each hair was individually rooted by hand. Upon seeing the chimps, Freddy Kimaro, director of the Jane Goodall Institute Tanzania, noted the “amazing detail” exhibited by the figures and said, “These chimps look very healthy.”
As for how Thembuilders undertakes such a demanding project, Angenvoort says, “As with any other creative and manufacturing company, our main asset is our pool of highly skilled and creative artists, technicians, and craftsmen. Their collective experience in the industry helps Themebuilders design and manufacture a wide array of quality themed items so [we] can realize these various projects with high quality.”