The “Luminous Dragon Robot” is born at Huis Ten Bosch. In the background, a waterfall of light produces a visual image as part of the story development. The fire-breathing dragon robot with ever-changing colors, breathes actual fire. From the creation of the screenplay, music production, large-scale computer graphic image production, to costume production, we were responsible for various levels of production of this project.
It was December 2014 when we received a call from the managing director of Huis Ten Bosch with a request that they wanted to make a “luminous dragon appear” at their “Kingdom of Light” performance which is held each year. We asked for a summary of their request and promised to meet at the beginning of the following year. When we arrived at our meeting after the New Year, we were surprised to find that Mr. Hideo Sawada, founder of H.I.S. Group, chairman and president of Huis Ten Bosch, himself, would be briefing us. Mr. Sawada frankly stated, “I want you to make the world’s first luminous dragon. I have heard that Murayama is the best float builder in Japan, so please make it excellent.” That was the beginning of the two-year long project to produce the “Luminous Dragon Robot”. Up until then, we had worked with many theme parks in producing various floats but each theme park had their own design guidelines, payment, direction and management. It was fun and rewarding to be able to work on a project that was a one-stop shop.
In February 2015, we organized the project team. Preliminary survey of the event venue, creation of the management plan, and the production policy was carefully prepared and the basic plan for the “Luminous Dragon Robot” was submitted before summer. The task of designing the first ever dragon robot was given to Mr. Shusaku Futamura, a stage artist who we were introduced to through Tokyo Dream Links’ President, Mr. Miyamoto. Mr. Futamura was still young, but had already won many awards for his stage art. The resulting design was excellent and Mr. Sawada approved of it immediately. We asked Mr. Miyamoto to devise a production plan, and he was able to provide us with an epic story of the resurgence of the dragon.
We were finally able to begin the basic design of the dragon in the summer of 2016. Under the technical supervision of Mr. Yoshikawa, and Mr. Kyo as the main axis, the project began with the following specifications.
The total length must be within 15 meters, the total height within 7 meters, the total width within 7 meters, the weight within 15 tons. The mounted lighting was to be indirect lighting using full-color LED bulbs. SAE (mechanical drive) was to move the feet, wings, head, mouth and neck of the dragon. SFX (special effects) were to be used to breathe 2 meters of real fire from the mouth of the dragon using LPG. The sound should be as loud as possible. As SE (sound effects), the dragon should generate a roar and sounds of footsteps using heavy bass. Simultaneously, marching music should flow from inside the dragon, and also be broadcasted parkwide using WIFI. The CG (computer graphics) images would be shown on the large LED screen (width 60m, height 40m) that Mr. Komaden had installed at the “Kingdom of Lights” the previous year. The operation of the dragon was to be fully automatic with one start button, which would start the 8-minute first half and 10-minute second half performance. It would also be the first attempt to maneuver the float using a remote control, without a driver on the actual float.
We were able to quickly receive the initial approval and began the basic design, which led us to be able to reach the implementation by February 2017. It was a two-step contract that involved a design contract, and a production agreement. It was also necessary to construct a parade course and storage warehouse for the dragon. We submitted a basic plan and installed concrete with a load capacity to handle the 15t dragon, and asked Huis Ten Bosch to construct a large warehouse where the dragon could be stored as is without taking it apart. Production finally began in March 2016. From the end of August to the end of October, field assembly and test runs were conducted and after 2 years of preparation, the grand opening took place on October 31.
From the story to the script, we received great cooperation from Dream Links’ President, Mr. Miyamoto. We received music composition from a wonderful composer as well. Costumes were produced with the cooperation from stylists who are in charge of costumes for famous idol groups. CG was produced with the cooperation from the largest company in the field, Polygon Pictures. Our own design team produced all of the layout plans using 3DCAD, and the plans were forwarded to a 3D machine manufacturer as is, which resulted in a significant reduction in construction period.
The greatest directing challenge was to make real flames exert from the dragon’s mouth. There was no room for failure. A strict design condition was enforced. When breathing fire 100 times, the dragon must succeed 100 times. The condition was met by arranging an appropriate nozzle and using a triple-ignition device.
The most difficult aspect while on location was the loud noise that would not subside until the end. An extremely complicated control system was constructed throughout the dragon, but the noise would cause malfunctions, in some cases. Although the triple-ignition device worked well for the flame, the ignition plug was the cause of the noise. Noise filters and various protection circuits would not reduce the noise but we were eventually able to find a solution to make the noise almost nonexistent. This is a trade secret.
There were many hurdles and events in completing this project, too many to be written here. But the entire staff involved shared the same emotions and were extremely moved when the dragon first took motion. We would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone involved in this project.
(Currently, the dragon performs every night, without trouble from November to present.)
* As of October 2016, it is the world’s first and largest LED illuminated dragon robot which breathes real fire.