On a roll with Paw Patrol Live!

Imagine blending large-scale puppetry, classic theatrical scenery, large-format printed backdrops, interactive media, and upbeat music to transform an animated children’s television series into a live entertainment experience in hundreds of cities across the United States and internationally.

That’s the creative challenge VStar Entertainment Group and Nickelodeon tackled to co-produce PAW Patrol Live! Race to the Rescue. The chimeric costumes, colorful scenery and vibrant video wall VStar created have proven to be a masterful mix. As soon as young audience members see actors in life-size puppy costumes portraying their favorite characters they are drawn into the adventure unfolding before them on stage. A cleverly crafted script and series of interactive videos amplify this experience by asking kids to help solve the mystery of Mayor Goodway’s disappearance.

This kind of teamwork was required behind the scenes, too. It took VStar 3,173 hours to construct the set of seven pups, whose costumes were inspired by Bunraku-style performances originating in Japan. VStar built puppetry elements into each costume so that the puppy characters can wag their tails, blink their eyes and move their mouths. There are 34 different thread colors in the 120 yards of fleece fabric that VStar custom dyed to make the pup costumes. And, another fun fact: The hip joints are constructed of the same aluminum used to build airplanes.

Steven Rohde, Director of Production Services for VStar, says his production services team extends the same level of care given to each detail of design into coordinating tour logistics. The show travels in four semi-trailers and must be set up in eight hours, then it is packed back into the trucks within four hours before being driven to the next location. This is one of the reasons Rohde contacted Big Image Systems.

“We have an ongoing relationship with Big Image”, Rohde explains. “Historically the touring productions have had hand-painted back drops. However, as large format printing capabilities have improved it has become cost effective to outsource some of the back drops. The artistic style of PAW Patrol and the relationship with Nickelodeon made the decision to print the Race Portal and Snowy Mountain backdrops an easy one. We are representing a well-known, highly recognized brand and attention to detail is paramount.”

The fabric back drops hang in front of a 14’ x 24’ video wall to enhance the playing area on stage. This makes it possible to blend some of the action from the video wall with the scenic drops produced by Big Image Systems.

“Being able to print the digital image in vibrant colors that matched the source material was critical to stay true to the brand,” Rohde says. “Our biggest consideration was choosing the right fabric that takes the inks well yet stays supple enough to travel in hampers from week to week.” 

Since the video wall was located behind the back drops, it was also important to select a fabric that permitted little to no light transmission. Otherwise the bright light emitted from the LEDs of the video wall could wash out the images on the fronts of the drops. Big Image’s standard muslin fabric (Cloth 201 HzN) fit the bill. The legs and portal of the Snowy Mountain backdrop required a contour cut, which Big Image’s Berlin production team members accomplished by cutting out the white areas of the prints. To make sure the drops with cut-outs hung evenly, they also glued black scenic netting to the backside of the fabric.

According to Rohde, feedback “has been extremely positive.” Audience members have noted how the costume design, scenes that mirror the PAW Patrol animated series, and the fact that the pups perform on all four paws adds authenticity to the performances.

“We have always been very impressed with the quality and service we receive from Big Image Systems,” Rohde says. “They once again delivered a wonderful product that has been an essential part of our PAW Patrol Live tour.”

Read more about PAW Patrol Live tour here