who are TDK?
In early 2019 we were commissioned to provide a completely new entertainment package for a one night event. Here’s a jump inside our world (and into Lewis Caroll’s) with an insight into how we completed the mammoth Alice in Wonderland task.
Our client, TDK-Lambda, is a sector of the world renowned electronics company TDK. They specialise and are in fact Britain’s largest designer and manufacturer of AC-DC and DC-DC power supplies. They are based in the South west of England and came to us with a huge project and of course- very high expectations.
Each year they have a company celebration event, but this year it marked their 50th anniversary so it was extra special. For this particular event they planned to use a huge Global Tent Tipi as their venue in a large open field. They had decided upon the theme of Alice in Wonderland and approached us to create the whole entertainment and decor package for them including table centre pieces, decorative props, ambient lighting, interactive opportunities with the characters and of course a team of entertainers for the night.
Of course we couldn’t wait to get started!
Stage One: The BRIEF
Our brief was to create an engaging, atmospheric event space which did not include any fire effects due to venue restrictions. With our client particularly liking the Tim Burton style Alice in Wonderland we wanted the costumes to take on a more luxurious and quirky appearance.
As the final number of attendees was unconfirmed in the early stages we had to work around guessing table numbers and the amount of space we’d actually be working in once the venue was filled with people. We began by choosing some iconic Alice in Wonderland features, characters and ideas to begin our mood boards ensuring we worked to the highest standards and within the client’s budget.
Our planning immediately brought up an idea that we would perform walkabout style character performance and pop-up style mini shows rather than a solid stage show as this would help create the immersive and engaging experience this project required.
STAGE TWO: Props and Decoration
The client wanted some of the strong visuals from the story and of course – one of the first things that comes to mind is the iconic “this way, that way” sign post where Alice doesn’t know which way to go. Our building team quickly drew up a large heavy duty signpost with different directions to be situated in the entrance of the tipi just before the space split into a number of ‘zones’. Our in-house production team assembled it in no time- painting each plank a different colour and outlining them all in black to give them a cartoon like feel.
Another focal point was The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – an overly busy table covered in various crockery and little cakes where the performers would all be situated at the opening of the event to greet guest as they came in. This one just required time and patience searching for and buying as many attractive and unusual teapots and teacups as possible.
As an additional interactive prop we built a set of flamingo croquet mallets and a little croquet course complete with hedgehog balls so that guests could embrace their inner queen of hearts and challenge Alice to a game. Turning a garden flamingo into a croquet mallet is actually more challenging than you’d expect!
For decoration and atmosphere the client had wanted picnic bench type seating as opposed to formal dining tables and chairs to give a more outdoorsy appearance so to compliment this we suggested artificial grass table runners along the centre of each bench which they absolutely loved the idea of, to top it off we added floral touches, books and whimsical teacups to each table to create a tasteful centrepiece feature.
To add overall ambience we strung together endless metres of playing card bunting to twirl up the wooden support poles of the tent and hang across the tent peaks, this along with mood lighting and smoke machines really helped transform the area into a scene from Alice in Wonderland.
Stage Three: Costumes and Performers
The Alice in Wonderland costume requirements was quite a challenge for our costume department, creating a new set of costumes to allow the performers easy movement whilst still having strong, eccentric aesthetics.
In terms of performance requirements the client had suggested they were interested in a few unusual and visually exciting acts and a few walkabout character driven performers. The plan was for a team of six performers to each be providing a unique skill.
Alice – of course Alice is famous for being too small or too tall a number of times in the films and so we designed our Alice to perform two walkabout sets on the ground; playing flamingo croquet with guests and constantly searching for the other characters. Her other two sets were to be on stilts creating the ‘tall Alice’ variation and allowing guests to take photos where they look tiny next to her.
White Rabbit – the White Rabbit costume was probably the most time consuming costume ever made at Oddle. It took our amazing handicraft specialist approximately 200 hours of hand embroidery on the lapels, cuffs and centre back of the blue jacket in over 35 metres of white cotton! At the same time the costume department was creating a pattern for two part trousers in the most luxurious white faux fur; The base trousers for ground level interaction and some bounce stilt covers so the White Rabbit could hop around on bouncy stilts. The ears were made by carefully cutting placement holes in the performers hat- this way should the White Rabbit bounce a lot the hat and ears would stay on his head! Additional styling was to include furry eyebrows and a synthetic nose. And of course- no White Rabbit mould be complete without an oversized pocket watch which the props team carefully aged and restyled.
Mad March Hare – sticking with bouncing stilts, the Mad March Hare was to be a hyperactive back flipping bounce performer, so this costume was designed specifically for that. The brown furry trousers are patterned specifically for wearing power stilts allowing the wearer to jump up and down and hide the stilts within the costume. The hat and ears were made the same as the White Rabbit only to give the Mad March Hare a gently scruffy appearance to match the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland style, the team gently aged his bowler hat to give it an old worn feel. To create the eccentric ‘madness’ of the character his tweed jacket was covered in various pin brooches. Additional styling was to include eyebrows and nose prosthetics.
The Cheshire Cat – the Cheshire Cat was to be one of the pop up show performers providing small stage spots as opposed to continuous walkabout. Contemporary contortion is perfect for the Cheshire Cat character as he frequently seems to twist his body into unusual positions or just allowing certain body parts to be visible at any one time. Sticking with the darker Alice in Wonderland vein we opted for the black and blue modern Cheshire Cat over the original cartoon pink striped version. This costume required a lot of thought to ensure the performer would be warm enough to perform outdoors but also without being cumbersome. We made some black and blue furry leg warmers, cuffs and tail and added a leather mask with hand painted details to bring the Cheshire Cat to life. This worked perfectly over a plain black leotard as during performance the Cheshire Cat seemed to appearing and disappearing in sections as the contortions feet and arms moved around and her body blended into the dark.
Absolem The Caterpillar – Absolem was a creative suggestion which the client loved straight away as the performer was going to be a bubbleologist. Creating a caterpillar costume that looked good and was practical to perform in is not an easy challenge, we decided to focus on the aura of the character and channel the transitional phase he goes through in the film from caterpillar to butterfly. The costume created was middle eastern inspired in relation to Absolem’s smoking the water pipe on the mushroom. A billowing blue belly dancer’s skirt with heavy decorative beading similar to the pretty markings on a caterpillar. Arm drapes gave the illusion of large mystical sleeves (or other arms depending on how you look at it) and blue butterlfy wings were worn as a cape. To help transform the performer from human to insect like a jewelled turban was worn on the head covering all the hair and the face painted to draw attention away from the facial features. This character provided pop up shows throughout the evening- sitting on a mushroom and blowing smoke filled bubbles, square bubbles, chains of bubbles and more. This was a fun and difficult challenge but was a huge success.
Last but not least, The Mad Hatter – Every Alice in Wonderland themed event needs a Mad Hatter and this one was no different …only it was …our Mad Hatter was also a sword swallower! The Mad Hatter costume was created for ground level performance at this event with a high level of quirky detail. We made a brown tail coat from scratch complete with mustard coloured trim to match an extra tall extravagant top hat. We added a cross body sash of multi coloured sewing threads on bobbins, odd socks, bowtie and fingerless gloves, and of course a tape measure for hatting the guests! Extra styling included Tim Burton style make up and of course the signature fluffy hair and eyebrows – completing our sword swallowing Mad Hatter look.
STAGE four: Transforming the Venue
On the day of the event the prep team headed down early with running orders, set times and of course all the props. On arriving they began transforming the large tipi into a scene from Alice in Wonderland with bunting, table decor, illuminated path walkways, props and our custom built signpost. They decorated the corners of the bar with teapots, flowers and stacks of books. The decor team also added a few extra details such as a giant teacup stack with flowers bursting from the cups and small bottles labelled “drink me” which they had made as little extras. The clients arrived shortly after the venue was completed and were ecstatic about the venue transformation.
Stage FIVE: Bring in the Guests!
As the client requested the performers were all sat around the main tea party table as guests arrived and they welcomed them in, inviting them for tea and wishing them a merry unbirthday.
Throughout the night the performers mixed and mingled with the guests, The Mad March Hare did an impressive backflipping session in the entranceway, and The Mad Hatter braved him bouncing over his head! Everyone wanted to play croquet with Alice -though she never seemed to win, and the guests marvelled at the beautiful bubble creations of Absolem. The pop up shows were a huge success with guests jaws dropping at the unbelievable flexibility of The Cheshire Cat and the heart stopping moment that The Mad Hatter swallowed a 27inch solid steel sword! Overall the Alice in Wonderland themed night was a huge success and this was another fun entertainment package that we loved creating and bringing to life.
“What a fantastic night, the feedback from our event has been amazing. A pleasure to work with from start to finish.”
– BEV HANCOCK
TDK-Lambda, Executive Assistant
Since this event we have developed our Alice in Wonderland package even further. We are always trying to improve and add to our packages so we have added Tweedle Dee and Dum costumes perfect for an acro duo, a Red Queen/ Queen of Hearts who can provide ground level walkabout and danger performances. We have also added a walkabout Knave of Hearts, and a graceful White Queen costume designed for aerial performances.
As an extra walkabout set we created our Living Topiary Trees, unfortunately they were planted with white roses so they’re constantly trying to paint each other red! you can often catch them strolling down our astro-turf entrance welcome carpet.
To enquire about our Alice in Wonderland package please use our Contact page, or if you have your own ideas in mind and would like to discuss a custom package created just for you – drop us a message.