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Technician behind "The Lion King” masks runs a class menagerie

BY RICK ROGERS Modified: May 14, 2009 at 8:27 am •  Published: May 14, 2009

photo - Mufasa mask for the Lion King production Friday, April 24, 2009 at the Civic Center in OKC. Photo by Jaconna Aguirre
Mufasa mask for the Lion King production Friday, April 24, 2009 at the Civic Center in OKC. Photo by Jaconna Aguirre
Wilson said much of the early training is done in front of a mirror.

"When a new actor comes into the show, it’s good for the company and good for us,” Wilson said. "We get ... to show them what we’ve learned and help them learn what to do. We’ve got a new person coming in next week who will play a giraffe. It takes about two weeks to get up on stilts and moving properly. It’s all about balancing.”

Visiting Wilson’s backstage area is a bit like walking into a toymaker’s shop. There are benches and tables lined with masks and puppets, each of which will be used in the next production.

"On performance days, we’re here from 10 a.m. until the end of the show,” Wilson said. "If anything goes wrong, we can fix it. It might be something mechanical — a cable that operates Scar’s mask might break, or Zazu’s wing might stop working properly. We never want to stop the show to fix something, so we have backups.”

Thanks to Wilson’s expertise, the two dozen animal species appearing in "The Lion King” will continue to captivate audiences. And though he doesn’t get to take bows with the cast, Wilson admits he is happy to have played such an important part in the show’s success.

"One of the things (director) Julie Taymor wanted was to give each animal an individual look. So, there are no two animals in the show that are exactly alike."
Willie Wilson,
puppet supervisor

For "Lion King" performance and ticket information, call (800) 869-1451.

‘Lion King’ facts
→More than 200 puppets are used in the show.

→There are 25 kinds of animals, birds, fish and insects represented in the show.

→A dozen bird kites are featured in the Act 2 opening.

→It took 17,000 hours to build the puppets and masks.

→Mufasa’s mask weighs 11 ounces; Scar’s mask weighs 9 ounces.

→The tallest animals in the show are the 18-foot giraffes.

→The smallest animal is a 5-inch mouse at the end of Scar’s cane.


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