A Dragon Approaches Calais

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Dragons were and continue to be a favorite among many who live for fantasy. Game of Thrones or The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim are a testament to how remarkable this mythical creature is.

La Machine, the incredible machine art group based in Nantes, France, who previously built a giant kinetic Minotaur named “Le Gardien du Temple” (The Guardian of the Temple) and the enormous mechanical spider named “La Princesse”, have created “Le Dragon de Calais”. This gorgeous mechanical fire-breathing dragon, which requires 17 people to operate, was paraded around the streets of Calais from November 1-3, 2019 before becoming a permanent resident of the city.

Too bad they are just that—mythical creatures. OH, WAIT, what’s that? No, they aren’t? Yes, it’s official: dragons are very real, and we have the La Machine street theater company to thank. The team built a gigantic fully-functional mechanical fire-breathing dragon that even the Dragonborn couldn’t “Fus-Ro-Dah” his way out to save his life.

Giant 25 Meter-Long Fire-Breathing Dragon Operated By 17 People Marched Through French Streets

A massive mechanical dragon was brought to Calais, France, for a La Machine street theater performance

At the dawn of November, the thriving port city of Calais, France witnessed an unforeseeable tragedy—a mighty fire-breathing dragon appeared from the deep-blue skies. There, the three-story monstrosity wandered around for three days, setting ablaze anyone who got in its way, slaying every hero who opposed it… well, all right, it didn’t really happen that way, but it was still very cool!

“Le Dragon de Calais”, or the Dragon of Calais, debuted on November 1st. A 17-person team was assigned to control the gigantic beast as it paraded through Calais. Specifically, the Sea Front, Calais-Nord, and Saint-Pierre became the stages where La Machine held their draconic performances. It is said that the performance will serve as a prologue to the dragon’s public introduction as a “City Machine”.

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Le vent n'aura pas raison du Dragon.

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Actors from the French street-theater company La Machine had escorted a 10-meter-tall dragon marionette in a performance across the city of Calais, France. “Le Dragon de Calais,” a massive fire-breathing dragon built of steel and carved wood, stars in the tale of a fantasy creature that emerges from the sea and encounters the people of Calais. After the performance, the dragon would remain in the city, becoming a new tourist attraction.

The idea for each mechanic animal first comes in the form of a sketch drawn by François Delarozière.

For Calais—a windswept city between the sea and the earth—François Delaroziere wanted a mythological creature that’s a mix of the elements: fire, water, air, and earth.

The giant beast weighs in at 72 tons, reaching 10 meters in height & extending 25 meters in length

La Machine is a theater group formed in 1999 and lead by François Delarozière. The troupe consists of a number of artists, technicians, and designers who create unusual theatrical objects for their performances. The team is responsible for a handful of other memorable kinetic giants like the “Le Gardien du Temple” (Guardian of the Temple) Minotaur and the “La Princesse” (The Princess) Spider.

The main driving force behind their designs is nature.

Every machine built by the La Machine Company is inspired by nature—the Dragon de Calais draws its aesthetics from the iguana and the Komodo dragon.

It’s of the color of the sea—a transition from green to blue, changing according to the weather, the sun, and the rain.

The story goes that during undersea works to extend the Calais Port, workers accidentally broke the sacred stone that seals the gateway to the North. It serves to protect surface dwellers from the evils of the underworld. Thus, a dragon manages to cross the former barrier and enters the world of humans. Free of its subterranean shackles, it is now headed for the city of Calais.

The mythical creature marched through Calais for 3 days before becoming its permanent resident.

The performance was split into three acts (1 day for each):

“The Confrontation”, when the dragon reaches the city but falls asleep in the snow,

“Ambushes”, the dragon marches into the city, surprising the inhabitants with its demeanor, and

“The Reconciliation”, the dragon discovers music, thus forming a relationship with the locals and becoming the Citizen Dragon of Calais.

This “behemoth” is manned by 17 people, begging the question of how it is even possible to operate a single machine with so many people.

The team communicates using walkie-talkies during the show. There is also a “puppeteer”, a movement coordinator, who manages the team by giving them orders from the floor, i.e. the intentions and feelings to the Dragon.

The Dragon of Calais reaches 10 meters in height and extends 25 meters in length.

Part of the reason why it’s so big is that François Delaroziere wanted the creature to be visible from the ferries that come in from England.

The fully functional dragon can move much of its body, & can shoot fire from its beak & tail.

Though it has kinetic wings that are purely for aesthetics, its throat and beak are fully functional as it can breathe fire. The beast is covered in green-blue scales, has a set of menacing horns, and wide red wings. Nearly all of its parts move: the mouth, the wings, the legs, the neck, and even the tail, which, by the way, also shoots fire.

The theater is currently working on a big project for Nantes—the Heron Tree. It is what they call “moving architecture”, located in “The Extraordinary Garden” in front of the Loire. It is a colossal 35-meter-high sculpture weighing 1,700 tons.”

The Heron Tree is planned to be an interactive experience. The plant roots itself in this metal structure, taking the form of a hanging garden. It is crowned by 2 giant herons, each of which can carry up to twelve passengers for a circular flight. The public will be able to visit the incredible gardens by walking from branch to branch and seeing an extraordinary giant mechanical bestiary with giant hummingbirds, sloths, ants, caterpillars, and much more.

According to the performance, the Dragon falls in love with human music & decides to stay

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time a mechanical dragon was unleashed to wander the city. Back in 2017, La Machine were also riding a yellow mechanical dragon in Ottawa, Canada named Long Ma in celebration of Canada’s 150th Anniversary. Also, the “Drachenstich“, or Dragon Killing, celebration took place with a giant mechanical dragon named Fanny built by German electronics firm Zollner Elektronik AG.

Here are the teaser trailers for the Dragon of Calais

And here is the Dragon of Calais in action…