This Mechanical Dragon Is Controlled By 17 People & Breathes Fire In This Street Art Performance Done By La Machine

This Mechanical Dragon Is Controlled By 17 People & Breathes Fire In This Street Art Performance Done By La Machine

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.


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.


Bored Panda got in touch with Compagnie La Machine, the creators of the epic Dragon of Calais, for an interview.


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



Image credits: Ville de Nantes on Twitter


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!



Image credits: Ville de Nantes on Instagram


“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”.



Image credits: Ville de Nantes on Instagram


“The idea for each mechanic animal first comes in the form of a sketch drawn by François Delarozière,” explained Pauline David, the Digital Communication Manager of La Machine. “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



Image credits: Ville de Nantes on Instagram


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.



Image credits: Ville de Nantes on Instagram


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



Image credits: Ville de Nantes on Instagram


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



Image credits: Setsu_Chimera on Twitter


The performance was split into three acts, one for each day: “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.



Image credits: Ville de Nantes on Twitter


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. Pauline David explains: “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.”



Image credits: compagnie_la_machine on Instagram


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



Image credits: compagnie_la_machine on Instagram


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.



Image credits: compagnie_la_machine / Fred Collier


We’ve also got a heads-up for things to come from La Machine. Pauline David elaborated: “We are currently working on a big project for Nantes—the Heron Tree. It is what we 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.”



Image credits: compagnie_la_machine on Instagram


The Heron Tree is planned to be an interactive experience, says Pauline David: “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



Image credits: compagnie_la_machine on Instagram


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.



Image credits: compagnie_la_machine on Instagram


Thank you to Compagnie La Machine for the interview. Be sure to check them out on their website, Instagram, and other social media for more highlights and upcoming events.


A dragon fan? Let us know your favorite dragons from movies, TV, video games or storybooks in the comments!


Here are the teaser trailers for the Dragon of Calais



Image credits: Compagnie La Machine



Image credits: Compagnie La Machine


And here is the Dragon of Calais in action…




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