I saved my favorite tourist activity from New Orleans for last, and that was Mardi Gras World. Mardi Gras World is a studio that builds and designs all the floats for the parades. I figured they would have a few on display but happily I was incorrect. You could actually tour the workstations where pieces were being created and I totally freaked out. Cricket stopped me from quitting my N.Y. job and applying right then and there. I know all the techniques Mardi Gras World is using! I could have started working immediately! Gimme a tub of glue and I’ll paper-mache that giant raccoon! Cricket, stop dragging me away, it is my destineeeeeeeeeee!
We walked to the studio from the hotel which was not the best decision because we misread the map and it was a million miles away (about three miles really, but it was very hot so it felt longer). As we approached (on foot, in the heat, did I mention that?) you could see the size of the warehouse and appreciate the scale of it. When we walked around the interior the tour guide told us that elsewhere in the state there have fourteen more warehouses full of float-parts and scenery.
This was the permanent installment of the jester pointing to the door. As you can sew, the threat level is Marsec 1. Since this building is on the banks of the Mississippi I assume the threat is the water level rising and not an imminent alien attack or spores that take over your brain and make you punch your neighbor.
You then walk in the front door and are greeted by a cavalcade of nuttiness. Can you think of a thing? Chances are it’s there, next to another random thing. Some of my top collections – the Hieronymus Bosch fish chillin’ behind the vino bottle:
The chili pepper hangin’ with The Cat in the Hat and an ornate column:
Two wee demons looking in a mirror, a big fluorescent fish and a snow monster with stars in its fur:
Really angry anglerfish (an anglyfish), a clock with jewels and a sparkly poison-dart frog on a sparkly mushroom:
Napoleon, a carp bench and a pelican:
And a nightmare spider from a 1950s movie.
In the gift shop there was a scary chef with the ingredients of gumbo bursting forth from his cooking pot. A bit macabre for my taste, the food items popping out and smiling but to each their own.
Off to one side was a costume that would be worn at Mardi Gras of a Crayfish Queen. I tried to convince Börkke to wear it as a wedding dress (she was getting married in Maine, I tried to convince her that they were lobsters) but she declined. Sigh.
I went on the tour to get a better idea of the work they do at Mardi Gras World. I found out they also make props for places like Universal as shown by this dinosaur we passed. On a related note, has everyone seen the latest Jurassic World? I saw it in 3D and I would recommend that. The raptors come snappy-snappy right at your face. The new big bad dinosaur is creepy and awesome. It’s a jaunty summer film, all fluff but a good time. I’m a bit obsessed with with the giant water demon shown in the trailer, Bitey McChompersons. The one that eats the shark. I would watch a movie with only that guy in it.
Anyway, back to awesome props. Since it was a Sunday no one was at the workstations but they had left the pieces they were constructing out so I could behave creepily and gently caress them like a lunatic. Here’s the general way this works – there are krewes, like clubs, that decide they’re going to have a Mardi Gras parade. A parade must have a theme and consist of no less than fourteen floats. The krewe then collects money throughout the year from various krewe members and then they decide on the theme. “Characters from Books.” “Important Americans Through History.” “Oceans of the World.” That kind of theme. Then they meet with a designer who lays out how the floats will look. They can reuse the substructure of previous floats which is why they are kept in giant warehouses. Did you know there’s no entrance onto the float? You need to climb on or in via a platform and you stay there all day. Therefore many floats have a restroom built into it. When the work by the designer is approved, construction begins. These float items need to be large but also very lightweight so they are made a few different ways. Mostly a welder makes the skeleton which is covered with industrial styrofoam and carved with a hot knife into the rough shape. Then it is sanded and covered with brown kraft paper paper-mache which makes the surface even and receptive to painting (exactly how I made my crab for my ocean costume!). There were some structures that were welded together and only covered with thick pieces of cardboard to give them a light, airy feel. It appears that one of next year’s themes is Chinese in nature.
They will also pull older pieces, cut them up, remodel them, paint them and send them back out. For example, this hourglass.
In the back area they have the full floats parked. They’re really big. None of these parades go through the French Quarter because the streets aren’t wide enough and the wires would get in the way. These all go down the main thoroughfares.
And here’s a finished piece sitting in a workstation. I started drooling when I saw all those paints and brushes.
And here are some photos that were left behind but are no less important.
Crab escargot. Look, it resembles a demon emerging from the bowels of hell! Dig in, kids! (It was actually delicious.)
Cricket and my boat trip down the Ole Mississip. It was RAINING. Not raining, RAINING. All the rains. I insisted that we sit outside so we got soaked. It was cool nonetheless.
On the boat there was a women’s restroom and it reinforced my comments on how important typeface choices are. I swore it said “Loadies” which is a terrible name for a women’s restroom. Bad. Bad designer. No biscuit.
I would totally go back. I would like to go for Mardi Gras and watch all the parades. Maybe someday I will have that opportunity.