How TORUK might give you a sneak peek at ‘Avatar 2’

We were treated to a backstage tour to watch how the cast and crew band together to recreate this magical world

How TORUK might give you a sneak peek at ‘Avatar 2’
How TORUK might give you a sneak peek at ‘Avatar 2’
14 May 2018

How TORUK might give you a sneak peek at ‘Avatar 2’

DIRECT FROM SANYA: James Cameron’s Avatar – yes, that epic show with the tall, graceful blue beings (also known as the Na’vi) that transported us into the world of Pandora – may have hit big screens nine years ago, but the magic of the world that he created still lingers on today.

And while it may be some time (December 2020, to be exact) before we dive into the cinematic world of Pandora once again when Avatar 2 is released in cinemas, Cirque du Soleil and James Cameron worked hand-in-hand to recreate that very world and bring it to audiences around the world with TORUK – The First Flight, which is set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film.

For those who have never seen Avatar (you’re a rare breed, we think), rest assured that the happenings in TORUK are not linked to what played out in the film, and even with no prior knowledge of the world of Pandora and its inhabitants, the Na’vi, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the world with the vivid storytelling that the show brings.

Toggle jetted to Sanya, China last month and watched the two-hour (interval included) show for ourselves, but before that, we were lucky enough to be given a backstage tour to watch how the cast and crew alike band together to recreate this magical world, and we’ve got the lowdown of what to expect from the show (it opens in Singapore on May 24), along with a little secret that they let us in on: how you might just get a sneak peek at Avatar 2 by watching TORUK – The First Flight.

Read on for more.

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil​​​​​​​

Direhorses
Direhorses
14 May 2018

Direhorses

Introducing us to the puppets used in TORUK – The First Flight was none other than Helen Day, who has been with the show from day one (and celebrated 500 shows with them in January). Helen, who sometimes also turns blue as she takes on the role of a Na’vi, shared with us that one of the most important elements of working with the team of puppeteers on the show is teamwork. “Every single show is different, and we need to know how each of us thinks and would react in every situation so that we can work together well,” she smiled.

One key example would be with the Direhorse, which requires two puppeteers to work together to make this horse-like creature come alive. One person stands in front, with a screen hooked up to a camera giving him a view of what’s going outside, while the other at the back controls both his legs and another set of “fake” legs that round up the six legs that each Direhorse has. “The person at the back trusts and knows that the one in front knows what he’s doing, and depends on his cues to trot around on stage,” she said.

Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil

Viperwolves
Viperwolves
14 May 2018

Viperwolves

This is one creature you definitely would not want to run into while lost on Pandora, as Helen would tell us. Viperwolves hunt in packs, which means that if you see one of them, it’s very likely that you’ll have a whole load of them after you.

Each nimble-looking animal is controlled by one person, with one arm controlling its head (and jaws with those razor-sharp teeth) and the other supports its back. “They’re the creatures that attacked Jake Sully in the movie when he was lost in the jungle, and they probably left the strongest impression on many viewers because of how vicious they were,” she shared. “In TORUK, they have these green glowing eyes that you can see even in the dark, which make them all the more menacing.”

Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil

Toruk
Toruk
14 May 2018

Toruk

While most of the puppets appear in packs, there’s one very glaring exception – the titular Toruk (as it is known to the Na’vi). Also known as the Leonopteryx, this giant puppet requires six people to control it – one on the head (that’s Helen’s job), one on each wing, and the rest on the torso area.

In order for the Toruk to be able to vocalise during the show, the six puppeteers work together to make noises that they imagine the Toruk would make, instead of using recordings. Yes, that’s right – all the sounds you hear this majestic bird of prey make during the show are live.

Helen let on that the Toruk that was used in Sanya (and that you will see in Singapore) is the second version of the puppet. “Like all great divas, the first one had to retire too,” she laughed. “The improvements that they made on this version are very technical. For example, the neck moves a bit better, and there’s more fabric in the wings, which makes us super excited, but to the average audience member, you’d probably be like, ‘Oh, okay’. But we love it anyway.”

Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil

Austrapedes
Austrapedes
14 May 2018

Austrapedes

If you’ve read till here, you’re probably wondering, “Hey, where’s that sneak peek at Avatar 2 that I was promised?” Well, here it is, this silly-looking, yet endearing bird-like creature that was created by the TORUK team.

“They’re one of my personal favourites because they’re so silly,” Helen grinned. “You need to put one arm up its neck to control its neck and beak, and the puppeteer also needs to put on these shoes to elevate themselves to look the part of an Austrapede.”

James, who was around during the creation period, has also caught the show a number of times and is known to be a fan of this harmless-looking bird, which she hinted could very well be in Avatar 2. If you see a familiar-looking bird in the movie later on, you’ll know who to thank for the heads up.

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

WATCH: A sneak peek into the world of TORUK

TORUK – The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil runs from May 24 to June 3 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Tickets are priced at S$188, S$158, S$128 and S$98 and are now available on SportsHubTix.

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