On Earthday 2015, the Los Angeles Zoo kicked off Wild For the Planet a month long celebration of the Planet Earth. This special event featured hands on crafts and activities for children and families, special animal feedings and keeper talks, information booths from local environmental organizations and live entertainment.
Early in the planning of this even Swazzle was invited to develop a brand new puppet show that would highlight the Los Angeles Zoo’s important California Condor Rescue and Rehabilitation Program. Back in 2005, Swazzle created a puppet show staring an Environmental Superhero called Ricky Raccoon, and it was decided that a new show featuring Ricky would be a great fit.
To begin the research for the puppet show, Swazzle team members were invited on a special behind the scenes tour of the California Condor Rescue Center. The Center is backstage at the Zoo, and is normally off limits to Zoo guests. The Condor experts gave detailed information on the Condors and the environmental dangers they face. The highlight of the tour came when everyone was escorted into a California Condor enclosure – the Condor flew from it’s perch on it’s impressive nine foot wingspan and landed just steps away from the handler.
After this tour and Condor encounter, Swazzle set to work on the script and the creation of the puppets. Swazzle co-owners and puppet builders Patrick and Sean Johnson pulled puppets from the Swazzle archive and set to work refurbishing and rebuilding them – a months long process. This show also featured some new puppets, most notably Conrad the California Condor. This puppet was built by Patrick Johnson using reference photos and information gathered on the Zoo tour.
The show tells the story of Environmental Super Hero Ricky Raccoon and his good friend and sidekick Conrad the California Condor. When Conrad becomes sick from a mysterious illness, Ricky calls upon the Green Rangers, AKA the audience to help. Along the way the audience helps Cody the Common Carp clean the Los Angles River and Katie Coyote use water wisely.
In order to highlight three distinct Los Angeles County environments: Griffith Park, The Los Angeles River and the Angeles National Forest, a new “double wide” puppet stage was constructed. This new puppet stage allowed the puppeteer to play in three different “behind the curtain” playing areas and out front in full view of the audience.
After a month of writing, rehearsing, voice recording and editing the puppet show was ready for it’s premier performance in the Tree Top Terrace at the Los Angles Zoo. For five weekends, Saturday and Sunday at 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00 Ricky Raccoon with the help of Swazzle puppeteers Rachel Herrick and Genevieve Flati entertained and educated standing room only crowds. All of the children (and adults) in the audience learned about the California Condor and the environmental dangers that it faces – and they learned simple things they could do at home to keep their environment clean.
Now that the zoo engagement has come to a close, Ricky Raccoon and the Green Rangers is available to tour libraries and schools in Southern California. For booking information please call 866-SWAZZLE (792-9953) or visit www.swazzle.com.