THIS Christmas thousands of families up and down the country will enjoy the magic of pantomime.
And for several years now, a creative Hartlepool firm has been behind state-of-the art 3D special effects used in some of the UK’s biggest productions.
Whizzbang 3D Productions, based in Brougham Enterprise Centre, creates mind-blowing creatures and worlds that help lift classic pantomime stories off the stage and into the audience’s laps.
This year the effects are being experienced by local theatre goers who go to see The Chuckles of Oz at Darlington Civic Theatre.
Audience members of all ages are being left open-mouthed as all sorts creatures come flying out of the stage and appear right in front of their noses during parts of the panto.
Tim Dear, director of Whizzbang Productions, said: “Our pantomime effects are huge fun for us to make.
“We get to invent new fantasy creatures and worlds that are just right for the production.
“Our effects are like a theme park experience and are very different to what you get in a cinema where it just makes things look a little bit deeper.
“If you are a six-year-old you absolutely believe the 3D is coming out of the screen in front of you and only you.
“That kind of moment in a child’s mind for them is incredible.
Whizzbang Productions, which also uses the technology in stage shows of the hugely popular Horrible Histories children’s TV series, used 3D in panto for the first time at the Alhambra in Bradford for the first time in 2006.
The UK’s biggest pantomime producers, Qdos, saw it and introduced it in their theatres all over the country.
Tim, 52, added: “It was an immediate success. We have been making effects for pantomimes every year since 2006.
“In one year we were in 10 of the UK’s major theatres.”
When the team created effects for Sleeping Beauty at Birmingham’s Hippodrome one local reviewer said the panto’s “wiped the floor” with the ground-breaking 3D movie Avatar in cinemas at the same time.
Whizzbang have created 3D packages for productions including Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Robinson Crusoe.
It takes the team in Hartlepool up to nine months to create a sequence just three minutes long.
Tim added: “The actors become part of that world, whether it is an enchanted forest, mythical cave or whatever.
“The 3D helps the story line by reaching out from the stage and into people’s seats in the theatre.”