The Amazing Bubble Man tells Lydia Jenkin a few trade secrets about his super-sized bubbles.
San Franciscan Louis Pearl stumbled into bubbles back at university, creating a performance art piece where five people would use paper cones to blow one huge bubble together. Bubbles became a passion, and in 1980 he created his first bubble toy, which he sold through his company, and his life as The Amazing Bubble Man, with a full-scale magical stage show began.
Now he's bringing his show to Auckland, so TimeOut asked him for some bubble blowing advice ...
What are the best conditions for blowing good bubbles?
Cool, humid, moist, air is the best thing for bubbles. Most people think of summer time, and outdoors when you think of bubbles, but the truth is, because a bubble is an extremely thin layer of soapy water, and hot, dry weather evaporates the water, cool and moist is perfect. So July in Auckland is probably a really good place to be.
What makes the best bubble mix or solution?
The key ingredient is humidity, and lack of moving air.
So it's always a bit of a trick, because theatres have a lot of hot lights on stage, so usually there's really good air conditioning, and we have to turn it off, or down. But I find that usually, whatever the problem is, I can adjust my solution with different ingredients to make the bubbles thicker or more viscous, or whatever is needed. Dishwashing detergent is the main ingredient, along with distilled water, but I also use quite a bit of glycerine, which helps to pull the water in, and then I have a few other tricks.
Do you need fancy equipment to be good at bubble blowing?
We definitely use a fair bit of equipment and technology in these shows, because we're in a big theatre so there will be lighting and music and a beautiful stage set. But truthfully there's a feeling that you get when you start playing with bubbles, and you do it for a long time, and pretty soon it's not about technology or the props or the tools, there's a certain feel for this bubble solution which is impossible to describe. At a certain point there's just a knowing that you develop to help you manipulate the bubbles.
What are some of your most popular tricks?
People love big, so I make bubbles that are four or five metres big, and I put people inside them. Also, very early on I started putting smoke or fog in the bubbles, which looks pretty cool, and is always fascinating, especially when they pop because you see this cloud of smoke dispersing in a really beautiful way. Volcano bubbles are cool too, when you have a huge bubble filled with fog, and then you put a hole in the top of it, and once it gets a hole in it the bubble begins to shrink, and pushes all the fog out, so you get a big volcano effect which is quite exciting.
Is the show just for kids, or is it for adults too?
Kids get a sense of power with bubbles, there's not much they can control, but they can destroy bubbles! And there's a certain amount of joy to be had in that. But it really does have broad appeal, and there's a sort of magic to it.
One of the first bubble toys I made was an illuminated white platform - like a flashlight with a yoghurt pot lid on top - and if you blow a bubble on top of that and turn off all the lights you can see all the colours. And that wasn't so much a kid's toy, it was for adults, having a bottle of wine around a table and watching the colours. It was very groovy.
What: The Amazing Bubble Man
Where: The Civic Theatre, Auckland
When: July 11 to July 15, two shows a day, 11am and 2pm