30 Oct 2019

We take a peek behind the curtain to meet Wild Rumpus and discover how their team bring the lanterns magic to life. With three, BRAND NEW illuminating worlds this year, we find out what it takes to create this magical, festive wonderland.

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The not-for-profit organisation based in a Cheshire woodland, has been working with Chester Zoo for four years designing awe-inspiring creations and experiences that immerse visitors in incredible stories and moments of wonder. Inspired by the animals and teams here at the zoo, they tell us what to expect from The Great Christmas Expedition…

“We start by dreaming up the characters and worlds that the Lanterns visitors will step into this Christmas, then start to bring them all to life! We work from a woodland creation space and our workshop is full of sketches, lists and models of fantastical sets and costumes, which are gradually being made into the final lanterns, sets and scenery that the visitors will see.

We work with over 50 performers, who will be spending their winter transformed into parrots, penguins, frogs and reindeer, and work closely with the zoo teams to make sure that everything goes to plan, without having an impact on the animals and their busy lives!


This year we’re taking visitors on an incredible expedition! Setting off from Explorer Basecamp, visitors will be journeying through new worlds and old favourites, meeting incredible illuminated characters. Diving underwater to meet Ocho the Octopus in his watery world is going to be a firm favourite, and walking across the night skies over lit houses and amongst the clouds in Night Sky adventure is set to be a beautiful moment. Also, all of our festive favourites will be back! Father Christmas will be joined by his friends the reindeer and penguins, playing beneath the snow in Northern Lights.

We started dreaming up Lanterns 2019 in January thinking about what worlds we might create and plotting and planning how to bring them to life. Our team of makers have been in the workshop since July making lanterns, light installations and sets and scenery. Cara has spent the past two months making ever more impressive tiny houses, which will make a beautiful lit town and we’ve all decided which house we’ll be living in when we can shrink down small enough to fit!

There are lots of people who work together to make The Lanterns come to life. We start with evaluating the previous event and decide which favourites we’ll have back, and dream up what new things the visitors would love. After this, a more detailed design stage starts with sketches, sizes, quantities and budgets. We work closely with the zoo teams at every stage to make sure that the characters and lanterns are the perfect fit for the zoo.

We then call on our merry band of freelance makers, performers and production staff, who all play their part in planning and making. Almost a month before we welcome our first audiences to The Lanterns, the Wild Rumpus team move to site and start building! It takes about three weeks to fully install all of the lanterns and incredible worlds, then we welcome our performers for two intense days of costume fitting, rehearsal and training before opening night!


We absolutely love working with the zoo, and creating incredible memories with zoo audiences who love it as much as we do! Bringing the zoo to life after dark is so exciting. Wild Rumpus create incredible worlds and experiences, so to get the chance to do that in such an amazing place is perfect. We also know how important Christmas memories and traditions are, and to see audiences creating special memories with us is what it’s all about.

I want people to feel like they’ve stepped out of their real lives into an extraordinary place, where a brightly lit festive adventure leads to surprise and wonder at every turn. We want everyone who comes to get a chance to play with an animal character, to wonder at beautiful installations, and to walk out feeling like they’ve had the most special evening with their loved ones, ready for Christmas.”


Lanterns tickets are now on sale for selected dates in November and December



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