Ozarks Life: Florence is a new, big star in Branson

Florence is featured in Sight & Sound Theaters’ presentation of Queen Esther.
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 5:22 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) - At Sight & Sound Theaters in Branson, there is a sight to behold.

Queen Esther debuted in Branson earlier this month. While audiences have raved about the story, actors, and sets, it’s something else that’s catching their attention.

“This elephant is featured when they are welcoming Queen Esther as the new queen of this empire,” Kortney Neal, Sight & Sound Theaters’ Marketing and Customer Relations Manager said.

Florence stands 13 feet tall and weighs 1,000 pounds.

“Just to see the wonder,” technical director Luke Bates said about seeing Florence on stage. “The people that I’ve talked with in the community, they said it was about halfway through the scene before they realized that she wasn’t a real elephant.”

Florence is most likely the largest animatronic animal the Ozarks has ever seen.

“One of the most complex animatronic devices we’ve had in this building,” Bates said. “There are three motors that drive her, but there are over 17 axes of motion to make her look lifelike.”

The pachyderm is programmed through a pack carried by a tech staffer. The staffer is disguised as an extra who walks alongside Florence during the performance.

“We’ve never had to cut (Florence) from the parade scene,” Bates said. “She’s a very reliable animal; more reliable than some animals themselves.”

While Florence is propelled by motors, her head and tail are operated by actors live during the show. The actor who plays the driver of the elephant uses a pully to animate her head and trunk. Queen Esther’s foot inside the carriage taps a peddle, making Florence’s tail sway.

“There were over 20 iterations of mechanical design to make her look lifelike,” Bates said, “and they did that through watching videos of elephants in the wild.”

But true zoologists will probably get their trunks bent out of shape. They will recognize something is off.

“The head is an African elephant because both males and females have tusks,” Bates explained, “but in order to make it fit through the gate and in our set, the body had to be scaled to be more like an Asian elephant.”

After the performances, Florence is plugged into an electrical outlet, and her air pressure is checked to make sure she’s ready for the next show.

“This is just a beautiful tale of beauty and bravery,” Neal said. “A story that everyone needs to experience.”

Click here for tickets to the Sight & Sound Theaters’ performance of Queen Esther. The show runs through December, 30.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com