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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Grand illusion » » Creativity and the Sub Trunk Illusion (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

magic4u02
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I was talking with a few folks the other day about creativity and illusions and it got me to remmeber an article I wrote a while back that really explores this concept in great detail. I thought I might post it here as it may open some eyes or get folks thinking about stuff in different ways.

The talk was really about how so many illusionist (not all but many) simply lose creativity when it comes to illusion routines. it is as if someone told them that illusions can not be performed any different then they always have been.

It seems that the discussion that comes up a lot derives from performers performing the sub trunk illusion and people wondering if it is too similar to the Pendragons or to some other illusionist's acts.

One of the reasons that I feel so many argue over this is because in essence most every magician (some exceptions of course) perform the sub trunk or metamorphosis in the same way. They perform it based upon how it has always been done in the past. Not much variation in regards to the effect and routine over the years.

In most cases, you have a trunk and 2 people who use a cloth curtain, stand on top and make a transformation of some sort (usually fast). The people are either shackled or use a bag when in the trunk and the trunk is locked in some fashion. Now how many magicians do you know that do the illusion and perform it in the same way as I described? In my book .. a LOT. The reason is because that is the way it has ALWAYS been done.

So some try and make it faster or some try and have more locks or a bag that is tied more or a trunk with more locks or chains. But, in essence this does not really change anything at all. To me it is still very much the same way as it has always been done.

If you really want to stand out and make a name for yourself with this illusion, you got to throw away everything you know about the illusion or have seen and start completely fresh again. Basically, throw away the DVds, videos or any visual memories of seeing others do it.

Then you start looking AWAY from magic for other ideas. This is where creativity can really spark and begin. Too many of us look inward at magic for ideas instead of looking outwards away from magic for concepts to routining.

I mean let's think about this for a second. Let us say to ourselves what could happen if we really thought about the sub trunk illusion in a new fashion entirely? What could happen if we forgot about every performance we have seen of it and just go off on tangents?

- what if you did not even use a trunk at all? Why does it have to be a trunk in the first place? Can it be something else entirely? If so, what could it be that would be so different? What object could it be besides a trunk? Starts to change things up already now doesn't it.

- What is the person who should be in the bag is not there at all but instead is a stage crew wearing headphones, clip board and a mic wondering how he got there. The person who should be there is totally gone?
0A

- What if it is not a double switch but a triple switch?

- What if no one emerged on the top of the trunk after the switch?

- What if you had a theme going for the illusion or storyline instead of just doing it straight forward. What if it was gangster themed and the bag was a giant money bag and the trunk was a safe instead with a door that locks into place. What if then the person (robber) locks a cop inside the safe, jumps on the top and holds up a cloth as an act to hide from the other cops. The cops notice the cloth moving and so shoot at the cloth. As they shoot holes form in the cloth so you see right through the cloth as the cloth drops and no one is standing on top at all. The person that was inside is now the cop who fired the gun and the person that was hiding (robber) is now locked inside the safe.

The idea to ask yourself here is simple.. "what if". What if we stopped thinking so hard on how the sub trunk has always been done and start to view it entirely in new ways. Forget what we know of the illusion and begin to look past it. Imagine the ideas and creativity that could be started if we open our eyes to looking past what we already know.

I think if we started doing this, we would spend less time worrying about someone's version looking like someone else's and really start to see a completely different and unique idea that is as unique as you are.

Just food for thought.

Kyle
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Jack Murray
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I have a "see-through" trunk on my site where some of the possibilities you mention can be accomplished.

Jack
raywitko
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We did a show for a magician's banquet and performed what I called the poor man's sub trunk. We used the curtain and that was it. I stood inside the curtain, lifted the curtain up and walked toward the audience. The curtain was dropped and standing there was my wife Debora. I then came out of the audience from the back of the room. Didn't have to haul in a heavy box that night.
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magic4u02
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Jack: Thank you. That begins to get us thinking past the norm. It gives magicians the ability to think past the blinders that they all seem to wear. Who says certain illusions can only be done one way> We as magicians often tend to be our wrost enemies by stifling creativity.

Ray: Also a creatove idea and something different. What I posted is imply to get people thinking past what is normally done in any illusion. What we tend to do is look inward at magic for ideas on illusion presentation instead of looking outward for ideas that are new and fresh and different.

Kyle
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Sam Sandler
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Ok Kyle,

I will agree th at many do not think "outside the box" and I will also agree most ok the majority of peopl;e perform the subtunk witht a "standard"routine.

however here is my question is it wrong to perform it standard are you saying we shoudl stop performing it the standard way?
or are you just using the subtrunk as an example? you ah ve seen my version and it is a tribute to houdini therefore I do it this way onpurpose and most likely would not change it. however that being said
we have toyed with the idea of locking my assitant inside and then when she is on top of the box and I vanish that she opens the box and no one is there. she tilts the box forward onto its side showing it empty to the audinece and then I appear at the back of the auditorium.

Now that being said there are some shows where staging woudl not allow that routine to work so performing it the way I currently do is great as I can do it anywhere and completely surronded.

again I agree that presentations of illusions seem to be lacking these days. most everyone sees it performed on tv by Lance, rick thomas, Jeff McBride or whomever and then they all do as they did. I agree where is the creativity!?!?!

sam
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George Ledo
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You made some good points, Kyle. Thanks so much.

I've written about this type of thing in my column several times (it's one of my pet peeves too), but the one that I thought of just now was the one on how designers go back to the original source when they're "inspired to copy" someone else's work. Want to do a "new" version of West Side Story? Go back to Romeo and Juliet... or even to Shakespeare's sources. Lots of material there, and the result will be fresh.

What did Houdini do with the sub trunk? Why? Who was his audience? What did a trunk mean back then? Who owned a trunk? What was he trying to prove? Start there, and, who knows, a brand-spanking-new effect may just turn up.
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magic4u02
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Exactly!! The sub trunk in my post was used mainly as a simple analogy to get a point across. That is that yes you can do an illusion a common way. Nothing wrong with that. Also nothing wrong with doing it as a tribute of sorts.

What I am saying is that every illusion can be presnted and thought of in a new and fresh way. Even a standard routine can be made different by usage of patter, music, choreography and character alone. Even in those regards, it can make even a standard routine fresh and different.

But some folks do not or would not even go that extreme. How many times have touy seen an illusionist get totally out of character and present an illusion EXACTLY like someone else. I mean down to the moves and patter, music and even staging. Some do it so close that it is almost like a dead on clone.

Be yourself and find out who YOU are on stage. If presenting an illusion, stay in character to who you are. No reason to change it just because you are doing an illusion. Your style and character and personality should shine through to everything you do including illusion routines.

I have seem sam many times as he is a good friend of mine. Sam may do it as a tribute style routine. However, you can tell his character never changes. He presents it very unque to a style that fits him. His music fits his high energy approach.

Now if you want to take it to the next level in creative thought, then take the trunk or any illusion, and really start to rethink it entirely. As George states, go back to the original sources and be inspired by them. Look outside of magic for ideas. One can be inspired by so many things that can be palced into the magic you do and the routines you create.

Kyle
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sb
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I think about this all the time!

One thing that I always notice on these boards... someone asks "which trick should I buy, a zigzag or sub trunk?" This is the absolute wrong way to decide what piece should be in your show. More on this thought in a later post....


To reinvent the metamorphosis, (which I am doing right now, on my own!) you have to break it down to what is the trick? It's a transposition! Person "A" changes place with person "B". That's it! That's what the trick is.

So instead of someone saying that want a metamorphosis, they should be saying that they want a transposition effect.

Of course people go with the standard metamorphosis trunk. It's easy to build, cheap to buy, can be done pretty much anywhere, and you can use it to close with. It is a great first illusion!

Unfortunately, people who are interested enough to see your show are usually interested enough to see other performers shows and to watch magic on TV. That means, they have probably seen this trick before. (Lay people talk to me about metamorphosis - they call it by name!)


So, to reinvent it you should ask yourself:
1. What type of box, or no box at all. (I personally hate getting locked in that trunk - it is not very "cool" to be crunched down in there (wait, I'm not really that cool anyway Smile ).
2. What type of cover should I use? Cloth, fire, smoke, water, elephant.....
3. Should we just change places? Should there be a kicker (that kicker should make sense, and not just something random for the sake of doing it - "hey look another girl"- when really she could have just been sitting in the box the whole time)?
4. Should there even be a "we"? How could I do this myself with no assistant? Do I want to do it without an assistant?



just my take...

scott
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Great points here it has to be said by all.Some very nice presentational ideas laid out.

I am currently reading JC Sum's latest Illusion Book & the Crystal Clear Metamorphosis is really great if you want to perform the illusion in a similar way but with a real modern feel.The illusion is designed for speed, the most important factor.Have a look at JC & Ning perform their lightning fast exchange.

Without doubt the most important part however of the Metamorphosis illusion whatever way you perform it, is the speed at which the exchange occurs, I've seen a lot of performances on Youtube that take way too long for the switch to happen, I know not everyone will be as fast as the Pendragons or indeed JC Sum & Ning with their Clear version but when it takes too long I feel the magic is lost.
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I think that the usual presentation of Metamorphosis has a weak plot line -- the magician locks up his beautiful assistant only to change places with her. Seems pointless.

How about applying a clear plot? A character who is the magician's antagonist is a running thread in the show. Protagonist magician is in love with beautiful assistant. Antagonist captures assistant and locks her in the trunk. Protagonist battles antagonist and momentarily subdues antagonist. Protagonist leaps atop trunk and disappears in a blinding flash of light. (I believe that Criss Angel performed Metamorphosis using bright light for cover in the place of the usual cover cloth in his pre-Mindfreak days. It was a brilliant presentation.)

Antagonist's henchmen open the trunk to find it empty (or to find the shackled antagonist inside). Protagonist enters (from offstage or rear of theatre) carrying the rescued assistant. They kiss. Curtain.
LeeAlex2002
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I can highly recommend the DVDs by the Pendragons which go into a lot of detail about the plot of the trunk and their thinking behind it.

The DVDs are available individually, but bought as a set you have hours of valuable advice and highly entertaining viewing.
Yours Magically,
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magic4u02
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JK: Thank you for your feedback, opinions and views. It is most appreciated. However, I disagree with you on a point that the "most important part however of the Metamorphosis illusion whatever way you perform it, is the speed at which the exchange occurs."

I do not personally agree with this. Who says the illusion has to be done fast? The only person who ever says it has to be this way is we the magicians and illusionist. Why can't it be done slower and at a slower pace? Why can;t it even be done so it appears as if it is a struggle and a challenge to get out? Houdini himself never really did it for speed. He knew an audience can be led to a much more emotional response when time is involved.

I am not saying speed is wrong. I am just saying it is certainly not the only way to do it and certainly not the most important element of the illusion. To me the most important aspect is creativity and entertainment value.

I feel the magic can be even more powerful even is speed is never used at all. There is so much more to give an audience other then the sheer "wow" factor. You can use illusions to create different responses.

Opus: BINGO!!! Now you are starting to see where I am coming from. I am not saying do not perform the sub trunk in a classic manner. Go for it as that is not wrong. If you do choose to do it this way, you wtill need to be yourself, make it fit your style and have it fit your character.

But you can also redo your thinking on this and any illusion you perform. Really learn to see past the obvious and create something that is perhaps new and fresh and different.

Lee: Thank you for the DVD mention. They do indeed go over a lot and one could learn much from viewing them.

Kyle
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Jonathan Smith
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Maybe the end of the trick could be that when the curtain is dropped the trunk has vanished and one person is on all fours and the other is standing on his back.
George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2009-03-23 08:18, 0pus wrote:
I think that the usual presentation of Metamorphosis has a weak plot line -- the magician locks up his beautiful assistant only to change places with her. Seems pointless.

How about applying a clear plot? A character who is the magician's antagonist is a running thread in the show. Protagonist magician is in love with beautiful assistant. Antagonist captures assistant and locks her in the trunk. Protagonist battles antagonist and momentarily subdues antagonist. Protagonist leaps atop trunk and disappears in a blinding flash of light. (I believe that Criss Angel performed Metamorphosis using bright light for cover in the place of the usual cover cloth in his pre-Mindfreak days. It was a brilliant presentation.)

Antagonist's henchmen open the trunk to find it empty (or to find the shackled antagonist inside). Protagonist enters (from offstage or rear of theatre) carrying the rescued assistant. They kiss. Curtain.

There's a really interesting take on this in Showmanship for Magicians. Not one you could do today (it's not... er... well... PC), but it does show a clear plot, motivation, and surprise. And it was written over sixty years ago.
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jkmagic
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Thanks Kyle,of course you are right in that entertaining an audience is the most important factor.

Speed is important but not the only thing, again I am probably looking at things from a magicians viewpoint.

There are many ways to present the wonderful illusion.I look forward to getting the Pendragons DVD series.

I enjoy reading your posts on here.You provide great advice & it is well appreciated.

Thanks
magic4u02
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Jonathan: Actually pretty funny. See that is creative thinking. Why not? Why can't that happen if it fits who you are and your character.

JK: Thanks so much for the kind words. Great share here by you and many others. There is no one answer. There are just many to be explored, thought about and played around with. There are literally hundreds of ideas for any given illusion. You just have to open your mind a bit to think past what tends to be common place.

Kyle
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Sam Sandler
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Hey Kyle

thanks for the kind words on my presentation of the subtrunk. I spent a lot of time searching for the right music and then worked on the routining. by having me locked up verses the girl and everything else that I have done with it.

I agree that speed may or may not play a big part as I think it comes down to presentation. if you present it in a way you can make the switch smooth but not fast aslmost as a morphing type of effect - what a Coincidence the illusions is called the MetaMORPHoses

I have thought many times why a box. in Houdini's days packing crates and trunks were as comon as camera cut aways on a chriss angel tv show. why not make it a giant chrstmas present or a washermachine or a dryer. it of course can be done with a theme or story line and then instead of 2-4 minutes you can get 5-10 minutes in one routine. what about making it a sword box illusion and then while the swords are still in do the switch.

there are lots of ideas out there my fear is that too many magicians have become lazy and it is much easier to steal anothers hard work.

I think kyle makes a great point Lets get creative with our routines.

sam
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George Ledo
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While we're on this (and while I'm sitting here waiting to go pick Donna up at the airport), I'll throw out another thought.

I have a copy of "Panorama of Magic" by Milbourne Christopher -- a book I bought when I was a kid and practically wore out from re-reading and studying. Looking at the photos, it seems that a huge amount of the props magicians used in the old days were -- if not common objects -- items that seemed logical to the audiences because they were in character with the times and with the performer.

Even dress was in character.

And granted, I know that the magicians we consider masters today were a relatively small group; there were probably lots more that we don't remember, or have ever heard of, because they weren't... well... memorable.

However, looking through some of the old (as in early 20th century) books I get a sense that props were in context with the times. Even looking through a 1936 Thayer catalog (and especially being in the theater field), I notice that a lot of the items were in character with the period: some items follow the old late-Victorian tradition, but are cleaned up some and beginning to lean towards Art Deco, the movie musicals, and the night-club era.

Then I look at some of today's props and illusions, and I have to wonder what they have to do with this new millenium, the atomic age, space travel, and the rush-rush of everyday life. A lot of these items look like they were just pulled out of old catalogs, or jury-rigged to jive with the early 1970's high-tech style.

So, going back to Kyle's point, I agree that we need to look outside the catalog and begin to notice what's out there so we can come up with material that fits today's world. A very few are doing this, but geez, I see so much dated stuff.

Okay, I think it's time to go. Smile
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idomagic
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So a year after this post was hot, I'm going to chime in. I am doing my first metamorphosis this summer in my theme park show. Much of the thinking here was really appreciated.

I would love any tips or tricks people have on positions and movement during the switch. To keep this private, feel free to IM me so we're not sharing the secret to the world.
Chad Wonder (Chad Wonder Magic, Inc)
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