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Camel 1

May 1991

The first of three animated/animatronic Camels was built by the Prop-Shop, Walthamstow, London, for Andrew Lloyd Weber's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium.
The Prop-Shop was run by Paul Sanders, Patrick Anwyl and Mandy Diamond and I was asked by Paul Sanders to work with him on the Camel.
The specification was for a six foot, free standing, slightly humerous Camel and the show was expected to run for a few months over the summer.
I designed and built the mechanics;
Mandy Diamond sculpted and dressed it;
and Paul Sanders oversaw the project, made the body, figures and the base.

The Camel was operated by a man under the revolving stage. As the stage turned the operator moved the legs backwards and forwards in time with the movement of the stage and it appeared as if the Camel was walking round. As the legs moved they in turn made the neck move backwards and forwards in the characteristic way of camels. The head was mounted on a pivot and, as the leg mounts ensured the Camel swayed from side to side as it walked, the head also swung from side to side. The Camel also had to sing and talk to Joseph and so the mouth was moved by a cable operated from under the stage.
Not shown in the final picture are two riding figures which swayed about on springs as the camel moved.

The production company was worried about the weight, so the construction used wood and aluminium, reserving steel for the high stress points. There are no high-tech bearings which needed aligning and could bind, everything is loose so as the leg mounts rocked back and forth the Camel moved easily and in small unpredictable ways. The play in the bearings allowed the Camel to come to life.

Unlike the rest of the cast, the Camel didn't have an understudy but despite being driven into the stage flats when they weren't removed in time - putting the operator in hospital, dropped off a lorry, and Jason Donavon, as Joseph, heaving on the rope as the Camel dragged him off to Egypt, it never missed a performance and only minimal repairs were needed during the three or four years for which the show actually ran.

The bare bones

From the back Paul adjusting the under-stage trucks in the base

Paul and Camel outside the Prop-Shop

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