Behind the Scenes of Tianyu Lantern Festivals

When visitors attend a Tianyu Arts & Culture-produced lantern festival, they can’t help but be mesmerized by the giant and colorful lanterns. The interactive displays delight with every movement they make and each color transformation. One can’t help but wonder if these lanterns are magic…

Most patrons don’t realize the work that goes on behind the scenes in order to produce a successful lantern festival. The festival development begins long before the lanterns arrive on-site at a venue. At the beginning of each planning cycle, Tianyu works with the venue partner to identify theme and design concepts. It takes months for the design team to brainstorm new ideas and develop and implement lighting technologies and interactive capabilities. Outlines of each lantern are drawn so we can assess their actual size. Iron wires are used to shape and weld 3D models of the lanterns. Next, electrical wiring and lightbulbs are added to make them light up. Once the lanterns arrive in the United States and reach their festival destination, Tianyu’s trained artisans work on unpacking and assembling the individual pieces. For example, for the Philadelphia festival that opened to the public on June 21, Tianyu’s team was on location four weeks in advance, constructing displays and adding the final touches guaranteed to impress visitors!

Depending on their size, lantern assembly can require up to 20 skilled staff members. For larger and more complicated lanterns, machinery may be needed to aid assembly. Workers building Philadelphia’s 3,000-pound iconic dragon structure used a forklift to install the 200-foot-long lantern. A giant crab sitting over 10 feet high atop a rock surrounded by algae required 12 people and a forklift to place the crab on its perch.

Constructing the lanterns is just one step in the lengthy, intricate process. Once they are built, artisans overlay the lantern frames with smooth, colorful silk. One more step is required to help bring the lanterns to life- painting! Typically, one artisan is responsible for painting the intricate details on every lantern. The body of Philadelphia’s massive dragon took a week to paint, and an additional three days were needed to add the details to its head! Smaller lanterns require less time; a pair of eight-foot-long tigers took just a week to paint.

Considering we usually host festivals year after year in the same cities, it’s vital that we revamp the variety of lanterns we bring to each venue. This year, we brought fun, interactive, and engaging lanterns to Philadelphia. From flower lanterns with blooming petals to a heart lantern that lit up when two people interacted with it and a Chinese drum installation that changed colors when visitors hit the lantern with drumsticks, there were more interactive lanterns this year than ever before!

We hope the next time you attend a Tianyu festival, you’ll appreciate the effort behind its development. As you wander past these grand structures, you’ll have a better understanding of the time and creativity needed to bring these lanterns to a city near you! While we hope you think our lanterns are magical, you’ll also know the steps involved in producing such a unique and entertaining event!