This year we’ve made the route bigger and audiences will travel through nine very different worlds!
From the glowing flowers of the Garden of Delight, through snow-covered Moonlit Meadow, to the bonkers Cloud Cuckoo Land, with incredible lanterns and light installations at every turn. You’ll encounter loads of brilliantly lit animal characters, giant snails, a troupe of emus, towering giraffes, to name just a few. And of course, Father Christmas and his illuminated reindeer will be there to meet you.
This year the Christmas Chester Zoo experience includes more lanterns and illuminated characters than last year. The team of artists and makers have been extremely busy! There will be lots of new animal lanterns, including sloths, cheetahs and giant otters. Audiences will get the chance to meet many interactive brightly lit animals, including butterflies, flamingos, reindeer and penguins along the way. Each area will feel very distinct and exciting, as they travel beneath the beautifully lit flowers and vines of Rainforest Aglow into the sparkling icescape that is Ice Kingdom.
Our friends at Wild Rumpus have lovingly created the extraordinary worlds you’ll see at The Lanterns; below Rowan Hoban, Lead Designer at Wild Rumpus, tell us more about the inspiration behind the different spaces and what’s different about this year’s event…
“The ideas and inspiration for each of the spaces have come from the animals. We’re utterly inspired by the different species that live at Chester Zoo and creating exciting lit versions of them, as lanterns and puppet costumes. We wanted to create curious and beautiful worlds for different animal characters to come to life in. For example, we knew that beautiful glowing butterfly characters, swooping over the audience, should be surrounded by a garden of colourful flowers. The animals of the English countryside will be coming to life as lit puppets in the Enchanted Woodland, where the audience will enter through a tunnel of light, before being surrounded by spinning woodland shadow lanterns, and gently falling snow.
“The inspirations for the different spaces on site are really varied! The Garden of Delight comes from the idea of being tiny in an oversized garden with giant flowers, snails and butterflies, a little like The Borrowers. Moonlit Meadow imagines all of the wonderful animals of the zoo – from elephants to cheetahs, sun bears to zebras, transported to a winter snowscape. Shangri La is a bright and colourful, exotic world of striking patterns and friendly giraffes. Cloud Cuckoo Land is a slightly surreal place, where large bird lanterns and emu characters live in a curious landscape with colourful rocks and totems, almost like a strange moonscape! Northern Lights takes inspiration from Hygge and the idea of a Nordic Christmas. Father Christmas will be cuddled up in cosy blankets in his wooden sleigh, travelling between the Scandinavian-style folk lanterns. The Enchanted Woodland is inspired by the English countryside during the winter months, complete with woodland animals, snow and even its own country pub, The Oakfield! Wonderland takes us down the rabbit hole, into a topsy turvy world inspired by Lewis Carroll’s well-known story. Rainforest Aglow takes inspiration from an overgrown and overblown tropical world, with giant flowers and twisting vines. Then finally, Ice Kingdom, home to many penguin friends, is a place full of sparkling, glowing ice!
“When visitors experience The Lanterns, I want them to feel like they’ve stepped out of their day-to-day lives to travel through incredible imaginative lands. The Lanterns and characters should transport them into childlike wonder, whatever their age, and I’d love everyone to come out feeling excited about Christmas, and that they’ve been to some very special places.
“I hope The Lanterns will appeal to everyone. Families and children might particularly love the interaction with the characters, but I think everyone will love escaping into the beautifully lit worlds that have Christmas and the zoo animals at the heart of them.
“It’s so hard to pick a favourite space on the route! But I think it might be the Enchanted Woodland. It’s going to be a truly magical, Christmassy place, where beautiful new animal lanterns including a stag, faun, owl, hare and robin will sit under falling snow and beautiful gentle light installations.”
The Lanterns is on selected dates from 23 November – 23 December.