We love going to museums to learn more about history and experience art firsthand. But sometimes, we just want to let loose and have a good belly laugh. One of the more unique places to visit in New York City is Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum where you can rub shoulders with international celebrities of a wax disposition. It might seem like a simple pleasure but this isn’t the first time that we’ve enjoyed the humor of a photography attraction.
Derek’s consulting took him to work in Singapore for the month of June in 2014 and I was able to accompany him on the trip. One of the attractions we visited was the Trick Eye Museum on the island of Sentosa. http://trickeye.com/singapore/ Picture-happy guests can walk into three-dimensional optical illusions for the ultimate animated scene. We had no idea how much fun the experience of stepping into these displays would be.
For our Christmas vacation in New York City, we wanted to explore unique places that might not be recommended in the guidebook itinerary. Since we had so much fun at the Trick Eye Museum in Singapore, we decided to try out Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Times Square. https://www.madametussauds.com/new-york We purchased our tickets online for a discounted price and selected will-call pick up.
When we arrived at the museum, there was a significant line despite being in the middle of the day. Times Square is just one of those places that is always busy. The three days that we visited always had body-to-body pedestrian traffic. I asked a guard where to go if we had online tickets and he motioned to the line for a security check. After making it into the building, there was another line for will-call and on-site tickets. In retrospective, I should have selected mobile tickets because people with the bar-code on their phone were able to bypass these lines and walk right up the staircase by Pink dangling from the ceiling.
After scanning our tickets, there was one final line that moved a slowly at the top of the stairs as we awaited entry into the exhibits. I became a little worried that our entire experience would be a similar waiting game but was relieved to find that they release a batch of roughly 20 people at a time into the exhibits so that people have the freedom to walk around and take pictures without fighting the crowd. Once we made it through, the mood lifted and we recovered a burst of enthusiasm to begin.
“Quick, go steal the treasure!” “Look! It’s Derek Jeter!” We truly ran around the exhibits from room to room jumping into silly poses and bursting with laughter. Who knew that adults could have so much fun just from taking pictures. I guess that’s what keeps us young at heart.
The wax figures have an impressive level of detail and lifelike artistic rendering. The process of developing a wax figure begins with a sitting of the celebrity by taking roughly 375 measurements and photographs shot from every angle of the star to portray realistic accuracy. A metal armature is constructed to support the clay mold and built up with layers of three-dimensional form. The head is worked on separately and can take between 4-6 weeks alone to sculpt an exact likeness of a famous face. A plaster cast is created from the clay sculpture and melted wax mixed from beeswax and Japanese wax is poured into the mold.
Several thin layers of oil paint are absorbed into the wax to give the figure a translucency of human skin. Eyes are made of acrylic and red string is used to create visible veins. Dental impressions are used to recreate teeth out of dental putty. Each head has over ten thousand strands of real hair that is washed, cut, and styled on a regular basis. Celebrities’ personal stylists often give advice on how the hair should be styled. From the initial sitting to press launch, a typical Madame Tussauds figure takes around four months to make by a team of 20 skilled artists and costs over $300,000. The museum figures are consistently touched up to withstand their original quality. Madame Tussauds Amsterdam: Behind the Scenes
The museum’s origin’s are even more fascinating. Madame Tussaud was a woman imprisoned in Paris during the French Revolution forced to prove her allegiance to the Revolution by making “death masks” of executed nobles, including her former king and queen. She later inherited Dr. Philippe Curtius’ wax exhibition in 1794 and developed an exhibition of figures that she took on tour to the British Isles in 1802, leaving behind her husband. The family business continued through her grandsons and partially survived a German World War II bombing in 1940. The first American Madame Tussaud’s opened in Las Vegas in 1999 and has since popped up in cities across the globe. https://www.madametussauds.com/new-york/en/about/about-us/
There is a moment of awe followed by eerie curiosity when you first glance upon the figures. Their lifelike qualities are hauntingly accurate to the human eye. I myself have been known to be spooked by shopping mall mannequins and frozen-statue street performers before. The more time we spent in the exhibits, the more comfortable I felt around the figures. Our photos loosened up from standing next to a celebrity to interacting with the figure for a more dynamic scene.
The experience of taking the pictures may have been even more enjoyable than the photos themselves. That’s where the real magic happened and we got out of our shells to have some fun. We had free rein to walk up to the figures in any order and take pictures except for the Donald Trump in his Oval Office. There was a security barrier separating it from the rest of the political figures and required an additional cost to be professionally photographed.
So that’s how we got to meet the Dali Lama and Obamas with our “more than fifteen minutes” of fame by posing with the world’s famous in Madame Tassaud’s Wax Museum.