On a Roll with PAW Patrol Live!

The popular Nickelodeon show Paw Patrol is getting a Mainstage makeover as those six heroic pups hit the road in "Paw Patrol Live! Race to the Rescue -  a dazzling live touring experience blending old school theatrical design with state of the art stage magic to create a feast for the eyes of young theatergoers and their parents.

The show is a lively combination of large scale animatronic puppetry, vibrant large format printed scenery, interactive media and upbeat music courtesy of Nickelodeon and Minneapolis based VStar Entertainment, a 35 year old entertainment company responsible for dozens of touring extravaganzas.  

Live Experience shows present immense creative and logistical challenges,  which VStar and Nickelodeon faced when designing and mounting Paws Live!  It’s part creative design part logistical ballet, part geometry and part hard labor;  hundreds of pieces of heavy, delicate props and equipment must be designed and built  not only to tell the story but also pack perfectly into transport in a very specific way to quickly and safely unpack from venue to venue.

Steven Rohde, Director of Production Services for VStar, says his production services team extends the same level of care given to each detail of design into coordinating tour logistics. Paws Live! travels in four semi-trailers and must be set up in eight hours, then it is packed back into the trucks within four hours, (yeah gravity!), before being driven to the next location. 



(Thats something you don’t hear everyday …  Thank God …)

The most critical aspect of Paws Live! is, of course, the cast of pups. It took VStar 3,173 hours to construct the set of seven pups, whose costumes were inspired by Bunraku-style performances originating in Japan. VStar built puppetry elements into each costume so that the puppy characters can wag their tails, blink their eyes and move their mouths.

And, fun fact: The hip joints are constructed of the same aluminum used to build airplanes.

The stage itself uses a combination of old school scenery and hi-tech effects.  A Hi-Res 14′ x 24′ video wall hangs upstage, adding dynamic interactive video to the show.  Surrounding this wall hang more traditional scenic drops, created in partnership with Big Image Systems.


“We have an ongoing relationship with Big Image, Rohde explains. “Historically the touring productions have had to outsource some of the back drops. The artistic style of PAW Patrol and the relationship with Nickelodeon made the decision to print the Race Portal and Snowy Mountain backdrops an easy one. We are representing a well- known, highly recognized brand and attention to detail is paramount.”

“Being able to print the digital image in vibrant colors that matched the source material was critical to stay true to the brand,” Rohde says. “Our biggest consideration was choosing the right fabric that takes the inks well yet stays supple enough to travel in hampers from week to week.” Since the video wall was located behind the back drops, it was also important to select a fabric that permitted little to no light transmission. Otherwise the bright light emitted from the LEDs of the video wall could wash out the images on the fronts of the drops.  

Because the production is based on a well-known show with its own specific color palette, printing the drops afforded the producers the opportunity to recreate the candy-colored tones fans of the show are used to, and helped to enhance the bright, animated quality of the source material.


The legs and portal of the Snowy Mountain backdrop required a contour cut, which Big Image’s Berlin production team members accomplished by cutting out the white areas of the prints. To add stability and strength to the drops Big Image Systems’ finishing department glued the portal drops to black scenery netting.  Paw Patrol Live! Race to the Rescue is currently touring the U.S.  Check out the Paw Patrol Live! website to see when it’s coming to your town.

Mounting a theatrical production, particularly a show with the spectacle, logistical challenges and built in brand awareness like Paws Live!,  is one of the hardest jobs in show business.  B.I.T.N. salutes the army of women and men able to translate the emotion and message of a well known property like Paw Patrol from the small screen to the big stage.  And to the laborers, drivers, lighting pros, video cowboys, sound gurus, costumers, caterers and everyone else who you may never hear of.  Working through the nights, loading and unloading, building the show then unbuilding it hundreds of times.  

For more about VStar go to vstarentertainment.com

To learn more about Big Image Systems feel free to drop us a line by submitting a contact form.  We want to hear from you!

Article originally written by Heather Beal for Big Image Systems

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