June 12, 2012

FormaShapeTM takes a bite out of theme-park branding


June 12, 2012 – Okanagan-based FormaShape made an impression at the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, fabricating a 27-foot tall, 35 foot-long reptile to anchor the zoo’s waterpark.

“The team at FormaShape was asked to create a waterslide feature for the Audubon’s Cool Zoo replicating their iconic mascot, the rare White Alligator,” said project lead Sean Conneely. “It presented some interesting challenges in our plant, but proved there’s no project too large or too intricate for our facility to handle.”

FormaShape has established a reputation in North America for its ability to deliver unique models. The company literally lent a hand to Disney Cruise Lines with the fabrication of a giant Mickey Mouse glove for an onboard waterslide, and also helped in the creation of an historic civic sculpture recently unveiled in Kelowna, BC.

“The Audubon White Alligator presented a combination of challenges from previous projects, both in its unprecedented size, and its minute detail,” according to Conneely.

Working one-on-one with the client, a detailed scale model was fashioned in clay by lead designer Zlatko Muminovic. A CAD image was then captured, providing the 3-D blueprint for FormaShape’s 5-Axis CNC Router, one of the largest in North America.

A full-scale model was created in eight enormous EPS-foam sections, and the model was then painstakingly hand-carved to add realistic detail, treated with a polyurethane hard coat and airbrushed to give the alligator a life-like appearance.

Appearance was important, but so, too, was the structural integrity. The alligator has a giant water bucket in its mouth, and a waterslide running inside its tail. “The feature had to be strong and stable,” says Conneely, “so we fortified it with a 2-foot column in its center and steel supports radiating horizontally for added stability.”

FormaShape’s 80,000ft2 plant, while expansive, wasn’t tall enough to house the entire structure, so a special Quonset was constructed on the property to accommodate the towering piece. Even at that, the head couldn’t be attached to the body until it arrived onsite for final assembly. 

Transporting a model this large all the way to Louisiana, even in eight sections, proved challenging as well. Technicians adopted a practice used for shipping speedboats, shrink-wrapping the eight sections so they’d arrive unscathed at their final destination. The alligator, loaded onto two semi-trailer trucks, spent a week in transit and was assembled seamlessly just one year after the project was first commissioned.

“We were extremely pleased with the process, and the finished product,” says Larry Rivarde, Executive Vice President/Zoo, Audubon & Riverview Parks. “The team at FormaShape listened to us throughout the project, paying close attention to detail, responding to our specific needs, and delivering exactly what we requested.”

Theme Park Alligator - FormaShape

--> View Photos of the Alligator Project

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