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OFF THE WALL: Monster puppet show

Aug. 23, 2008, 7:26 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Tucked behind the China Millennium Monument at the south end of Yuyuantan Park is a cheesy Olympic sponsor's village filled with miniature golf holes, screaming announcers and cartoonish signs. Walking through, it's hard to imagine why anyone would pay for a carnival without the rides.

That feeling changes, though, once the puppet show begins.

Yes, a puppet show.

Not your average, kid-behind-a-box show, but one featuring a 22-foot replica of an Emperor Qin Shi Huang terra-cotta warrior and a 14-foot girl walking around with the help of cranes and cables.

As massive marionette shows go, it's not bad.

The show is called "The Warrior and the Girl." It starts with a woman dangling from wires waving a butterfly on a stick, as 40 real-life dancers in green satin Tinkerbell suits prance around below.

The girl follows the butterfly around the set - OK, around the chunk of pavement - until the bug lands on the hand of the warrior, waking him up. More chasing follows until the butterfly lands where the girl can't reach, leaving the warrior with the dilemma of deciding between holding his sword or helping the little girl.

It's a predictable ending, the theme being the warrior and the girl sharing "powerful moments of curiosity, wonder and kindness," as the sponsor's news release puts it.

OK, so maybe it isn't ready for a movie option.

What is impressive is how the show is pulled off.

It's not easy to maneuver a terra-cotta warrior the size of a townhouse, so an elaborate system of pulleys, brackets and a five-story crane were rigged to get the big fella moving. The crane and bracket are used to support the weighty warrior, while the Tinkerbell clan uses the pulleys to move his arms and leg.

A smaller crane and another bracket are used to move the girl puppet, and there's a guy on top, riding something straight out of "Blade Runner," who whirls the living butterfly girl around on cables.

It's an impressive display of ingenuity devoted to something that's normally done in a cardboard box.

This hefty handywork hatched from the mind of Patrick Shearn, a mechanical designer and puppeteer for "Jurassic Park." He's known as bit of an eccentric who has a hankering for creating giant flower sculptures at Burning Man, where he goes by "Eleven" and is part of a group of friends who call themselves Abundant Sugar.

Eccentricity aside, Shearn is a talented designer, his credits including "Ultraviolet," ''Firestarter 2" and "Batman Returns."

"The Warrior and the Girl" doesn't have quite the same excitement, the main characters lumbering rather than zipping around the set like a velociraptor.

Still, it's a unique show, an impressive bit of creativity in a place you'd least expect to find it.