Magic and Illusions: Franz Harary’s “House of Magic” to Open in Macau
Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Friday, May 22nd, 2015
In September 2015, global magic fans are in for a major treat. Internationally acclaimed magician and illusionist Franz Harary is opening “Franz Harary’s House of Magic.” The $40-million attraction will be permanently housed within Studio City Macau, a $3.2 billion hotel and casino resort complex in China. With four live performance theaters each designed to offer a unique experience, the attraction is expected to entertain millions of guests each year.
Franz Harary has over 30 years of experience designing large scale illusions for his own shows and for music industry stars adding an element of illusion to their stage performing. He began his career working with Michael Jackson and has gone on to collaborate with artists such as Madonna, Cher, Shania Twain, Alice Cooper, Justin Bieber, Tupac Shakur, Tone Loc, Tina Turner, and Dr. Dre. He has also been instrumental in developing attractions for Disney, Universal, and many other theme parks. Harary is one of just few professional magicians and illusionists with the expertise and international prominence needed to anchor an attraction like the House of Magic.
Harary designed the facility himself, in collaboration with noted colleagues such as Art Director Tim Delaney, a key Imagineer behind Hong Kong Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. Harary will perform his award-winning “Mega Magic” show onsite, as well as host a revolving roster of international performers.
We had an opportunity to chat with Harary, and learn more about his plans for the House of Magic as well as his unique insights on performing magic in Asia.
You describe the House of Magic as a venue that’s designed by magicians, for magicians. What elements were important to you when developing the physical space, especially in terms of building a space that allowed magicians to create unique experiences?
I have made my career producing magic for stadiums and arena audiences. This has led me to developing illusion principles that allow me to create magic on an exceptionally large scale. Although my effects are designed to be viewed from a thousand feet away, they’re even more powerful close up.
In designing my House of Magic, I wanted to create an environment that would allow me to present illusions on a massive scale literally under the noses of my audience. The most powerful magic is magic you can feel, magic you can almost reach out and touch. My goal was to create an environment where all my guests would truly believe they’re witnessing real magic right in front of them.
What led to the choices of the four themed areas?
Magic has many different definitions. It’s completely subjective to the place and the culture in which the performance occurs. For example, there’s something magicians refer to as Power Magic. This would be considered magic that looks real, as though these were actual powers born of the magician. Think Harry Potter, Merlin, Lord of the Rings. I wanted to create an environment that catered to this genre. So, what I have is a theater called The Lair. Guests will find themselves sitting in an enchanted magical forest – before them are the ruins of what was a small theatrical amphitheater built in the Middle Ages.
When you think of Harry Houdini, Blackstone, or even David Copperfield, this is a style of magic we refer to as Puzzle Magic. This is the format which I have adopted for my own show. Here, a magician isn’t claiming to have supernatural abilities, but rather presenting a series of visual riddles and inviting the audience to decipher them. To present this form of magic, I’ve created the Majestic Theater, designed to look like a Parisian cabaret stage.
The Illusion Laboratory is specifically designed to submerge guests in an environment seemingly magical unto itself. It’s designed to show the backstory of the “illusionere”, in the brainstorming process of creating new magic. The laboratory is filled with retro-tech equipment — wonderful clockwork toys and diversions along with optical illusions and visual puzzles, all seemingly under construction. Imagine Thomas Edison’s laboratory combined with the imagination of Jules Verne. In this space, guests will enjoy one-on-one interaction with some of the best sleight of hand magicians in the world.
The fourth theater is the permanent home for a brand new version of Mega Magic, my spectacle illusion production. The Mega Magic Theater will literally be the most technically sophisticated performance space ever designed for a magic production. It will feature an immense amount of LED video support, automation, robotics, lighting and sound. Despite all of this technology, the end goal is simple: the theater is designed so that, for a moment, everyone in my audience can recapture that sense of childhood wonder we all had when we were kids.
The Illusion Laboratory is particularly fascinating. What can you tell us about this area, and how it promotes interactivity?
The Illusion Laboratory is principally designed as a collection area for the audience in preparation for the three theaters to follow. They’ll find optical illusions and puzzles covering the walls and ceiling. In addition, a world-class sleight of hand magician will be making his way amongst the guests, doing one-on-one close up magic. Optical illusions are largely psychological, toying with the inter-relationship between the right and left sides of the human brain. The result of which is the artwork that appears to move, animate, and transform.
What can you share about the Future Tech section?
The Future Tech area (aka the Mega Magic Theater ) is my personal nod to the incredible inter-relationship between Science and Magic. Magic is anything beyond the ability and the technology of the day. As technology moves forward, Magic must surf that wave of the possible. In turn, the art of Magic is the catalyst for the very imagination that spurs new technology. As such, magic and science will forever be intertwined– forever pushing the other forward at the speed of imagination.
Are there any unique considerations that came into play as you think about live show design for Asian audiences or for international audiences at an Asian venue?
Asian audiences are unique from any other audiences in the world, and even more so, Chinese audiences. This comes from an interesting series of events. Magic, as an art form, was literally invented in China about 5,000 years ago. Eventually, this craft moved to Europe and then made its way to the U.S. If you walk into a magic shop in Las Vegas, you will find magic toys and equipment covered with Chinese iconology.
Because of this, Chinese people grow up simply accepting that magic is part of live entertainment. Furthermore, we now know that within the human genome there is an element that causes us to need to believe in something greater – a need to believe in Real Magic.
The combination of these two factors has created new popularity for magic in China, eclipsing any other place on Earth. As a magic designer, I feel an incredible amount of pressure in striving to create excellence with my productions, since I am bringing this art form right back to the place where it all began 5,000 years ago.
Due to China’s economic explosion today, there is more technology in China than anywhere else. And the Chinese people see state of the art, stunning technology on a daily basis, to the point of having become bored with it. All of these factors come together to create an audience that is astronomically difficult to impress. They are looking for someone to show them something incredible, having already seen more technical wonders than most Westerners can imagine.
The House of Magic is an incredible addition to the already bustling entertainment complex at Macau. In particular, the idea of an environment created for magicians and by magicians – with all the intricacies and considerations that entails – promises a unique and immersive experience for guests. From genre-bending to the introduction of new technologies to magical performance spaces, it’ll be setting a new bar for the magic industry.