Madame Tussaud was born Marie Grosholtz in France, 1761. She was an art tutor who learned the craft of wax modeling early in life from Philippe Curtius, a Swiss doctor turned wax modeler. Marie inherited two wax museums from him when he died in 1794. During the French Revolution she made what is called a death mask, a cast of a person’s face made after their death which was often used in the creation of portraits. (Think: Ancient Egyptians.) These waxwork and paint techniques are still used today by the 20 person teams in London used to create each figure.
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Standing with a waxwork of Madame Tussaud herself, Andres from Merlin Entertainments explains, “It takes about six months to make a figure. Every department concentrates on something. We start with a sculpting team. They make a figure exactly to the measurements of the person. Then we go into casting, where we make the bodies. Then it goes into a painting stage where we do painting techniques to simulate skin, textures, pores. It takes about 17 layers of paint to process.”
Tussaud’s is hardcore on the details. From their figure’s every essence, to the vignettes where they stand, sit or play, an amazing amount of care is taken to ensure quality and accuracy.
“Every hair that you see on our figures, from eyelashes to eyebrows to actual hair, is inserted by hand by one of our artists,” Andres explains. “Scars, freckles that a person might have, we try to make that exactly the same because that is our motto. We give you 100 percent of what they really looked like. This is all real hair. We styled the hair like they wore it. Every costume is made exact and created by our team in London.”
It’s almost scary how accurate these waxwork pieces are up close. Stunning work, of course, but a little off-putting. During the preview, I turned a corner and saw a man with his back to me staring someone down… or so I thought. The back of the man was Steve Jobs, who shares a room with Artist Andy Warhol.
“When they’re all done, they’re sent to the attractions like Orlando and a team of artists walk (the floor) every morning to make sure the figures have been cleaned, their quality, their color, their styles… everything has to stay perfect,” he says.
Andres has a Tussaud’s ProTip for you portrait and selfie fans, “Lighting plays an important factor because you want things to look as real as possible. When you go to take a picture, always aim at their eyes because they will shine and it will seem like they are looking at you.”
When asked who else with a local tie may be joining Dan Marino, Shaquille O’Neal, Tiger Woods and OG Florida native, Juan Ponce de Leon, Andres says, “We will be getting more figures that are current to the city, current to the state. Anybody who represents an icon or something in the city will be here.”
Who would YOU like to see inside Madame Tussaud’s Orlando? Make your vote in the comments below!