The gorilla cage or “Amazing Gorilla Machine” as it has come to be known, is built on the same principle as the Carnival Ticket Booth Halloween prop.
The cage is a three sided box with a black fabric backing and a front frame that contains 4 bars that are bendable enough for an actor to fit through.
Here I am standing next to the cage, it’s massive!
The “Amazing” part of the “Amazing Gorilla Machine” is a gag.
Here’s the set-up:
Inside a massive crate made of aged wood and “metal bars” is a 6 foot tall robotic gorilla (played by an actor) who stands motionless in his “cage”. The front of the cage is adorned with a rather old sign that reads “Amazing Gorilla Machine – Press Button (at your own risk)” and a rather innocent looking black and gold button just beneath.
When the mark stops at the cage to look, and presses the button, the cage’s inside is illuminated, showing a motionless gorilla until they release the button, upon which, the lights go out. Thinking nothing happened, they push again. Still a motionless gorilla. About the time the mark is about to give up, our actor comes alive in the cage, reaching through the bars, attempting to escape, and eventually (if the mark is extremely freaked out) exiting the cage through the bars and galloping through the haunt “mad gorilla” style for a few moments before returning to his confines. Effective? You Betcha!
What you need for the cage:
6 8′ 2″x2″ wood planks (you can go shorter if you want, but 8′ makes one massive cage)
6 4′ 2″x2″ wood planks
2 4’x8′ pieces of plywood or similar sheet material, we used pieces with a gnarled woodgrain because it made it look older and shoddier at the end.
4 8′ pieces of 1 inch PVC pipe
A decent amount of self-tapping wood or drywall screws
8 Extremely long screws or bolts (these are used to hold the bars in the frame, the longer the better)
16 2×2 mending plates (or truss plates)
4 carriage bolts approximately 5″ long
Dark Wood Stain
Piece of wood/tin/etc and some paint to make your sign
What you need for the lighting mech:
low voltage lighting (we used automotive neon tubes and a 12v ac adapter last year, this year we’re opting for 6v single LED pin spots which we’re planning on building ourselves)
Door Bell Button
Assemble your sides outer skeleton frames by attaching 2 8 foot 2x2s to two of the 4 foot 2x2s using 4 of the mending plates per panel.
On the frame designated as your front panel, attach 4 more plates to the opposite side of the panel to ensure stability of construction.
Place a 4×8 sheet of wood (or other material) onto each of the remaining frames (with the mending plates facing down) line up and attach the sheets to the frames.
Using a 1/4″ drill bit, drill 2 holes in the front edge of each panel that you just attached the sheet to. (about 11-12 inches in from top and bottom)
Using the same bit, drill four holes at the same distance on the front edges of the front panel so they will match up with the side panels.
On your front panel, measure and mark out where you would like your cage’s bars to be located.
Drive a long (I cannot stress enough how if you use a longer screw you’ll avoid headaches later) screw into the center point of the bar locations on the top end.
Place your PVC “bar” over that long screw, then drive another long screw into the bottom of that pvc pipe, rendering it loose, rattly, bendable but not easily removed from the front frame. Repeat this step until all 4 bars are installed.
Now is usually a good time to test your work, ensure that your bars are secure enough to handle a good rattling/shaking and that your drilled holes line up to make a nice 3 sided box.
Stain the entire structure with a nice cheap dark wood stain or paint if you wish.
Using a flat latex paint (which will unavoidably chip off) paint the PVC cage bars. We opted for black.
Upon assembly, tack an 8′ tall by 4′ wide piece of black fabric to the back line of the box to increase darkness inside the gorilla cage.
The lighting for this system is powered by a low voltage AC adapter and runs to lights that were simply velcroed into position inside the box after assembly. The “button” is a doorbell button that interrupts the power to the lighting when not pressed. Push the button, lights come on. It’s that simple, really.
We opted for the mechanical gorilla gag, but you could use this cage a multitude of ways; throw your favorite werewolf in there, cage up a wildman from bora-bora, show poor old Jungle Larry getting mauled by his latest big find. The possibilities are endless. Just make sure you keep an eye on your gorilla, they’re hard beasts to tame!
If you’re confused as to the assembly process, you can easily cross-reference the Carnival Ticket Booth build how-to that has more detailed photos of the assembly process. Alternately, you can leave us a comment on the blog and we’ll be glad to help you in any way we can.