It all started with a roar.
— Harry Milton Wegeforth

San Diego Zoo Centennial Press Release:


A New Roar Inspires: San Diego Zoo Global Recreates Roar for a New Century of Conservation


 A larger-than-life African lion roared from the Spreckels Organ Pavilion stage Saturday evening(May 14, 2016) — and the crowd of thousands roared back! The 11-foot-tall, 15-foot-long lion operated by four puppeteers, was the king of the 30-minute theatrical production commissioned by San Diego Zoo Global for its Centennial Community Celebration, held at Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama and open to all San Diegans.  The spectacular performance paid tribute to the lion that Dr. Harry Wegeforth heard roaring in Balboa Park 100 years ago, which inspired him to found the Zoological Society of San Diego in 1916.Today, the “roar” symbolizes the conservation work of the 100-year-old organization, as San Diego Zoo Global continues to call for everyone to join its fight to end extinction of animals, plants and habitats. The production on Saturday night opened with presentations from San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria and San Diego Zoo conservation ambassador Joan Embery, honoring the San Diego Zoo and thanking the San Diego community for their support throughout the years. The speakers shared the stage with three large gift boxes that were delivered earlier in the week to Balboa Park. When the gifts were opened, they revealed an Asian elephant, a California condor and an African lion. The extraordinary pageantry puppets also included two orangutans, a Northern white rhino, seven giraffes and a flamboyance of 11 flamingos to life before the audience’s
eyes.  The puppets are symbols of species that San Diego Zoo Global has worked with for much of its history including the California condor, which once numbered only 22 and now numbers more than 400with more than half of the population living in the wild. 

The 24 puppets were created by Puppet Kitchen Productions, performed with 30 dancers who moved to original choreography created by show director Gregg Birkhimer and choreographer Greg Sample. With more than 50 years of experience in productions, PuppetKitchen chefs, Eric Wright, Emily DeCola, and Michael Schupbach, along with 15 other artisans,built these puppet creatures from hundreds of different types materials, including hand painted fabrics and foams, wood, plastics, metal and Tyvek house wrap.


 “We’ve loved the collaboration of creating these puppets for the San Diego Zoo Centennial Community Celebration,” said Emily DeCola, principal designer, Puppet Kitchen Productions. “As puppet designers, we were first inspired by these critically endangered animals’ own dynamic movement,and then looked to their human neighbors for exciting patterns and motifs.  Bringing such detailed and huge animals to life is a big group effort and we’re thrilled to collaborate with the hundreds of talented individuals who have put together this tremendous event.”  

A 53-piece orchestra, accompanied in parts by a 130-person choir, played the all-original musical score, composed to represent each animal species featured in the show.  Ten different habitat scenes were projected onto the walls of the pavilion during the performance, providing a stunning backdrop for the featured animal puppets. The musical headliner of the show, Tony- and Grammy-winner Heather Headley, wowed the crowd with a song whose lyrics encourage everyone to help make the world a better place and echoes San
Diego Zoo Global’s goal of saving endangered species around the world from extinction, one species at a time. Headly is currently performing in The Color Purple at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater in New York City.  

“This spectacular live performance celebrated a century of the San Diego Zoo’s passion for life and the courage to defend and protect wildlife,” said Mark Howell, president of Mark Joseph Creative and executive producer of the Centennial Celebration. “We are honored to design and produce such a historicevent honoring the San Diego Zoo and their efforts toward conservation and education over the past 100 years. Partnering with Brite Ideas and Spangler Event Productions, ensured that creating this historic affair was executed beautifully.”Pre-show activities at the Centennial Community Celebration included live music from five different bands, including “The Koalas,” “The Chameleons” and “The Kangaroos,” as well as performances by the dance group “The Funky Monkeys.” San Diego’s official civic organist Carol Williams, will also give a 20-minute concert at the Speckles Organ Pavilion, the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ.  

Food trucks served up a variety of different cuisines, and guests explored a wide array of tents showcasing activities and spotlighting the Zoo’s conservation work, both locally and worldwide. Kids and their parents could create a lion hand-puppet in one craft booth hosted by the Zoo’s Education department, and learn about the Zoo’s accredited botanical collections in another tent. One of the most popular areas was the tent where Rick Schwartz, San Diego Zoo Global ambassador, presented Zoo animal ambassadors, including a three-banded armadillo, a skink and a great-horned owl. Partygoers also took the opportunity to visit the San Diego History Center, the Museum of Photographic Arts and the San Diego Museum of Art to see their “Part of the Pride” exhibits, as they stayed open late for the Zoo’s centennial community event.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts(representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Production Credits:

Puppetry by: Puppet Kitchen Productions, Inc.Principal Designer: Emily DeCola Puppetry Training: Eric Wright
Produced by: Mark Joseph Creative Creative Team Mark J. Howell - Sr. Creative Director, Executive Producer Jordan Peterson - Show Writer Gregg Birkhimer - Show Director Ron Colvard - Musical Director/Conductor Jeremy Rubolino - Composer Greg Sample - Lead choreographer Matt Carney - Choreographer Kraig McLaughlin - Costume Design Nicole Bernardi – Innovative Entertainment

Production Team Greg Christy - Brite Ideas Mike Spangler - Spangler Event Production Melissa Armstrong - Event Producer, Mark Joseph Creative

Mark Joseph Creative is a San Diego based event entertainment company and creative firm who designs and produces live shows and entertainment. Brite Ideas was the technical production team and Spangler Event Productions who co-produced the event.