“Jack” (in the Box) 2021

The original idea for the box in the center of the yard was for it to be a crypt that could house a central fog machine and have an animated figure climbing out.

Last year, we just managed to build the box, and we stuck a static skeleton in the box as a teaser.

First Plan: build an aluminum frame inside the box with the skeleton attached to a trolley that glides back and forth. The wheel with the crankshaft was going to provide movement to Jack’s arms as he appeared to crawl out of the crypt.

There’s a valuable lesson here … if you are going to animate a figure to go inside a box, you should build the figure first. Otherwise, you’re going to keep trying to fit the dang thing into the box you already built. Another valuable tip, work out which wires control your cylinder and make sure the pressure regulators are turned all the way down, instead of all the way up before you hook the new figure up to the compressed air source. (I still feel really bad about the young lad and his mother who were present when jack literally JUMPED out of the box the first time. Scared the heck out of me, too. Oh yeah, and bent the mounting bracket to hell, and dislodged the flywheel. It was an expensive mistake.)

To simplify things, we removed all the parts nobody could see anyway — so no more flywheel, and no need for legs.

The crypt is also intended to be a distribution center for fog throughout the display. The box fills with fog, and a fan pulls it into tubing, and sends it to Stanley and Cal. The method works really well, so I think next year we’ll be putting more fog boxes into play.

Not quite in his future glory, Jack is now a pneumatic prop, sliding a semi-animated figure in and out on a track.

With the fog pouring out of the “broken” front of the box, many of the passers-by started referring to it as “the guy in the fireplace”. That’s when it struck me. It’s a crematorium. Jack has a decidedly crispy look to him, don’t you think?