Dedicated to the fine art of entertaining children with magic!
Without a doubt, despite what many magicians may tell you, the largest market for magic, far and away, is the birthday party circuit. Hence the need for this forum. In I.C.O.M, students will learn many fine points of presentation and aspects of magic. However, some of these theories go right out the window when it comes to entertaining children. Truly, this genre’ is in a class unto itself. It has its own demands as well as its own rewards. It is one of the only classes of magic that needs a forum all to itself.
Over the course of time, routines will be included here from the repertories of working professionals. Also will be the in’s and out’s of working kid shows, how to prepare for them, booking them, performing them, etc. etc. etc.
Something Out Of Almost Nothing
Bobby J. Gallo
About 10 Years ago, I came across a small toy that I haven’t seen since my childhood. I’m talking about the little skeleton hand joke, where you have a small set of skeleton arms that you clip to your shirt or jacket pocket. To the onlooker, it seems that a miniature skeleton in crawling from your pocket.
When I was young, these small toys were used in advertisements for magic and novelty catalogs. I can vividly remember the ad showing a picture of the hands saying that they will spook your friends! Watch a creepy skeleton crawl from your pocket! etc. etc. The ads read much like an old-time spook show promotion. The best part of this was that you got a set of these skeleton hands FREE with the purchase of a magic catalog! Well, I couldn’t get my 25 cents in that envelope fast enough (8 weeks later I got them). What they did not tell you was that the skeleton hands were only 2 inches long!
Years later when I saw them again, it was in a magic shop where a gross of them were on sale. Needless to say, I snatched them up because they were the last gross left in the store. I then spent the next year fastening them onto promotional materials that I would hand out at college trade shows. I thought it was a nifty gift to give to potential clients.
When I started to get low on the “tricks?”, I saved the rest of the supply I had and shelved them. After all, I didn’t know when I could get them again. Then, another 9 years later (actually recently), I found them again through a bulk supplier of carnival premiums. I was thrilled! So I purchased a full case which was so big I could barely lift it! I think it is somewhere around 1000 gross!
As far as I can tell, these are the cheapest toys on the planet, costing mere pennies each! Which make them ideal for party give-a-ways for children over three years of age.
The point of all this?
Well, at first glance, these little pieces of plastic are very near worthless, even to the kids getting them. After all, if you don’t show them what they are for, most will not even know what to do with them. But since I had such fond memories of this little trinket, something in me wanted to share this experience with the kids that I perform for. I get sentimental that way <G>.
The magician performs his last trick then addresses the audience.
“Before I leave today, I’d like to ask all you boys and girls a question. How many of you would like to know how some of my magic is done?” (all hands go up!)
“Great!, well, here’s the answer, I get a little help from a very small friend of mine. His name is Boris and he’s my skeleton.” (take a set of the skeleton hands from the inside of your top jacket pocket and clip them to he front proper without exposing the fact that they are just a set of arms and nothing else.)
“See the little skeleton crawling out of my pocket? He won’t come all the way out because he’s really shy. But when I do magic, he crawls all around my coat doing what needs to be done to fool you! He’s a great helper!”
“Now, how many of you here today would like your very own Boris the skeleton?” (kids go wild!) “Ok, then, but in order to give you your very own, I have to let you in on another little secret.”
At this point, you show them the hands and show them how to clip it onto a shirt and make a story up to show their family and friends.
I have given a lot of premiums away at shows and currently, this is the most popular and the most cost-effective from my standpoint.
If any I.C.O.M members want these for your shows. They are available through I.C.O.M at $4.00 per gross (That’s less than 3 cents each!) plus $3.00 shipping for any amount ordered. So if you are interested it’s best to get several grosses at a time to save on shipping. You can also try your local magic or novelty shop for availabilities, but I’ve seen that they can be hard to find. Whatever you do, get a good amount. Trust me, you’ll go through them and the kids will love it!
“On That Rare Occasion”
Bobby J. Gallo
This month I think I’m going to just talk about something that is rather unusual for me. For those who have studied my lessons and more aptly, read “Commando Magic” in the library are well aware of my views concerning the transport of what may seem like several tons of props, tables, and general stage dressing to and from shows as small as the average birthday party. An act that seems so common with many magicians today ranging from amateur to professional.
I thought that I was the one guy who would NEVER bow down to the lemming-like approach of patronizing what are actually very few magic companies that thrive on every magician’s dream to be the next Copperfield. Regardless of the fact that they have no “roadies”, stagehands or the mammoth budget. And unlike the top 1/1000th percent of all working pro’s, the average magician MUST perform more than one show per weekend day in order to make ends meet. Therefore large stage shows are all but out of the question.
But recently, I have had the opportunity to perform on a few more large stages than I have in the past. Though I have been on them many times before, it seems that lately, they are becoming more common, at least for me. And because of this, my beloved “Show-in-a-bag” although effective, sometimes seems to fall as a teeny-tiny bit short when performed on a large stage.
Well, when faced with this problem the question naturally is, “what to do”? Well, in light of this dilemma, I have finally broken down and purchase a few large props to “fill-in-the-void” so to speak, of my show when performed on a large stage.
Now I think that there are a few important points here that I would like to address, and only here in I.C.O.M would I share them. So From a working performers point of view, here are the props that I purchased and the “rare occasions” where I would “or could” perform them.
- The first was the “one” giant prop that I felt I not only needed but “wanted”. Ever since I was a small fledgling magician, I wanted a “FLASH APPEARANCE”. I think that this is the ultimate illusion. What could possibly be more magical than the magician appearing in a flash to start the show? Answer: NOTHING! The model that I purchased, folds flat, can be done with no assistants and when assembled stands 6 ft, tall! Nice and big and dresses the stage nicely.
- A HUGE custom made SQUARE CIRCLE-Why? The answer to this comes next month when I talk about classic effects and their value.
- A Bunny Bucket complete with “LIVE” rabbit!– The bunny bucket (ironically identical to the duck bucket used by the top pro’s seems to be the most reliable and humane prop I have come across for the production of a live rabbit. Besides, my daughter wanted a rabbit <G>.
- A serious backdrop frame.-While many stages have “runners” that can be closed in to frame the magician, most do not. So for this reason I purchased two DJ light trusses. These are far more sturdy and reliable than just about all the commercially available backdrop frames made for magicians at about half the price. If there is a magician’s backdrop frame that is sturdy and reliable, I haven’t yet seen it and I own most of them.
WHAT ELSE IS IN THE SHOW?
The rest of the show is the bag show that now is merely dressed up to accommodate the stage. The backdrop, super spectacular appearance and the addition of “one” live animal, allows you to take your normal show and make it into a show that you can charge “FIVE TIMES” as much for. You read correctly.
WHEN TO PERFORM THIS SHOW?
“On That Rare Occasion” Yes, exactly, this is not an everyday show. I estimate it will take two hours to set up. 30 min. to load-in, unpack, and re-park the car. 15 min to set-up the backdrop frame. 15 min. to set-up the flash appearance. 15 min. to hook up the sound system and cue the music. 30 min for the rest of the show, and 15 min. misc. time. And that is if everything runs smoothly and that almost NEVER happens. In addition, a tech rider has to be sent out before the show to the client with the following specified conditions. EVERY condition must be met or in my case, I would have to eliminate the Flash Appearance”. And yes, according to the contract, I will still get paid for the full show.
- This show can only be done on a stage. No if’s and’s for but’s, So I ask the client to please be sure that the stage is cleared of all storage boxes and the like. This is not the responsibility of the performer.
- Electricity must be available near the stage for the sound system.
- No fluorescent lights. Since the flash appearance uses the black art principle.
So after looking at the above we are back to the question, WHEN TO PERFORM THIS SHOW? Again the answer, “On That Rare Occasion” But, that occasion does indeed come!!!
A Novel Kid Show Idea
Bobby J. Gallo
This article rides on the heels of last month’s article and came to me during a magic class I was teaching at a local elementary school in my area. So this is an idea that I have never yet tried but know in my gut that it would work, and work very well!
The trick I was teaching the kids was the famous and ancient “snapper” trick. This is the puzzle type trick we all had as children where you displayed a small plastic tube with a rubber band at one end and a hook at the other end. The object is to hook the plunger on the rubber band by inserting the hook into the tube. Of course, the spectator can never do it because you need to know the secret first. Suffice to say that it is very easy when you know how, but nearly impossible if you don’t. Unless of course, the spectator stumbles onto the method, which happens from time to time.
The following is a “workshop presentation”. Meaning the whole object of the presentation is to ultimately teach them the trick. So the following is how I would present this for a birthday party as well as a magic class situation.
One deluxe version of the snapper trick. This is for you the performer. Your version of the trick should be a nicer version of the trick than the one you give the kids. After all, you are the star magician and your props should reflect that. Also, it makes for a more professional presentation to the adults booking the performance and shows that you are not being paid to just play with toys. Which is exactly what the less expensive version of this trick is. This is an important fact that should always be kept in mind when contemplating any prop that you perform with. Does it look like a toy??????????????
The snapper can be found made in brass and wood available from finer magic companies. This trick alone also makes an exceptional walk-around trick for adults as well as children without ever teaching them the secret!
A gross or less of inexpensive snapper tricks (depending on how many shows you do or plan to do): These can be purchased wholesale from magic suppliers at a very reasonable cost. Alternatively, you can strike up a deal with your local magic supplier for bulk purchases. (Listen to Ultimate Magic Rap Volume #1 by Bobby J. Gallo & Bill Wisch for further information). Remember to reflect the cost of these in the price of the show you charge the customer and make it a selling point that each and every child will receive a (FREE?) trick during the course of the show. This is so much better than a balloon animal that will just pop after you leave <G>. And of course, as always, no tricks to children under 3 years of age for reasons that we should all know by now.
Note: For some children’s groups I remove the rubber bands if I feel that they cannot be trusted with them. Then proceed with the presentation stating that there is an “invisible rubber band” inside the tube that they have to find. This actually works just as well. You may or may not wish to do the same. The choice is yours….
I start by stating that before I go ahead and show them the magical secret, I will perform the trick for them first. The reason for this is that it will be the last time “for the rest of their lives” that they will be fooled by this particular trick. A heavy thought indeed, but that is the price of “learning” magic!
I then proceed to perform the snapper trick the way it is explained in the trick instructions and ask the guest of honor to be the first to try and figure it out. I state that I will give each person who wants to try, 30 seconds. No more! At this point, if there are 20 children this takes a minimum of 10 minutes. Naturally, none of them can do it.
Then I hand out the tricks to each person. This takes about five minutes which brings us to 15 minutes of showtime. See where I am going?
After everyone has their trick I give them all 30 more seconds to figure it out. Then I begin to explain the secret. 5 more minutes pass. We are now up to 20 minutes.
I then offer to help any that are having trouble. Those who get it right away can do it for a friend while I am busy. This is another 5 minutes which brings the grand total of performing time of this routine to 25 minutes!!! Talk about pack small…play big!
What astonished me was how entertaining it was to the kids when I gave each and every one of them a turn! This takes an enormous amount of time and the kids would not have it any other way! As a matter of fact, after about five kids trying it, I ask if they are ready to learn it, and without fail, they all say NO! they want to have their turn figuring it out first before you give them all out and let them in on the modus operandi! This is magical heaven! And by getting the kids approval to let the rest have a turn, you cannot be held responsible for apparently “milking the trick” he he……… But if it’s entertaining, who cares anyway?
There are other tricks and puzzles that you can use in place of the snapper trick. Some that come to mind are the classic pyramid puzzle, “T”-puzzle, and others. I’m sure you can even find something that does not require commercially produced props at all. This way you can make as close to 100% percent profit on the show as possible.
The “In-Between” Show
Bobby J. Gallo
If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will.
You are called to do a show for kids, but the problem is, they are 12 to 15 years old.
In the words of a trench-coat clad Carl Malden…
What will you do? … What “will” you do?
You can’t do your normal kid show. “These kids” are older and will think all of your cleverly crafted lines and cute kid tricks are childish (corny) and will then attempt to eat you alive. That’s a problem in my book, what about you?
Answer: Magic? yes! But not kids magic and not adult magic. The way I see it, they are still not ready for the advanced ESP type of effects or long drawn out card routines that we can get away with performing for adults. After all, they still “are” kids. Just a little older than the crowd that kids shows were originally tailored for. So the same magic can be performed, as long as you “gear up” the presentations so that it doesn’t seem like you are talking down to the older kids. That is step #1.
Another Answer: After you perform about 30 minutes of “cool” magic. You can offer to “teach” them how to do a couple of tricks. This solves a whole host of problems that you would normally face. Here is the list.
- You will immediately get them on your side. The antagonism will vanish because they realize that you will ultimately let them in on the secret.
- This approach will get the attention of this particular age group unlike the BEST magic trick on the planet. Trust me, I’ve seen it time and time again.
- It helps in selling a show for this age group to the customer who is paying you.
- Unlike straight magical performing, this idea is a real time killer. You can often knock off a half-hour with just three tricks with no loss of interest.
- They will think you are the coolest magician they have ever seen!
But what do you teach them? I would suggest going to the I.C.O.M Easy Magic for Beginner’s section and picking out three tricks. It’s ok, we give you permission to teach “three” tricks from this page. After all, there are certain “LOW LEVEL” secrets that are ok to share with the kids in the interest of sparking the flame of future magicians. And if ever there was a page that could do it, its right here in I.C.O.M!
So go out there where other magicians are terrified to tread, the 12 to 15-year-old age group!
The Dancing-Floating Handkerchief
Bobby J. Gallo
It probably the “biggest little trick in magic!” Performed by countless professionals and amateurs alike. Thinking about it, I cannot imagine a better trick for a theatre full of screaming kids. Here we will explain our method. There are actually many methods of doing this. Some are self-contained and may be better suited to solo performers. But since they are marketed effects and this lesson explains a general principle with my own insights and handling, we will teach the latter.
The performer holds a white handkerchief up by the corner, strokes it several times, shakes it, casts a spell over it, etc. when suddenly it comes to life and starts to float, jump, dance, and act as though it were alive. The magician drops it into a bottle where it still dances and then jumps out! The performer commands it to stop and it then falls to the floor motionless. Wow….Cool.
Well, for those who do not know how this is done we will teach the basic method here. You will need five basic things. ALL FIVE! (never said it would be easy!)
- A Handkerchief (duh!)
- A Stage-Yep, this can only be done on a stage with curtains and wings, not to mention correct lighting. No fluorescent lighting. This eliminates this trick being performed in a church basement or multi-purpose room.
- A spool of fine black thread
- An offstage assistant
- Licensed music with delivery system (boom box or P.A.)
Sew a small wire hook in the corner of the hanky so that the hook protrudes about 1/8 of an inch above the corner.
Fasten one end of the thread to something solid of one side of the stage, have it travel across the stage to your assistant waiting in the sings on the other side. Have the other end of the thread attached to a small bead so that the assistant has something to hold on to. If this trick is performed later in your act, be sure not to trip or break the thread. Know where it is at all times.
Have the assistant hold the thread about three feet off of the ground. During the presentation, hook the hanky on the thread. Some may even dispense with the hook entirely and merely run the thread through a small knot in one corner of the hanky and have it set up from the start (come to think of it, this is probably how I would do it <G>). The assistant should let the thread drop to the stage at this point. When the music starts, pick up the hooked up hanky and begin the act of bringing it to life. The assistant now takes over and by gyrating the thread offstage, controls the hanky’s movement. You are not limited as to what the hanky can do. You may even want to try a more slow spooky movement rather than the frantic hopping hank that has been seen in the past. This will take a bit of rehearsal. You may even want to videotape your practice sessions to see what the audience will see. I think that this effect, in particular, could benefit from this modern age technology that we did not even have 20 years ago.
Yes, it will take some work. Especially perfecting the movement of the hanky so that it does not look “jerky”, but rather smooth and flowing. But remember, the effort is time well spent. For, in the long run, you will have a feature effect.
Get creative and do all sorts of things like passing a hoop around it, make several hanks float, etc. Just remember to have a dark or busy background and at least 10 feet between you and the first row of the audience. And if someone yells out that you are using a string, remember that they do not see it, they are assuming it. So in response, you can say what I would say…and that is…
“That’s What They All Say!”
Licensed Tricks For Kids IV
Bobby J. Gallo
Here we are in the final installment of this mini-series. In the last Millennium (how I love saying that) we evolved a routine that is suitable for virtually any age that is old enough to see the magic in general. So now that we have entertained them with the previous sleights, it falls to use to give them a big finish.
There are a number of tricks that are suitable for all age groups but we must remember to keep it simple. A few have already appeared in I.C.O.M such as my version of “The Sandwiched Card Trick”. Another great trick that is appreciated by kids is the standard “Insurance Policy”. The giant card ending gets a response from even the youngest spectators. But a personal favorite of mine can be found in “Card Manipulations by Jean Hugard, Dover Publications 1973-Page 50. Entitled, The Rising Card (Horowitz Thumb Method). and is available from Barns & Noble for around $5.95. I imagine you can get it at Amazon.com as well.
Of all the excellent material in that book (and there is a lot!), the following trick is what I consider to be one of the “showiest” impromptu feats with a deck of cards. Because it’s currently in print I will not give out the method*, but I will describe the effect.
A card is selected, controlled to the top by “your favorite method”, then after the cards are given a nice “Thumb Fan”, the selected card begins to rise from within the fan, actually travels from one end of the fan to the other where the performers free hand then grabs it and removes it. Truly spectacular and the kids love it. Well worth the $5.95 for the book. And you know what the best thing is? I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANOTHER MAGICIAN DO IT! It seems that it is one of those things everyone who owns the book just seems to glance over without ever really trying. So consider this “buried treasure” an exclusive that only members of I.C.O.M will be performing.
I am sure you will find loads of other card revelations that will work, but at least know that the ones I have presented before you, really do work.