Row Ho Ho- Pontoon Installation

Client: City of Melbourne

Date: December 2021

City of Melbourne’s expansive 2021 Christmas display saw A Blanck Canvas design and build a large-scale pontoon installation that sailed down the Yarra River.

The festive works spanned over 27 metres across three pontoons. It was an extremely cheerful and mesmerising display, some even expressing “it was the best Christmas display Melbourne had ever seen”.

The illuminated installation was an unassuming and playful take on the typical Christmas scene.  We wanted to design something that had never been done before and flip the festive season on its head by recreating the Santa-and-his-sleigh trope. There are cheeky woodlands elves hiding amongst colourful mounds of presents and fishing off the stern, and in lieu of reindeer; there were dolphins with antlers pulling the giant boat, one even displaying a red spotlight on its bridle. We designed Santa as a skipper and scripted ‘Row Ho Ho’ across the boat, because every good sailor knows you should never set sail without a proper name proudly plastered on your vessel.  

The project was quite large, and saw our team apply many different methods and techniques to create all the elements. Much of the build was hand sculpted and painted by our team, using EPE foam and Tautflex paints by Viponds. The installation had a custom-built engineered steel frame, as well as CNC cut polystyrene elements, 3D printed elements, addressable LED lighting throughout, and inflatable elements.

The fabrication side of this project was extensive, it took over 130 hours alone to hand carve the nine dolphins, and over 500 hours to create 28 presents with custom stencilled paint treatments and bows. Each of the 8 elves had unique wooden branch-like antlers and were individually reposed throughout the installation, whether that be fishing off the stern, upside down in the smokestack chimney, or buried into a pile of oversized presents.

The lighting for the project was programmed by After Dark Theatre and downloaded onto an ENTEC S-Play monitor which allowed the light show to automatically play on a set timer. The lighting used included multiple LED ropes that linked the dolphins and sleighs together and represented reins. Each dolphin had seventeen LED pixels within them, while the inflatable Santa sack had over ten internal LED RGB floodlights that also helped to illuminate the presents. On the 7-metre boat, we used thirty-five more LED RGB floodlights which highlighted features all over the installation.

A Million Things Music designed a new re-imagined Christmas soundscape, showcasing famous festive jingles.

You can see Row Ho Ho from the 2-28th December 2021 at Birrarung Marr. It gets towed down the Yarra River daily (1pm and 9pm)

Visit here for more information.

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