World record bubble artist pops into Singapore for weekend performance
World record bubble artist created ‘perfect solution’ despite having only a primary-school education
In 2008, internationally renowned bubble artist Fan Yang put a 3,992 kg, almost 2.7m-tall Asian elephant in a giant soap bubble.
It became one of the Canadian performer's 19 Guinness World Records - the record is for Encasing the Largest Land Mammal in a Bubble- and it is still his proudest achievement in his two-decade career.
Yang, 53, had spent two weeks at the Have Trunk Will Travel Elephant Conservatory in California to learn more about elephants because he was not sure how the gigantic animals would react to the stunt.
"They loved it. They were even blowing the bubbles with their trunks and playing with it. After two weeks of them getting used to it and training them not to touch the bubble surrounding them, I managed to break the record," Yang told The New Paper.
He is also known for creating the world's largest bubble wall in 2009 (50.9m long and inspired by the Great Wall of China) and for having the most number of people encapsulated in a bubble in 2008 (100, done on US talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show).
Yang is in town for his Bubble Legendary Show at Resorts World Sentosa this weekend.
He first performed here in 1997 at the Science Centre Singapore and has returned several more times, with the most recent being the Gazillion Bubble Show at Marina Bay Sands in 2012.
So how does Yang keep his magical bubbles from popping?
He said he never studied the science behind it, but discovered his method through trial and error. His bubble solution ensures elasticity and resistance and possesses colours to make it more visually appealing.
Yang, who also stages 20-minute or 40-minute private shows for at least US$10,000 (S$ 14,000), said: "I look at bubbles as a completely different world. Bubbles are encapsulated gas surrounded by liquid and it will stay long enough if the atmosphere is clean and there are no impurities in the air.
"Where there is dry air or a lot of dust particles, they cling onto the bubbles and make them pop."
Fan Yang's record-breaking elephant feat in 2008. PHOTOS: BIZ TRENDS MEDIA FACEBOOK/GAZILLION BUBBLE SHOW
Strong drafts and direct sunlight can cause bubbles to pop faster.
Humidity is another factor - the more humid it is, the slower bubble evaporation gets.
Yang's long-standing passion for bubbles started in his childhood.
"When I was a little boy, I was fascinated by bubbles on the surface of the river because of their beauty to absorb and reflect light," said Yang, who was born in Vietnam to a Chinese-Vietnamese mother and a Hungarian father.
He grew up poor in Yugoslavia, where his family moved to when he was two years old.
He added: "I never had any toys, but I enjoyed playing with nature. There was a waterfall that created a vortex and made small bubbles. I always watched it and thought, 'How can I make it bigger?'
"When I was about 18, I started to experiment and, unlike many children who touched bubbles to pop them, I found myself trying to keep them alive for as long as possible.
"After many years, I found out the right composition and was able to make a bubble of about 10 to 20cm in diameter."
He continued to expand on the sizes of his bubbles and even linked them and tried to shape them.
A few years later, Yang, who has only primary school education, was finally able to pull off a 20-minute bubble demonstration to fascinated friends.
He was "discovered" soon after.
His wife and children have also picked up the tricks of the trade and even have their own bubble shows.
His wife Ana, 50, is touted as "The World's Greatest Female Bubble Artist" and is also a Guinness World Record holder.
She is holding court at the couple's nine-year-running, off-Broadway Gazillion Bubble Show in New York City.
Yang started teaching her some skills after they met as he realised she could take his place at shows if he were to ever fall ill.
Their children, 24-year-old daughter Melody and 26-year-old son Deni, have followed in their father's footsteps, learning the ropes when they were as young as two. They are performing in Sanya, China.
FAN YANG 2015 BUBBLE LEGENDARY
Resorts World Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa
Saturday and Sunday at 10.30am, 1.30pm and 5pm
$28 to $88 from Sistic (6348-5555 or www.sistic.com.sg)
FAN YANG'S CELEB FANS
Celebrity encounters are not unusual for Fan Yang, who has appeared on various talk shows including Late Night with David Letterman and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where US actor Ashton Kutcher mimicked some of his bubble tricks.
But the one gig that continues to be a sweet memory was when Yang was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008. He put 100 people inside a single huge soap bubble, breaking his own world record in the process.
He recalled: "(Oprah) was very kind and when she's talking and asking questions, it's like I'm talking to an old friend, not an interviewer."
After Yang's Gazillion Bubble Show opened in New York City, Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise and his daughter Suri visited him backstage after the show. Yang said Cruise even wrote him a note of appreciation, saying that he enjoyed the show very much.
US actor Matt Damon and his children were at that same show and posed for photos after they were put into giant bubbles.