How do I make a doll to a somersault over a trapeze?
December 5, 2005 6:53 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to buy or make a "trapeze artist", a stuffed animal or doll that does trapezes, like they have on the ceiling in stew Leonards. can anyone tell me how to make one or where to buy one?

I went to stew leonards, which is a dairy/grocery store in CT, listed in ripleys believ it or not for the bottling plant and dairy inside the plant.

anyway.. they have these cute toys to keep the kids occupied.. like a singing chiquita banana.. and a choir of daity products on top of the fridge...

now, they have a "person" doing "tumblesauces" on a bar... its a doll, hanging from a pole which is suspended from the cieling, and when a small motor turns on his hand too tightly, he is forced to "somersault" and flip over.

I would like to buy or create such a toy.. can anyone tell me how or where I can buy one online?

I have already tried to call stew leonards.

I realized it's called a trapeze.. i searched for "stew leonards" trapeze and up came from their website:

Trapeze Artists: Various characters throughout the store are suspended from the ceiling and do flips in the bakery, meat, dairy and seafood departments. (All locations)

now i just have to figure out if i can buy or find instructions online on how to make one....
posted by Izzmeister to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It looks like it would be pretty easy. The trapeze bar just rotates via a motor, and the doll's hands are attached to the bar, so every time the bar rotates, the doll flips over it. The only tricky part is that the arms have to be stiff or else they will just wind themselves around the bar, Mr.-Fantastic-style.
posted by breath at 7:02 PM on December 5, 2005

Alexander Calder had a circus he made out of small wire toys. See here and here.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 7:49 PM on December 5, 2005

I grew up somewhere between the two main Stew Leonard's, and even closer to the one they're now planning. Those trapeze guys are good, but if I were trying to recreate Stew's in my house, I'd be asking MeFi how to make the singing sticks of butter. Or Henrietta, who lays eggs on demand.

Anyway, after long hours of observation, I can tell you that it isn't hard. I can't tell you a thing about motors, but I remember a bit about the doll. Most of the doll is floppy, but the arms are stiff. The dolls differ a lot -- I remember the fisherman one has some kind of hard face, and I think his slicker covers a body that's fairly rigid until about the ribs, where there's a joint before the body stiffens again for the legs. It's probably safe to assume the others can be built along the same plan.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:06 PM on December 5, 2005

There's an old folky squeeze-powered version of this toy. Same floppy doll with stiff/solid arms, but instead of a motor-driven axle that the doll is "gripping" there are two pieces of string - say, fishing line - as the "axle".

In a relaxed state, the two pieces of string are (mostly) parallel (but not crossed over) and pass through two sets of vertically holes, two holes in each "hand".

The doll hangs from this pair of strings between an H-shaped support. Above the bar of the H it's long enough for the doll to hang freely, and the H is wide enough for the doll to move freely. Below the bar of the H it's about half again as long as the top. This bar connects the two uprights rather loosely. You could drill a hole all the way through all three pieces and hold it together with elastic or rubber, or even fishing line or string.

The key to all of this is to balance the tension of the horizontal bar of the H with the tension in the two lines through the doll's hands, and the distance between the pairs of holes in the dolls hands should be balanced against the overall width of the H supports itself.

To activate the trapeze doll, flip it over once or twice so the lines cross.

Squeezing the bottom of the H-supports loads tension via leverage at the top of the H, causing the wrapped pair of strings or fishing line to want to unwind. The doll flops over. Done right the doll will want to flip over more than once, re-loading the tension in the dual lines at the top for another flip back the other way. Repeat until giddy.

This is the toy that that store display is probably trying to emulate.

(Thanks go to my wood-working, folk-museum curating step-grandad.)
posted by loquacious at 9:47 PM on December 5, 2005

Or Henrietta, who lays eggs on demand.

My favorites were always the singing dog band and the train that runs through various areas on top of the shelves.

My kids always liked the singing vegetables. For some reason, they could go weeks without being in the store, but pass by those vegetables, and they'd know every word of the song.
posted by thanotopsis at 6:53 AM on December 6, 2005

thanotopsis, you are not my best friend right now. Here, let me repay the favor:


My favorite is still the singing sticks of butter. Along with white and chocolate milk and two kinds of juice cartons, they make up the Farm-Fresh Five.

I have to say I don't remember the train, though. That's in the Norwalk store? I know there's that kind of in-and-out train in Maggie McFly's.
posted by booksandlibretti at 4:50 PM on December 6, 2005

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