Real animals have been replaced by puppets in Circus 1903, a musical that sets to recapture the golden age of circus.

These extraordinary puppets were created by the talented team behind the play War Horse.

Puppet creator Mervin Millar explains in this video that the size of the performer is the first factor taken into consideration when creating the elephants. From there on out, all the designs come from the puppeteer. Although puppeteering is difficult work, the primary goal of the creators is to make something as easy to handle as possible.

Luke Chadwick-Jones, a puppeteer in the musical, describes just how hard the work is: “It’s a lot of pressure on the back, I’m in constant plank position. And the weight kind of sits just above the head, so it puts a lot of pressure on the lower back.”

All the hard work is worth it, however. When Peanut the baby elephant (played by Chadwick-Jones) appears, the kids in the audience are thrilled by his playful antics.

With its use of puppets instead of real elephants, Circus 1903 demonstrates one major lesson, above all: it is, indeed, possible for a circus to forego cruelty without sacrificing the quality of its entertainment!