December 3, 2015
Late in November a new gadget went viral. First starting with reddit, then to Twitter and on across the web. The reason? With this particular device you can shoot fireballs from your wrist. Yes, just like Mario have dabbling in a fire flower, with the Pyro Mini an illusionist or magician could launch a fireball with nothing but a simple gesture.
Best of all, there is now a remote that goes along with it, so the gadget can be activated from a short distance away. Although yes, this is incredibly badass, I wanted to dig deeper into the brains behind this and why they created it. So what better way to understand what resulted in their huge reception than to interview the Ellusionist’s creator of the Pyro and Pyro Mini, Adam Wilber, along with their Head of Marketing, Geraint Clarke.
For some magic, see 9:50 and 29:25
From Necessity to Success
Wilber, now Ellusionist’s General Manager has been in the entertainment world for the past 20 years. During that time he’s put his magic and illusion skills to the test, entertaining countless people at events and on popular shows. He’s been seen on shows reaching to the Syfy channel to the National Geographic channel. Although Pyro has been in development over the past three years, fire was a component of how he entertained the masses.
“The point is to enhance what you do. There is something called the fire wallet in magic. It’s a beautiful thing, and fire comes out of a wallet. You open a wallet, and the entire room stops what they are doing and looks at you. That was the idea of it. You could, without saying a word, get everybody’s attention, which as magicians is a very hard thing to do. But it’s a crucial thing, we need to have people pay attention to you,” said Wilber.
For this very reason, both the company and product were born. According to Clarke, Ellusionist as a company was formed in 2001 by Brad Christian, and became the world’s first online marketplace for magic. Their goal is to teach original magic tricks to other magicians. More than anything, it’s not just about the tricks, but to entertain.
“The point of Pyro came out of necessity because it was something I wanted to use in my act, and I open my standup shows with it. I talk about inventing, and following your dreams, and if you were to say 5 years ago that I was going to invent something that shoots fireballs from your hand, but you can show your hand is empty and it’s remote controlled, you’d say ‘you’re nuts. That’s not going to happen, and if it does it’s not going to work,’” said Wilber.
Nuts or not, the team at Ellusionist create not one, but two gadgets for magicians to build upon their stories. With Pyro, it’s a way to flawlessly produce an effect that runs directly parallel to how magicians and illusionists want to entertain a room and steal their attention in just seconds.
The Viral Video
Wiber credits much of Ellusionist’s initial success with the original Pyro due to their production manager’s abilities with their video.
“We put things out to look cool, and let kids know you don’t have to be dorky cliche, what people think of as a magician, you can be a cool person and do magic and we do that very well,” said Wilber. “That’s a huge shout out to Peter McKinnon, our product manager who does all that. He’s a friggin genious. He can look at anything and take a deck of cards and tell a story in a minute and a half that will have you engaged, that will want to have you re-watch, it’s a talent that can’t be taught.”
Although there was some negativity towards the video itself on reddit, as is the norm, they received a great deal of positive attention as well. People began buying the product and playing with it, and eventually loving what it does. Taking feedback from their first video, they the team made the second for Pyro Mini more focused on the product itself. It’s less flashy, shows a breakdown of the product itself, and focuses specifically on how it can be used by magicians.
Between the two, they actually had a relatively low budget to produce them, yet among the feedback it was evident that viewers thought they spent a couple million dollars producing it. As entertainers, they used their skills to hone in on the story, bolstered by an interesting and unique product, and hit the video out of the park.
Magicians and Entertainers
“There is a difference between being a magician and being an entertainer, and there are two things: You can be technically brilliant, but if you haven’t got stage presence, you haven’t got showmanship, if you haven’t got wit, then it all falls by the wayside and you end up being a guy who can do tricks rather than being a magician, rather than being a performer,” said Clarke.
Wilber mirrored Clarke’s response, building upon it by stating it’s more than buying tricks and gadgets. A crowd comes to watch them, regardless of how amazing a trick is.
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