Madame Tussauds, the world famous London-based wax museum, is coming to San Francisco’s Fisherman's Wharf. As part of a promotion for the museum's grand opening on June 26, a life-size wax figure of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was unveiled alongside Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio, and recording artist Rihanna.
The attraction is taking over the former San Francisco Wax Museum building on 145 Jefferson Street which had been entertaining tourists since 1963.
Although known as one of San Francisco's most tourist-friendly areas, Fisherman's Wharf has peculiar reputation. You will find the magic shows conducted at Pier 39 and street performers selling everything from spray-paint art to karaoke renditions of classic songs – all in one place. Adding to the peculiarity was the Ripley's Believe It Or Not and the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf, which closed in August 2013. But never fear -- they're being replaced by a Madame Tussauds in a few months.
The new Museum
There will be now 19 Madame Tussauds locations worldwide, with two more in the works, including the one coming to San Francisco this summer and another one opening in Orlando in 2015.
"[Madame Tussauds moving to the wharf] is a great way to carry on the tradition of the wax museum," says Commission Vice President of the San Francisco Planning Department Rodney Fong, whose family has owned the building at 145 Jefferson for 50 years.
Inside the San Francisco Museum
The new Madame Tussauds at San Francisco will feature several rooms such as Film, A-List, History and Leaders, Music, Sports and Spirit of San Francisco. All of the 68 wax celebrities at the attraction have some relation to the Bay Area, and will be placed in the appropriate room.
Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, will be in the A-List room also dubbed "celebrity party room," standing next to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. George Clooney on the other hand will be seated on a sofa in the VIP area in the same room. You can "mingle" with these wax celebs, like you're just another guest at their party.
"The idea is to feel like you're there," says head studio artist Petra van der Meer. "That's why it's a wax attraction and not a museum. You can interact with the figures instead of just looking at them."
In addition to Leo, Brad, George, Angie, the other Hollywood stars to be seen are Kate Winslet, Anne Hathway, Jackie Chan to name a few. In the Leaders and History room, you will of course witness the history of California itself like the discovery of gold by Johan Sutter which eventually led to the great Californian Gold rush. You will get first hand experience of Alcatraz prison and more interestingly get to meet the world leaders like Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln and of course Mark Zuckerberg among the most famous entrepreneurs of the current generation.
The Facebook founder won't be the only tech figure at the museum, says Lauren Fahrer, marketing manager for Madame Tussauds San Francisco, but there's a good chance he'll be the most famous.
In a tech town like San Francisco, Zuckerberg has to be the hottest attraction. Zuckerberg, shown barefoot and sitting lotus with a laptop, joins a handful of tech luminaries immortalized by Madame Tussauds in years past such as Apple cofounder Steve Jobs and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates.
Typically, the artists ask the celebrities to do a sitting where more than 200 measurements are made to make an accurate wax statue. Zuckerberg however was unavailable for a sitting — so artists constructed the figure using only photos.
The wax figure features Zuckerberg in his signature hoody and jeans, complete with a Facebook shirt donated by the company. (The shirt isn't visible in the photos due to copyright issues.)
“What really makes this a unique Madame Tussauds: 35 percent of the figures are from the San Francisco Bay Area or people, like Mark Zuckerberg, who have moved to Bay Area to make their mark on the world,” Madame Tussauds’ Lauren Fahrer said.
Madame Tussauds is yet to announce which other Bay Area celebrities will be included in its "Spirit of San Francisco" room. Madame Tussauds only hints at which SF stars might be enshrined in wax, on its website.
The attraction will also be home to wax figures from music and sports, including Rihanna. Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams and others.
The figure, which took 20 artists between 3 and 4 months to create, is a life-size replica down to the last freckle, says Fahrer. The figure's hair is real, took two weeks to complete and was inserted by hand, one strand at a time.
“It takes between three and six months to create each wax figure. Each of the 20 artists, all based in the UK, spend at least two hours with each celebrity prior to design their figure, measure their exact height, eye shape, and skin tone. The artists use acrylic paint over each wax figure to match their skin tone, and red silk threads inside each eye of each of the figures to create the look of veins,” according to SFWeekly.
Also, each hair on the heads of each figurine is real and is inserted by hand which takes two weeks to complete.
Advance tickets for Madame Tussauds, SanFrancisco are available now.
Madame Tussauds is named after Marie Tussaud, who learned wax modeling from her mentor, Dr. Philippe Curtius, in Paris in the late 1880s. Back then, was well known for her wax depictions of Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin.