The Gazillion Bubble Show's Fan Yang floats a dream
When Fan Yang was little, he wasn’t like other kids: while they all wanted to burst bubbles, he wanted to make them last.
And last they have. After several decades of playing with liquids and perfecting his formulas, the bubble master now performs glitzy stage shows on Broadway and around the globe, appears on Late Night With David Letterman and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and has 13 world records under his belt. In fact, the Straight caught up with him here in town right after he’d scored his most recent record by encapsulating 181 visibly thrilled people in a single gigantic bubble at Science World earlier this fall. All in a day’s work.
Yang says it took him 30 years to get to where he is today, and it all started when he was a child, growing up in the former Yugoslavia, with more than the usual fascination for bubbles. Against a stark background of poverty, he was able to harness that obsession and turn it into something special.
“I was trying to find the bubble solution that could make the bubble last very long, and then using that solution I was using my imagination to say, ‘Okay, how do I make a cloud, star, or other different formations?’ Nowadays we can make the bubble in every imaginable size, shape, and hue,” explains Yang, who is bringing his Gazillion Bubble Show to Vancouver for the first time. “And that’s fascinating to people of all ages. Everybody thinks that bubbles are for children, but I think that bringing the bubbles to this scale and incorporating art, science, and also the technology of today, like lasers and special effects, enhances the beauty of the bubbles and brings it to a new artistic and scientific dimension.”
Yang’s partially right: his show is a unique mix of art and science, but it also incorporates the spectacle of circus, the exacting dexterity of juggling, and the visual-and-musical adrenaline of Vegas or Broadway. In a sneak preview here, Yang and his family, whom he works with closely, showed some of their best tricks: filling bubbles with fog, pulling giant glassy orbs down on top of a preschooler (giving new meaning to “boy in a bubble”), and playfully piling their creations into jiggly sculptures. To talk to Yang, the work is mostly science, though.
“Slowly, with time, I was able to find the right mix, the right solution, and I was spending hours and hours,” says Yang, who started experimenting with his concoctions in his late teens. “I spent more time developing and experimenting with the bubble solution than I was doing the show. Because the key to the success is actually in the blend of the formula.
“I now have a laboratory, a small lab where I experiment, because everybody who watches the show wants to touch the bubbles and we want to make it really safe. So our bubble solution is the safest in the world.” The Disney company now uses one of his bubble solutions in its toys, because it has antibacterial ingredients and is nontoxic and nonirritating to skin.
On-stage now, Yang and his family use a total of seven different concoctions. “The combination of chemicals is very important,” the affable performer explains. “I have seven different kinds of mixtures based on viscosity and density, and I have to use different ones for different tricks.”
Yang’s is a success story that takes on even more dimension when you start to talk to him about the poverty he grew up in. Born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and a Hungarian father, he moved with his family to Yugoslavia when he was two; in his teen years he left for Germany. Once he’d perfected his first bubble solution, his initial stage was the street. “When it was not windy, I would step onto the corner and say ‘Hey, look at this,’” says Yang, who travelled with his brother, Jano, who now performs in the Gazillion show. “That was in Italy, Greece, Austria. I was kind of homeless at that time; I was living in the junkyard, under the tree in the park, and my brother and I, we were wandering around.”
Yang has since developed the show in unimaginable new ways. Guinness was on hand when he created the largest bubble wall (47.4 metres) at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center and when he set the record for the most bubbles attached to each other in mid-air (nine). In the show, his most challenging tricks involve even more complex feats. “For example, one of the more difficult ones is we fill up the bubble with fog and pop a hole in the bubble. The fog comes out without the bubble bursting,” Yang says. “When I reach with my hand inside a bubble to reach another bubble and pull it out without bursting it, you need the art with the skill, you need to understand the science. There are no magic tricks in our show. It’s magic to see it, but everything you see is real.”
Not surprisingly, Yang’s own children, Melody and Deni, now in their 20s, have inherited his fascination with bubbles. And how could they not? At four, Melody helped him earn yet another world record by sliding into a bubble without bursting its membrane. Now, with his wife Ana, Yang has made The Gazillion Bubble Show a family affair that travels the world.
It’s a life Yang never could have foreseen as a young busker blowing the biggest, longest-lasting bubbles he could on a street corner. “When you love something and you put your heart into it, you achieve your dreams. All of us have ideas, but if we don’t do anything about them, we cannot achieve our dreams,” he says with enthusiasm. “I have been working very hard to make it what I have today.” It might sound corny coming from anyone other than a guy who brings joy to people by blowing bubbles—multicoloured, fog-filled, and cloud-shaped—for a living.
The Gazillion Bubble Show takes place at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts from Friday to Sunday (November 2 to 4).