Author Sara Gruen’s depression-era novel about a veteran who runs away to the circus, “Water for Elephants,” will debut on the big screen in April 2011. Actors Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson star in the movie adaptation, and an old-fashioned bail ring tent created by Aztec Tents, Torrance, Calif., plays a strong supporting role. Within a tight six-week window, Aztec Tents created a custom, authentic-looking 100-percent cotton tent for 20th Century Fox’s movie about a travelling circus with a special star.
Aztec staff researched the original production methods, materials and reinforcements for circus tents before developing designs and samples. The raw cotton had to be sewn rather than welded, one of the most time-consuming tasks. For authenticity, tent reinforcements were created of leather, but Aztec integrated unseen reinforcements of sturdy webbing to ensure safety. The center pole, made of a single piece of wood 48 feet tall, weighed 2,200 pounds, and Aztec used a valance from a 1930s circus tent to create the right look. After initial set-up, the tent could be taken down and set up again in half a day.