There’s a lot of misinformation around about the Vanishing Birdcage. I have never really considered myself an expert about that trick, but recently it’s become clear that I know a lot more than most people, but still don’t consider myself an expert. It’s a trick I’ve been fascinated with for a long time, I’ve used off and on since I was a teenager and tried different styles, at one point I even did the Tommy Wonder vanish with the sleeves rolled up.
In a facebook group someone posted a link to a reel that was being sold as a door closer. Then this conversation happened:
You really can’t beat a wrist to wrist pull for the actual vanish of the birdcage. The power needed for the vanish happens before the vanish happens and there’s no way a reel or elastic can reasonably come close to the power your arms can. For the flash vanish, right before you are going to put tension on the pull’s cord by pushing the cage away from the body as hard as you can. This is going to start building up energy and when you let go of the cage you are releasing all of that energy and that explosion of power is what sends the cage up your sleeve. Once you let go of the string the pull doesn’t really do anything…except at the very end, it may help keep it high up your sleeve so it doesn’t peek out.
Most magicians think it’s pull dragging the cage up your sleeve, and not the cage shooting up your sleeve. Yes, you can vanish the cage by pulling it up your sleeve, however it’s an inefficient use of energy and you need a lot of arm movement to accomplish this. Having the cage shoot up your sleeve requires very little arm movement. The exception to this is Billy McComb’s Slow Motion Vanishing Birdcage, however it’s still a situation where a reel or elastic would be inferior as you lack control of the vanish.
When using a reel or elastic for the vanish (this is different from how a Take Up Reel is used) you are going to have constant tension on the corner of the cage that’s attached to the elastic. That means you are going to be fighting that tension to keep the cage upright. It would virtually rule out using an Abbott’s / Blackstone style Vanishing Birdcage, and make using a semi-rigid card really difficult. From the audience’s perspective your arms are going to be tense the whole time you’re holding the birdcage. You’ll be holding it like it’s 20 pounds, not less than a pound. This is the huge advantage of a wrist to wrist pull, you can instantly add the tension to the line whenever you want. In the case of the vanishing birdcage, you can do it a fraction of a second before the vanish.
For the actual power of the vanish, to get a reel strong enough to match the tension you can put on the cord with a wrist to wrist pull, the reel would have to be massive. Same with an elastic cord, it would be very thick.
Something else to consider is that with elastic or a reel is if there is any clean up, or to keep the cage up your sleeve. If the arm that it’s anchored on moves away, the cord will stretch. That will cause you to have to make exaggerated motions to compensate for the stretch to move the cage in your sleeve. Also after the vanish and the cage is in your sleeve, the cage’s weight will be pulling on the line, so you’ll be fighting it wanting to crawl back out of your sleeve. Sure you could have the elastic super short, but then there will be constant tension on your arms after the vanish.
I think people want to complicate the vanishing birdcage by adding things to it because a wrist to wrist pull is too simple to be what’s connected to the complex cage. Yes, a Take Up Reel is something that an addition to the trick, but something that helps with everything except the trick. The Take Up Reel has done it’s job before the vanish happens. When the actual vanish happens the Take Up Reel is functioning like a wrist to wrist pull.
If you’re going to do the Vanishing Birdcage, learn to do it with a wrist to wrist pull before you start playing with elastic, or whatever. That will give you a baseline for how the vanish should look.
Yesterday I posted about finally being able to find the clips that I use on my personal Vanishing Birdcage. They just showed up and here’s what they look like:
Here’s it in comparison to the one that’s on my personal Take Up Reel that I use for the Vanishing Birdcage:
Before the clip is usable, I have to cut off the swivel. I could leave it on, but that’s just extra bulk that’s not needed. The cord allow any rotation needed for the effect.
A side by side comparison of the two is that my old one is a bit wider than the new ones and the new ones are a bit shorter than old one.
Now that I have these, I’m going to start including them with all future take up reels that I make. I’m not sure that I’ll be selling these separately, as I may not be able to get them again in the future.
Ever since I put out my Take Up Reel, I’ve been invited to a lot of magic zoom get togethers to answer questions about and the vanishing birdcage. I never really thought of myself as an expert at the vanishing birdcage, but apparently I am (or at least people think I am). I don’t think I do anything groundbreaking with the cage, but I have put a lot of time into it and know what I like and don’t like with them.
During one of these magic meetings, someone asked me a great question. They mentioned they showed a video of someone doing the vanishing birdcage to their girlfriend and asked what she thought of it. The girlfriend’s impression of it was the cage looked funny. When asked how she thought it worked she said it was a trick cage designed to disappear. She didn’t know how…
This is a very important observation and it highlights the problem with most vanishing birdcage routines.
The problem is most people only present it as the effect. The cage disappears. When the only thing in the routine is the cage disappearing you live and die by the prop. For example you walk out onstage with a funky looking tiny birdcage with a rubber bird dangling in it. Then the only real “routine” is how impossible the vanish is…of course it’s not going to hold up for a modern audience.
This is where Billy McComb got it right. He started used a mouse not a bird, and it’s a little cage for the obviously not real mouse. The mouse then does some comedy, and then the cage vanishes. The routine isn’t about the cage disappearing, it’s about the mouse doing stupid things.
I think the way to make the Vanishing Birdcage good is to not make it about the cage. You’re selling something else, and the vanish of the cage is a punctuation at the end of the routine!
The last week I’ve had a lot of people ask me if my Take Up Reel that I use for the vanishing birdcage trick works with an Abbott’s / Blackstone style vanishing birdcage. The answer is yes it does, I made a quick video that I’ve been sending to people who ask, here it is:
The cool thing about the Take Up Reel is that it can be used for more than just the vanishing birdcage, it can be used for any trick where you would use a wrist to wrist pull. If you want it to go up your sleeve and stay there, then it will work for that!
Recently I released my Take Up Reel through Hocus Pocus and the response has been amazing. Honestly, I thought they would sell two of them, but they are selling as quickly as I can make them!
I just want to say “thank you” to everyone that has supported this magic release. It’s been several years in the making. From the initial development of it to me road testing and tweaking it…to having other people road test it and doing some more tweaking.
Here’s the next batch of Take Up Reels that are going out.
I wish these reels were easier to make, they take about a week from start to finish to make…and I can only do them in small batches.
Here’s some advice if you are thinking of putting out a magic product, actually put in the time to work it out. Don’t rush ideas out to the market. There’s soo much that’s put out that you can tell wasn’t really tested out on audiences in the real world…whether that’s an in person or virtual show.
You can get them from Hocus-Pocus.com. People frequently ask me if I would prefer they ordered from me or them. The nice thing when you order from a magic shop is you are supporting a magic shop, and helping to pay their employees. Sure, I make more in my pocket when you buy direct, but when I agree to sell them a product to a magic shop I’m happy with the terms. The advantage is that they normally have them in stock and can ship quickly. If you order direct sometimes there will be a delay due to me travelling, or whatever.
I’m not saying “do not order from me“, but more trying to show you the advantages and disadvantages of ordering from a magic shop. You can’t complain about them disappearing, if you don’t support them.
One of the magic products that I put out and that I’m the most proud of is the Take Up Reel that I created. What a Take Up Reel is used for is to shorten a length of string and was popularized by Billy McComb and Tommy Wonder in their Vanishing Birdcage routines.
As far as I know I’m currently the only person / company that makes a Take Up Reel for sale. I’m working on a batch of them this week. It takes about a full week to make one from start to finish. Here’s one of the locks coming out of my 3D printer:
Magic is being revolutionized by 3D printing, especially stage magic. It allows you to affordably make soo many custom props that would have cost tons of money to have fabricated 5 or 10 years ago.
If you’re not out printing stuff, I highly recommend learning how. It’s pretty easy, and you don’t even need to own a 3D printer as there are companies you send the file to and they’ll make it for you.
One of my favorite creation is my take up reel. It’s something that I’ve wanted to use forever and went out and created a way to make it happen. Normally when I put out magic props, I put out what I use. When developing this, I got it to work great for me and thought I had a final product. I then sent it out to some people and they didn’t use it like I did. That led to me improving it and ended up with a better final product!
It’s always great when I get emails from people who have one:
“Louie’s Take-Up Pull is incredible. If you want to perform the Vanishing Birdcage in the “real world” you need one of these, but you can do much more with it. I have several Take-Up Pulls made by Hammerton and Martin but this high quality modern recreation is every bit as good and at a fraction of the price of any of the others. I highly recommend Louie Foxx’s Take-Up Pull!”
Getting emails like this makes all the work in testing it worth it!
I’m fascinated by the Vanishing Birdcage trick. I remember hearing stories of Bert Allerton doing the vanishing birdcage close up at tables. The story I remember reading was that he took the sides off of his cage so that it would vanish quicker and have less bulk in his sleeve.
There have been many other people that have done the cage, and solved many problems. For example, using a Take Up Reel to allow you to do the cage later in your show.
The biggest challenge is how do you deal with the cage after the vanish (if it’s not your closer)? There are a lot of solutions ranging from using a small, flexible cage and just leaving it in your sleeve, to having a secret pocket in your pants your ditch it in.
Recently it hit me, that a virtual magic show is a great place to use the cage in the middle of the show. After the vanish you could have a title card that says “no rubber birds were hurt in this trick” or something like that. Then in the few seconds that plays, you ditch the cage. As long as you use title cards previously in your show, it won’t feel out of place.