Center scrubs elephant from its soap-bubble science show

Times Staff Writer

The Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana on Friday canceled a controversial stunt in which an artist was to surround an Asian elephant in a giant soap bubble after critics threatened to protest it as cruel and frivolous, the center announced this afternoon.

“We wanted it to be good, clean family fun, so we’re taking away the part that seemed negative,” spokeswoman Julie Smith said, adding that the only change in plans is to take the elephant out of Tuesday’s show.

The science center began reconsidering the performance after it received more than a thousand e-mails opposing it-- many with identical language -- and numerous calls from animal advocates, said Leslie Perovich, vice president of marketing. The animal-rights group In Defense of Animals and Bob Barker, the former host of “The Price Is Right,” were among those who objected to the show.

Anticipating protesters, the center even called on the Santa Ana Police Department to provide security backup.

Smith said the center canceled the elephant’s participation not because it believed it was cruel or unscientific, as opponents have charged, but out of fear of being besieged.


“We were afraid someone with ulterior motives would have gotten into the tent and caused harm to our guests,” she said.

Bubble artist Fan Yang hoped to set a record for the largest living land mammal in a bubble by surrounding the 8,800-pound pachyderm in a giant soapy orb for five to 10 seconds, but is now reworking his plans, Smith said.

The show was to feature Tai, an elephant from a ranch in Perris who was at the center of another controversial performance in 2006 that also angered animal activists. British artist Banksy had painted the 39-year-old female in a red and gold pattern to blend into a wallpaper background for an installation in a downtown Los Angeles warehouse, illustrating the phrase “an elephant in the room.”

Defense of AnimalsBubblefest, the annual event the stunt was meant to promote, is still scheduled to start today.