- Written by Todd Moning
Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
Pirates, skeletons and Indians.
They all reside at one location in northeast Ohio — the Creegan Animation Factory. It's located in downtown Steubenville, Ohio, about 30 minutes west of Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Creegan Company, family-owned and operated since the 1960s, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of animated and costume characters.
Whether creating animated settings for museums or local retail stores, or for clients such as Sea World, Hershey's Chocolate World, Disney World and Las Vegas casinos, Creegan follows its credo: "We make things move."
Characters and stores
October through December is the perfect time for factory tours, according to Creegan Company founder George Creegan. "We have our Christmas season tour, and we never fail to impress and entertain. Our fan mail is very big."
A grape stomper, a talking chicken, a chef spinning pizzas, Alexander Graham Bell's laboratory … Creegan products and scenes are too numerous to mention them all. The tours reveal how employees bring these and many other characters to life.
Visitors also can peruse a craft shop and browse at Creegan's Christmas store, open year-round, for craft and holiday decorating supplies. Plus, learn from employees how to make ribbons and bows to dress up Christmas packages. Watch candy making and cake decorating and try samples.
A boutique inside the main store is devoted to collections of stamps, coins, comic books and trading cards.
Tours last about a half-hour to an hour, Creegan said. "In October, November and December, we're showing a lot of Christmas trends and decorations and how we make animations."
Creegan has more than 1,500 items in its Christmas line alone, including a popular Santa band — Santa and three audio animation elves that sing Christmas songs.
In the three-floor factory, workers perform mechanics, carpentry, pneumatics, electronics, costuming and artistic finishing on hundreds of animated characters. It's a land of ribbon, puppet components and props; of sculpted character-head molds and painted puppets' faces.
One popular character is Tall Gwilliam, a 7-foot-tall talking pirate that cost about $35,000 to make, Creegan said. Pneumatically driven, a computer controls his movement.
During the tour, view detailed electronic insides to learn how the components make a character's body move.
Creegan employs about 17 full-time employees. "They're very creative in the Halloween area," Creegan said. "Halloween is one of the biggest events of the year, almost eclipsing Christmas. This is probably due to the proliferation of haunted houses across the country, hayrides, and pumpkin patches."
All of the Halloween pieces on display are suitable for children, Creegan said. "We don't believe in the gory aspect."
Creegan personnel did create adult-oriented animated scenes for a Halloween fright production at Moundsville Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. Moundsville is a former prison listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and now is open to the public.
Creegan Animation Factory is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, year-round. In November and December the factory is open on Saturdays and Sundays, as well. Free motorhome parking is available at the site.
Reservations for tours are recommended but not required; call (740) 283-3708 or e-mail [email protected] There may be a small charge for tours. "If they mention FMCA, we'll let them in for free," Creegan said.
Creegan Animation Factory is located at 508 Washington St. in Steubenville.
More information: www.creegans.com