the early days
The early days of what has grown into Kern Studios started with Roy Kern, a local artist-turned-sign-painter who worked his way through the Depression painting names and signs on the bows of freighters and barges.
Roy and his son Blaine built their first Mardi Gras float together on the back on a mule-drawn garbage wagon in 1932. To compensate his mother’s medical bills, talented young Blaine offered to paint a mural in a hospital, which caught the eye of a surgeon who was also captain of the Mardi Gras Krewe of Alla.
He invited Blaine to design and build the floats for his Krewe and so Kern Studios was officially founded in its current form in 1947. One float led to another and before long, Blaine became the city’s leading parade designer and builder, working with Rex, Zulu and other legendary Krewes.
blaine kern aka Mr. Mardi Gras
Blaine traveled throughout Europe to apprentice under the world’s leading float and costume makers. During several trips to Italy, France, and Spain, Blaine became inspired by the extravagant concepts and animation that marked the European style of float building.
He brought them home to New Orleans and developed the monumental scale and lavish ornamentation of today’s Mardi Gras spectacular floats. Blaine Kern was instrumental in the formative years of some of New Orleans’ biggest parades and “Super Krewes” and is still known as “Mr. Mardi Gras”
Blaine also built custom props, such as an animated King Kong. It was able to move around, and hold a live girl in its hand. It took no less than five people to operate it. No-one else but Mr. Walt Disney happened to see it and asked Blaine Kern to come work for him. Blaine, despite being exited about the possibility of going to Hollywood, decided to stay in New Orleans. and with great success: Disney later became one of Kern Studios’ biggest clients.
the creation of Mardi Gras World
After many requests for private tours of Kern Studios from people wanting a sneak-peak of Mardi Gras, the Kerns decided to open up the working studio to the public. In 1984, Mardi Gras World was created as a tourist attraction to provide visitors a behind-the-scenes look of our work. Widely successful, the attraction draws over 150,000 visitors from all over the world each year.
hurricane Katrina and kern studios
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Kern Studios and Mardi Gras World were located on the Westbank of the Mississippi River. The buildings sustained severe wind damage but were spared from the flooding. With the buildings still intact, including the many generators used to provide electricity during parades, the 82nd Airborne, Red Cross, and Salvation Army eventually used Kern Studios as a base to provide aid.
from float builders to brand builders
Kern Studios is now under the third generation of Kern leadership. Blaine’s son, Barry Kern, is presently CEO and President of Kern Studios and Mardi Gras World. As his father did, Barry grew up working in the family business. He has traveled abroad extensively from a young age to interact with designers and artists worldwide in similar businesses.
Barry has taken Kern Studios from a local Mardi Gras float building company to one of the world’s leading makers of parades, floats, props, sculptures, spectacular 3D billboards, and themed environments.
Caring about its continuity, Kern Studios has recently welcomed the fourth generation in the company. Fitz Kern, Barry’s oldest son has now joined to oversee the company’s operations and strategic planning.