By Lanford Beard
Updated June 12, 2012 at 04:40 PM EDT
Credit: Dave Poultney/LOCOG via Getty Images

We already learned that Paul McCartney will be at the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony, and we continue to hope that somehow James Bond and the Queen will kick butt in tandem while jumping out of a helicopter, but not a lot of details have otherwise been doled out about the July 27 event. Until now…

Artistic director Danny Boyle proved he knows his way around a song-and-dance spectacle with 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, but the Oscar-winning director is going above and beyond for this summer’s Olympic Games. Today, Boyle teased details about the Games’ opening ceremonies, which he has dubbed “Isles of Wonder,” inspired by a speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, per the Olympics’ official site.

For starters, there will be a bucolic menagerie including 70 sheep, 12 horses, 3 cows, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, 9 geese and 3 sheepdogs. That’s on top of 10,000 human volunteers who will be situated on patches of real grass and soil tilled by actual plows. Manufactured clouds suspended from wires will hang above in case the weather is uncharacteristically dry in England on the night of the event.

Boyle hopes to communicate the sense of a land recovering from its industrial legacy. From a Glastonbury-modeled mosh pit to families picnicking under a real oak tree and cricketers scrimmaging, the scene will be positively pastoral. Also, the flowers of the United Kingdom’s four nations (the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the Welsh daffodil, and Northern Ireland’s flax) will festoon maypoles throughout.

“The ceremony is an attempt to capture a picture of ourselves as a nation, where we have come from and where we want to be,” said Boyle. To do so has involved 157 rehearsals to date, plus 23,000 costumes, a million-watt sound system, 15,000 square meters of staging, and nearly 13,000 props. The cost of all this fanfare? About $42 million (£27 million).

Boyle is also producing two short films and has collaborated with electronica duo Underworld (whose work he featured in 1996’s Trainspotting) on tracks that will accompany the parade of 10,500 Olympians as they enter the stadium.

The world’s largest harmonically tuned bell (weighing 23 tons and measuring 6.5 feet by 10 feet) will chime to kick off the three-hour extravaganza, which begins at exactly 8:12 p.m. BST (that’s 20:12 in Euro time) on July 27. Watch Boyle talk about it here.

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