For nearly 10 years, Christopher Wright ’20 has been touring the United States, appearing on TV shows and channels like The Today Show, America’s Got Talent, The Tonight Show and National Geographic. He has also worked with companies like Pizza Hut, Microsoft and Disney on events and advertisements.
What does Wright do, you might ask? He is a chain reaction artist: someone who builds incredible displays using dominoes and then crashes the entire thing in a series of entertaining, precisely timed “chain reactions.”
It all began with a birthday present in the form of a humble wooden domino set. “I was fascinated by the different designs I could make by just changing the configuration of the dominoes,” Wright said.
After scrolling through hundreds of chain reaction videos on YouTube, Wright was so inspired that he created his own YouTube channel and began posting videos of his own domino falls all throughout middle school and high school.
Not somebody to rest on his laurels, Wright later also created his own company, Wright Reactions LLC., which he said is one of the few professional and freelance businesses in the United States that creates domino fall displays as a service.
When brainstorming a domino fall for a client, Wright takes many things into account, such as time and space constraints, team members available for hire and even air currents in the space where the domino fall is set up, as a domino falling early could undo hours of work.
“[Despite the risks], I try to develop really wild designs that retain my personal flair while meeting the desires and priorities of my clients, because that is what makes the process so fun,” Wright said.
For special designs like pictures, texts and logos, Wright uses a macro-based Excel software that pixelates images, assigns colors based on the dominoes he owns and also provides instructions for building the design.
For other complex 3D structures, Wright relies almost entirely on his intuition from previous experiences and lots of trial and error. “I have likely built over a million domino [falls], and through every [failure], early trigger and poor design I iteratively improve on what I do,” Wright said.
In order to gain intuition about such large-scale projects, Wright advises budding chain reaction artists to begin with tutorials on YouTube to familiarize themselves with the basics of building domino falls, as most larger designs tend to be expanded versions of simpler patterns.
“Start out simple,” Wright said. “You can learn so much with even just 100 pieces.”
According to Wright, extensive travel and managing his own business as a full-time student studying mechanical engineering with a minor in business is extremely challenging.
But with the support of his family, friends, fellow domino artists and the vast resources at Cornell like the Entrepreneurship at Cornell and the College of Engineering, he managed to convert what was once a weird hobby into a flourishing business, while gaining skills in communication, creativity and patience.
“It’s unbelievable how [chain reaction] has slowly and very naturally become such a quintessential part of my life,” Wright said. “In the future, pursuing dominoes and chain reactions full time is an option that I do not want to dismiss.”