As if the atmosphere outside Staples Center didn't promise to be circus-like enough come Tuesday morning, they're sending in the elephants.
A herd of 11 Asian elephants and seven horses is scheduled to lumber into a side entrance of the complex before dawn Tuesday in preparation for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus opening there Wednesday.
Depending on when the Michael Jackson fans show up, pachyderms and King of Pop buffs could come face to face. A circus spokeswoman said the crowds wouldn't faze the animals.
"The elephants are very comfortable around people," said Amy McWethy, spokeswoman for Ringling Bros.' parent company, Feld Entertainment. "They have their handlers with them all the time. They're used to light and other factors, and they're used to noise."
It's a decades-old tradition to parade the giants through the streets of the circus' host city, and Ringling Bros. arranged a permit with city Animal Services to usher them three miles from their train in Union Station to the arena.
In spite of the memorial service and road closures near the Staples Center, the show is going on. The circus will be using the same arena as the Jackson event, but the animals — which also include big cats — will be stowed in a barn until the crowds clear out, McWethy said.
Animal Services is working with the police department to escort the mammals during their march, which will begin at 3:30 a.m. PDT and last for about two hours.
"Our experience in the past has been good and we don't expect any incidents," said Kathy Davis, interim manager of the city's Animal Services department.