In a 21st Century version of Pacific Overtures, one of the most iconic American companies has established itself even more solidly in the Far East when Hong Kong Disneyland Resort opened in September (joining Tokyo Disney and Tokyo DisneySea Park). Located on Lantau Island overlooking Penny's Bay, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort consists of a theme park — shows, attractions, rides, shops, restaurants, etc. — Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Hollywood Hotel, and Inspiration Lake, a public area featuring boat rentals and an arboretum.

A spectacular grand opening ceremony — televised to millions of viewers — signaled the park's arrival in China and was replete with a colorful display of spinning parasols which parted to reveal children welcoming the spectators in English, Cantonese, and Putonghua. Classical Chinese tradition joined with Disney whimsy as the ceremony continued with the 100-voice Hong Kong Children's Choir, Chinese acrobats and dancers, and Disney ambassadors representing all of the Disney theme parks worldwide. There was also a concert that featured Tony Award-winning actress Lea Salonga, who has lent her pipes to a number of Disney's animated movies, along with a variety of Asian and American artists. For the mix between pomp and circumstance and a rock concert, lighting was designed by Patrick Woodroffe and Adam Bassett, with production design by Mark Fisher. While Woodroffe came up with several of the initial concepts, Bassett was charged with the nuts and bolts of the event's lighting design.

According to Bassett, the challenges were few but daunting. First off was the notion of access. Disney was adamant that Cinderella's Castle should not be obstructed, and rightly so — this structure is the single most iconic element in all of Disney's parks. That meant that the ceremony had to be lit with mostly sidelight, which, while challenging, did not deter Bassett in the least, he says, “It gave us a fantastic backdrop, especially for the TV cameras.” So much of the light for the opening ceremony celebration came from what Bassett refers to as two “goal posts” that flanked either side of the performance area with a small amount of backlight coming from the portion of the trusses in the furthest upstage corner. Front light was coming from two FOH towers 164' (50m) away.

While the sidelight issue was easily addressed by the skill of the design team, Bassett added that another challenge was that the park was essentially open for business before the “official” opening. “They wanted to operate for as long and as normal as possible,” he explains, so that in turn limited how much time he and his crew had to set up the show. Then, there was the unpredictable Hong Kong weather in September with an outdoor show with no roof. “Mark Fisher had done several concepts with a roof, taking the weather into account,” he says. “We had versions with roofs high enough that the castle was still in the audience and the TV cameras' sightlines, but the fireworks display would've been obscured. “Ultimately, it was decided that, if there was going to be a severe rainstorm, a roof wouldn't make much of a difference; the show would not happen with or without the roof [in the event of a deluge]. It was very much a gamble and, lucky for us, it paid off.” However, just to be on the safe side, Bassett used several fixtures that were exterior rated, such as PARs and Martin Exterior 600s.

Bassett had to essentially create two separate lighting schemes for the ceremony: one that would work for a television audience and one for a live audience. Luckily, both designs were for separate nights. “We treated the castle as our cyclorama, since it was the backdrop to every picture and every image on stage, whether it was for the live audience or television,” he explains. “It would also frame the picture of the stage. Getting the castle absolutely right to complement and balance the stage was essential, and it was important for castle not to upstage the action on the stage; it had to complement it.” The chief difference between the two nights was that the live night was much more theatrical and used brighter followsopts, while the televised night used much more keylight and less saturated colors for the performers.

In order to emphasize Cinderella's Castle, it was necessary to augment the lighting. “The LEDs around the castle are suitable for every day use or for people in close proximity, but it certainly wasn't anywhere near bright enough to balance with the amount of lighting that was going to be on stage in front of it,” he says. “We had to massively complement [the lighting] to make it strong enough to balance each other. Otherwise, the castle would've faded out.”

Bassett's team installed 90 or so AC Lighting Ltd. Chroma-Q DB4 units, 10"×2.5" (250mm × 62mm) LED fixtures that could be placed in “any nook and cranny around the castle,” he says. “We couldn't just load in massive amounts of floodlights and PAR cans. We needed small, compact units that could change color to complement what was going on onstage. LEDs were the backbone.” In addition, Martin MAC 600s were used for higher shots on the turrets and roof of the structure. In the castle's moat, Bassett devised two floating platforms with 12 MAC 2000 Washes, as well as some Atomic Strobes, to throw light on the main body of the castle, to “add a little zing on the outside,” he says. “When you hit something with a flat color, you need something else to give it dimension.”

Aside from the light hitting the castle outright, the design called for backlight from a series of 5kW Fresnels with scrollers along with six Space Canons for beams of light behind the castle. “The backlight helped increase the dimension of the castle,” Bassett explains. “It's important that it's not flatly lit. It has to retain its depth and dimension.”

Bassett adds that one of the most interesting aspects of lighting the Hong Kong Disneyland opening ceremonies was the fact that, despite the magnificent looks of the presentation, it was all done with very basic technologies. All the equipment came from Procon in Germany, managed by Serious Solutions locally. “Control was two Wholehog 2s slaved for main stage and another Hog with overdrives for the castle and LED fixtures,” he says. “The stage system was backed up by another set of Wholehogs, and the castle system backed up with Hog PC.” Another needed feature was the WYSIWYG suite onsite that allowed Bassett's team — including mainstage lighting programmer Eneas MacIntosh and the castle system programmer David Miller — to come up with backup designs in the event of a mishap, weather related or otherwise.

EQUIPMENT

Automated Fixtures:
78 Martin MAC 2000 Profile
102 Martin MAC 2000 Wash
18 Martin MAC 600
5 Studio Due
CityColor 1800
11 Space Cannon 7kW
16 Focus 1200
Conventional Fixtures:
12 ETC Source Four®
Ellipsoidal 5°
2 ETC Source Four
Ellipsoidal 10°
20 ETC Source Four
Ellipsoidal 19°
164 PAR64 NSP
66 PAR64 MFL
28 PARACL
12 Underwater PAR64 MFL
12 8-Lite Molefay
8 5kW Fresnel and Scroller
LED/FX:
90 AC Lighting Ltd
Chroma-Q (LED)
12 SGM Palco LED Flood
16 LED Batten
20 Strobe
32 P-Light String
8 F-Spot
Control:
4 Flying Pig Systems
Wholehog® 2
(3 main, 1 backup)
1 Flying Pig Systems
Wholehog 2
Expansion Wing
1 Flying Pig Systems Hog PC
(backup all systems)
Followspots:
4 Medium Throw
2kW Xenon
2 Short Throw 1.2kW HMI