Fireworks, music and automated lighting combine to dazzling effect in Wishes, the new pyrotechnic spectacular that debuted last October in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Steve Davison, creative director with Walt Disney Creative Entertainment, collaborated with fireworks designer Eric Tucker, and lighting designer Bill Ferrara to choreograph a 12-minute show that uses 655 pieces of pyro, has 557 pyro firing cues, and over 120 lighting cues.
“Steve Davison didn't want just another fireworks show that was bigger and brighter,” says Ferrara, LD for Walt Disney Creative Entertainment. “This show has a story about making wishes come true, as well as a mood, and connections to Disney characters.” In fact, the narrator for Wishes is none other than Jiminy Cricket, and the “cast” includes the voices of Pinocchio, Snow White and the Evil Queen, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Ariel, Aladdin, and the Genie. A high point of the show is Tinker Bell, who flies from the top of Cinderella Castle in a flurry of LEDs.
“The castle is one of Disney's strongest icons. It is recognized worldwide, and reinforces the story line,” says Ferrara. “We did some things with the castle we've never done before.” The automated lighting rig already in place to light the castle includes 46 ETC Irideon fixtures placed near the moat that surrounds the castle. To light the lower levels, and on various rooftops and parapets to light the top. “There are color washes during the Genie number where the Irideons go crazy in a rainbow chase,” Ferrara points out. “You've never seen the castle like that before but for this moment, it was totally appropriate.”
In addition to the Irideon units, there are also 12 High End System Turbo Cyberlights (six on either side of the castle) protected from the elements by Tempest Hurricane enclosures. Ferrara designed many of the various gobo patterns used in Wishes, all of which are projected by the Cyberlights. For example when the Evil Queen from Snow White asks the Magic Mirror to show its face, the images were lifted directly from Disney's animated film and made into a glass gobo. “We have access to the images in the Disney archives,” notes Ferrara, pointing out that he sends a TIF or JPEG file to Apollo Design Technology to have the gobo made.
Black and white glass gobos of stars and moons help turn the castle into a giant version of Disney's iconoclastic Sorcerer's Hat. “The Irideons bathe the castle in blue with the overlay of the Cyberlight gobos,” explains Ferrara. “The projections were challenging as there are not too many flat projection surfaces on the castle, especially near the top. There are a lot of angles to the architecture.”
At one point, the entire castle is blacked out so that a veritable wall of fireworks illuminates it in silhouette. “At the end of that sequence, we pound the Irideons and the Cybers to turn the castle all white,” says Ferrara. When the sound is that of the Genie coming out of the bottle, Ferrara added small breakup pattern gobos with the “shake” attribute of the Cyberlights. “I wanted to create movement with a lot of tension, like something trying to get out of a bottle,” he says.
A combination of ripple glass and breakup patterns allowed Ferrara to create fire effects, combined with amber in the Cyberlights and a bath of red from the Irideons. “The ripple glass rotates rapidly to give the “flames” a lot of energy,” says Ferrara, who spent five nights in the park programming, working from midnight to 7:00am. “We finished in three nights, then spent the next two tweaking, he says.
The fireworks, usually only launched from behind the castle, are now also launched from ten new positions on rooftops, with five positions on each side of the castle. “This means you can see the show from anyplace in the park, and it can play at a lower altitude, making it more up close and intimate,” says Ferrara.
The lighting is run on a High End Systems Hog PC, and the fireworks by a Pyro Digital firing system. The lighting is coordinated with the fireworks and soundtrack via SMPTE time code. “There are almost two different shows: the fireworks, then the lighting on the castle,” Ferrara points out. “But it all supports the story line: never underestimate the power of wishes.”