Designers, technicians, and a cast of Disney characters featuring Mickey and Minnie, hosted LDI’s second annual Backstage Disney Day on Friday, December 2, 2011, at Disneyland and California Adventure in Anaheim, CA. Forty participants began their day at 7am with special entrance before the parks opened, in order to do a walk-through at Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, a new attraction that opened last summer.

Michael E. Williams, director, show design and production at Walt Disney Imagineering and Michael Valentino, a lead lighting designer at Walt Disney Imagineering, spoke primarily about the lighting design, as we saw each of the scenic areas that comprise the ride, and it is really a great opportunity to be able to see such an attraction from the designer’s vantage point and hear how the elements came together and the challenges the creative team met with during the process.

An in-depth overview of the attraction, including a look at plans and construction drawings was next on the tour, served with a continental breakfast. Then the group went back to ride the Ariel attraction, which is located in a new building at California Adventure where the beautifully lit façade includes LED illumination for architectural arches over the doors.

The day continued until 11pm, comprising a complete tour of the Hyperion Theatre led by technical director Earle Greene, entertainment manager Jerry Tomlinson, master electrician Michael Elliot, lighting coordinator Caitlin Guyan, and other members of the production team at the theatre. The group returned to the venue later in the day to see the resident production, Aladdin. Chris Wessels of Fisher Technical Services was also on hand to discuss the automation in the theatre.

A pyro discussion with John Mouman, and a look at parade float technology with Mitch Atkins and Wesley Hunt were very informative, with a close look at a float that features a synchronized Mickey Mouse who is an actor as well as drummer that puts on quite a performance with a new style Mickey head with animated eyes and mouth. It was also cool to go up to the balcony of Tower of Terror and look out over the construction site for Cars Land, a new themed area under development at California Adventure.

The day concluded with World of Color, Disney’s fantastic nighttime fountain and light show, which has some new elements since we saw it last year. Chuck Davis, technical producer for the event, spoke to the group, along with programmer Jason Badger, and at 11pm the group was tired but happy as the last stop was the World of Color control room.

Huge thanks goes to Disneyland Resort Technical Services Operations Manager Pat Denis, and Denise Starkey of Pyro and Technical Services, who pulled it all together, and to all those who took the time to address the group on this exhilarating day that provided an insider’s look at the design and technology—as well as the pixie dust—that goes into creating the magic of Disney.

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